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.

Getty
Show Hide image

What David Hockney has to tell us about football

Why the sudden glut of blond footballers? A conversation I had with the artist back in 1966 gave me a clue. . .

In 1966, I went to interview David Hockney at a rather run-down flat in Bayswater, central London. He was 28 and had just won a gold medal at the Royal College of Art.

In his lavatory, I noticed a cut-out photograph from a newspaper of Denis Law scoring a goal. I asked if he was a football fan. He said no, he just liked Denis Law’s thighs.

The sub-editors cut that remark out of the story, to save any gossip or legal problems. In 1966 homosexual activity could still be an offence.

Hockney and a friend had recently been in the United States and had been watching an advert on TV that said “Blondes have more fun”. At two o’clock in the morning, slightly drunk, they both went out, bought some hair dye and became blond. Hockney decided to remain blond from then on, though he has naturally dark hair.

Is it true that blonds have more fun? Lionel Messi presumably thinks so, otherwise why has he greeted this brand-new season with that weird blond hair? We look at his face, his figure, his posture and we know it’s him – then we blink, thinking what the heck, does he realise some joker has been pouring stuff on his head?

He has always been such a staid, old-fashioned-looking lad, never messing around with his hair till now. Neymar, beside him, has gone even blonder, but somehow we expect it of him. He had foony hair even before he left Brazil.

Over here, blonds are popping up all over the shop. Most teams now have a born-again blondie. It must take a fortune for Marouane Fellaini of Man United to brighten up his hair, as he has so much. But it’s already fading. Cheapskate.

Mesut Özil of Arsenal held back, not going the full head, just bits of it, which I suspect is a clue to his wavering, hesitant personality. His colleague Aaron Ramsey has almost the full blond monty. Paul Pogba of Man United has a sort of blond streak, more like a marker pen than a makeover. His colleague Phil Jones has appeared blond, but he seems to have disappeared from the team sheet. Samir Nasri of Man City went startlingly blond, but is on loan to Seville, so we’re not able to enjoy his locks. And Didier Ndong of Sunderland is a striking blond, thanks to gallons of bleach.

Remember the Romanians in the 1998 World Cup? They suddenly appeared blond, every one of them. God, that was brilliant. One of my all-time best World Cup moments, and I was at Wembley in 1966.

So, why do they do it? Well, Hockney was right, in a sense. Not to have more fun – meaning more sex – because top footballers are more than well supplied, but because their normal working lives are on the whole devoid of fun.

They can’t stuff their faces with fast food, drink themselves stupid, stay up all night, take a few silly pills – which is what many of our healthy 25-year-old lads consider a reasonably fun evening. Nor can they spend all their millions on fun hols, such as skiing in the winter, a safari in the spring, or hang-gliding at the weekend. Prem players have to be so boringly sensible these days, or their foreign managers will be screaming at them in their funny foreign accents.

While not on the pitch, or training, which takes up only a few hours a day, the boredom is appalling, endlessly on planes or coaches or in some hotel that could be anywhere.

The only bright spot in the long days is to look in the mirror and think: “Hmm, I wonder what highlights would look like? I’ve done the beard and the tattoos. Now let’s go for blond. Wow, gorgeous.”

They influence each other, being simple souls, so when one dyes his hair, depending on where he is in the macho pecking order, others follow. They put in the day by looking at themselves. Harmless fun. Bless ’em.

But I expect all the faux blonds to have gone by Christmas. Along with Mourinho. I said that to myself the moment he arrived in Manchester, smirking away. Pep will see him off. OK then, let’s say Easter at the latest . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times