‘UK has made progress on race but more must be done’

Thursday, Jun 08, 2023

LONDON: The UK is a better place to live as a minority than other major western democracies such as the USA, Germany or France but many black and Asian people still face discrimination in their everyday lives, the findings of a major report have suggested.

Ahead of the 75th anniversary this month of the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush to Britain, the British Future think tank sought to gather a “state of the nation” picture of public attitudes on race, identity and prejudice.According to their polling, two thirds (67 per cent) of ethnic minority respondents said black and Asian people face discrimination in their everyday lives in Britain.

When asked to say whether Britain is a better or worse place for people from an ethnic minority background to live compared with other major western democracies like the USA, Germany and France, 80 per cent of ethnic minority respondents said it is better.One fifth (20 per cent) said it is worse, the report said.The research came from Focaldata polling in March and April this year of almost 2,500 people – 1,000 from an ethnic minority background, 944 white people and a boosted sample of 300 black Caribbean respondents.Among white British respondents, the split for the question on whether Britain is a better or worse place for people from an ethnic minority background to live was 73 per cent to 27 per cent.On black and Asian people facing discrimination in their everyday lives in Britain, 17 per cent of white respondents and 10 per cent of ethnic minority respondents disagreed that this is the case.

Almost half (48 per cent) of white British respondents and 60 per cent of ethnic minorities said they believe it is easier to “get on” in Britain if you are white.More than half (56 per cent) of people said the political and media debate has become more divisive and polarised, with two thirds of people saying they would welcome a less heated debate about race in the country’s politics and society.Looking at whether Britain has made significant progress on race over the last 25 years, 68 per cent of ethnic minority respondents and 71 per cent of the white majority group (71 per cent) said it has.Some 13 per cent of ethnic minority respondents disagreed, rising to almost one in five (17 per cent) of black respondents and a tenth of the white population.

But a majority of all groups agreed that it needs to make “much more progress on race in the next 25 years” – eight out of 10 ethnic minority respondents and almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of the white British majority agreed on that.The report also focused on awareness of Windrush, finding that only 55 per cent were able to pick the ship’s name which “has become symbolic of Commonwealth migration to Britain” from a list of four.

Awareness was split depending on age, with only 13 per cent of all young people aged 18-24 aware of the Windrush, compared to 87 per cent of people aged over 65.When they heard more about it, six in 10 people in Britain (61 per cent) felt the 75th anniversary of the Windrush arrival is an important moment for the country, rising to 71 per cent of ethnic minority Britons and 84 per cent of black Caribbeans.

Almost three quarters of people (74 per cent) said they think children should be taught about Windrush in school.Among black Caribbean respondents, 89 per cent said they want children to learn about the Windrush story at school, with more than half (53 per cent) saying this is very important.Sunder Katwala, director of British Future and co-author of the report, said committing to an “ambitious agenda for change in the quarter-century to come would be a fitting legacy” of the Windrush, with a focus on the progress still required on race in Britain.The 75th anniversary on June 22 will be bittersweet, Patrick Vernon, convenor of the Windrush 75 network, said.He said: “Bitter because there’s still injustice, not just around Windrush Generation, but structural racism. And that is why we need to end the scandal this year.

“This Government has the power, right now, to give proper compensation; to recognise its failures; to right the wrongs done to the Windrush generation; and to give people proper citizenship status.

“It should not be forcing those Windrush pioneers still affected through the High Court and Court of Appeal in its defence of the failings of the compensation scheme. It should adopt the full recommendations of the Wendy Williams lessons learned review.”

The Government has faced criticism for dropping three of the 30 recommendations Ms Williams made in her review – namely the establishment of a migrants’ commissioner; a call to increase powers of the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration and to hold reconciliation events.The Home Office has previously said it is “committed to righting the wrongs of Windrush”, having paid or offered just over £72.5 million in compensation by the end of April this year.A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are clear that all pupils should be taught a broad and balanced curriculum.“The freedom and flexibility in the national curriculum means that historic events such as Windrush can already be taught in schools, and many teachers and schools already ensure that these events are discussed in their teaching.”

Black Equity Organisation chief executive Dr Wanda Wyporska said: “Although we rightly celebrate the contribution and resilience of the Windrush generation, the British Future report highlights the urgent need for current and future generations to take on the fight of dismantling structural racism once and for all.”