A government-commissioned review into racism has concluded the United Kingdom is not an institutionally racist country, prompting a backlash from critics who described the findings as an “utter whitewash”.
In an anticipated report published on Wednesday, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities said the UK was not yet a “post-racial country” but should be regarded as a “model for other white-majority countries”, citing achievements towards equality in the sectors of education and economy.
While the report acknowledged “overt and outright” racism persisted and said some communities were “haunted” by historic discrimination, it downplayed the importance of systemic racism in explaining inequalities in areas such as health and crime.
The UK, it said, was no longer a country where the system is “deliberately rigged” against ethnic minorities.
“Impediments and disparities do exist, they are varied, and ironically very few of them are directly to do with racism,” the 258-page report said. “The evidence shows that geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion have more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism.”
But opposition politicians and campaigners were quick to dismiss the commission’s conclusions.
Halima Begum, director of the UK’s Runnymede Trust race equality think-tank, said the report had been “written to a script” defined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, as she labelled it an “utter whitewash”.
“In it, the government cannot even bring itself to acknowledge or show any empathy for the incidence of racism in the UK,” Begum told Al Jazeera.
“Frankly, by denying the evidence of institutional racism … I think they’ve insulted every ethnic minority in this country – the very people who continue to experience racism on a daily basis.”
The Institute of Race Relations (IRR), another UK-based think-tank, said in a statement: “We can see no attempt here to address the common ethnic minority experience of structural racism within areas such as the criminal justice system.”
The report’s findings, the IRR said, “fit neatly with the government’s attempts, post-Brexit, to portray the British nation as a beacon of good race relations and a diversity model”.
The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities was set up by Johnson after anti-racism protests swept the UK last summer following the death of George Floyd in the United States.