A new report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has revealed that Britain remains racially unequal, with black and ethnic minority groups more likely to be living in poor households; to be in low paid employment or unemployed despite high educational qualifications, and more likely to be imprisoned than the white population.

A new EHRC report titled, “How Fair is Britain?” in 2010 has revealed a murky picture of race relations in Britain. In employment, the criminal justice system and living standards black and minority ethnic communities continue to suffer because of racial discrimination.

According to the report, “Black people make up between 2-3% of the population, yet constituted 15% of those who were stopped by the police in 2008/09: other ethnic minority groups are also over-represented.” (P.123)

The report also said that “On average, five times more Black people than White people in England and Wales are imprisoned.” (P.162)

Racism in the criminal justice system

Racism in the criminal justice system has resulted in more people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds being imprisoned.  A report by the Home Affairs Committee examining the relationship between young black people and the criminal justice system found that young black people are overrepresented at every stage of the criminal justice system.

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee report titled, “Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System” (2006-2007), was the first inquiry into the overrepresentation of young black people in the criminal justice system since 1981.

The report found that, “Black people of all ages are three times more likely to be arrested than white people…Black people constitute 2.7% of the population aged 10–17, but represent 8.5% of all those arrested in England and Wales…Black people are just over six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people…” (P.16)

It was also said that “Once they have been charged with an offence, black young offenders are significantly less likely to be given unconditional bail compared to white young offenders and black young offenders are more likely to be remanded in custody compared to white re-offenders.” (P.17)

Young people of mixed race ethnicity were also the victims of a racially discriminative justice system. According to the report “…young black people and young people of ‘mixed’ ethnicity, when sentenced, are more likely to receive more punitive sentences than young white people.” (p.17)

According to the EHRC report, “Overall, the ethnic minority prison population has doubled in a decade: from 11,332 in 1998 to 22,421 in 2008 in England and Wales, although the growth of the ethnic minority prison population has been more gradual since 2005. This has caused the proportion of ethnic minority prisoners to rise to around 25% of the prison population (while they make up 11% of the population in England and Wales):171 there is now greater disproportionality in the number of Black people in prisons in the UK than in the United States.” (p.170-171)

Racial wage discrimination in the labour market

In employment, racial discrimination in the labour market continue to place a considerable barrier to progress for black and minority ethnic groups. According to the EHRC report by the ages of 22-24 the number of Asians and black people in neither employment, education or training rises. As there are more students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds compared to the white population this discrepancy can be explained by racial discrimination. (p.403)

More significantly, while the mainstream media has reported on the gender gap when it comes to wages nothing is said about the fact that black and minority ethnic workers are paid less then white workers.

The EHRC report said “Recent research found that Black and Asian groups earn less than White British people with the same qualification level and in particular Black male graduates earn 24% less than White British male graduates.” (p.415)

How racism leads to lower living standards for black and minority ethnic communities

The racial discrimination in the labour market as well as the wage gap between whites and black and minority ethnic groups, leads to a lower standard of living for these groups, forcing many to live in substandard housing or deprived communities.

When it comes to health black and minority groups tend to have shorter lives, and black Caribbean as well as Pakistani babies are more likely to die and weigh less than the majority white British population. (P.80) The babies of African woman who are asylum seekers are seven times more likely to die than that of white British women, the report suggests that the lack of access to health care is the main reason for this disparity.

Black and minority ethnic groups, particularly, Bangladeshi and Afro Caribbean groups tend to live in a low income household in comparison to the white population. (p.479)

The EHRC report said “In the UK, a 2005 Fawcett Society survey estimated that 40% of ethnic minority women live in poverty; One-fifth of White women and two-fifths of Black women live in poverty, while poverty extends to almost two-thirds of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women.” (p.480)

When it comes to housing black and minority ethnic groups fare the worse according to the report. It stated “…in Britain, just over 9% of all Asian (including Asian British) households are overcrowded relative to the bedroom standard, while almost 15% of all Black (including Black British) households are overcrowded against the standard. In contrast, fewer than 2% of all White British households are overcrowded.” (p.500)

Overall, “There is also a strong association between ethnicity and substandard housing”, according to the EHRC report.

Racism has led to the inequalities mentioned in this report and although the EHRC, the media and the government claim that things have improved for many people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds the pace of progress has been painfully slow.

Racial equality remains an ideal rather than a reality in Britain, and with a record number of black and Asian MPs elected to parliament, these are the issues that should be at the forefront of politics and community activism.

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