Response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report

Advocacy Academy

Following the publication of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report, we wanted to reaffirm our commitment to racial justice and to all those working to challenge systemic and institutional racism to create a fairer future. Below we share our response as well as those from organisations we support and other partners.

At the end of March, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities published its findings. And like many, we were disappointed that the report and the framing of it downplayed the role of systemic or institutional racism in the inequalities faced by many communities we support. Rather than pushing things forward, it felt like a missed opportunity and a step back.

This is why, together with over 60 charitable foundations, we signed a letter to the Prime Minister outlining our concerns about the report.

“Without a clear acknowledgment of the problem, building towards progress will be impossible, damaging the future lives and prosperity of all in our country.”

Read the full letter, which was coordinated by the Association of Charitable Foundations.

For those who have experience of racial inequity and those organisations working to tackle racial injustice, we know how hard seeing the report’s findings was. But we have been encouraged to see the collective response by many in the sector to work even harder to challenge existing systems of racial injustice and change things for the better.

As we said in our initial response shared on social media, we are committed to addressing structural and systemic racism in the UK and that includes increasing our funding for racial justice. We will also continue to amplify the voices of those we support who are doing incredible work everyday to challenge and tackle injustice. Finally, we want to reiterate our message – particularly to those we support – let us know what more we can do to help.

See the full thread on Twitter.

Response from the sector

Overwhelming reaction to the report from across the voluntary sector, public bodies, and prominent anti-racism activists was negative (summary news story in the Guardian). Amongst the responses, the report was accused of gaslighting, divisive, a missed opportunity to tackle racism in the UK, and denying the lived experience of communities experiencing racial inequity. Kunle Olulode, one of the co-opted commissioners of the report, has also since said that evidence was ‘cherry-picked, distorted and denied’ in the final report (story in the Observer).

Below, we share further responses by organisations we support and other partners.

From the important work of our grantees who fight tirelessly for racial justice, we know that the denial of institutional racism in the recent report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities is not supported by the evidence. It invalidates the work and experiences of the organisations and communities, which we support. COVID-19 and BlackLivesMatter have further highlighted the existence of structural inequality. We are grateful that Black and Minority Ethnic communities and organisations responded quickly and collaboratively to these crises and ensured that funds and services were accessible to hard-hit and under-served communities.

Funders for Race Equality Alliance
  • See the full statement from Funders for Race Equality Alliance, of which we are a member.
  • Runnymede Trust coordinated a letter calling on the Government to reject the report and to affirm its commitment to race equality in Britain as well as taking immediate steps to combat racism based on findings from previous reports. Before being delivered to the Prime Minister, it had been signed by over 21,000 signatories. You can learn more about Runnymede Trust's response to the report here.
  • Operation Black Vote has organised a petition calling on the Government and politicians to denounce the report, saying that it goes against the findings of "countless reports over many years" and "trounces on our lived experience of persistent and often tragic levels of race inequality in many areas of our society, including the criminal justice system, employment, health and housing." It has so far collected over 12,000 signatures.
  • Criminal Justice Alliance highlighted concerns that the report comes at a time "when the Government has just introduced a policing and sentencing bill which it admits will further deepen racial inequality in the criminal justice system."
  • Ubele Initiative warned that the report's "divisive tactics and messages of African pupils are doing better educationally than Caribbean pupils mask the realities for all of us being able to access employment commensurate with levels of academic achievement."
  • Friends, Families and Travellers noted that the report "perpetuates the long-established pattern of no visibility for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in Government actions, reports and recommendations" and highlighted that despite identifying Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students as having the lowest attainment up to and include A-Levels, "there is no recommendation for Government action to correct this."
  • Agenda said "wide-ranging research and evidence clearly demonstrates the very real racism and discrimination faced by so many Black and minoritised women, who experience multiple inequalities at a disproportionate rate to their white counterparts as a result of the intersection of racial, socioeconomic and gender inequalities" and that "listening to those with both lived and learned expertise, and acting on the evidence they provide, must be at the heart of work to create a more equal society."
  • Coalition of Race Equality Organisations said that using data that "some Black, Asian or minority ethnic people have had better outcomes than others" to support its findings that there was "no evidence of systemic or institutional racism was "an extremely worrying way to analyse data and will only serve to play communities against each other." They add: "equality is not something that you can have in a piecemeal way. You either have it or you do not."

Listening to those with both lived and learned expertise, and acting on the evidence they provide, must be at the heart of work to create a more equal society.


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