Shortlisted Resolution: Racism and Discrimination

Systemic racism and discrimination is still a prominent challenge in society. The global protests surrounding the Black Lives Matter Movement have once again emphasised the extent of the inequality and injustice that people from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities still face across a wide range of settings including the justice system, employment, education and healthcare.

The NFWI and its members, in furtherance of their duties as citizens, agree to take concrete action to stamp out racial inequalities including by:

  • campaigning for decision-makers to implement the recommendations of existing reviews on racial inequality, and taking action following forthcoming reviews;
  • raising public awareness of these issues; and 
  • otherwise taking suitable action to increase recognition of, and help to address, this inequality and injustice.

Proposer’s position

The proposer would like to see the introduction of a WI campaign that calls on decision makers to take concrete action to stamp out racial inequalities across society. They would also like to see WI members raise awareness and further education of these issues in order to increase recognition of, and help to address, this inequality and injustice.

The scale of the problem

A survey from 2019 found that 71% of people from ethnic minorities have faced racial discrimination, compared with 58% in January 2016, illustrating the rising numbers of racially motivated incidents. Furthermore, research by an anti-bullying campaign has found that almost a third of children have heard racist comments at school. 

Although the Black Lives Matter protests have brought racism to the fore,  evidence shows that racial discrimination still exists at all level of society. This was highlighted by the findings of the 2017 Race Disparity Audit which revealed the inequalities that exist between ethnicities in the areas of education, health, employment and treatment by police and the courts. 

In the criminal justice system, black people are more likely to be prosecuted and to receive longer sentences. Black people account for 3% of the UK population, but 8% of deaths in custody in the UK. Furthermore, in prison black people are subject to higher rates of adjudication, spend more days than average in segregation and are more frequently subject to the use of force. 

Huge disparities also exist within healthcare. According to the ONS, Black people are four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than their white counterparts, and the evidence shows such differences are not driven by pre-existing health conditions but largely down to factors such as living arrangements and jobs. Moreover, Black women in the UK are five times as likely to die in childbirth. 

Structural racism is also exemplified in education and employment. According to the Department of Education, white British students are more than three times more likely to achieve high grades than black Caribbean students, whilst black Caribbean children are 3.5 times more likely to be excluded from school. Furthermore, evidence has suggested that the disproportionate exclusion of Black students often arises from labelling, stigmatisation, and problematic teacher assessments. Case studies collected by IPPR in 2017 suggested that racist stereotyping of Black pupils’ behaviour may explain the higher exclusion rates of Black pupils. 

In employment in the UK, BAME workers are paid around £3.2bn less than their white counterparts every year and data shows that the unemployment rate for BAME groups is 6.1%, versus 3.5% for people from a white background. Furthermore, BAME academics at top universities earn on average 26% less than their white colleagues. Research has shown that Black and South Asian Britons face alarming discrimination in the labour market at levels unchanged since the late 1960s. On average, 24% of applicants of white British origin received a positive response from employers, compared with 15% of ethnic minority applicants applying with identical CVs and cover letters. 

The current situation

In June 2020, the Government announced it would form a new commission, called the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, to see what more could be done to eradicate racial and social inequality. This independent commission is broader in scope than previous reviews, and builds on the work of the 2017 Race Disparity Audit to look at “all aspects of inequality – in employment, in health outcomes, in academic and all other walks of life”. The commission is expected to report on its findings by the end of 2020. 

The Government has also said it will continue to take action on recommendations from previous reviews that they have agreed to take forward. However, an article by the BBC in June 2020 highlighted that many recommendations of past reviews have not yet been implemented, including the Lammy Review, the McGregor-Smith Review (2017) and the Windrush Review (2020).

There are several organisations in the UK working on this issue. Both the Runnymede Trust and the Institute of Race Relations have been building up a body of evidence on a wide range of areas that address key race equality challenges for public policy and public debate. Furthermore, campaign groups such as Operation Black Vote and BLM in the Stix have been pushing for reform across employment, healthcare, education and the justice system.

How could the WI work on this issue if it was passed?

A full campaign would be developed by the NFWI if the resolution is passed, taking into account developments since then. To help inform your discussions, here are some ways the WI could consider working on this issue. 

At local and regional levels, members could raise awareness of the prevalence of racism and discrimination throughout society and further education on this issue.

Nationally, NFWI could call on decision-makers to implement the recommendations of existing reviews on racial inequality, and take action following forthcoming reviews.

Points to consider:

  • The WI does not have an existing mandate directly relating to racial injustice. This resolution would enable the WI to campaign on this issue, and specifically call on Government to implement the recommendations of existing reviews on racial inequality, and take action following forthcoming reviews.
  • This resolution touches on a range of issues including in relation to the justice system, education and healthcare. How could WIs collaborate to achieve change in specific sectors? 
  • A WI campaign could be pivotal in raising local awareness and furthering education on this issue, both important strategies to tackling racism. 
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