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‘Time for talking is over. Now is the time to act’ – new survey on unconscious racism

‘Time for talking is over. Now is the time to act’ – new survey on unconscious racism

Categories: Latest News

Wednesday December 05 2018

The results from ICM’s new survey, investigating the impact of unconscious bias and structural racism within our society, is a grave addition to the compendium of literature that unequivocally demonstrates that unconscious bias is alive and kicking; having a significant impact on community cohesion, civic engagement and the economy.

ICM Unlimited conducted a survey on behalf of The Guardian, to investigate the “extent of the everyday negative experiences and potential bias faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in Britain today”, interviewing 1,000 BAME people and 1,797 White people between 17th and 22nd of October 2018. The survey inquired things such as: perception of racism within our society; recent negative experiences, subtle and overt; and, discrimination within the workplace and education system.

The results are striking:

  • More than two in three (69%) BAME individuals believe that racism is a significant problem within British society.
  • More than two in five (43%) BAME individuals believe they had been unfairly overlooked in a job process or for promotion within the last five years, compared to less than one in five (18%) White people.
  • Nearly half (47%) of all the BAME individuals surveyed say that they had been treated as potential shoplifters when they had not done anything to provoke such behaviour, compared to only 22% of White people.

In-depth information about the poll and the raw data can be found here.

The results from the survey attempt to give a holistic view of the everyday racism which manifests itself in a myriad of ways.

In particular, The Guardian highlighted the discrimination faced by the Muslim community, noting that the study showed that a Muslim name, “Muhammad”, was less likely to get a positive response when seeking rooms to rent than a White name, “David”. Interestingly, Muhammed was more likely to not get a response (44% compared to 36%) and more likely to be negative (25% compared to 18%) when he did. The findings are similar to a previous investigation that found “Mohammed” on average was more likely to be charged higher for car insurance (almost £1,000).

The Research Manager at ICM Unlimited, Alex Turk, in response to the survey’s findings said: “Negative experiences asked about, some of which may never have been experienced by many White people in Britain, are all-too-often a frequent occurrence among BAME people living in Britain today. This poll suggests that, at least in terms of the experiences we tested, there is a big difference in the lived-experiences of BAME and White people in Britain today”.

However, the study is just one of many that have in recent years highlighted unconscious bias and structural racism within our society.

The 2016 report by the House of Commons Women and Equalities committee, entitled: “Employment opportunities for Muslims in the UK”, highlighted a number of factors that prevented Muslim communities from progressing in the corporate sector. Factors noted include “discrimination and Islamophobia, stereotyping, pressure from traditional families, a lack of tailored advice around higher education choices, and insufficient role models across education and employment”.

The report highlighted that Muslim women face a “triple penalty” on the grounds of their gender, their ethnicity, and their religion. This gendered, ethno-racial and religious discrimination is illustrated by the fact that 65% of economically inactive Muslims are women, and that Muslim women are 71% more likely than white Christian women to be unemployed, even when they have the same educational level and language skills.

The same report also estimated that one-quarter of employers admit to being reluctant to hire Muslim women due to concerns that they will put family commitments and caring duties above their professional duties. This is emphasised by statistics demonstrating that British Pakistani women are far more likely to be illegally asked whether they have plans to get married or have children in job interviews than White women (1 in 8 and 1 in 30 respectively).

The findings of the Race Disparity Audit which was initiated by the Prime Minister Theresa May in 2016 to investigate “how people of different ethnicities are treated across public services”, also reinforces the idea of racial inequality within our society. The report noted that “[whilst] employment rates among people from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds have been improving, these populations remain more likely to be in low skilled, low paying occupations than other ethnic groups”.

These reports document the real-life barriers that are ever present which prevent Muslim communities, and other minority communities, from exercising their civic rights and from engaging with the socioeconomic world.

These, at times unnoticeable, barriers have a significant impact not just on the psyche of our communities, leaving BAME individuals feeling marginalised by the State but also our economy.

The McGregor-Smith Review, entitled: “Race in the workplace”, specifically looked into the question of the importance of tackling racial inequality for the betterment of our economy. The report noted that “there is structural, historical bias that favours certain individuals” and that “if BME talent is fully utilised the economy could receive a £24 billion boost”, highlighting that “14% of the working age population [comes] from a Black or Minority Ethnic (BME) background”.

Therefore, there are also clear economic arguments for tackling the problem of racial inequality even if disregarding the immense value of increased community cohesion and increased engagement of citizens.

The McGregor-Smith review aptly concluded that “the time for talking is over. Now is the time to act. It will require concerted and sustained effort from all of us but the solutions are already there, if we only choose to apply them”.

Therefore, the problems have been laid bare by a multitude of studies and surveys, including MEND’s recently commissioned poll. It is imperative that the Government takes a stronger lead in introducing further initiatives that effectively tackle the problem of structural racism that is resulting in hereditary inequality. A concrete step towards this goal is to first, and foremost, recognise the various forms of racism and religious discrimination that occur and be able to define it. As such, it is imperative that the Government follows the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims’ steps and work towards adopting an effective definition for the term “Islamophobia”. Only by defining what the problems are, can policies be developed to tackle them.

MEND is committed to tackling religious discrimination in the workplace and address the low level of economic activity among Muslims through targeted interventions at stages of recruitment, retention and promotion; improving access to employment for British Muslims. We are also committed to improving ethnic diversity in all sectors of business, politics and media through schemes encouraging BME recruitment, mentoring and promotion.

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