Both Home Secretary and foreign agents making things worse
Back in March the government’s own report, which concluded that there was no institutional racism in the UK was met with scepticism by many and outright incredulity by others. And while ministers celebrated the conclusions, subsequent polls have consistently shown that most of us agree with the more recent findings by the Runnymede Trust that in England, at least, there is a substantial degree of “systemic racism” seriously affecting the lives of those in the BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) communities.
The Runneymede Trust curated evidence from a broad coalition of groups and individuals, including more than 100 civil society organisations working to promote race equality and human rights, 78 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and further written evidence from academics and other individuals.
The resulting report shows that racism is systemic in England and impacts BAME peoples’ enjoyment of basic rights across the areas of health, housing, the criminal justice system, education, employment, immigration and political participation. BAME groups are also more likely to live in poverty, be in low-paid, precarious work and to die of Covid-19. In our survey a combined majority of 57% either “strongly agree” or “agree” with the report’s findings, whilst a considerably smaller combined number, 30%, either “disagree” or “strongly disagree”.
Massive levels of online racial abuse were reported by the three England footballers who missed their penalties in the Euro 2020 Final shootout against Italy. In our second question, the largest number, 46%, felt that Home Secretary Priti Patel’s withering description of the England team’s decision to “take the knee” before matches in support for those suffering from racial discrimination, abuse and injustice, as “gesture politics” had actually encouraged racist activity.
A much smaller number, 22%, thought the home secretary’s comments did not encourage racist abuse, but a larger number, 32%, said they “don’t know”, perhaps indicating that some on the right are giving Ms Patel, increasingly a divisive figure within the government, the benefit of the doubt.
Since then many more footballers and other high-profile sportsmen and women, including Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, have stated that they too have been subject to online racial abuse. Our final survey question, regarding the possibility of foreign operatives from Russia and elsewhere manipulating social media in order to exaggerate the extent of racist attitudes in the UK, revealed interesting findings.
With reports emerging that many of the online comments have been found to have foreign origins, the largest combined number of those polled, 44%, think that there are indeed sinister forces at work, and that it is either “very” or “fairly” likely that the Russians might once again be seeking to stir up division in the West through online activity.
Only a combined 28% thought otherwise while the same number said they “don’t know”. While nothing of course can be counted out, the findings of the Runneymede Trust report shows clearly that racism remains a severe and continuing problem in the UK.