Racism may be a problem, but we should not be so blinkered as to exclude any other possible causes for the inequities in society.
According to figures produced by the BBC, 163 people have died in police custody in the last ten years. Of that numbers 8% were black, more than twice the proportion of black people in the UK.
It is on the basis of such figures that some have deemed the UK to be institutionally racist. Is that a fair conclusion to reach or is the situation altogether more complex?
According to the 2011 Census, the total population of England and Wales was 56.1 million. The proportions in each ethnic group were;
- White – 86.0%
- Asian -7.5%
- Black – 3.3%
- Mixed/Multiple ethnic – 2.2%
- Other ethnic groups – 1.0%.
Consider the report completed by the Ministry of Justice, Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2016^1. It was found in the period 2012/13 to 2016/17 the black community accounted for almost 9% of arrests on a charge of violence against the person, 20% of those charged with robbery and 18% on charges of possession of weapons. For all types of crime,those arrested were 80% white and approximately 8% were black.
When considering only the population in custody, the argument that black people are twice as likely to die while in custody proves to be a fallacy. Indeed, it is white men who are more likely to die in such circumstances.
The question that no one seems to ask is, if the black community comprises 3.3% of the population, why is it that that community accounts for 8% of those arrested on criminal charges?
According to the Office for National Statistics^2, the rate of unemployment in 2018 was 4%. Amongst the black community it was 9%. How does one explain the disparity?
Is the rate of unemployment and criminal offending the same for black Caribbeans as it is for Black African groups? How do those rates compare with mixed race, Asian or white communities?
How do rates of crime compare amongst people of similar socio-economic backgrounds? Referring again to the Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2016^1 the report considered the educational achievements of those processed by the justice system;
Analysis shows that the educational attainment of those sentenced to youth justice disposals was generally much lower than the overall pupil population across all three KS4 headline attainment measures.
Furthermore the report noted that of those children sentenced to more than 12 months in custody 50% of the black children, 40% of mixed race and 40% of the white children were entitled to free school meals. A fairly even distribution across each ethnic groups.
Poverty and fatherless families may be an issue, but is the bigger problem inequality of opportunity? As noted in my earlier post^3, a report completed by Nick Clegg in 2011 found that 25% of the poorest children from all ethnic groups failed to reach expected educational attainment levels by the time they left primary school, a fact that would put them at a disadvantage for the rest of their lives.
Racism may be a problem, but we should not be so blinkered as to exclude any other possible causes for the inequities in society. I remain of the view that education is the key; give the children from those disadvantaged communities the education and support they need so that they too have the opportunity to make a success of their lives, whatever their ethnic heritage.
To conclude I leave you with a quote from Nelson Mandela. His words remain as relevant today as they did when he spoke them.
Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world
15th June 2020