We don’t need another inequalities review: we need the political will to enact change
“The men and women taking to the streets across the globe under the banner of Black Lives Matter want to be heard. They want to hear an acknowledgement of the mistakes of the past and a genuine commitment to future change. Their ask is no different to the ask many of us have had all our lives.” – Baroness Warsi’s comments on racism for the Times
Many like me spent the 1970s dodging racism; both the physical and verbal attacks in school and on our streets. We spent the 1980s marching and angrily protesting and sometimes this manifested as public disorder. We spent the 1990s organising and campaigning. And some of us, myself included, have since the turn of the century felt that the only way to change the system, that for all of our lives has not responded to concerns of racism and inequality, was to run for office and change the system from within.
So I hope you can understand my frustration when the government announces yet another commission. It is an example of the way bureaucracy can be couched in compassion to stifle the fight for equality.
Over the past five years alone we have had a plethora of reviews, reports, audits and inquiries. Each chaired by respected and informed individuals, each taking evidence, each diagnosing a part of the problem, each making important and necessary recommendations and each gathering dust as policy papers are hardly implemented.
In 2015 Dame Angiolini QC conducted a review of deaths in police custody. In 2017 Baroness McGregor-Smith reported on issues affecting BAME people in the workplace. The Lammy review in 2017 made recommendations about the treatment of, and outcomes for, BAME people in the criminal justice system, and the Race Disparity Audit in 2017 started to build and publish data and analysis to understand and assess differences between ethnic groups.
In more recent times we’ve had the Grenfell tragedy and the Windrush scandal. The bureaucratic hand-wringing that followed these moments of national shame has led to no real change for those who were so badly let down.
We can all agree that we know the problem. so I hope we can all agree that we don’t need another commission: we need the political will to start change.
There are changes we can make now. For example, ethnic minority pay gap reporting, a recruitment drive in BAME communities for key roles in teaching and the police, a less eurocentric curriculum, a well-funded strategy for closing the attainment gap at universities and a Covid legacy act as proposed by Compassion in Politics’ Professor Sir Michael Marmot, and groups like Just Fair, that would require government departments to work towards achieving key public health indicators with targets for improving early education and child health outcomes, and ensuring access to decent, well-paid jobs.
Perhaps it is because Covid has forced us all to consider our own fragility and the things that matter most to us — friends, good health, existence itself — that more people than ever before have grasped the extent and intolerability of the race divide in Britain. It’s why black and white and others have stood shoulder to shoulder across the world demanding change, demanding that we can do better. I believe in Britain we can.