New report shows shocking racial inequality in Britain

Black people five times more likely to be imprisoned, while black graduates face 24 per cent less pa

Today saw the release of How Fair is Britain, a landmark report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The commission's first triennial report into the subject, it paints a picture of entrenched racial and social inequality.

The Guardian today picks up on the data on prisons. The proportion of black people in prison in England and Wales is now higher than in the United States. Nearly seven times more people of Afro-Caribbean and African descent are imprisoned than their share of the population, compared with about four times in the US. On average, five times more black people than white are imprisoned in England and Wales.

It's a shocking disparity, albeit hardly surprising. Despite claims that institutional racism in the police force has been tackled since the Stephen Lawrence case, the report notes that while black people make up less than 3 per cent of the population, they accounted for 15 per cent of people stopped by police.

Clearly, not enough is being done to tackle racism in the prison and justice system. But another striking aspect of the report is how this racial inequality runs through society at every level. Black children are three times as likely to be permanently excluded from school. One of the most striking comparisons in the report shows that being black and male has a greater negative impact on levels of numeracy than having a learning disability.

Even for those who make it to university, the disparity still exists. Less than ten per cent of black students are at the top Russell Group universities, compared with a quarter of white students. Around a third of black students get a first or upper-second class degree, compared with two-thirds of white students. The study also suggests that black students face a 24 per cent less pay than their white counterparts.

It is a drastic understatement to say that something here is not right. Commentators are frequently quick to attribute racially based underachievement to the disaffection and alienation of boys in the black community. There is no doubt that this has a part to play, but when these statistics - prisons, schools, universities, graduate employment - are placed alongside each other, it is not difficult to see where this disaffection comes from.

There might be a "poverty of aspiration" among black, but it is easy to understand why when the reward for a degree could be lower pay. The report raises some uncomfortable questions about the scale and nature of institutionalised racism in this country. Clearly, at every level, more must be done.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Northern Ireland election results: a shift beneath the status quo

The power of the largest parties has been maintained, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

After a long day of counting and tinkering with the region’s complex PR vote transfer sytem, Northern Irish election results are slowly starting to trickle in. Overall, the status quo of the largest parties has been maintained with Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party returning as the largest nationalist and unionist party respectively. However, beyond the immediate scope of the biggest parties, interesting changes are taking place. The two smaller nationalist and unionist parties appear to be losing support, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

The most significant win of the night so far has been Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit who topped polls in the Republican heartland of West Belfast. Traditionally a Sinn Fein safe constituency and a former seat of party leader Gerry Adams, Carroll has won hearts at a local level after years of community work and anti-austerity activism. A second People Before Profit candidate Eamon McCann also holds a strong chance of winning a seat in Foyle. The hard-left party’s passionate defence of public services and anti-austerity politics have held sway with working class families in the Republican constituencies which both feature high unemployment levels and which are increasingly finding Republicanism’s focus on the constitutional question limiting in strained economic times.

The Green party is another smaller party which is slowly edging further into the mainstream. As one of the only pro-choice parties at Stormont which advocates for abortion to be legalised on a level with Great Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act, the party has found itself thrust into the spotlight in recent months following the prosecution of a number of women on abortion related offences.

The mixed-religion, cross-community Alliance party has experienced mixed results. Although it looks set to increase its result overall, one of the best known faces of the party, party leader David Ford, faces the real possibility of losing his seat in South Antrim following a poor performance as Justice Minister. Naomi Long, who sensationally beat First Minister Peter Robinson to take his East Belfast seat at the 2011 Westminster election before losing it again to a pan-unionist candidate, has been elected as Stormont MLA for the same constituency. Following her competent performance as MP and efforts to reach out to both Protestant and Catholic voters, she has been seen by many as a rising star in the party and could now represent a more appealing leader to Ford.

As these smaller parties slowly gain a foothold in Northern Ireland’s long-established and stagnant political landscape, it appears to be the smaller two nationalist and unionist parties which are losing out to them. The moderate nationalist party the SDLP risks losing previously safe seats such as well-known former minister Alex Attwood’s West Belfast seat. The party’s traditional, conservative values such as upholding the abortion ban and failing to embrace the campaign for same-sex marriage has alienated younger voters who instead may be drawn to Alliance, the Greens or People Before Profit. Local commentators have speculate that the party may fail to get enough support to qualify for a minister at the executive table.

The UUP are in a similar position on the unionist side of the spectrum. While popular with older voters, they lack the charismatic force of the DUP and progressive policies of the newer parties. Over the course of the last parliament, the party has aired the possibility of forming an official opposition rather than propping up the mandatory power-sharing coalition set out by the peace process. A few months ago, legislation will finally past to allow such an opposition to form. The UUP would not commit to saying whether they are planning on being the first party to take up that position. However, lacklustre election results may increase the appeal. As the SDLP suffers similar circumstances, they might well also see themselves attracted to the role and form a Stormont’s first official opposition together as a way of regaining relevance and esteem in a system where smaller parties are increasingly jostling for space.