Commissioner Mercy Muroki Defends UK Race Report

The recently published Report on Race and Ethnic Disparities has proposed that the UK is “a Model for Other White-Majority Countries.” The report claimed that factors such as family structure, class, socio-economic background, geography, culture and religion had a "more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism". The Chair of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, Tony Sewell, stated that they aimed to “just take a cold look at the data on racism.” By doing so, he explained that they “examined ideas that weren’t to be questioned,” and that constituted “the race industry’s articles of faith.” The report conceded that the UK is yet to become “a post-racial society,” acknowledging that racism still exists. However, it did not find this to be a “systemic” issue, concluding instead that the ‘system’ is no longer ‘rigged’ against ethnic minorities.

The report directly disparaged the current brand of so-called “anti-racism” by criticising the:

"bleak new theories about race that insist on accentuating our differences," and an "increasingly strident form of anti-racism thinking that seeks to explain all minority disadvantage through the prism of white discrimination."

“Our experience has taught us that you do not pass on the baton of progress by cleaving to a fatalistic account that insists nothing has changed."

The report has been met with considerable backlash. Dr Halima Begum of the Runnymede Trust, a race and equality think tank, stated that she was "deeply, massively let down" by the report. She voiced her view of the conclusion that the UK is no longer institutionally racist by stating:

"Tell that to the black young mother who is four times more likely to die in childbirth than her young white neighbour, tell that to the 60% of NHS doctors and nurses who died from Covid and were black and ethnic minority workers … You can't tell them that, because they are dead … Institutionally, we are still racist, and for a government-appointed commission to look into (institutional) racism, to deny its existence is deeply, deeply worrying."

In a recent interview, one of the report’s commissioners, Mercy Muroki, defended the findings and conclusions within the report.

Muroki is a social policy researcher, commentator for Sky News, and columnist for the Times RedBox column. She holds a BA in Politics from Queen Mary University of London and is currently in the process of completing an MSc in Comparative Social Policy at the University of Oxford. She was the recipient of the Professor Lord Smith of Clifton Prize for her work on government and won the Political Studies Association’s essay competitions in the parliaments category in 2018.

Muroki is currently employed by the Centre for Social Justice as a Senior Researcher, previously holding other research roles such as in the constitutional Unit at University College London. Her research has focused upon issues of social mobility, political representation and ethnic and gender representation in local government.

At the beginning of the interview, Muroki stated that the motivation for the independent report was the widespread, worldwide protests by Black Lives Matter in response to the death of George Floyd. She pointed out that this was an America-specific issue, and voiced her view that there is a tendency to Americanise racial issues in the UK. She tried to correct misinterpretations of the report’s conclusions by stating that the report does not deny that racism exists and that the report did find evidence of “overt” racism, particularly online, but simply that the commissioners did not find any evidence of systemic racism in the four policy areas they investigated.

Muroki stated that the main finding of the report was that Britain had “come a really long way in terms of outcomes for different ethnic minorities.” She said that surveys had suggested that some people had reported that they believed racism was getting worse. However, the report suggested that things were actually getting better, not worse - specifically in education, employment, health, crime and policing.

She referred to the recent governmental decision to drop the usage of the term “BAME” (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) by stating that it is not very useful for describing ethnicity and disadvantage in a variety of areas. She explained that when ethnic groups are broken down into subgroups (black African, black Caribbean, Indian, and Pakistani) they have vastly differing outcomes -  making the BAME acronym misleading. 

She outlined that some minority groups were doing well, to the point where they outperformed the “native white” population. The minority groups she specified were those who were ethnically Indian and Chinese. She explained that the ethnic groups ‘at the bottom’ of society appeared to be black Caribbeans, Roma Gypsy, and the white working class. She pointed out that this report was the first of its kind to give equal weighting to the white ethnicity rather than focusing purely upon ethnic minorities. The report itself was not able to pinpoint why there were differences between ethnic groups, but it suggested that the question of why some groups succeed and others do not should be the source of further study. 

Muroki went on to reiterate that they did not find any evidence of institutional racism in the four policy areas they investigated (education, employment, health, crime and policing) but they did not categorically dismiss that it may exist somewhere else. She then went on to emphasise the influence of geographical location as more influential than racism, citing that one in three Pakistanis live in one of the ten most deprived areas in the UK, compared with one in ten white-British people. She also pointed to the role one’s family plays in one’s success, with 63% of Afro-Caribbeans growing up in single-parent households. Fatherlessness, she suggested, may well be an important factor. She also criticised the view, promoted by some “woke feminists”, which presents two-parent families as undesirable. The report suggested that an investigation into familial structures may well help explain the socio-economic differences between ethnic groups. 

She highlighted that the disproportionate number of black male interactions with police can be explained, at least in part, by the fact that ethnic minorities are more likely to be younger and live in deprived areas - which are often more heavily policed. The report found that, between the age of 16-25, for every white person murdered, twenty-four black people are murdered. She referred to this point to disparage the view which wishes to reduce policing in black neighbourhoods, which she suggested would be counter-productive to the prevention of crime. 

Muroki suggested that economic differences that exist between the white population and ethnic minorities appear to be small, with a 2.3% wage gap between minorities and white British, which disappeared entirely when looking at under-30s. These statistics, she believed, make conversations about “institutional racism” and “white privilege” counter-productive. She suggested taking a more positive view, that things are not as bad as many make it out, but that there is still some space for improvement. 

In response to questions about why the left-wing is particularly hostile towards civil discussions about racial issues, especially when statistics are involved, she stated she believed they were so “wedded to the idea of structural racism” that they could not see beyond that. She reiterated that when one questions the existence of structural racism, it is effectively denying their “reality”, or their “truth”. She also pointed to the fact that many people had made their careers being racial provocateurs. In particular, she named Robin DiAngelo as someone who had made a fortune promoting racially aggravated narratives.

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