So I started to read the Race Commission report. It’s pretty grim. Already in the introduction it implies that minority groups should be doing more themselves to take the opportunities available to them. Yet also cites the needs of the white working class (who presumably can’t).
Makes me disinclined to read the rest, I have to say. It’s not even trying to hide its very obvious pro-government agenda.
Something else striking: there doesn’t seem to be any actually practising academic who has worked in this area. Presumably they couldn’t find one prepared to sign off on this kind of report.
Another striking feature - though scarcely very surprising given who commissioned the report- is there doesn’t seem to be anything about the media, which is responsible for probably the most open racism of any area of public life in Britain.
The tone seems to be very much ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’. Here, on p.11: ‘there is also an increasingly strident form of anti-racism thinking that seeks to explain all minority disadvantage through the prism of White discrimination...This diverts attention ...
....from the other reasons for minority success and failure, including those embedded in the cultures and attitudes of those minority communities themselves.’ Blaming the victim 101
P.27 ‘we ....ask whether a narrative that claims nothing has changed for the better, and that the dominant feature of our society is institutional racism and White privilege, will achieve anything beyond alienating the decent centre ground ... of all races and ethnicities.’
So, don’t start with your fundamental critique of British society. It’s only going to p*ss us off. Try something gentler and then we might listen. After all, things aren’t so bad.
‘This Commission finds that the big challenge of our age is not overt racial prejudice, it is building on and advancing the progress won by the struggles of the past 50 years...We therefore cannot accept the accusatory tone of much of the current rhetoric on race’. Calm down dear
This is weird: ‘One advantage that ethnic minorities have is that they are disproportionately based in London – around 40% of the UK’s ethnic minority population - ...and this mitigates the country’s significant challenges with regional inequality’.
Surely the advantage of living in London is created by its habitants themselves?
Anyway, on to health disparities. The report claims that higher Covid risk is down to doing the wrong jobs, as @jdportes has pointed out already. It goes on (p.30) ‘if it were true that Black and South Asian groups were suffering from systemic racism throughout their lives....
‘...adversely affecting their health, education, income, housing, employment (the key determinants of health) – this would be reflected in overall mortality figures across the life-course.’ This is a bit like saying that women live longer so they can’t be facing discrimination
We know poverty is predictive of poor health, and ethnic minority groups are more likely to be in poverty, but I suppose we should be reassured that many white Britons are also poor and suffer the consequences.
There is a pattern in the report of cherry-picking examples of minority ‘advantage’ to try to undermine the anti-racist cause. It makes sense of course to take a balanced view and not exaggerate the problem, but it all seems designed to take down certain concepts:
‘Institutional racism’. The report laments ‘The term is now being liberally used, and often to describe any circumstances in which differences in outcomes between racial and ethnic groups exist in an institution, without evidence to support such claims.’
Again, sometimes disparities are the result of people’s own silly choices. Fair enough, but structural disparities are, well, structural. And institutions shape these structures. Why are so few football managers black when so many players are? Mmm.
And they also want rid of BAME. It is ‘demeaning’. And not all BAME people are disadvantaged, and some white people are. Right. But how else can you capture racism if you can’t identify the groups most afflicted by it? Isn’t this just breaking up the anti-racist coalition?
Ah, now we’re getting to the nub. ‘even in a relatively open society like today’s UK a psychological comfort can be derived from looking like the majority of people around you. A better term ...captures the tendency for groups to favour their own...the concept of ‘affinity bias’.
Racism out, affinity bias in.
It’s OK not to like different-looking people around you. It’s just ‘affinity bias’.
Wait... maybe the report isn’t as bad as I have made out so far. For instance, I completely agree with this: (p.37) ‘The UK suffers from acute geographical inequality. That is hardly news. But the scale of the gulf in opportunity is seldom appreciated.’
And this: (p.38): ‘The most concentrated pockets of deprivation are found among ethnic minority groups, particularly Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black groups...in many aspects related to quality of life, ethnic minorities are placed below the White British group ‘
But this? ‘There is a sense of stagnation about the fate and life chances of poorer White groups... Until the recent focus on the ‘left behind’ towns and ‘levelling up’, there was no national narrative encouraging the advancement for this group (as) for ethnic minorities.’
Hang on a minute. Maybe years of blaming the poor for their problems, cutting welfare benefits and social services, and pretending poor people are just like wealthy people, but without the drive or motivation, has a discouraging effect?
Ok, but what do we do about this. Do we take poverty as disadvantage seriously for everyone, but also understand that disadvantage on several dimensions compounds? Hat would be great.
But no. Now, having trashed the idea of BAME being meaningful, we know get to the ultimate in fine-grained differentiation. A particular form of disadvantage that afflicts the ‘poor white British’. Yes, we now have a report on race that sees poor whites as a specific social group
In essence what is going on here is an exercise in downplaying racial disadvantage in favour of class disadvantage, but for white people. There is nothing meaningful about white poverty as a separate category unless we imply that this poverty somehow deserves special treatment
Surely anti-poverty measures should benefit all poor people? Why make the point that the ‘white poor’ have been neglected? This is a Commission on Race after all. The white poor are not an ethnic group. Is the point of this to deny race is a source of disadvantage at all?
It is true that ‘Nearly 70% of all the social mobility ‘hotspot’ success stories are in London and the South East. There are none in the North East, Yorkshire/Humber, and the West Midlands. The top 65 worst performing LA areas are almost all overwhelmingly White British places.
Of course. But let’s remember why. Migration gravitates to where the work is. These places are white because they are poor, not the other way around.
Anyway I find it hard to disagree with this: ‘When considering this data, and noting the profound disparities that it highlighted ...recommendations should focus on improving outcomes for all – not centre on specific ethnic groups alone.’ (P.39). But is anyone arguing otherwise?
It is also obvious that ‘People from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to live in households with persistent low income...28% of people in Black households were on persistent low income, compared with 25% of Asian households and 12% of White households.’ (P.39). So....
Maybe BAME groups are the most likely to face poverty, in which case why is a Commission on Racial Disparities so keen to claim white groups are most affected? In an unequal country, yes, most poor people are of the dominant ethnicity, as are most people.
As @Metatone2 already pointed out, the aim of framing the problem in that way is to justify shifting the focus of anti-poverty policy away from urban areas with diverse populations towards whiter parts of the country. Like Newark.
In a sense this is good old patronage politics. Inner city areas with diverse populations and lots of poverty are not going to vote Conservative. Largely white small towns in poor regions increasingly do. Whiteness is the glue that holds the Tory rich-poor coalition together.
The other, of course, is wealth. The report has to concede that there is considerable disparity in wealth between ethnic groups. ‘It is a less encouraging story with wealth and property ownership, but one would expect wealth accumulation to take longer in generational time.’
The key, as in most things in this country, is home ownership. Again the data is carefully presented so as to obscure some of the dynamics involved. For example,
‘Households with an Indian, Pakistani or White British head had the highest net property wealth (taking into account how much of a property is owned or still covered by a mortgage) with medians of £176,000, £115,000 and £115,000 respectively’ (p.40)
Doesn’t look too bad, right? But ‘Black Caribbean households have double the rate of home ownership as Black African households, at 40% compared with 20%, reflecting their longer history in the UK.’ Wait, 40%? That’s little over half the average....
And part of the reason South Asian groups have more housing wealth is the large number of multigenerational households, as is evidenced by the shocking numbers on overcrowding:
‘Overcrowding affected 30% of Bangladeshi households in the year to March 2016, 16% of Black African and 7% of Black Caribbean compared with just 2% of White British households.’ Pretty clear pattern of disadvantage, surely? How can you spin that with the narrative? Hold my beer
‘However White British households made up almost half of the 660,000 overcrowded households in England’.
There is way too much of this muddling absolute and relative quantities, and presenting data is such a way as to underplay awkward findings. You can tell there are no academics on the panel. Who would sign off on that?
So on to the next section... uh oh....’Racial disadvantage often overlaps with social class disadvantage but how have some groups transcended that disadvantage more swiftly than others?
There has been a revolution over the last half century in the family structure....’
There has been a revolution over the last half century in the family structure....’
Ok, that’s me out. There’s only so much of this I can bear and I have a paper to write and football to watch. Thanks for listening. FIN.