Institutional Racism as a construct was defined initially by political activists Stokely Carmichael and Charles Vernon Hamilton in 1967. It subsequently came to prominence in 1999 with the Mcpherson Inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence and latterly other reports emerged such as a Public Health review or disparities in the risks and the outcomes of Covid (2020), Lessons Learnt review by Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, Race Disparity Unit 2017, which identified the widespread impact of discrimination in the UK.
Recently, Baroness Casey’s report into the MET Police published this year (2023), identified that the MET was institutionally racist. The force commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley said he would not use the label institutional racism. I wonder what he would call it. Facts do not lie.
There are others who say institutional racism doesn’t exist. The Commission for Race and Ethnic Disparity report denied the existence of institutional racism. Their report made public in 2021 was slammed by United Nations. One particular comment by the United Nations group of experts noted “The report’s suggestion that the family structure, rather than institutionalized discrimination, is a central part of the Black experience is a “tone-deaf attempt at rejecting the lived realities of people of African descent and other ethnic minorities in the U.K.”
As I observe the rhetoric that is coming from some media outlets which try to support the views of Rowley and the CRED report, it makes me wonder if they are living in the real world, or is it that they are living in their privileged world and can’t see or refuse to see what it has been evidenced many times. I also see those who look like me and support such rhetoric. I never ask myself why they are doing it. It is plain to see there is money to be made to think in that fashion and closer proximity to those who wield power is another factor.
What of those people who exist in these organisations or institutions where institutional racism exists? I am aware of those who have been racially discriminated against within their workplace. This has manifested in many ways. Lack of promotion, micro-aggressions, verbal abuse the list goes on. I have connected with many people on LinkedIn and Twitter who have shared their experience of institutional racism and the common thread is lack of urgency to support the individual who is being discriminated against. Managers turn a blind eye, HR takes people into disciplinary situations when they have spoken up about racial discrimination. Managers, Directors have been moved from their position for being racist and then transfer to another department or another branch of the organisation.
The Black Equity Organisation was established in 2020. It is a civil rights organisation created to dismantle systemic racism in Britain. Their CEO Dr Wanda Wyporska wrote in the Guardian on 25th April 2023, Those in positions of power must recognise that if they don’t admit structural racism exists, then we shall be stuck in a society that continues to rain the inevitable blows of racism upon Black people. Debates about the existence of structural racism waste valuable time and deflect attention. There must be a dispassionate focus on the evidence because it tells us all we need to know.
It is my strong opinion that we must tackle institutional racism as a matter of urgency. Institutional racism has far-reaching effects on individuals, communities and organisations. People’s mental health is at stake as is their physical health. Institutional racism should not be tolerated in any form. It is our human right to be treated fairly and not to be discriminated against. What is the point of the Equality Act 2010 if institutional racism is allowed to exist?
The government has a role to play to ensure institutional racism does not exist. It can no-longer allow organisations or institutions to have institutional racism as their blueprint to success. We cannot ignore those organisations and institutions that present themselves as inclusive and supportive of all their employees. Those presented with awards yet are the architects of discriminative practises in their own organisations. I have seen too many organisations and institutions get away with purporting to be model organisations yet evidence suggests otherwise.
It is time we all make a stand against those institutions and organisations that thrive on institutional racism.