Unions support the BAME Staff Forum’s response to the Sewell Report (May 2021)

Essex UCU, Unison and Unite support this response from the BAME Staff Forum (University of Essex) to the recent Sewell Report on race and ethnic disparities that was commissioned by the UK Government:

The Sewell Report – ‘Writing out Racism’

 BAME Staff Forum’s response to the Sewell Report, University of Essex.

We, the stakeholders, reject the findings of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, chaired by Dr Tony Sewell, for ‘writing out racism’ in the UK. Through downplaying the structural and institutional reasons behind racial disparities, the report not only denies the everyday lived experience of Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in the UK it shifts attention away from attempts to deal with racial disparities and racism collectively. The report lacks coherence, accuracy and integrity and dangerously supports an ascendant right-wing culture war against struggles for justice by all progressive groups in the UK. As a counter to the claims of the report, we pose some questions below based on credible existing research from academics, unions, independent committee reports and the Runnymede Trust.

Is there no structural and institutional racism in the UK?

Why are unemployment rates higher among BAME groups, and remain unchanged since the 1981 Brixton uprising for Black/African/Caribbean groups?

Why is there an ethnicity pay gap in most institutions in the UK?

Why are Black women five times more likely to die during childbirth?

Why are exclusion rates higher for Black Caribbean students in English schools than their White peers in some local authorities?

Why are BAME people, and Black youth in particular, disproportionately stopped and searched by the police?

Why do nine out of ten children on remand come from BAME communities?

Why do BAME men and women constitute 25% of prisoners, and over 40% of young people in custody from BAME backgrounds, despite making up just 14% of the overall population?

Why are BAME communities disproportionately affected during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Why were nine-in-ten (93%) doctors who died of Covid in the UK from BAME communities?

Is it much different nearer home – in Higher Education institutions?

Why are fewer than 1% of the professors employed at UK universities Black?

Why are more than nine in ten college Principals (93%) and University vice chancellors (94%) white?

Why are Black students over three times more likely to drop out than their white counterparts?

Why is there an award gap between students from BAME background as compared to their white counterparts?

In view of the lack of credibility and the sheer ingenuity of the report in denying racism, it becomes a challenge to accept some of its more valid suggestions, for example the viability of the term BAME. We recognise the existence of institutional racism and the pervasive ways in which it affects all of our lives. We stand in solidarity with those affected by all forms of racism and seek to address the structures that perpetuate it. Racism has no place in our institutions or in our communities.

Some relevant references

Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report (March 2021) or The Sewell Report

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report or The Macpherson Report (February 1999)

The Lammy Review Report (September 2017)

Fair Society Healthy Lives: The Marmot Report (February 2010)

Joint Union statement in response to the Sewell Report

Sewell Report: Runnymede Responds (April, 2021)

British Sociological association (April 2021)

The Sewell Report: an example of institutional racism (April 2021)





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