by David Goodhart
Thursday, 15
July 2021

The Runnymede Trust’s deeply flawed race report

Cherry-picking data paints an inaccurate picture of ethnic minority Britain
by David Goodhart
The Sewell Report was imperfect but it gave a more nuanced and realistic picture of ethnic minority Britain

The Runnymede Trust has produced a sort of anti-Sewell report account of systemic racism in Britain that is not only highly polemical and one-sided, but also confirms the organisation’s current drift into sectarian irrelevance.

Sewell was imperfect in many ways but it gave a much more nuanced and realistic picture of ethnic minority Britain. Sewell highlighted minority success as well as failure and did not, naively, assume that all negative minority outcomes are down to white prejudice and racism.

You would not know from the Runnymede report that every group, apart from Roma and Black Caribbeans, do better in compulsory education than the White British. Nor that the ethnicity pay gap has almost disappeared and that 16% of minorities are represented in the highest social class compared with just 13% of the White British.

And this is not just about the well-known success of the British Chinese or British Indian groups but also about the far better position of some less successful groups like Black Caribbeans — Black Caribbean women on average out-earn White British women in hourly pay and there has been a surge of Black Caribbean men into the professional and managerial class in the past couple of decades.

The report is wrong about several important things, or draws completely unjustifiable conclusions from the data. It also fails to mention that around half the ethnic minority population is born abroad, often in poor countries with only basic education, so would not be expected to be earning or achieving at the same level as the population average from the start.

On hate crime it baldly states: “There has been a steady rise in hate crime against BME groups since the EU referendum.” But this is true only of reported hate crime which has been increasing because of the much greater willingness of the police to record it and people’s greater willingness to come forward.

These are both welcome things and there is still more harassment of ethnic minorities than should occur in any properly civilised society. Yet on the most reliable measure of hate crime — the Crime Survey of England and Wales — most forms of it, including race hate crime, have been, at worst, stable and probably continuing the long-term downward trend since 2016.

On school exclusions it makes the standard complaint about the disproportionately high level of exclusions of Black Caribbean boys, five or six times higher than whites in some areas, while failing to mention that other minorities, including Black Africans, are excluded at a lower rate than white pupils.

On the relatively lower rates of attainment at university of many ethnic minority students, compared with the White British, it speculates that this is probably because of fewer black and Asian academics. But it does not look at the far more obvious explanation that proportionately fewer whites go to university but those that do go have higher prior attainment than most minorities.

On health it asserts that ethnic minorities suffer worse health and reduced longevity compared with the majority population, when in fact it appears that there is a mixed picture of minorities suffering more from some illnesses (partly for genetic reasons) and less from others and, similarly, longevity is slightly better for some minorities and worse for others but produces no overall pattern.

There is a long section on disproportionalities in stop and search without mentioning the higher violent crime rates that it is partly a response to (a young black man is 24 times more likely to be murdered than a young white man). Nor can the Runnymede authors bear to draw on the hated Sewell report which had an extensive and thoughtful analysis of stop and search and how it can be better managed and given more legitimacy in the black communities where it is most needed.

There are several other questionable assertions such as the claim that four out of five women of insecure immigration status are turned away from women’s refuges. The footnotes are full of references to Guardian articles citing activist research.

The report does make one or two legitimate points. I was alarmed to read that nearly 25% of the population do not possess the photo ID that may be required to vote in future. (Though you can buy a citizenship card for just £15.)

The report is also right to worry about caste discrimination. Intra and inter-minority discrimination is often brushed under the carpet by racial justice campaigners even though it can in some communities be more significant than white discrimination. UK hate crime figures show a significant over-representation of black people and a small over-representation of Asians among those prosecuted and convicted, and surveys of some minorities shows more reluctance to partner with whites than vice-versa.

The report is oblivious to the democratic mandate of the Government to control immigration — it wants to scrap the latest reform to the asylum system, scrap the minimum income requirement for those wanting to bring in spouses from abroad, and allow even immigrants with no settled status full access to the NHS. It is also dismissive of the levelling up agenda and the Government’s interest in improving life for poor whites.

Fortunately most ethnic minority Brits are not listening to this relentlessly pessimistic account. According to the most comprehensive ever poll of ethnic minority opinion, conducted last year by YouGov just after the BLM events, almost exactly half of ethnic minority Brits do not think race has been any obstacle in pursuing their goals. Given what we know of the growing success of minorities in education and the labour market I would expect this number to rise well beyond half in the near future.

The Runnymede Trust is an activist organisation and is duty-bound to be biased. But it has to remain reasonable and not just cherry-pick the worst possible data. It now seems to be staffed by a highly ideological mainly younger generation of people with little experience of the real world.

It used to be a far more pluralistic organisation; 10 years ago it hosted a debate with Tony Sewell and I arguing against Joseph Harker and Afua Hirsch on how much race held people back in Britain. It is, alas, impossible to imagine that good humoured debate happening today.

David Goodhart is a commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission but writes here in a personal capacity. His book Head, Hand, Heart: The Struggle for Dignity and Status in the 21st Century is out in paperback

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  • Wonderful piece! I am an immigrant myself from eastern europe and for me it is simply crazy that simply because ethnic groups reach different results in life that the assumption is that this happened because of foul play rather than the actions of those individuals. For example the over representation of exclusions of carribbean boys, why is this stat alone seen as proof of racism rather than proof that caribbean attitudes to school are clearly different than those of say english or other black countries even. Another example being the success of asian and indians, nobody even attempts to explain how they can be doing better than english born people because that doesn’t fit the narritive of the oppressed minority but anyone who has worked with or studied with asian or indians knows their attitudes and especially their families attitudes to educational success are the reason they succeed. Varying cultures produce varying successes in life.

  • Thanks, David Goodhart, for this insightful piece. The tone of the report seem to be a part of a trend whereby the pundits on the left are intent on exaggerating division in order to polarize attitudes. I am sure that organizations producing this kind of report will be continue to be well-funded, as the corporate elite realise that they do not have to engage in divide et impera: the social justice warriors do the dividing for them, allowing the corporate elite to focus on the ruling.

  • “It also fails to mention that around half the ethnic minority population is born abroad, often in poor countries with only basic education, so would not be expected to be earning or achieving at the same level as the population average from the start.”
    This is key and yet routinely and shamelessly ignored.
    I am a former teacher in a primary school where 95% of the pupils were from ethnic minority backgrounds. The majority were from families receiving HB and from countries such as Somalia and Afghanistan where extreme poverty – on a scale rarely seen in the uk – is rife. Countries where financial support, health and education are not routinely provided by tax payer funded governments. There were also several children from Moroccan families. Without exception all of the children, even those born in the UK, referred to their parents’ natal home as their ‘home country’. Indeed, many disappeared back to those countries for extended summer holidays and their parents sublet their flats to extended family. The school employed an Ethnic Minority Achievement Worker (now would labelled differently) and provided hijabs in the school colours even for the reception class little girls. I never ever witnessed any racism. Quite the opposite. I often felt that the leadership was too understanding of ‘cultural differences’ but then I am most certainly ‘old school’. I did witness racism amongst the children. A five year old told me that he “hated the jew” because they “were bombing my people”. His family were from Tunisia. His mother was a school governor. I also intervened when a little boy of Somalian parents was bullying a Nigerian boy for being a Christian. When are the likes of the Runnymede Trust going to get real? Racism is not a trait found only in white people. Any such notion is simply and unequivocally racist. All this is doing is dividing and sowing the seeds of misplaced resentment and hatred instead of celebrating the unifying aspects of our human nature whatever our colour or creed. I believe them to be fanning the flames of anti-white racism and they need to be called out for it for they are dangerous.
    I was very fond of my pupils but saddened by the overwhelming apathy of all the children regardless of their ethnic background. The benefits trap – as pointed out by Frank Field so many years ago – is very real. As for the minority white children in that school? I could not help but feel concerned for them. I could see the looks on their faces as the EMAW lady led her little groups out for some fun activities denied them. And we wonder why white working class boys are failing. Not because they weren’t allowed to escape routine by joining the EMAW sessions but because they are not allowed to feel wonder for their history or understand the unique struggles of their ancestors to overcome deprivation and oppression. Instead their noses are rubbed in some absurd notion of collective guilt: the original sin of being born white British.

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