Our response to the Race Report: an alternative view on institutional racism
Denying institutional racism exists is an insult to the experiences of young men and women growing up in the UK today. Two of Leap's Directors share their reflections on the recent report on race and ethnic disparity in the UK.
Gabin Sinclair-Constance, Leap’s Director of London Programmes, reflects on the experiences of Black people in leadership and his own experience.
His initial reaction when we raised the topic was: “I’ve been thinking about not commenting on the Race report [...] because I felt it wasn’t worth my time”. When he explained why this was the case, we realised that there was another angle to the whole race debate. It is important that we talk about this.
In the video, Gabin openly shares his reflections from discussions he had with other Black leaders. Most, if not all, have shared similar stories about the challenges they have had to face, yet many now seem to push back on the idea that institutional racism exists - as they have now “achieved high levels of success in their career”. It is not to suggest that all would have experienced racism, but you could certainly question whether changing your name to a more English sounding one, or simply making sure you changed the tone of your voice to sound ‘softer’ had nothing to do with it, or the fear of it.
Having grown up in a deprived neighbourhood on the outskirt of Paris in France where racial tensions and conflict were high, Lydie (Leap’s Director for Income and External Affairs) can relate to Gabin’s story and experiences. Being told by her white middle class teacher that she should not have high hopes of succeeding because of where she came from left a clear mark on Lydie (the teacher’s reasoning to her and her class was that ‘social sciences’ said so). These opinions knocked Lydie’s confidence in her adolescence years. She can also relate to having to use a different tone of voice when she joined a Business School in Paris, to make sure that her accent would not come through and to help her assimilate. Lydie wanted to be accepted by her fellow classmates. She wanted to belong.
The Black experience in the UK is not as homogenous as the media and others portray
Earlier this year, Gabin set up a LinkedIn network to support 100 young Black CEOs in the charity sector.
Following its inaugural meeting and in light of recent race report publication, Gabin reflects and shares his own story.
THE RACE AND ETHNICITY DISPARITY REPORT IS A MISSED OPPORTUNITY
Could it be that the people behind the report share similar experiences of racism but now deny its impact? The conclusions in the report are a missed opportunity, particularly for young people who already feel let down by society and policymakers. It is a missed opportunity to bring communities together to address the issues caused by institutional and systemic racism in the UK.
70% of the young people we support come from an ethnic minority background, many of whom are facing difficulties growing up in a society deeply divided. All of them are facing huge challenges in managing destructive conflict in their lives. Most will see some of their own experiences reflected in Gabin’s personal account of racism. This report denies that systemic and institutional racism exists, and contradicts what other official reports have highlighted over the years:
The McPherson report (1999), which had been commissioned following the murder of Stephen Lawrence by a group of white youths, highlighted that the police investigation of the murder had been badly handled by the Police, with institutional racism being one of the key reasons cited.
The Lammy Review (2017) found significant racial bias in the UK justice system. Highlighted in the report was the disproportionate representation of people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the criminal justice system, and the highest arrest rates of these groups in comparison with white groups. The review included no less than 35 recommendations to improve accountability, transparency and practice in the criminal justice system. Interestingly enough, the review included findings from the 2015 Crime Survey for England and Wales, where 51% of people from ethnic minority backgrounds born in England and Wales believed that the criminal justice system discriminated against particular groups.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s own Race report (2016) shows that race remains the most commonly recorded motivation for hate crime. Their report also shows that people from ethnic backgrounds do better in education than white people, yet they are still more likely to be unemployed and receive lower pay.
GOVERNMENT AND POLICYMAKERS SHOULD CONSULT YOUNG PEOPLE ON THE NEXT STEPS
Government statistics and research confirm that Black people are more likely to be stopped and searched, murdered and excluded from school. If data is not enough to convince the government of this, we invite them to speak with a Leap graduate or community leader partnering with us. In their own words, they will share how they have been systemically targeted by the police, or how they struggle in school, and their sense that their job opportunities and prospects are few and far between compared with their white peers. If systemic racism is not the cause, then how else can the government explain the inequality that exists amongst black and white communities over generations?
Contrary to the report’s conclusions, we believe that institutional racism does exist. Not only does it exist; it destroys the lives of many. Denial only prolongs the healing that needs to take place. We witness the impact of racism in the care, education and employment sectors, and we will continue to campaign for policy change within the charity sector and advocate for wider national policy reform.
Last week, our staff and Senior Management Team signed Runnymede Trust’s Open Letter to Boris Johnson, rejecting the findings from the Race Report.