Back to Top

Blogs

Reflections on the Commission on Race Ethnic Disparities: The Report

May 05, 2021
BTEG women share their views on racism in the UK

Payal Bhavsar, Communications and Engagement Officer for EQUAL:

The foreword for the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report, released on 31st March, positions the UK as “a beacon to the rest of Europe and the world” when it comes to racial equality.  One wonders if is this the same Britain which, just over two years ago, caused the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Racism, Tendayi Achiume, to remark in her report to the UN (page 7): “the harsh reality is that race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability status, and related categories all continue to determine the life chances and well-being of people in Britain in ways that are unacceptable, and in many cases, unlawful.”?

The Report has turned against this moment of international scrutiny and authority, overwriting vital strides of progress organisations like BTEG, ROTA, the Runnymede Trust, Southall Black Sisters, INQUEST, the Stephen Lawrence Foundation and more, have been making to get race, representation, accountability and acknowledgment to the forefront of national debate and action.

If Tendayi was confounded by what she saw back in 2018, I’m confounded by the deliberate contortions of historical events (including euphemisms for the role of British colonialism and slavery), and of current data within The Report. Is this the same Britain, I ask again, which disproportionately imprisons more black men than the USA? Where black employees with degrees earn 23% less on average than white colleagues? Where Bangladeshi and Pakistani families are more likely to be living in relative poverty, in overcrowded accommodation and, along with Black African and Black Caribbean people, have suffered a disproportionately higher COVID-19 mortality rate? The evidence is all there: a shame, I think, that I need even repeat it.

What jars is that it follows on so quickly from last year’s Black Lives Matter movement. It’s shocking to think that it was just last year that some politicians were seen taking the knee; admitting to their own complicity and racial bias, making pledges to address racial discrimination within their own circles and institutions. Momentously, as I write this, the USA has just declared Derek Chauvin guilty for killing George Floyd on all three counts and President Joe Biden has remarked that 'systemic racism is a stain on our nation’s soul.' I am both relieved at the verdict and saddened so few police officers have been held accountable in the USA. I am reminded too that police officers in the UK very rarely  get the same measure of scrutiny. How far has the UK diverged from its transatlantic neighbour, one it has, for so long, liked to compare itself to? We’re experts at pointing our fingers at the USA and saying: “at least we’re not like them”. We’re not. But even the most racially complex and contested terrain in the USA is making strides to address its systemic problems and not cover it up as we have done.

The act of publishing this report (rebutted by the BMA, the TUC, faith organisations and the Coalition of Race Equality Organisations), has, therefore, shown that conversations around race and racism are still disputed territory, and that the views of black and brown communities are often dismissed because they are seen as subjective - rooted in a perceived sense of injustice (i.e., our own sensitivity and not reality).

But the wilful way in which the report manipulates narratives around race and racial history, and the denial of our worlds and views is not new. And perhaps this will repeat whilst we fail to take responsibility for why race disparity exists. For this reason, those individuals and organisations working closely to empower and strengthen black and Asian communities need to listen and direct their energies elsewhere. We need to take strength in all the things that we’ve been doing right: working for those who care to hear our truth; providing spaces for real, lived dialogue; changing the narrative on race for ourselves and not giving in to narratives of victimhood.

We need to be wary of adopting the divide-and-conquer rhetoric which is quite brazenly being aimed at stunting cross-cultural solidarity between black and Asian communities. The Report has ignored and exhausted us, but I know that in the long history of resistance and race, we will continue to work together and agitate for change from the bottom up like we’ve always done.

The UK that I am familiar with - where whiteness and its related structures aren’t the sole source of meaning and authority, and multicultural dialogue provides true spaces of support - is the ‘beacon’ of hope and resilience I will turn to.

Shona James-Bennett, Employer Engagement and Communications Intern, Moving on Up:

Following the release of The Report, I found myself questioning whether I live in the same country that had been analysed. To claim that there is “no” evidence of institutional racism in a country that has built itself on imperialism and is still thriving from the exploitation of former British colonies is absurd to me.

The report failed to acknowledge structural and institutional racism. Rather ironic that on the day it was released pupils at the Pimlico Academy in London protested new policies the school sought to enforce1including banning afro haircuts that would "block the views" of other pupils in class and rules against the hijab. Parents and students were rightfully outraged at the racist and Islamophobic policies.

To add to the insult, this occurred during a national lockdown where all barbershops and hairdressers had been closed- many people, including myself, had no choice but to embrace their afros.

Conclusions found in the report dangerously belittle and minimise the levels of discrimination that black, Asian and mixed heritage children have to endure in the UK.

This report contradicts the realities faced by me and many others every day.

At BTEG I work on the Moving on Up (MoU) project, an employment initiative helping young black men to find jobs and careers in London. Here, I am presented with research that illustrates the racial injustices black men face in the UK, but I also have the privilege to engage with people who are not so far removed from the truth.

In the UK, young black male graduates are more than four times more likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts. Men with the same credentials and expertise seem to not have access to the same jobs or are not being hired in the same way. Surely institutional racism must be a factor here.

Black graduates are not able to network in the same way as their white counterparts, nor do they have the connections that will ensure they have a job secured before they throw their mortarboard. Taking the time to deconstruct and breakdown the lived experiences of black and Asian communities in the report seemed to go amiss, resulting in a document that lacks the scope, breadth and empathy to understand the everyday lives of the vast majority of black and Asian  people in the UK.

Phoebe Georgestone, Project Support Officer:

A year into a pandemic that has disproportionately cost the lives of black, Asian and mixed heritage communities in the UK, the Report is nothing short of a slap in the face.

Against the backdrop of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and the start of uncomfortable but necessary conversations on race and racism, it seems this report was deployed – in contradiction to decades of evidence – to arrest mass mobilisation and shift the responsibility for taking action away from the Government.

As a young black woman working in the non-profit sector to action race equality, I feel entirely let down by this report: as though my lived experiences of racial bias and prejudice have been belittled and swept under the rug. I find the report’s claim that there is no evidence of institutional racism in the UK absurd. If this is true, then why are young black men nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by police? Black women four times more likely to die in childbirth? People with black and Asian sounding surnames required to write nearly twice the number of job applications than their white counterparts to receive a call back?

Pinning systemic racial injustice on individual, “anecdotal” cases of overt racism completely absolves the government and UK institutions of any responsibility in perpetuating racial inequality. This trope of racism being down to ‘a few bad apples’ undermines the magnitude and urgency of the issue.

The report regurgitates the old rhetoric that if you work hard enough and get good grades, you’ll be ok. This ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ approach is untrue and unhelpful. On average, black African children are performing better in school than their white British counterparts, yet we are not seeing this translated into better paying jobs and more senior roles. Instead, 2019 figures show 26% of black African young people are unemployed compared to 10% of young white people. (Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report, p.109)

This shows us that – as has always been the case – it is going to be down to those of us truly committed to driving change to do the legwork. Despite being chronically underfunded for years, the black and Asian voluntary and community sector remains crucial in supporting black and Asian communities poorly served by mainstream public services.

From my work with the national race equality charity BTEG, I have witnessed the opportunities that can arise when organisations work collaboratively to bridge this gap in funding and prioritisation. I am thrilled that BTEG has been able to act as an intermediary partner to large funders such as Comic Relief so that small black and Asian-led organisations can access funds they may not otherwise be able to reach.

Another recent BTEG project has facilitated commissioning opportunities for black and Asian charities with the National Probation Service London. Initiatives like these, which work with grassroot organisations dealing with the real, lived experience of being a person of colour in the UK today, give me hope for bringing forth an honest conversation about race and stimulating robust action on racial inequalities – even amidst government denial.

Free support for BAME-led and specialist organisations working with the CJS

Jan 20, 2021

Are you a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) led/specialist organisations working with, or interested in working with, people, and their families, in contact with the criminal justice system? 

BTEG has been working to challenge the disproportionate over representation and poorer outcomes experienced by BAME groups and Muslims in the criminal justice system for over 10 years. A range of reports and reviews over the years including the Lammy Review, the Young Review and the State of the Sector reports have emphasised the challenges and barriers facing BAME communities in contact with the CJS but also the difficulty for community based, BAME-led or specialist organisations to engage with commissioning opportunities. This is despite significant community-based engagement and projects on preventative work, through the gate initiatives, rehabilitation of offenders or advocacy during remand and sentencing.  

Clinks, in partnership with BTEG and Eastside Primetimers, is offering eligible organisations a package of free support including up to five days of free tailored consultancy support that includes helping you identify and overcome any potential barriers to engaging with the new probation arrangements and with other statutory partners 

The 1-2-1 consultancy support will also aim to help develop your organisation’s: 

  • Partnership/consortia development
  • Contract and compliance requirements 
  • Service design/criminal justice subject matter expertise 
  • Fundraising/bid-writing 
  • Tendering processes 
  • Financial management  
  • Human Resources 
  • Monitoring and evaluation 

Each organisation will also be able to access: 

  • A dedicated coach 
  • A series of theme-based workshops
  • Networking opportunities through action learning  
  • Participation in BAME specific user focus groups   

To be eligible to apply. you: 

  • Must be a voluntary organisation (registered charity or incorporated social enterprise) operating in England and Wales
  • Have an annual income does not exceeding £250, 000 
  • Are a BAME-led or BAME-specialist organisation.  

To apply for this opportunity click here to complete an Expression of Interest form 

The closing date for receipt of Expressions of Interest is 27th January 2021 

This project has been made possible by funding from the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service.  

How BLM invigorated the fight for racial equality in the sporting world

Jan 18, 2021

For many, 2020 will be remembered as the year that the Black Lives Matter movement hit the headlines.  The killing of George Floyd sparked a fire of protest around the world not seen before.

But it is important to state that the BLM protests were not just about police brutality.  Though the death of African Americans at the hands of the police may have been the initial inspiration, Black Lives Matter has morphed into something much larger. 

The fire and passion of those BLM protests shone a light on racial inequality and institutional racism in all walks of life. The long-established work of campaigners in areas of health, employment and education, as well as criminal justice, have all being given more credence and consideration because of the movement.

This wave of consciousness even reached the arena of sport. Though the movement dominated the headlines during the summer of 2020, the genesis started a few years earlier.

In 2014, basketball player LeBron James wore a "I Can't Breathe" t-shirt while warming up for a game, joining other professional athletes in protesting the death of Eric Garner. “I can’t breathe” were Garner’s final words after an NYPD officer placed him in a chokehold during an altercation on Staten Island. The phrase later become a rallying cry for protesters against police brutality.
 

In August 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the pre-game national anthem to protest about racial injustice and police brutality. His actions attracted criticism from the sport’s governing body and the then President Donald Trump, and eventually left him without a team.

But by 2020, athletes around the world were following his lead.

NBA

In 2018 during an interview with ESPN, Le Bron James discussed the challenges that come with being a black public figure in America. He also discussed politics and President Trump.

The push-back was swift. Journalist Laura Ingraham responded to his comments, calling them "barely intelligible" and "ungrammatical" on her program on Fox News.

"It's always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball," she said. "Keep the political comments to yourselves. ... Shut up and dribble."

But James and his NBA colleagues did not shut up. In July 2020, as the league returned for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic suspended the season in March, NBA teams wore Black Lives Matter t-shirts, bowed their heads and took a knee during the playing of the U.S. national anthem.

In August, the Milwaukee Bucks went even further and opted not to play in a playoff game against the Orlando Magic, in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. The rest of the NBA teams still participating followed suit – as did teams and players in other sports – and no NBA games were played for three days. 

Tennis

In September of 2020 tennis player Naomi Osaka chose to make a visual statement using the platform of the US Open.

Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and Haitian father, put her activism front-and-centre from the start of the tournament, wearing a mask to honour Breonna Taylor, a black woman killed by police officers who burst into her apartment in March. Osaka would go on to recognise seven different African Americans killed by the police - one for each of the seven rounds of the tournament.

After her final victory over Victoria Azarenka, she was asked what message she hoped to send with her masks, she turned the question on her interviewer. "What was the message that you got? The point is to make people start talking," she said.

Football

In the UK, football has been marred by racism from the terraces as well as on the pitch for decades. 2020 was the year when the tired and ailing Kick Racism Out of Football campaign was reinvigorated by BLM.

During the restart that followed the suspension of football owing to the coronavirus pandemic, players wore badges endorsing Black Lives Matter for all nine match days. it was a move universally approved by the players but also, unusually, supported by the Premier League.

But it was not universally embraced by all fans. In June, a fan of Burnley FC paid a pilot to fly over the Etihad Stadium with a banner reading "White Lives Matter" just moments after the players took a knee before their match against Manchester City. And in December Millwall fans booed their own players for taking the knee before their match against Derby County.

But 2020 was also the year when teams did not hesitate to walk off the pitch if one of their teammates was racially abused, something that black players had to suffer in silence in previous decades. When premiership footballers took the knee, they were not just remembering George Floyd – they were also stating that they will no longer tolerate racist abuse and highlighting the dearth of black managers at senior levels.

Formula 1

When Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton chose to make gestures of solidarity after races, he was also drawing attention to the institutional barriers within his own sport – something that senior officials often don’t want to acknowledge or address.

The 1978 F1 champion Mario Andretti, said that Hamilton is actually "creating a problem that does not exist." According to Sky Sports, Andretti told Chilean media outlet El Mercurio: "I have a lot of respect for Lewis, but why become a militant? He's always been accepted, and he's earned everyone's respect.  I think the whole point of this is pretentious."

But Hamilton was not just making gestures.  He took it upon himself to create his own commission to tackle the issues he was highlighting.

The Commission had been in development since December 2019 but publicly launched in June 2020 to coincide with the heightened media and public interest in the Black Lives Matter movement, and greater scrutiny of race inequality in society. The Commission officially began on September 1st, 2020 and will run for nine months. Writing in a column for The Sunday Times  the six-time champion said:

"Despite my success in the sport, the institutional barriers that have kept F1 highly exclusive persist. It is not enough to point to me, or to a single new black hire, as a meaningful example of progress. Thousands of people are employed across this industry and that group needs to be more representative of society. For this reason, I have been working with the Royal Academy of Engineering to create The Hamilton Commission, a research partnership dedicated to exploring how motorsport can be used as a vehicle to engage more young people from black backgrounds with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and, ultimately, employ them on our teams or in other engineering sectors."

The Hamilton Commission is co-chaired by Hamilton and Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering.  The Board of Commissioners is an independent group made up of 14 experts and industry leaders from within the UK who have been selected to represent a wide range of expertise spanning critical areas of influence including motorsport, engineering, schools, community and youth groups.

Their responsibilities will be to review and inform the research methodology; to examine the research findings and help identify the key challenges and opportunities facing young Black people entering STEM careers, particularly in UK motorsport; and to advise on the final actions and recommendations that result from the research.

Following engagement and consultation with motorsport communities within the UK, the final evidence and recommendations will be published and taken directly to key stakeholders who can help implement change.

On the Board of Commissioners is BTEG’s own Director Jeremy Crook OBE. Speaking of BTEG’s involvement Jeremy said

" BTEG’s goal is to see black people represented in every sector and at every level. Motorsport is high profile and offers fantastic opportunities in engineering, science and technology and we have no doubt there are talented young black people who would love the chance to work in this exciting sector. The talent pipeline to motorsport careers involves schools, colleges, universities, access to quality careers guidance and crucially motorsport employers. We want to see a clear road map for black children and young people to motorsport careers and any barriers to change identified and removed through the Commission’s work."

2020 was the year that the mainstream started to realise that racism is not something that ended when slavery was abolished, or when Barack Obama was elected President.  That it is not just nasty people hurling racial epithets, or Hitler salutes from neo-Nazis. It is present in boardrooms and parliaments right now, and all around the world. The BLM movement empowered professional athletes to use their platform to promote the cause.

Those on the right try and dismiss BLM in any way they can.  They say that police brutality like that doesn’t happen in this country, so such protests are not needed.  They say that BLM has now morphed into a left-wing political party that wants to defund the police and so support should be withheld. 

But thanks to BLM, the demands for fairness and equality that campaigning organisations like BTEG have been making for years are finally being addressed.

Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

Inclusive Employers Toolkit

Oct 19, 2020

The Greater London Authority's Inclusive Employers Toolkit aims to help companies increase recruitment, retention and progression of young Black men within their workforces. The toolkit is for use by senior leaders and recruitment staff within companies in the construction and digital technology industries, and their suppliers. It will equip employers with practical tools and examples of good practice from within these sectors.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, writes in the introduction:

One in five of London’s young men is Black. This is a creative and skilled talent pool that is vital to our city’s success. Regrettably though, young Black men experience an unemployment rate that is one of the highest in our city (33 per cent) and more than twice that of their White counterparts ... That is why City Hall has developed this good practice toolkit to help you, as an organisation, achieve farreaching cultural change. This will not only benefit young Black men, but many others facing structural barriers and discrimination. 

This toolkit focuses on a specific group of people in London who are under-represented within the construction and digital sector workforces: young Black men. However, many of the actions in this toolkit can be adapted and applied to other under-represented groups and to other industries. Where possible it illustrates actions in practice using case studies focused on young Black men. However, due to the innovative nature of work supporting young Black men directly, high-quality examples of existing good practice were not available across the board.

Download the toolkit or explore the online version

Work, work, work

Aug 11, 2020

This is a guest blog by Haider Ali

Work, work, work

No, I am not quoting Rihanna. I’m actually talking about starting out your career.

As an apprentice who started their first proper job at 18 for a multinational company, it’s fair to say that the transition from the education system to the workplace was a daunting one.

Being the eldest child of immigrant parents who hadn’t worked conventional 9-5s, I didn’t have the privilege of knowing what to expect from the workplace or how to effectively navigate it. I’m sure there are many other young people in similar positions so I want to share 10 key lessons from my own personal experiences to help you thrive.

  1. Common sense is actually not that common.  Believe it or not, common sense is a valuable skill in the workplace. You’ll find yourself in many scenarios where someone presents a problem that they can’t solve and you think ‘isn’t the answer to that just…?’ Don’t be afraid to state these simple solutions; they are often the most effective ones. The chances are what’s ‘obvious’ to you isn’t so obvious to someone else. Use your common sense to help you problem solve where you might lack technical knowledge on a matter.
  2. Your attitude to work will take you further than the work itself. Your attitude speaks volumes about your character and is how people will know the type of employee you are. Always see challenges as opportunities to grow and succeed rather than to stumble and fail. Be mindful of the energy that you put out when approaching work rather than getting consumed in just doing it.

  3. Don’t be so dramatic. Having a bad day at work is not you failing at your career and it doesn’t mean you need to think about quitting your job. When you start working, you’ll have good days as well as bad ones. It’s completely normal to acknowledge you’re not having the best day without thinking your life is falling apart.  

  4. Stay inquisitiveAsking questions is the difference between someone who knows how to do their job and someone who knows both how to do it and why they’re doing it. A company’s processes are like jigsaw pieces so whether you are working in IT, Finance, HR or anywhere else, connections can be made which give you a holistic view of an organisation’s activity. The better you are able to put the pieces together the more satisfaction you’ll get from your job and the more value you can bring to the table. Suddenly, that slightly dull Excel spreadsheet becomes an instrumental tool to your organisation. Knowledge is power.

  5. Set and enforce clear boundariesFor young and driven newcomers, you may feel like every task you’re assigned with is an urgent one which means doing it right there and then. Whilst some tasks require a quick turnaround, others require less urgency. Get into the habit of always checking the timeframe with your manager to know how long you have to get things done. Looking back, there were so many times where I was working extra hours on tasks I thought had to be done today that could’ve easily waited till tomorrow. Try to stick as close to your core hours as you can, whilst remaining flexible and committed, but always know when to cut-off from the job. Work-life boundaries are essential for your mental health so don’t let them get blurry unnecessarily.

  6. The art of time management. Your time is currency so learning how to spend it properly when working is super important. Start your day off right by spending a few minutes listing your high priority actions for the day before rushing into all the admin. Avoiding multi-tasking is also key as studies find it actually reduces your productivity by as much as 40%. Keep things simple. You’ll start to notice how much more you are able to get out of your working day.

  7. Never be too proud to ask for help. When starting out, it’s impossible to know everything so you will naturally find yourselves tasked with things you may not feel like you fully understand. Let someone know sooner rather than later. Nobody is judging you or thinks you are any less intelligent. If anything, they will appreciate your honesty and see that maybe they could’ve explained things a little better themselves.

  8. Enjoy the journey, not just the milestones. Whilst you may have your eyes set on being a senior manager by age X and want to scramble up the so-called career ladder, take time to pause and appreciate your growth every once in a while. You usually find that your current situation is where you dreamed of being a year ago. Appreciate these smaller wins as much as the bigger ones.

  9. Embrace the organisational culture. Whilst there are broad similarities in the British working culture, there are also many nuanced cultural elements specific to the company you are working for. It will take time to get to learn these but it’s important that you do, so that you are able to navigate through organisations by understanding ‘the way we do things around here’.

  10. Don’t just work. Network. Whilst this term is often overused, networking is crucial to success. I find that networking is most effective when you don’t realise you are actually doing it. Saying you are ‘going to network’ is very rigid and doesn’t allow you to form organic connections and relationships with people. Simply put, it’s really just about keeping an open mind and going out of your comfort zone to interact with new people. It’s a great way to help you find mentors/coaches who can help in bringing out your potential and also a smart way to get your name out there as a new starter. So many fantastic opportunities I’ve had at work have been off the back of networking

University vs Apprenticeships

Aug 11, 2020

A guest blog by Haider Ali

Apprenticeships: aren’t they for people who don’t get good grades?

I don’t want to go into engineering or construction so it’s not for me, right?

Only a degree can secure you a well-paid job and, besides, aren’t apprentices paid pennies?

These are all valid questions. In fact, these were the exact questions racing through my mind when I was doing my A-Levels just 3 years ago.

My name is Haider and I’m a higher apprentice working in finance at a FTSE100.  I’m going to share what I wish someone had shared with me before I almost talked myself out of making one of the most game-changing decisions of my life.

Throughout secondary school, I was a straight-A student when it came to my GCSEs so the seed of going to university was planted in my mind from quite an early stage, by both my teachers and my parents. Within BAME communities in particular, I understand first-hand that a degree is seen beyond a qualification. It’s viewed as a social status symbol that a vast majority of parents want their child to obtain to be regarded as successful. But the truth is that success is defined by you, not the paths you take.

Before I had even started sixth form, I genuinely expected to be going to university by the end of those 2 years. If you told me I’d experience the things I have and be where I am now 3 years ago, I probably would’ve laughed at you.

At sixth form, I studied A-Levels in Maths, Business, Economics and Biology. I first came across the revolutionary concept of an apprenticeship through one of the career fairs I attended in Year 12. I was so surprised to learn of the choices down this route. I genuinely used to think that the majority of apprenticeships stopped at Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) or Level 3 (A-Level equivalent) and that they were only for blue-collar occupations. However, I learnt that there were higher and degree apprenticeships out there (Levels 4-7) which was really eye-opening. Industries spanned from law, to digital marketing through to engineering and even health care, to name a few. I couldn’t believe nobody had told me about this sooner.

Also, some of the apprenticeships offered were so different to the companies offering them. There are energy companies with HR schemes, retail companies offering IT programmes, and the list goes on. I’m actually doing my own finance apprenticeship in an engineering company. Who would’ve thought it? Some of these life-changing opportunities are hidden where you least expect them.

I was conditioned to believe that, because I got A*/As at A-Level, my value after sixth form would only be enhanced by attending an elite Russel Group university or even the likes of Oxbridge. Anything else was me ‘selling myself short’. You may be predicted As/Bs and realise that an apprenticeship you like the sound of requires 3 Cs. Don’t rule it out. Grade requirements don’t work in the same way as university. Generally, the better the university and the harder the course, the higher the A-Levels you need. Apprenticeships are different. They require well-rounded applicants so grades are just one part of the equation. After all, you will be working as well as learning. You’ll need drive and a genuine interest because these companies will be investing money into you and your growth. Imagine if employers only hired people with straight As and first-class degrees. So many people with incredible careers would be unemployed right now.

To clarify, this is not a rant about me telling people not to go to university. That’s ludicrous. All I’m asking is for you to have an open mind about what route is better suited to you. It’s your life after all, right? Even I applied to 5 universities alongside various apprenticeships to keep my options open. So, forget about what the people around you are doing, forget about the cultural pressures your parents may be projecting onto you for a moment and focus on you. Learn about yourself before you even consider which career you wish to pursue. What are your favourite subjects? What unique skills make you stand out? Could you do some work experience or seek advice from a mentor to learn more?

And once you’ve decided, also appreciate that it’s okay if you decide to switch lanes into different roles and industries later down the line. It’s unrealistic to assume that, as a teenager, you’ll have your whole life planned down to a tee. You’re not a fortune teller. The majority of people in their current jobs probably didn’t think they’d end up where they are now when they were younger. They probably won’t have even imagined what they’ll be doing in 10 years’ time. That’s okay.

If you are someone who wants to carve out their own version of success and feels ready to start a journey into their dream career sooner rather than later, then an apprenticeship could be a better fit for you. You’ll also get the chance to earn a competitive salary (not the pennies that people think) and have the opportunity to learn as much as you are willing to. You’ll be able to create a great social life with people you meet along the way. Please don’t rack thousands of pounds of student debt because of FOMO with regards to the university social life. The end goal here is your career. If a degree gets you there, then that’s great but, equally, there are much more efficient routes of getting there (e.g. degree or higher apprenticeships) which is where your research will come in.

In a constantly changing world, it’s time to redefine what an apprentice is and steer away from these archaic stereotypes. We need more diversity in apprenticeships and I firmly believe that, in the current climate, apprentices will matter now more than ever as we look to rebuild the economy.

Be brave enough to lead the way, don’t always follow the crowd.

Dismantling structural racism

Jul 20, 2020

In recent weeks the issue of race equality has dominated the news agenda as never before. But racism is not confined to police brutality or monkey chants on the football terraces. That is racism at its most crude, visible and visceral. More pernicious is the structural racism in every aspect of our society - not just in our criminal justice system, but also in schools, the media and the workplace.

Education

BAME people in the UK face disproportionate employment outcomes at all levels and even a university degree will not free them from poorer outcomes.

On graduation black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) graduates with a first degree are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white graduates, according to a report from the TUC

This report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Supporting Ethnic Minority Young People from Education into Work, highlights that 41% of black African graduates, 39% of Bangladeshi graduates and 36% of Pakistani graduates are more likely to be overqualified for their roles, compared with 25% of white graduates.

Employment

In the 12 months to December 2019, the unemployment rate was highest for people from a black, and Bangladeshi or Pakistani (8%) background (Unemployment by ethnic background House of Commons Library).

According to the government’s ethnicity, facts and figures website in 2018 9% of black people were unemployed, the highest unemployment rate across all ethnic groups. The unemployment rate for white people was 4%.

When applying for jobs, a study in 2019 by the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, Oxford, showed that job-seekers with African or Asian-sounding names had to send 60% more applications to get a positive response than white British candidates, despite equivalent CVs. The figures were even higher for those of Nigerian and MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) backgrounds, at 80% and 90% respectively.

Employment discrimination exists even in areas where there is a large BAME presence – like professional football. At present, only six of the 91 Premier League and English Football League managers or head coaches are BAME. 

The Media

When he was Director General of the BBC Greg Dyke famously described the institution as ‘hideously white’, and a lack of diversity within the British media continues to be a concern. Research, commissioned by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ),found that journalists are less ethnically diverse than the workforce as a whole. Around 94% of journalists are white – slightly higher than the proportion for the UK workforce as a whole (91%). However, the lack of diversity in journalism is even more stark when one recognises the concentration of journalism in London and the south- east, where ethnic minorities live in greater numbers.

Solutions

Many companies have made gestures in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, such as posting a black square on their Instagram accounts for ‘#BlackOutTuesday’, but they need to take more practical actions too. They need to:

  • ensure that the ethnic make-up of their workforce reflects the make-up of the communities that they serve
  • look at their hiring procedures
  • publicly declare the ethnic make-up of their workforces

In football the Premier League, English Football League and Professional Footballers' Association have announced a new scheme to increase the number of BAME coaches. The aim is to help BAME players move into full-time coaching roles in the professional game. The scheme will start next season and will give six coaches a 23-month work placement at EFL clubs per campaign.

"This is a critical time for black, Asian and minority ethnic coaches," said Doncaster Rovers manager Darren Moore, who is chair of the Premier League's Black Participants' Advisory Group. "We all know and agree that the diversity of coaches and managers must increase and this placement scheme represents a positive step.
"We need to have the right structures and people in place to develop their careers. I know from my own experiences the value of strong support throughout the coaching journey."

In the media the BBC are set to increase diversity by investing £100m of its TV budget over a three-year period to produce "diverse and inclusive content". It has set itself a mandatory target - 20% of off-screen talent must come from under-represented groups. That includes those with a disability or from a BAME or disadvantaged socio-economic background. There will also be three "tests" for diversity in the BBC's TV output, with programmes needing to meet two of them to qualify - diverse stories and portrayal on-screen, diverse production teams and talent and diverse-led production companies. The BBC’s Director General Tony Hall has described the move, which will apply from April 2021, as "a big leap".

BTEG has been working to address the inequalities in employment faced by BAME people for many years. 

Moving On Up is just one such initiative – funded by Trust for London and City Bridge Trust - that aims to increase the employment rates for young black men in London. In Phase One of the programme, from 2015 to 2017 it worked with a network of employment support providers to help young black men into jobs. It did this by:

  • funding work that would improve the support offered to young black men and increase their pathways into employment
  • undertaking policy influencing work to promote greater action to address the issue.

The lessons from Moving on Up Phase One are in the full  Evaluation Report or you can read the summary.

In Phase Two, from 2017, the programme continues to focus on employment outcomes for young black men in London but with a greater emphasis on improving opportunities for young black men to secure skilled jobs in higher-earning sectors including construction, financial services and information technology.    

As well as helping job seekers, BTEG is also working with employers offering training in unconscious bias. Led by Tebussum Rashid, BTEG Deputy Chief Executive, the training is designed to help employers to recognise bias within themselves and the impact of their personal bias on others. Tebussum says: 

“We are delighted to see organisations from all sectors reaching out to BTEG for advice, support and information about our training services. It’s great to see black staff sharing their experiences with leaders, managers and other colleagues. Leaders need to listen and respond with practical actions to achieve positive change.”

Even for those not engaging in unconscious bias training, BTEG believe that all companies should be taking practical action to improve the recruitment, progression and retention of BAME individuals. Employers should consider the following:

  • Introduce ethnicity monitoring (recruitment, progression and retention)
  • Review or pause the recruitment process if there are no black candidates shortlisted
  • Ensure your interview panel is ethnically diverse
  • Recognise ethnic biases staff may have and introduce training

To find out more about how BTEG could support your organisation or our training offer, contact Tebussum@bteg.co.uk

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Reflections on my school experience, Black Lives Matter and the future

Jun 24, 2020

This guest blog is by a young black woman living in London

In the space of a few weeks, many of us had to adjust to a new way of living, working and interacting. Lockdown meant that my final A Level exams were cancelled (and that did admittedly feel like a silver lining), but what really surprised me was how capable we all are of making changes to our lifestyles.  

As lockdown begins to ease; the question of what the new norm will look like is obviously one of practicality - but I am optimistic that it will also reflect the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement and the treatment of black people in our society. We’ve all seen the videos, the posts and the protests, but on a day-to-day level what does this mean? And how can we ensure the momentum of the BLM movement creates a lasting change to the way black students are seen in places of education? 

Throughout secondary school, I experienced a dismissive attitude towards race. I went to a fairly diverse girl’s school, so in a way it was difficult to pinpoint why we black girls felt at a disadvantage; we rarely ever had to deal with overt racism and on a personal level, teachers didn’t seem to treat us any worse because we were black. However, looking back I am able to see why many of us felt that way and why it’s important that other black students are equipped with this insight. 

Secondary school is naturally a lot more competitive than primary school; you’re ranked based on academic ability almost as soon as you step through the doors and systems such as class sets (usually started in the upper school) and programmes for ‘Gifted and Talented’ students are introduced. I was well behaved and by Year 9 I was placed in most ‘top set’ classes, but I noticed the absence of black girls in those spaces, chosen for special opportunities and in positions of responsibility.  

The ‘Gifted and Talented’ programmes excluded many black students because they were dependent on teacher opinions towards students and subsequently their biases. When the few black students were chosen to be on those programmes, it was because they were literally the best at their subject, whereas other students were also judged on their perceived potential. In some cases, grades weren’t even a factor for white girls getting opportunities, it was clear that likeability was good enough. The problem with academic programmes like that was the way they allowed teachers to categorise and profile high achieving black students as if they were somehow different to the rest of the black community, like we were just an exception to the rule. Once these categories had been established, there was no flexibility in the system to allow other black students to move up and there were countless times when the efforts of the academic black students were ignored while other students were publicly praised and rewarded.  

By Year 11 I had decided to organise the annual Black History Month assembly but it was made clear to me that it was a tradition teachers wished to stop. They let us know we were also being judged on the perceived ‘disorganisation’ of the previous Year 11s. I was keen to base the assembly on positive black British history, educating people on inspirational figures they may not have heard of with a film I had made myself and I was excited to involve other people in my year group, retaining the ‘fun’ celebratory aspect of the annual event with African drumming and singing.  

I distinctly remember the Deputy Headteacher trying to convince me that it wasn’t a good idea, but to insure I didn’t think she was racist, she told me she ‘didn't see colour’, and that in her family they didn’t mention race when referring to people. Though she’d meant to reassure me with that statement, in my opinion mindsets like that contributed to the disadvantages we faced throughout our time there. In that particular instance, the teacher was not able to comprehend why the assembly was important and she could not see that for the black students, it gave a sense of community and recognition. In the long term, through pretending they had no biases and no awareness of race, teachers could overlook the recurring lack of opportunity for black students. 

It was the one hour in the year that we could tell people that we were different, that we don’t all have an equal starting point in life but that we did have a history beyond slavery. I realise that it had become ‘disorganised’ and centred on entertainment in the past because of the pressure of trying to fit thousands of years of information into one event without proper support and to an audience that was reluctant to learn about black history. Had the curriculum been more diverse, we wouldn’t have felt the need to educate teachers and students ourselves - it shouldn’t have felt like our responsibility.  

I believe the BLM movement will help students because acknowledgement of race is the first step for schools. Furthermore, reminding people that the movement does not take away from the experience of other ethnicities and shutting down counterproductive statements like ‘all lives matter’ has been a great turning point. This is because schools often boast a one-rule-for-all system with punishment and opportunities but it is a similar extension of practising ill-informed equality over equity which often ends up with a disproportionate number of black students being punished and a disproportionate number of white students being rewarded. 

Many people have understood that it is not enough for individuals and institutions to pretend we are all on an even playing field and schools are no exception. It isn’t enough for white teachers to ignore their privilege and the privilege of white students when they label us ‘intimidating’, deny us opportunities and underestimate our grades and trajectories. This also means acknowledging that even if they don't understand our experiences - there is a wider problem, and that there is a myriad of ways they can help to correct it. 

We need teachers to recognise our blackness, to understand that our experiences are different and question why so many of us continuously end up at a disadvantage. We also need to see a more diverse range of role models in the curriculum and in the classroom.  I was lucky enough to have had two excellent black female maths teachers who inspired me to study Maths A-Level, but I know more role models like that would have encouraged others and may have prevented staff undervaluing black students as well.

When schools reopen for all students, I hope the conversations and ideas we’ve had in lockdown are brought back into the classroom and given that many young people are on social media, I think open discussions about the impact of what we’ve witnessed over the last few months would be invaluable.  

I dedicate this piece to readers who have lost loved ones to Covid-19.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

These BTEG publications may be useful to parents and pupils (click on image to download the file)

     

      

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

Black Lives Matter in Britain too

Jun 17, 2020

George Floyd’s death in Minnesota has led to the four policemen involved being dismissed from the Minneapolis Police Department, with one being charged with murder and the other three being charged with aiding and abetting.

The incident has sparked global street protests.

Unfortunately, while expressing their regrets over Floyd’s death, some MPs and members of the UK media have suggested that the issue of police violence against black people is a particularly American problem - one from which Britain is free.

On 7th June Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed, in an interview on Sky News, that the demonstrations seen in cities like London and Birmingham were "based in response to events in America rather than here". Some politicians queued up to suggest that while such racism was a problem in other countries, the UK was an oasis of fairness and equality.

Sadly, this assertion is not supported by the facts. Anyone who suggest this is either ignorant of those facts or being deliberately dishonest.

There is a history of racial tension in this country that dates back to when Caribbean immigrants first started to come to the UK en masse in the 1950s.  And the history of relations between black people and the police in this country is littered with tragic deaths like the one which befell George Floyd. Tragedies like:

Joy Gardner, a 40-year-old black woman from Jamaica who had overstayed her six-month visa. In 1993 an immigration officer and police officers arrived at her home to serve a deportation notice. When she refused to comply, the police entered her home and struggled and fought with her. As a result of their restraints of her, Gardner suffocated and subsequently fell into a coma, later dying in hospital.

Wayne Douglas, a 26 year-old who, on 5th December 1995, died whilst being held at Brixton Police Station on suspicion of burglary. On four occasions, Wayne had been held face down with his hands cuffed behind his back by officers. A jury found that he died of `left ventricular failure due to stress and exhaustion and positional asphyxia following a chase and a series of restraints, in prone position, face down”.

Christopher Alder, a 37-year-old trainee computer programmer and former British Army paratrooper. In 1998 he was assaulted outside a night club in Hull and taken to a local hospital, where he was then arrested for an alleged breach of the peace. While fit enough to get into a police van by himself, CCTV footage showed that upon arrival at the police station, Alder was unconscious and was dragged from the van and placed on the floor of the custody suite. He died lying face down, handcuffed, with his trousers around his ankles on the floor of the police station.

Roger Sylvester, in 1999 police arrived outside’s house as a result of a 999 call. Eight officers put Sylvester to the ground where he was handcuffed. He was detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. HIs body was already limp when it was placed in the police van. He was taken to St Ann’s hospital, and put on the floor by six police officers where he lay for nearly 20 minutes before being seen by a doctor. He had sustained numerous injuries and remained in a coma until his life support machine was switched off seven days later.

Frank Ogburo was involved in a domestic altercation in 2006.  The police were called by a neighbour. A struggle between the officers and Frank resulted in his being sprayed with CS gas, being handcuffed and brought to the floor. Frank’s wrists were in handcuffs behind his back. His death according to the jury at the inquest was as a “consequence of restraint”. 

Seni Lewis was 23 years old in 2010, when he died three days after he was subjected to two periods of restraint by police, lasting more than 30 minutes. He had been taken to Bethlehem Royal Hospital by his parents after an episode of mental ill-health.

Kingsley Burrell died in hospital from a cardiac arrest, days after being detained and physically restrained by West Midlands Police in March 2011.

Sheku Bayoh was 31 years old in May 2015 when he died after being restrained by up to five police officers, in Kirkcaldy, Scotland

In the last 25 years 19 black people have died while in police custody.  Of that number, eight died as a result of police restraint.

During that period, many more white people have also died, but there is a clear disproportion. Black people are more than twice as likely to die in police custody. An independent review of deaths in police custody found that between 1990 and 2009, 16 per cent of those who died after the use of force were black – more than twice the proportion arrested.

The most recent statistics from the Home Office and Ministry of Justice show that in 2018-19, black people were: 

This disproportionality also shows up in our prisons and especially for under 18s in custody. In youth offending institutions young black people make up a staggering 28% of the cohort but less than 10% of the general 10-18 general population. In the year ending March 2019 black young people were over four times more likely to be arrested than white young people.

What makes such statistics even more galling for the relatives of the deceased, is that those police officers who may have been responsible for the deaths are never brought to justice.

According to the Report of the Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody of eight prosecutions of police officers in connection with a death in custody in the last 15 years, all have ended with acquittals. These include prosecutions for murder and manslaughter. In fact, there has never been a successful prosecution for manslaughter in such cases, despite unlawful killing verdicts in Coroner’s inquests.

Far from being a peculiarly American problem, deaths at the hands of the police is a problem suffered by black people around the world, as the worldwide Black Lives Matter demonstrations have illuminated. 

Rather than deny the problem or sweep it under the carpet, our government should face it, own up to it and put regulations in place to control the police’s use of force and restraint, and curb the number of deaths.  Only then can the UK become the oasis of fairness and equality that the current government claims.

Photo by ksh2000 from Pexels

Time to Track, Trace and Remove Racism in the UK and USA

Jun 02, 2020

George Floyd’s killing by police in the USA took me back to the death of Clinton McCurbin in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, in February 1987. I was a final year student at the Polytechnic at the time and walking through Wolverhampton town centre I saw a commotion outside the Next shop but didn’t realise that Clinton McCurbin had lost his life.

Clinton was arrested for alleged shoplifting and the use of a stolen credit card at the shop. He died of asphyxia in a struggle with police after being held in a neck-hold for several minutes. Onlookers were shocked at the level of force and brutality used by the arresting officers.

His death outraged the black community but, to the dismay of the family, at the subsequent inquest the jury returned a verdict of misadventure.

There have been too many deaths of other black men in police custody since then in this country and the USA.

In response to George Floyd’s death there have been, once again, calls for; police training to be improved, swift justice and the police responsible not just charged but found guilty, and for structural racism to be tackled.

In the UK we don’t seem to care that black men are far more likely to have force used against them, more likely be stopped and searched, more likely to be tasered, and more likely to have incapacitant spray used against them – in the community and in prison.

Why are black men perceived to be a greater risk than other men? We have to ask - does a black man’s life carry the same value as white man’s life in America and the UK?

For me there is a lingering, underlying problem in America and UK (and other European countries involved in the colonisation/oppression of African people) and it stems from the brutality and extreme force used against African men, women and children during and after slavery.

The legacy of slavery is not just a problem for black people. It is a shared problem that we all need to face. People of African heritage are still fighting for race equality here and across the Americas.

The lack of fair employment opportunities for black men, poverty and the availability of illegal drugs has created the conditions where black men, especially young black men involved in drugs and protecting their ‘territory’, are prepared to use extreme violence.

Unjustified racist extreme State violence and extreme street violence both need to be eradicated.

BTEG wants to see black people represented across the criminal justice system, from the police to judges. But better representation is part of a solution but it will not solve the problem.

The Minneapolis police chief is African-American and the force itself is 50% white, 25% Hispanic and 25% African-American. In the Met Police Service, 85% of Police Officers are white and only 15% BAME.

It’s clear from Minneapolis that having a black police chief and 50% of officers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds does not end overt racism within the force. Anti-racism and dealing with [un]conscious bias does not end racism. They are important but not sufficient.

Labelling an organisation institutionally racist often results in defensive rebuttals and the line it’s ‘just a few bad apples.’ This doesn’t wash with anyone, especially with the social media generation that film and mobilise communities in minutes.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has shown that the most effective control measures are those which are systematic and robust. We have thus far found no cures for the racist pandemic so we need to adopt control measures.

We need the state to ‘track, trace and remove’ racism in the police, in the wider justice system and in all public bodies. This requires thorough racial monitoring across all aspects of an organisation so we can pinpoint perpetrators of racism and unfair policies and practices and remove them.

This isn’t just about frontline police and prison officers, it also about those making operational decisions. Leaders must be accountable for their actions as well. We need a different approach to tackling structural racism. We need better race equality laws and better enforcement of the duties. We need race equality legislation that requires public bodies, especially in the justice system to take systemic action to remove race disparities.

Organisational ethnic biases will only be removed when there is a duty to track, trace and remove racism and racial disparities, matched by a body that has the power and the resources to enforce the law.

Jeremy Crook OBE, Chief Executive of BTEG, voluntary member of the Metropolitan Police Service STRIDE Board and member of Black Men for Change

Pages

Subscribe to Blogs

Latest

Moving on Up (MoU) aims to improve employment outcomes for young black men. Funded by...
Wednesday, November 17, 2021 - 12:14
Please note change of closing date Moving on Up (MoU) is a collaboration between Blac...
Wednesday, November 3, 2021 - 12:16
Inclusive Employers Toolkit
Since the pandemic, the unemployment rate has risen for young black men at an unprece...
Tuesday, September 14, 2021 - 00:52
BTEG welcomes the Public Accounts Committee report and agrees with the Chair of the C...
Wednesday, September 8, 2021 - 15:11

Follow us on social media