Racial and Economic Justice Are Two Sides of the Same Coin

What’s in a word? Or two words in this case? When it comes to ‘racial disparities or disproportionality’, what is understood depends on the eye or ear of the beholder. For anti-racists, ‘ethnic disparities’ or ‘racial disproportionality’ are investigated as a way of understanding deeper structural processes. But for cultural racists – all those whose thinking is infected by cultural stereotyping – the over-representation of BAME people in arrest and incarceration figures is proof of cultural deficit – the dysfunctionality of the Black family, the religious fanaticism of the Muslim community, the nomadic lifestyle of Gypsies and Travellers, etc, etc.

I start here because although the title of the event is ‘The Lammy Review: only one half of the picture’, I think we need to pause and ask ourselves whether the discussion we are having on disproportionality is in danger of becoming lopsided in ways that open up spaces for cultural racist thinking. Two things concern me. First, the complete lack of any mention of institutional racism in either the Lammy review or the government’s Race Disparity Audit. Second, the de-contextualisation of the statistics on racial disparities from history. The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies has brought us here (29 November) to discuss the pathways prior to criminal justice involvement that prefigures the likelihood of arrest – the processes ‘upstream’, as they put it in the advance publicity. But to understand the statistics, you have to go back to the source. And the source is in history.

The Policing Of ‘Suspect Communities’: As long as I can remember, neighbourhoods, where BAME communities live, have been treated by the police as a ‘threat’, with ‘suspect communities’ subjected to a different style of policing – not so much policing by consent as policing by enforcement. We are still living with the consequences of policies and procedures that started in at least the 1960s when policing was informed by racist stereotypes about the rebellious or un-integratable nature of former colonial subjects.

Read more: Liz Fekete, Institute of Race Relations,

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