BLM: A Voice for Black Britons?

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EVENT TRANSCRIPT: BLM: A Voice for Black Britons?

DATE: 25 February, 6.30pm – 7.30pm

VENUE: Online

SPEAKERS: Dr Rakib Ehsan, Dr Remi Adekoya, Calvin Robinson, Esther Krakue

EVENT MODERATOR: Esther Krakue

 

 

Esther Krakue 00:01

Okay, perfect. It looks like everyone is here. Hi guys. Welcome to the Henry Jackson Society virtual event series on “BLM: A Voice for Black Britons”. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. Tonight, we have Dr Remi Adekoya, Calvin Robinson and Dr Rakib Ehsan, who is actually the author of this report. We’re going to ask them a few questions about the findings of this report and whether BLM overall has been a force for good in British society, modern society. And I just want to remind everyone to remember to ask your questions down below. And if you have a question that you would like to raise your hand and say live, just click on the little icon with the hand and I will hopefully pick you when we have time at the end. So, you can ask your question to the presenters. Right now, I am introducing one of our first speakers, Dr Rakib Ehsan, who’s actually the author of this report. Rakib.

Dr Rakib Ehsan 00:53

Well, thank you, Esther. And I’d like to also thank Dr Remi Adekoya and Calvin Robinson for accepting my invitation for joining me on the panel to discuss my new report. The core of the report you could say was exploring public attitudes on UK race relations and attitudes towards the Black Lives Matter movement. But it also touched upon issues of identity reported discrimination, people’s relationship with various public institutions. So, it was a wide-ranging report, there was plenty of data for people to talk into. And I’d be very interested to hear Dr. Remi and Calvin’s opinions on the report later on.

I think the big thing with the report was that in some cases, the general population and the black British population, they look at British society and public institutions in very different ways. I think there’s no getting away from that. Just to give you an example, when we’re looking at people’s perceptions of the condition of race relations in the UK, around one in four in the general population feels that race relations in the UK is currently in bad shape that increases to 40% for black British people. So, you can see there’s a noticeable difference there. And in this report which the Henry Jackson Society worked with ICM Limited who carried out the polling, when respondents were asked, “Do you agree that the UK is a fundamentally racist society?” For the general population, the figures are around three in 10, 29%, to be exact. This actually rose to fold up to 58%, around six in 10 for the black British population. So there’s also very clear differences in terms of perceptions of whether or not the UK has a problem with police brutality, very clear general population versus black British differences there. So I think there’s definitely a debate to be had, in terms of people’s relationships with institutions, particularly black British communities.

So when it comes to relationship with the UK Parliament, 45% of black British people feel that their racial group is unfairly treated by the UK Parliament. That figure actually is nearly one in two when it comes to being asked about how the education system functions. And I think one of the worrying findings from personal perspective, was that when it comes to institutions, how they manage the Covid-19 pandemic, three in 10 black British people felt that the NHS had treated their racial group unfairly through its management of the Covid-19 pandemic. And that is naturally very relevant when we look at levels of vaccine hesitancy in different ethnic groups. We see that black British communities have notably higher levels of vaccine hesitancy, even when compared with groups of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi origin. And I think that was one of the motivating factors in terms of we doing this polling because all too often we see a great deal of (inaudible) polling, ethnic minority polling. When you actually look at the ethnic composition of those samples, black British people are a minority within their ethnic minority population, a lot of those samples you’ll actually see majority Asian origin. So, this would include people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and also Chinese origin. So, I think that was one of the real motivating factors in terms of actually carrying out and writing this report.

So you can see that there is certainly a debate in terms of people’s relationship and how they interact with institutions, how they perceive wider society. But when we’re looking at how you say, the more radical objectives and behaviours associated with the BLM movement, particularly the UK BLM political organisation, you see that some of these goals are not particularly inclusive or not well supported. So we’ve had a great deal about defunding police forces. When you actually ask people “Would you support a reduction in an investment for your local police force?”, fewer than one in five black British people support that. That drops even lower to 11% for the general population when we’ve already had things such as dismantling market capitalism. But when you ask respondents “Would you support replacing the UK market economy with a socialist system?”, the figure is only around one in four for both the general population and black British people. So, you can see there that those established radical objectives which are associated with the Black Lives Matter movement are not particularly well supported by the wider general population, also by black British people. And there’s obviously been that huge discussion about public vandalism, tearing down statues, only 16%, around, one in six black British people consider tearing down that toppling statues and acts as an acceptable form of political protest. That drops even lower to 8% for the general population. And I think that’s an important finding because when you go beyond the inner-city areas of London, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, there’s actually not many white British people we suspect would actually have genuinely close relations with a black individual. So much of their perceptions may be shaped by what they come across in the news, what they read in the media. But I think ultimately what the report is about adding a bit of nuance to the debate. So it was very interesting that six in 10 black British people attached importance to their British national identity. Six in 10 black British people also feel that their local police force treats their racial group unfairly. So I think there is that debate to be have, where you can be both patriotic, but also have serious concerns about how your society functions, but especially when it comes to issues of racial fairness, equality of opportunity. And I think that is an important point to be made.

And I’ll make this final point because ultimately I’d want to give Dr Remi and Calvin as much time as possible, because I’m very interested to hear what they thought about the report. But there is also that, I almost say there’s a myth. There’s one of those you quite often hear this phrase “black humanity”. And I think that is used in politics, it is used in the media as well, and also by academics. But I think the one thing that the report shows that there’s a great deal of diversity in terms of political opinion perceptions of British society within the wider black British population. And I think there’s very notable differences to report in particular between people of black African origin and people of black Caribbean origin. I also make the point that there’s a great deal of diversity within the black African origin population. For example, it would include established Christian migrants who originate from West Africa. And that could even include more recently arrived Muslim refugees, who fled civil unrest in the Horn of Africa. So, you can see there the degree of diversity that can be contained in the broader black African category. But when compared with people of black Caribbean origin, people of black African origin are more positive about the state of UK race relations. They are less likely to report having an unstable family life during their childhood, they’re more likely to attach importance to their religious identity. And importantly, they’re more likely to report life satisfaction in the UK. So, you can see that there’s quite important and notable differences between those two broader ethnic categories.

And I always make a final point because I talk a great deal about the importance of stable family units. I tweet about this a great deal. What was very important and very interesting was when respondents were asked how stable or unstable was your childhood family life. When it came to the very stable responses, 46% in the general population said they had a very stable family life during their childhood, that dropped to 33% for black British people. And when it comes to people reporting that they had an unstable childhood family life, the figure in the general population is 14%, that rises to 21% over one in five for black British people. And I do feel that when it comes to discussions about inequality, social progress, I think there should be a wider acknowledgement that a stable family unit is the finest form of social security and it provides those vital foundations for personal development and long-term life satisfaction. And I do feel that people who are quite sympathetic towards the BLM movement, they don’t really want to acknowledge or even willing to discuss the negative effects of family breakdown, particularly within black British communities. And I think a lot of these topics hopefully we’ll touch upon them and dig in deeper detail as this event goes on.

Esther Krakue 09:54

Thank you so much for that introduction, Rakib. That was very enlightening. Obviously, this is your report. So, I’m sure the findings in and of itself was a huge learning experience for you as well. Now we’re moving on to Dr Remi Adekoya. I would love to know your views on the findings of this report and how you think what has been discovered from these findings can actually be implemented in into British society on a wider scale to further racial harmony in society.

Dr Remi Adekoya 10:21

Okay, thank you very much. First of all, Rakib, I think it’s a great report, you clearly did a lot of work with this. So, congratulations on that. Gripping reading, I found some things optimistic in the report on some things clearly signalling there’s work to be done. So, one of the most optimistic things I found was what you’ve already mentioned, the fact that 62% of black Britons say British National Identity is important to them, compared to 64% of white Britain. So, there’s essentially no difference there. Now, this is something I think we can’t overemphasise that it’s really important that we drive on this point. There’s always been a sort of narrative driven essentially by the far right in the 70s and in the 80s that the people coming here from the former Commonwealth country, from the former colonial countries, are they really going to identify British? Are they really going to care about this society, or not really? I think this really shows that British National Identity is important to ethnic minorities living here, and this is something we should really emphasise.

Another thing I found really important and optimistic there is that when it comes to sort of viewpoints of white Britons as six in 10 black Britain say they have a favourable viewpoint of white Britons in general, three in 10 are neutral and only one in 10 black Britons have a generally unfavourable view of white Britons. So, there is no widespread antipathy towards white people here amongst the black population. And this is also something we should emphasise because in these heated discussions and heated debates on social media and elsewhere, one might get that kind of impression that there’s a lot of antipathy towards white people, specifically among the black British population, that is not the case. So those are optimistic things.

Clearly, there are things also to be worried about and to work on. 58% of black Britain say Britain is a fundamentally racist country, for intensity of experience discrimination. You pointed out that a black Britain feel treated unfairly by the parliament, by the education system and by the police. So clearly, these feelings exist out there. As you see, there’s no dancing around this. There’s clearly a strong wellspring of feelings in this direction. What I think we need to do is find out some more specifics on how exactly does this unfair treatment manifest itself practically? These are things we need to find out from people to be able to address the problem there.

Esther Krakue 12:46

And I get just jump into Dr Remi. It is a really interesting point. I mean, if we’re supposed to give commission a little bit more extra money to delve into more of the findings of this report and get more specifics, how exactly would you find out the specific reasons behind why six in 10 black British people feel like they’ve experienced discrimination, how it’s manifested? So what parameters would you use? Would you still feel more followed in a shop? Is a more to do with feelings? Is it more to do with objective? Because that’s something that we do struggle with, right? Feelings are not necessarily objective reality. I’m sure if you ask the same thing to a lot of black Americans about their experiences of racism, huge swathes of them say yes, I personally experienced racism. But then when you look at look at objective figures, these are objective markers of actual discrimination, it might not necessarily match up because obviously times have changed, you don’t have overtly racist policies that point to skin colour or something like that. So, you know, that is the difficulty. So how would you address that?

Dr Remi Adekoya 13:48

It’s a difficult one. And I think we have to start with open questions essentially. So you know, how exactly does this unfair treatment that you talk about manifests itself and let people talk. It would have to obviously start probably with smaller group focus groups, talk to people, try to find out what are the common themes that seem to pop up here. And of course, we can mention the fact that these are subjective interpretations. But at the end of the day, all public opinion is based on popular perceptions and subjective interpretations. And so we have to go with that. And you know, that it’s a social reality out there. 58% of people feel that way. That’s a social reality, and that’s something we need to deal with. That’s what I’d say on that.

What I think it’s not a coincidence that 58% also of black Britain’s say the impact of BLM on race relations in the UK has been positive. And what surprised me actually, a clear majority of black British conservatives and black British leave voters also think that BLM has had a positive impact on British American relations, even though a majority of black Britons disagree with some of the methods of BLM. So I think that people are against that in the black British community. So I think the average black Britain takes this stance: “Yes, I don’t really agree with some of the methods used by BLM. I don’t agree with some of the more aggressive rhetoric”. But all in all, I do think they’re raising important questions. And I am more or less happy that they’re there. That is a group that is really forcing this issue into the public sphere. This clearly is the consensus, which has emerged from Rakib’s studies. So that’s also something which is interesting, and something I think we should take into account. Because like I expected that among black British conservatives, there’d be less approval of BLM. But there wasn’t a clear majority, clearly approval of what they’re doing and think they’re having a positive impact.

Esther Krakue 15:52

That’s a very interesting point. Because obviously BLM was originally an American movement in response to a lot of police brutality that a lot of African Americans thought and believed that locally they were facing. I think my question is, what do you think was missing in the discussion around race relations before BLM? Because BLM actually came onto our radar in 2016, when a lot about the people that were protesting for Heathrow that blocked one of the routes to Heathrow during the busy summer period. What do you think was missing from the conversation regarding race relations in the UK before BLM? And how do you think BLM happened to address that that actually improved it in current 2021 society?

Dr Remi Adekoya 16:33

So I think the way people see it from my reading is first of all they really brought this issue to the fore very assertively in a way that had not really been done before. So of course, you know The Guardian, The Independent etc. have been talking about this for years, but not that assertively. So they did that very assertively. That’s one, especially on social media. Two, you know, the protests, those are visuals, visuals always make an impact on people, and they tend to impress people when people say “Ah looked at people on the streets going out protesting, they’re in my name”, that means something to people. And they tend to connect with that more and feel that has more of an impact because everybody is covering this, Sky News is covering, all the TV stations are covering it. So there’s something going on here. It’s not just somebody has written an article in The Guardian, or The Independent, or maybe 2000, 3000 people have read it. This is on TV, the whole country is watching these protests. So I think many black Britons watching that, have that feeling that “oh, yeah finally, somebody is really pushing this issue strongly”. So that’s where I think (inaudible) even though that’s not the point. So that assertiveness is something which goes back to the days of Malcolm X etc. there is a certain “pride”, you could call it in those black leaders who come out very assertively and state that, “look, there’s racism here, and we’re going to talk about it and nobody’s going to shut us up”. So that’s something I think they connected with very strongly.

Another interesting thing which I found in the report is what Rakib already alluded to is the differences within the black community. So people of African descent tend to have a more benign attitude towards Britain, and generally are less likely to think Britain a racist country. I think twice of many black Britons of African heritage are likely to be satisfied with their life in Britain. So it’s 45 to 23 in that case. Whereas a much lower percentage of black Britons of Caribbean heritage are likely to express life satisfaction. I think this particular case is very interesting, something which (inaudible) has to do with our expectations of reality.

So I think that there’s three kinds of people from the Africa, black Britons of African descent here. People who were born here and have never been to Africa, and people who were born here and have visited Africa at least once or perhaps several times. And then there’s people like me who were actually born in an African country, and then came here later. And when you have that experience, you have a frame of reference, you have something to compare to. And any of us here who were brought up in an African country, we know life can be very difficult. So if someone was born here, and then go visit an African state, and African country of where their father or mother is from. So wow, you know, it’s not the case that everybody has access to NHS level health care without actually having to pay for it all over the world. That’s not the way it works. In many cases, people don’t have access to that kind of health care in huge poverty and huge corruption in many African cities. So people see the reality of life there. And they’re like, “wow, Britain is not that bad actually”, and they come back. When I was researching for my book about biracial Britain, I spoke to biracial Britons of African heritage who have visited there, and they describe these kinds of events to me “I actually came back from the African country with my father and mother was from, having a more positive view of Britain because I saw, actually Britain is not that bad when you compare to life elsewhere”. I’m not trying to say that we should lower standards and it’s simply like I see we interpret our realities based on our expectation of reality.

 

Esther Krakue 20:23

I think that’s a very interesting point that you bring up to that extent that I suppose, you know, not growing up in a certain country, not growing up with certain realities or certain expectations of how you’ll be treated? How does that impact? How do we feel about the country? How should we feel about the country? Because that’s something I’ve been very vocal about even though I didn’t grow up in (inaudible), I suppose away from sort of racial issues. I mean, there were loads of Lebanese and Turkish and Chinese people. So I knew that there was a different world out there. But I suppose my reality was never thought of a black British person that’s growing up in the UK. So I think that’s something we’ll touch on later about how expectations should be levelled with actual realities and to what extent because you didn’t expect anything better? To what extent doesn’t make it okay? Or, to what extent do people that have actually grown up here need a reality check as in other countries, and what they really should expect in terms of general treatment. I want to move on to Calvin to come and your views on the findings of the report because I just want to see where you stand on a lot of the statistics, whether you’re surprised by any of them, or whether you just think that this is a great sign for progress.

Calvin Robinson 21:36

Thank you. So first of all, congratulations Dr Rakib on an amazingly successful launch. I’ve seen you in the Times, the Daily Mail, the Spectator, Talk Radio, and Guido Fawkes. So it’s been really good. A lot of interesting stats in here, the first two that stood out really, for me, was that 50% of black Brits and activists have too much influence in the police, alongside nearly half of black Brits think that the BBC is run by a political activist as well. So I think as someone obviously campaigning for defunding the BBC, but also against political activism in our public institutions. I think that really stood out in the black Brits really recognise that the influence that these extremists have on our public bodies and how it’s inappropriate.

But looking at a few of these, 29% of Brits believe in systemic racism. So to me that looks like a very low number because I don’t believe that this country is institutionally racist. But then I see that it almost doubles amongst black Brits, so that’s the first sign that there was really some kind of disconnect going on there between the British public as a whole in general, and black Brits in particular. And again, as we’ve heard from the other two speakers previously, the black Brits is disingenuous a little bit because it there are so many different communities within that, that it needs to break down even further. But if we look at some of the racism that these people have said that they experience in some of the reported racial discrimination, and again, we don’t know what type of discrimination that is. But 8% of black people have reported experiencing racism at the hands of other black people, which really stood out to me in particular because the majority of the racism that I experience is from other black people. So only 6% is from experienced from Asian people, less than 3% from Chinese or less than 2%, from mixed race people.

So it raises concerns there that amongst the BAME communities themselves, there is a lot of inter-racial discrimination going on, that never actually gets addressed. I never hear anything about this in the mainstream media, and never hear this being talked about. We tend to perceive racism these days as a power struggle between black people and white people. And of course, that is completely untrue because racism is discrimination based on ethnicity. So anyone could be racist. And I think these stats back that up in that people have experienced racism from a lot of different ethnic groups. So yeah, there’s a clear disconnect there. But 22% of Brits believe police brutality is an issue in the UK. Again, to me, that’s a really, really low number, and fewer than one in five black Brits support reducing investment in their own police force. So again, we’ve got lots of strong support for the police amongst black people. And not many people believe that police brutality is an issue here, which backs up the claims that I was making all summer last year that we were importing a lot of this drama from America, the whole Black Lives Matter.

Esther Krakue 24:22

I’ll stop you there Calvin because that’s a point that you raised about police brutality, because there’s always a question of how you define police brutality. Obviously, if you’re talking about police brutality in the context that we’re seeing now with all the social media buzz around it, you see a police officers in the US with their knee on the guy’s neck or police officers in the US, I don’t know, shooting someone or something like that. Obviously that’s not really a reality here because our police officers aren’t routinely carrying guns. They often carry batons and tasers. And so do you think even the definition of police brutality and how we see and how we experience in the UK might have affected those figures or do you genuinely believe that it’s actually outlines the reality that there is a huge disconnect or shift between what BLM represents or should represent in the UK versus its American counterpart that was almost transposed onto British society.

Calvin Robinson 25:12

I think the latter. I think that people copy and pasted the drama from America over here. It wasn’t relevant. It just doesn’t suit our environment. Police over here don’t carry guns, they don’t kneel on black people’s necks, and it’s not the same treatment. In fact, obviously, in this country, more white people get arrested than black people. And there are lots of issues that need addressing, particularly amongst the Metropolitan Police. But police brutality as we see it in America isn’t an issue here. And I’m glad that people seem to recognise that according to the stats. And the violence around Black Lives Matter, I saw only one in six black Brits believed tearing down statues is a legitimate form of protest. Thank you. It’s not a legitimate form of process. I’m so pleased to see that most people are law abiding citizens and believe in the democratic process, rather than just violently tearing down things that you don’t believe in.

So work has to be done here clearly, on in lots of areas, if the majority of black people are perceiving racism to be an issue in this country against the majority of non-black people not perceiving it to be an issue. There’s an issue, there are social patients, something is disconnected there along the lines. So while Black Lives Matters methods were completely wrong. And everyone seems to agree with that there is still something that needs to be addressed around race. But violence is not the answer. And nor is Marxism apparently because only 25% of black Brits support replacing the British capitalist system with a socialist economy compared to 25 to 23% of the population as a whole. So it’s pretty much in line. To be honest, most people disagree with a socialist economy, and are in favour of keeping our capitalist system.

Esther Krakue 26:46

Just a quick question because moving on to the findings of the report that kind of maybe shed light on some problems in British society, they do need addressing. So it’s the percentage of black Britons that feel that Britain is a fundamentally racist society or as historically racist society, what do you think should be done about that? And to what extent do you think the influence of those sentiments is coming from social media that is being able to exponentially put out information that touches people more often in a more personal way, as opposed to actual realities on the ground. So saying, you’re going to write an exam and you feel like you’re going to get a lower score because the invigilator is going to see a less ethnically British name, for instance, and just marking down or just incidences where I suppose clearly racist events can occur. So how do you think that’s happened?

Calvin Robinson 27:35

So I think that’s a good question. I think a lot of this is perceived racism. So we don’t get much detail on the racial discrimination that people have experienced. But I think a lot of it is perceived, I don’t think intent or context is taken into consideration these days, don’t get wrong, there still are elements of racism that it does happen. But a lot of the time, I think people perceive see racism word as actually isn’t taking place. And if we look at the stats, for example, around education, the NHS, the police force, Council, and parliament, the vast majority of the UK population think that all of these systems are fair. But the perceived fairness amongst black people was really low. And they saw all of these systems as unfair. And I’ll get to why I think that is in a moment, but it’s kind of tallies with other research that we’ve seen. So the Centre for Social Justice, for example, did a good report on family. And then we’ve got stats from ONS, and the DFE, that if we put them all together, along with this fantastic report, we will see that actually this isn’t a black versus white issue. What it is is whiteness broken down even further. So if we look at black Africans, for example, that are extending all the way through school, twice as likely to go to university than white Brits, that black Caribbeans are at the bottom of that league table only just above white Brits who are at the bottom, and black Africans being at the top. So again, it’s not about race here. It’s not that the system is racist, or that the country is racist, it’s perceived racism, particularly among black Caribbean people. So we need to get to the bottom of why that is.

And again, if we conflate all of the data from these different reports, I think what we’ll discover is, while the black African community has kept hold of their faith, and kept hold of their family structure, and the importance of both of those things, the black Caribbean community have lost both of them. And that has had a detrimental effect on black Caribbeans to the point that without faith and without the family structure to cling to. And I’m generalising massively here, of course, but there is a voice there that needs to be filled. And I think a lot of that gets filled with identity politics and critical race theory. And you know, that’s more susceptible to that because if you’re in school, and your teacher is telling you, you’re gonna get held back, you’re gonna have a harder time, that victimhood mentality can take hold. And then later in life, when you don’t achieve the things that you wanted to achieve, you don’t reach the successes that you wanted to reach, then the excuse can be well about the systemic racism in this country. “It’s clearly racist. And that’s why I’m not where I want to be”. And I don’t think that is the case. But that is what might lend to some of the results we’re seeing here. So I think the idea that proposals in the report are fantastic. A family champion, for example, someone like Courtney Lawes would be amazing to really emphasise the importance of family. And I think we need someone to emphasise the importance of faith as well, because without those two things, people are lost in life. And I think this report really clearly demonstrates that.

Esther Krakue 30:26

Thank you so much for that, I might ask you a few more questions just around the proportion of black Britons that feel the level of race racism that they experience in the country. Because obviously I think one thing that Rakib mentioned was the fact that it’s a huge gap between British people in general and the population that feel like there’s a problem with racism and black person. So if you look at it objectively, it looks like there’s a huge disconnect. And so I’ll talk to you a little bit more about that sort of objectively on the figures and why delve a little bit deeper into that. Because, obviously, like you said, there are differences between within black communities anyway. But I wanted to go back to you, Dr Rakib, because I wanted to ask you a bit more about the research techniques behind this report. So Dr Remi mentioned “delving a bit deeper into more objective measures of perceived racism, and into finding out why people feel like they are victims of racism, what objective measures can you use” and stuff like that, I just wanted to find out a bit more about the techniques that we use in this this report.

Dr Rakib Ehsan 31:30

So in terms of the items or discrimination people ultimately asked over the past 12 months, did they feel they experienced discrimination on various grounds. So we considered racial discrimination, ethnic discrimination. We also looked at other possible forms of reported discrimination such as social class, political views, gender, age, disability, I think what was really interesting was that when the general population was asked, people were more likely to report discrimination on the grounds of social class, when compared with ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Now, what’s very interesting is that when we have the list of protected characteristics in the UK, ethnicity and sexual orientation is included in that list, but social class isn’t. So I think there’s a debate to be had in a society where ultimately I do feel that class-based barriers do exist when it comes to social mobility, how do we almost integrate class back into that conversation when it comes to inequality, because the current list of protected characteristics are not fit for purpose when it comes to designing equality policy because the exclusion of most of social class from that current list.

But Dr Remi’s point is important that we should have a discussion about what does discrimination constitute? What kind of shape does it take? And some people will question the credibility of such claims of discrimination. But ultimately we’re talking about people who have reported “this is how I feel, this is what I experience” and that will ultimately impact on how they perceive maybe different ethnic and religious groups in society, how they feel their society works in terms of the socio-economic structures, how they interact with the labour market. So I put very clearly there in the report that I still think we have much work to do in terms of introducing more robust antidiscrimination rules for the labour market to help our economy move in a decidedly meritocratic direction. And I think that that there is definitely much work to be done. There’s a number of CV or resume based studies, which showed that when you control for educational qualifications, skills, work experience, all it really takes is just changing the name from a traditional English sounding name to perhaps Remi Adekoya, then you might see that there might be very different effects there. So I think these are discussions that we do. And I feel that the reality of it is at times we’ve been brushing some of these issues under the carpet, and I don’t think that is positive. If we’re really serious about creating more socially cohesive, democratically satisfied society, we have to engage with these topics head on.

Esther Krakue 34:22

I’d be very interested to find out research about that because I get often confused for Polish women just by my name, I don’t know why. But the fear would be that or people would just assume that just because the name sounds different, they’re going to get rejected for a job. But it’s also important to see to what extent does you know you having a not necessarily very ethnically English name affect your job prospects, and then that goes into the territory of black Caribbean people who tend to have very British sounding last names, “Calvin Robinson”, I was thinking he would be so a very white English man? Not for any other reason, but it does go into that realm as well. So even Ghanaian people that have very English sounding last names, which is a relic of colonialism but does happen, right? I have had family members who are very English last names. So I think that would be very interesting to study.

Dr Rakib Ehsan 35:20

I’ll just raise the point there that there was a huge study by Nuffield college at the University of Oxford, which found that it was black African origin applicants that suffered a particularly harsh penalty when it came to those. So they call it the sort of culturally distant names that they use. So I think there’s definitely a debate to be had, because ultimately, people want to be treated fairly by their own labour market. I think if you work hard, you develop your own skills, or you try to educate yourself to the best of your own ability, you try to show that individual initiative and personal responsibility, you ultimately want to reap the rewards when it comes to interacting with what you would like to think of meritocratic labour market. But the moment I don’t feel that’s necessarily the case in the UK, and I see that Dr. Remi would like to maybe build on?

Dr Remi Adekoya 36:07

I just wanted to say, I think Rakib presents an important issue. And I think one of the problems here is because the debate has become so polarised and that definitely intensified in the last year after the event of the George Floyd’s killing and the BLM protests, etc. So, we run the risk of getting trapped between two extremes of one “all Brits are basically racist, all white Brits are basically racist”. And another extreme is “No, there’s actually no real problem going on here”. And the truth is, in this case, somewhere in the middle there. And this middle ground is what I think we have to develop and say. This is a problem. There’s a problem in this institution, we need to tackle it this way, that way. Or, no, here, there actually isn’t a problem. And we need to look at things really on a case by case basis, rather than develop the sweeping narratives of there are problems everywhere, or there’s no problem anyway.

Esther Krakue 37:01

I mean, to be honest, I wanted to ask your opinion, Dr Remi, because for me, what I’ve noticed is there’s become a very much black versus white conversation. And I think I’ve noticed that particularly in the US, which I find very surprising actually because America is very much a melting pot. I mean, Latinos, and Hispanics and Asians have been completely left out of the conversation, or the honorary blacks right in the US when you’re talking about your social anthropology. But I think in the UK, in particular, there is no really cross cultural conversation in the sense that I feel like Eastern Europeans have been wiped out of the conversation. And Dr. Rakib mentioned about the findings of the study that social clauses and something that’s really addressed, what happens to a poor, white polish man that’s living on a council estate? And how does he compare to a black British African person living on a council estate? You know, does he get better treatment? Or is he higher up on the pedestal of social oppression because he’s just white? Or because he’s Eastern European, and he has an accent. And once he opens his mouth, he’s not necessarily a native to the British Isles. So I just wanted to get your opinion on how you think the conversation looks like right now. Does it look like a white versus black sort of conversation? Or is it really covered across the board? And are we really talking about the full fabric of British society, not just white ethnic groups versus black Brits?

Dr Remi Adekoya 38:24

So I think there’s a difference between the discussion we see on social media and discussion we see in the “real world”. And I think in the real world, institutions, in schools, in government, administration, in other places, there are real tangible conversations going on, and real tangible efforts need to address the situation. What we see on social media obviously construct with other black versus white, basically, which is why I said I was very happy to find that so many and virtually the same number of black Brits or white Brits think national identity is important to them. And that nine out of 10 black Britons don’t feel a sense of antipathy or don’t have unfavourable opinion. This is very important. So, it’s not a personal issue here. You know, these are institutional issues that need to be tackled one by one.

If we talk about that issue of the Eastern Europeans, yes, it’s true. We live in difficult times, one of the ills of our time of course is there’s concept of competitive victimhood in the sense of who deserves our sympathy. And obviously, there are various groups out there who are saying we deserve the most sympathy. Then people say, actually, we think black people deserve the most empathy. Or someone else will say, actually, perhaps it should be Muslims. And someone else says, oh, no, perhaps it should be British Bangladeshi. And there’s all sorts of things come up. And how do we get out of this? I think it’s perfect for it to be the simple attitude or the issue of attitude. We have to simply adopt the attitude as you identify disadvantaged groups in society. I’m very much towards emphasising socio economic disadvantage and trying to look at who is socially economically disadvantaged here, and then trying to reach out and assist, help them up irrespective of whether they’re black skin colour, brown skin colour, white skin colour.

If we start from that, we will find that a disproportionate number of black and brown people will be in that socio economically disadvantaged group because their care wealth disparities in Britain. Theresa May and 2017 “race disparity audit” showed that the median white household is worth 282,000 pounds, the median Caribbean household is worth 89,000 pounds, the median black African household is worth 24,000 pounds. And I think the median British Bangladeshi household is worth 22,000 pounds. So, there’s clear wealth disparity here. And this issue needs to be discussed. But if we start from going up the socio-economic level, then you know, these are numbers, it’s actually quantifiable, you can actually point to specific groups, and then say what do we need to do, and then it becomes less of a black versus white person brown thing. So, I think that’s one of the ways to move forward, because the solutions will, at the end, disproportionately help the black and brown people who do tend to be more socio economic.

Esther Krakue 41:18

I think that argument you raised is very interesting, and that argument that I drove I said if we take it from a statistics perspective, as opposed to a skin colour perspective, then you won’t be shocked when you see a black CEO of a company, or you will be shocked when you see a more black or brown affluent family. Because what I think happens is, in as much as it does intensify race relations, which is never good. It also embeds the stereotype that people that are not necessarily white British that do find success are outliers, or they’re weird, or social misfit. And that’s something that I take very personally, because there’s a difference between wanting to help disadvantaged groups in society, and looking down at someone, even if you think of being helpful or being kind, but looking down and being patronising to particular groups of people, because you’ve now embedded in your mind that actually just because you’re black in Britain, you are not successful, you are not capable of being a CEO, and I need to help you and be benevolent. And it sounds a bit laughable, but it is an undercurrent in a lot of the conversations that we have around black Britons in this country. And it does lean towards patronising, right, because they’ve never seen necessarily a black successful person. They say “this is because I helped you, I gave you all this opportunity, you should bow down to me”. And I don’t know if you know anything about African competitiveness, but it’s very infuriating. There is nothing worse than someone from a different country coming over for a life that they think will benefit their family. And then their child being told that they got this because of what is it?

Dr Remi Adekoya 42:46

Affirmative action.

Esther Krakue 42:48

Oh, my God, I think my family will just kill somebody. Oh, that is the most offensive thing out there not because there’s anything fundamentally wrong with affirmative action, but because you minimise meritocracy, right, you minimise someone’s actual hard work for that. And Calvin, I wanted to touch up on this before we go to the questions from the audience, just about you mentioned faith and family. And I think your huge focus was on the fact that that is really where our focus should be on, especially when we’re addressing a lot of social cohesion issues in this country, and all of necessarily racial community issues in this country. So, I wanted to see if you could delve more into that. And to what extent do you think that is where the disparity lies between the number of general British people that think there’s racism versus the number of black British people that think there’s racism? And to what extent does that the disparity accounted for by the lack of religion and family values.

Calvin Robinson 43:42

So, I think that disparity is mainly the difference between the black African communities and the black Caribbean communities, we saw that black Africans are more faithful, mostly Christian, and tend to have stronger family units of two parents living with their children. We’re seeing that across not just this report, but multiple reports, whereas in Caribbean families, that is no longer the situation. And I think there is certainly a connection there that needs to be investigated further. But I would like to briefly jump on to what you just talked about, because that is what we call the soft bigotry of low expectations. And I think the way around that, instead of positive discrimination, which I don’t think is a thing, I don’t think there is such a thing as positive discrimination. I think that’s an oxymoron, which is why we call it affirmative action. Instead of that, we should raise expectations for everybody. And I think that that way, we avoid the resentment and the embarrassment and all of that, and one solution. We’ve met someone earlier mentioned blind CVs, which is part of the solution. Absolutely. But I think we need to get rid of diversity quotas as well in employment and stop looking at people as numbers and trying to fill quotas based on race or gender or anything, take them away, but also take away those diversity forms. So you’re not filling in what race or gender or anything you are, and then we get back to a point of meritocracy so removing those diversity quotas and the forms along with blinds CVs, I think we’ll get a bit closer to where we want to be.

Esther Krakue 45:03

Okay, thank you very much. Okay, so now we’re gonna move on to Q&A session by the audience. We have a question here from Jacqueline Gross, which says, why is there so much antisemitism in black communities? Are Jews not regarded as a racial minority as well? That’s a very interesting question. I want to take it to you first, Dr Rakib.

Dr Rakib Ehsan 45:23

Yes. So that this was a particularly interesting finding in the report. And it follows up a report that I did on British Muslim antisemitism, which showed that when compared with the general population, British were more likely to believe in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. And there’s similar patterns here, in the sense that, firstly, when compared to the general population, black Brits are more likely to think that Jewish people have disproportionately high level of control over the global banking system, global political leadership, global media and global entertainment. And was especially interesting was that this effect was even stronger in less integrated elements of the black British population, again, a similar dynamic to the British Muslim population. So I think that in a sense, based on some of the things that I’ve heard, and in what I’ve seen written in the past year or so, there is a segment because of that concept of white privilege. Now, in many cases, Jewish people tend to be white, that there is a sense of, well, because of white privilege, you can’t be truly discriminated against, you can’t experience prejudice, which I think is interesting dynamics there.

I think in terms of how we go about having a robust policy action in terms of reducing anti-Semitic prejudices in the UK, we have to be honest about where it’s more likely to be relatively concentrated. And I think perhaps we feel all that because it’s particularly this case here where it might be more concentrated in ethnic and religious minorities, there may be a reluctance, perhaps to challenge those forms of antisemitism. So I think in the sense that that is something that we have to acknowledge as a society, firstly, what is the broader level of antisemitism in broader society? But also, where is it more likely to recite particular specific humanities? And how does social integration fit into that because I do think it’s quite interesting that when it comes to more integrated British Muslims, or more integrated black British people, that has a prejudice reduction effect when it comes to believing in those anti-Semitic tropes, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. And that is one of the benefits of social integration, as you brought out of your own ethnic and religious group, you interact with people, you have the opportunity to develop those positive ties outside of your own group. And I think that that can be quite beneficial in terms of, you could say, inward looking or more insular, or you have those kinds of social networks, which are predominantly consisting of people belonging to your own racial and religious group that may perhaps breed suspicion of the unknown, and other groups that you may have very little or no interaction with. So I think there’s this very important debate to be had into when it comes to social integration, and the kind of role it can play in terms of reducing antisemitism in British society.

Esther Krakue 48:30

Thank you very much. Dr. Remi, I have a question here from Jeffrey Oberman. And I think I want to pass this on to Calvin as well when Dr. Remi is done, because I think that’s relevant for you as well. He asked, is it possible that Afro Caribbean youth are suffering the same feelings of dislocation and marginalisation as British white youth as a result of our chronic underfunding of further education skill-based training apprenticeships? Would it be fair to suspect that a perceived lack of opportunity can be leveraged by political manipulators? So I want to know what you think of this question Dr Remi, and then I’ll pass it on to Calvin?

Dr Remi Adekoya 49:04

I think, yes, to answer that question, because what he’s asking basically is, do people who feel marginalised especially economically, will there be a tendency there for them to actually feel a sense that they’re being persecuted? Or that they’re actually purposely being marginalised? And you know, the answer to that would be yes. And I believe calling to go into specifics, because on the education aspects and on the skills aspect the answer to that is yes. And also alluding to what Rakib said about those kinds of sentiments among some in the black community and towards Jews. It has been noticed in group psychology that groups that feel less powerful tend to think towards conspiratorial thinking. And conspiracy theories can be very popular within such groups because there has to be an explanation for why we are not one of the ones running the world. Why is it other groups that seem to be more successful and powerful? And this kind of conspiratorial conspiracies can thrive in such groups. So that’s another thing also. So it’s not just a black thing. So you can find it in many different societies and cultures all sorts of conspiracies about groups perceived to be very powerful and successful by groups that don’t feel that powerful.

Esther Krakue 50:23

Okay, Calvin, I just wanted to know what your thoughts is, do you think sort of easier to weaponize certain groups that don’t feel they’re receiving the same opportunities as other groups in society?

Calvin Robinson 50:34

Yeah, absolutely. Because they’re not receiving the same opportunities. When you look at kids that in a city environments in deprived areas, these children are called disadvantaged for a reason because they’re not receiving the same opportunities as children outside of cities that are getting better education. And if we look into schools, for example, Michaela Free School, where I used to be a governor and director, they are the outliers, they are the ones that say, look, it doesn’t matter where you come from, what skin colour you have, or anything like that, we will have the same high expectations for every single child, and we will raise our standards and children will raise their standards to meet our expectations. And that is exactly what children need. Whereas in most inner city schools, especially in London, you see, again, the soft bigotry of low expectations, you see, excuses being made for children that are classed as disadvantaged because their lives are harder, because of the colour of their skin or because of where they live, or because of how much money their parents and they are all untrue. You know, children are not disadvantaged because of those things. Children are disadvantaged because we do not give them the same expectations that we give our children. And that’s all they need. They thrive in an environment where we expect them to learn, to work hard and to achieve. And if we do that, then they do meet us there. So yes, I think your question was spot on.

Esther Krakue 51:47

Okay. And I have a follow up question for you, Calvin. And this is from David Conway. And he says, would the life chances of blacks in the UK be improved by decolonizing the curriculum in schools and universities?

Calvin Robinson 51:59

No, the curriculum isn’t colonised in the first place to be decolonized. First of all, Great Britain was never a colony. So how is the curriculum colonised? But secondly, no, we don’t need to because what they mean by decolonize the curriculum is actually a remove of white people. And if we look at history, in particular, because that’s the one they go after, most of the time, there is a reason most of the significant figures on the curriculum are white. That’s because this is a predominantly white country, and has been for most of its history. Therefore, it makes sense. That doesn’t mean going forward, it’s going to be the same case, you know, we’ve got a lot more diversity in the country now. Therefore, in future textbooks, we might see more influential figures of ethnic minority status. But we absolutely should not remove people from the curriculum just because of the colour of their skin, because that is discrimination. And that’s what people campaigned for, to remove white people to get rid of Mozart, and replace him with Stormzy is a prime example. I think it was Birmingham City University, which doesn’t surprise me considering the people that work there. But they were campaigning to remove Mozart, who is an influential figure that shapes the way we think about music, shapes the way we compose music, and influences so many people after him. Whereas Stormzy is a popular figure of the moment, and has a song called Shut up, shut up, rude boy Shut up, nowhere near the same level. But it’s all about replacing a white guy with a black guy. And that is not progress. That is racial discrimination. And on that argument, we also have people say, but we want people to represent us, we want to look in the textbooks and see people that look like us. No, first of all, that’s not how it works. Regardless of what kind of book you’re reading, you don’t have to look for someone that looks like you, that’s superficial diversity, that helps no one, we look at great ideas where we obtain knowledge from books. And even if it’s a fantasy book, for example, you lose yourself in the hero, it doesn’t have to look like you, will be like you in any way, shape or form. But also on the other end of the argument, if you don’t see people that look like you in a book, and you want to see people that look like you, then be that person, be that role model for the next generation.

Esther Krakue 54:01

Okay, I have a last question that I think would be relevant for all our panellists here. And I’m going to take it to you first actually Remi and then we’ll finish with Dr Rakib, because this is his report. And I think would be nice. This is something that I have been very vocal about but this is a question from Peter Balfour. Do you think the use of political labels such as BAME can actually produce discontent in people? And I wanted to start with you Dr Remi. Let’s start with within the being community in and of itself and then within the wider, how useful do you think it is for white British person to use the word BAME? Do you think that illustrate something useful for them to understand?

Dr Remi Adekoya 54:47

I don’t think I, Rakib, or Calvin or any other person with black or brown skin colour here in Britain has ever thought of themselves as Oh, I am a BAME person, that doesn’t exist. That term only exists, it’s used by the administration, so to say, it’s an administration and nobody thinks of them. So there’s no such identity like that definitely 100%. So whether people are offended at it, I don’t think there’s a lot of people who are offended at it, who really think about it on an everyday basis, if we’re talking about ethnic minority share in Britain, but I don’t think it’s particularly useful. As we see from Rakib’s report, there are huge differences, even within the black communities here in Britain, you know, much less between the black community and the Bangladeshi community and all the other communities classed as being community. So, it’s definitely an outdated concept. And it’s not very useful.

Esther Krakue 55:40

Okay. And Calvin, what do you think?

Calvin Robinson 55:43

I think it makes people feel good using the term BAME. I think they use it because they’re afraid of talking these days, because it’s a free speech issue. People won’t use the word black. So don’t use the word BAME in order to walk on eggshells. But no, I don’t find it useful at all. I don’t find it helpful. I don’t think we are all one homogenous group as we’ve discussed tonight. Even between black people, there are so many different groups in so many different communities, just as there are with every race. And it’s not important, because there’s only one race that matters, really, the human race, I had to clarify that just in case anyone got suspicious, I’m Christian. I’m conservative, I’m British. But most importantly, I’m Calvin. If people have to classify me, I’m half white English and half black Caribbean. So I’m belong to two communities if you want to break things down into community. I find it offensive when people try to pigeonhole me into one box, because I don’t fit in one box. And that messes up with their systems. But so be it. That’s their problem, not mine.

Esther Krakue 56:36

Okay, and lastly, Dr Rakib.

Dr Rakib Ehsan 56:39

Well, firstly, I’d like to thank you for moderating the event. And once again, I’d like to thank Dr Remi Adekoya and Calvin Robinson for joining me on the panel and engaging with my report in clearly in such depth. In terms of the BAME acronym, I think it should be consigned to the dustbin of history, I think, more broadly from a social policy point of view, but it was meant as a broader political discourse, I find it deeply unhelpful particularly because you see the attitudinal and socio economic differences between different non-white groups in British society.

And it’s very interesting, for example, in my PhD, when it came to looking at levels of democratic satisfaction, people of black African origin, probably nestled in a bit more neatly with South Asian groups, while black Caribbeans nestled in more with the white British population. So you can see those differences there. So I think the BAME acronym is not fit for purpose. I also think we’ve talked about, this is almost myth of black humanity in the sense that it masks a notable difference between people of black Caribbean and black African origin. I think there’s similar dynamics in the South Asian community where there’s very clear differences between people of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin in some ways. And crucially, I think even you talk about the white mainstream, you can see that different white ethnic groups when it comes to educational outcomes, for example, there are notable differences between different ethnic groups. I noticed that children of white Irish origin seem to be doing a little bit better than children of white British origin when it comes to educational outcomes, and also expulsion rates as well. So all in all, I think, ultimately, we need to have a more mature approach and more disaggregated approach when it comes to looking at a range of social economic outcomes. I do think we need to have a discussion about how culture plays a role in that we’ve talked a fair bit about educational outcomes, whether it’s skill-based apprenticeships, vocational education, academic education, there’s no greater asset than having a stable family unit that drills into you that you must give 100% anything that you do in life. And while you will have failures, that is important to get a good combat going and try and you know, have a dedicated, worth it ethic in any sector of work that you enter in, or whatever type of educational route that you’d like to take. So all in all, I think these are the kinds of discussions that we should have that will ultimately lead to social betterment, and more a broad based prosperity across Britain’s multi ethnic religiously diverse society.

Esther Krakue 59:17

Thank you so much for that Dr Rakib. And thank you so much to Dr Remi and Calvin for joining us. This has been such an amazing discussion and I hope to do it again soon.

HJS



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