Institutional racism - it is a reality

Members of Riverside Muslim Association observe an Eid prayer outside Barking Town Hall.

Those from BAME communities are more likely to die from, and be infected by, Covid-19 - Credit: Jon King

Dictionaries define incredible as “impossible to believe”, “difficult to believe” or “hard to believe”. All these perfectly describe the report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED), chaired by Tony Sewell.

The report denies the role of racism in the disproportionate impact of Covid-19.

Yet those from BAME communities are more likely to die from, and be infected by, Covid-19. They are more likely to be unemployed during the pandemic.

In essential services they died in greater numbers as well as reporting more PPE shortages and feeling targeted to work on Covid wards – as experienced by staff in the Barnet, Haringey and Enfield Mental Health Trust.

Black communities disproportionately die in police custody and are more likely to be stopped and searched by police. Black people are four times more likely to be subjected to stop and search, this rises to 11 times under s60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order 1994. This is the everyday experience in Haringey.

Vivek Lehal, Haringey Stand-Up to Racism (HSTUR)

Vivek Lehal says he government has waged a campaign to deny the existence of institutional racism - Credit: Vivek Lehal

Institutional racism is neither a perception nor a narrative, nor an anachronism. It is a reality embedded in the police, criminal justice system, health, education and employment. Every report in the past 20 years, except for this one, acknowledges that.

Responding to the report, Baroness Doreen Lawrence said to the Guardian on April 1 2020: “My son (Stephen Lawrence) was murdered because of racism and you cannot forget that. Once you start covering it up it is giving the green light to racists.”

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In response to the BLM movement the government could have taken action to eradicate racism and ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the Public Health England Review on Covid-19, Lammy Review into the criminal justice system, the Angiolini Review on Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody and the McGregor-Smith review into employment and BAME communities.

Instead, the government has waged a campaign to deny the existence of institutional racism.

Now more than ever BAME communities, anti-racists and all progressives must unite to challenge racism in all its forms.

Vivek Lehal is secretary of Haringey Stand Up To Racism.

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