A WORD ABOUT INSTITUTIONAL RACISM IN BRITAIN
Dr Steve Cushion on the thoughtless use of terms like ‘plantation’ by companies
The glorification of the plantation is dog-whistle politics – a nod and a wink to white supremacists the rightwing nationalists, reassuring them that, as far as the powers that be are concerned, black lives do not matter (Plantations kept slaves. They were a place of horror. Why exploit them as a sales brand?, 25 October). This has a long history. Gone with the Wind, for example, portrayed a completely sanitised view of slavery. This is not to suggest that racism is a deliberate conspiracy by a cynical ruling class. Having presided over a system based on the enslavement of Africans in the West Indies for 200 years, they clearly believe their own propaganda and can no longer help themselves.
The thoughtless use of terms like plantation are a reflection of the generalised institutional racism in Britain. Rightwing, pro-business politicians are on the attack with their “war on woke”. The 2021 Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report, chaired by Tony Sewell, formalises this approach. When looking for evidence of structural racism in Britain, one has to look no further than the Windrush scandal. It is shocking that one of the principal groups targeted by the Home Office’s hostile environment are the descendants of the enslaved Africans trafficked to the Caribbean with the full support of the British state. They would not even be in the Caribbean were it not for the slave trade organised by British big business. If we can have plantation rum, why not gulag vodka?
Dr Steve Cushion
UCL Institute of the Americas
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”The Windrush scandal was a British political scandal which began in 2018 concerning people who were wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and in at least 83 cases wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office. Many of those affected had been born British subjects and had arrived in the UK before 1973, particularly from Caribbean countries, as members of the “Windrush generation“ (so named after the Empire Windrush, the ship that brought one of the first groups of West Indian migrants to the UK in 1948).”
UK EMPLOYEES FACE HIGH LEVEL OF INSTITUTIONAL
1 SEPTEMBER 2022
Many from ethnic minority backgrounds quit their jobs due to racial discrimination, finds survey by Trades Union Congress
UK employees from ethnic minority backgrounds face high levels of racial discrimination in the workplace, forcing many to quit, a new survey has found.
The survey, conducted by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), found that over 120,000 Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) workers across the UK left their jobs due to racism in their respective workplaces.
“This report lifts the lid on racism in UK workplaces. It shines a light on the enormous scale of structural and institutional discrimination BME workers face,” TUC Secretary General Francis O’Grady said.
“This report must be a wake-up call. Ministers need to change the law so that employers are responsible for protecting their workers and preventing racism at work,” O’Grady added.
According to the TUC, one in four (27%) BME workers experienced racist jokes at work in the last five years. The same number of people were made to feel uncomfortable at work due to people using stereotypes or commenting on their appearance.
One in five (21%) workers said they had racist remarks directed at them or made in their presence and were bullied or harassed at work due to their appearances.
For 38% BME workers, the most common perpetrator of harassment at their workplace was one of their colleagues, while 17% of workers reported it was a direct manager or someone else with direct authority.
The study also revealed that the majority of racist behavior and other discriminatory incidences faced by BME workers went unreported due to the institutional nature of racial harassment.
“It’s disgraceful that in 2022 racism still determines who gets hired, trained, promoted – and who gets demoted and dismissed,” O’Grady said.
“And employers must be clear they have a zero-tolerance policy towards racism – and that they will support all staff who raise concerns about racism or who are subjected to racial abuse,” he added.
As a result of such widespread racist and discriminatory behavior, many BME workers reported that these incidents left a long-lasting impact on their careers.
One in 13 (8%) BME workers left their job as a result of the racism they experienced and more than one in 3 (35%) reported that the most recent incident of racism left them feeling less confident at work.
Some 34% reported that such behavior had left them feeling deeply embarrassed with 31% reporting a negative impact on their mental health.
Following the deeply concerning revelations of the study, the TUC urged the government to work with trade unions and employers to ensure that employers have a duty to take action to prevent racism at work and to improve workers’ rights regardless of race and ethnicity.
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NEW REPORT UNCOVERS ”INSTITUTIONAL RACISM” IN
THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
18 OCTOBER 2022
A new report by experts from The University of Manchester and barrister Keir Monteith KC has raised urgent questions about racial attitudes and practices in the justice system in England and Wales.
Although the judiciary wields enormous power over individuals, its operations are alarmingly underscrutinised, and one area that has remained largely beyond examination is judicial racial bias. The report draws on a survey of 373 legal professionals.
95% of respondents said that racial bias plays some role in the processes or outcomes of the justice system, and 29% said it played a ‘fundamental role’. A majority of respondents had witnessed one or more judges acting in a racially biased way towards a defendant and in their decision-making.
Racial discrimination by judges is most frequently directed towards Asian and Black people according to the survey, with people from Black communities – lawyers, witnesses, defendants, etc. – by far the most common targets of judicial discrimination. Young Black male defendants were the subgroup most frequently mentioned as targets of judicial bias.
The survey did find that some judges are already acting in ‘antiracist’ ways by being conscious of and knowledgeable about racism, and seeking to mitigate it – however, only a minority of respondents had ever seen a judge act in this way.
Race training is neither compulsory nor provided on a regular basis – only 49% of the respondents who have worked as judicial office holders had received race training in the preceding three years.
The report emerges as serious questions are already being asked about the treatment of ethnic minority people in the justice system. Black barristers are underrepresented and report experiencing racism from judges, magistrates and panel members. On top of this, The Lammy Review and the Race at the Bar report found that sentencing outcomes are often harsher for ethnic minority defendants.
Overall, the report suggests that the combination of quantitative and qualitative data presented, substantiated by the kind of reports listed above, amounts to evidence of ‘institutional racism’ in the justice system presided over by judges.
The report is a response to the five-year strategy launched by Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett of Maldon to enhance equality and diversity in the judiciary, and finds that it does not consider the issue of racism or even mention ‘racial bias’. Researchers found a profound disparity between the conclusions of the strategy – that the justice system is basically fair and that progress has been made – when compared to the widespread views and experiences of the legal professionals surveyed.
In addition, the report is critical of the Equal Treatment Bench Book, the textbook given to all judges on appointment, in terms of its framing of bias and racism, especially its lack of acknowledgement of anti-Black racism in the justice system.
The evidence in the report rings alarm bells about access to fair trials, hearings and tribunals as well as to equal professional development.
“Racism in the justice system has to be acknowledged and fought by those at the highest level, but at the moment there is complete and utter silence – and as a consequence, there is no action to combat racial bias,” said Keir Monteith KC. “It is impossible to have diversity and inclusion if the system itself unfairly discriminates. There has to be a hard reboot to protect and revitalize the rule of law and civil rights for all citizens – a good start would be to follow the recommendations in our report.”
“Judges need to sit up and listen, because it is a myth that Lady Justice is blind to colour,” said Professor Leslie Thomas KC, who wrote the report’s Foreword. “Our judiciary as an institution is just as racist as our police forces, our education system and our health service – this is something that cannot be ignored for any longer.”
“This important report demonstrates that the very low number of Black and minority ethnic judges poses an acute challenge to the credibility and legitimacy of the judiciary,” said Stephanie Needleman from JUSTICE. “It is only by creating a critical mass of diverse judges that we can ensure that our judiciary is reflective of society and begin to combat the racism witnessed by survey respondents.”
“We welcome, and are grateful to have been consulted on, this hard-hitting report,” said former Judge Claire Gilham from the Judicial Support Network. “My whistleblowing about racism was dismissed as me not understanding judicial culture, having come from the wrong background. There is no internal data keeping for equality complaints, which makes it very difficult for the judiciary to provide any evidence to deny the findings of this report. A severe shake-up of the system is needed.”
“Even after 25 years as a Trade Union Official, I am shocked at the practices employed in the appointment and promotion of judges,” said Stuart Fegan from GMB. “The Judiciary is funded with public money, and the practices identified would simply not be tolerated anywhere else in the public sector. I am delighted that Labour have committed to review appointment and promotion procedures if they win the next election in order to ensure that judges are reflective of the public they serve.”
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RACIAL BIAS AND THE BENCH
A RESPONSE TO THE JUDICIAL DIVERSITY AND
INCLUSION STRATEGY (2020-2025)