18 June 2020, The Tablet

Racism in the UK is a problem for us all

Bame lives matter


Systemic racism is embedded in British society, according to a declaration of solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters issued on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Yet individual attitudes may be changing for the better. David Lammy, a black barrister who is Labour MP for Tottenham, was commissioned by the Conservative government to investigate racism in the criminal justice system. His report found that “overt racism is declining”. He cited surveys showing that “the proportion of people who say that they would mind if a relative married someone from a West Indian or Asian background has fallen significantly over the last two decades” – a question regarded as a standard test of racist attitudes.

Yet a systemic racial bias persists. Mr Lammy found a hugely disproportionate number of young BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) individuals – 40 per cent – serving prison sentences. A similarly disproportionate number are routinely stopped and searched in the street by the police. And serving police officers from BAME communities continue to encounter racist attitudes from white colleagues. Indeed, while British police behaviour falls short of the excesses that have been dramatically recorded in the United States, deaths of BAME individuals in police custody in Britain indicate something is seriously amiss here too. Saying so is not giving in to a “grievance culture”. Black lives do matter.

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