"Racism is alive and well" - black communities in Leeds slam government report into race disparity

The findings of a government report will set work done to tackle racism and race-related inequalities in this country back decades, local campaigners have warned.

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 6:00 am

Leaders of groups across the city campaigning to represent black and ethnic minority residents and communities say they feel angry, stunned and betrayed by the Commission on Race and Ethnic disparities report, commissioned in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

It said Britain is no longer a country where the "system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities", there was no evidence of institutional racism and went on to say geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion all impact life chances more than racism.

However, only two years ago Alison Lowe, a former city councillor and the chief executive of Touchstone, a mental health charity in Leeds said she was called a "n*****" in the street and Annette Morris, leader of the Leeds BME hub said communities such as Chapeltown and Seacroft are experiencing racism in many forms every day.

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Annette Morris, leader of the Leeds BME Hub.

She told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "It is flawed, I don't trust it, the way that the information was gathered or the intention.Things like that are done to block perceptions and they don't want to expose certain things. This journey that people are on to turn racism on its head - the government doesn't want that and that is why they have commissioned this report.

"People in elite positions are not living in my world. Spend a day in Chapeltown or Seacroft before you do these things. I feel very angry that is has been done, it puts communities back in trying to get equality in society.

"It makes out we have been making it up all these years. My lived experience is completely different to that. I have to rubbish it (the report), I can't endorse it. Some people will relish the idea there is no racism and no need to do anything about it, change or react and that is really damaging to society in the long-term. My grand-children will still be fighting this fight 30 years on."

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Racism ‘still embedded in the system in Leeds’ says BME hub worker
Alison Lowe, former councillor and the chief executive of Touchstone House.

She said: "It is massively offensive to say black kids do the same as white kids. The experience of poor white boys is outrageous but for poor black boys is even worse. When you look at the data the employment rate for black people is 69 per cent, for white people is it 79 per cent. Pay has gone down for everybody, white people get paid less than they did and there are changes to the benefits system - it is not that black people get paid more.

"Black men are nine times more likely to get stopped and searched, black people are four times more likely to get diagnosed with schizophrenia. They never mention Islamophobia because that and racism is a double whammy.

"There is a lot of data but not much analysis. I would like to say its naive but I think it has been deliberate to minimise the experiences of black and brown people. I don't believe they believe what they are saying. They are a group of hand-picked people sitting in a position of power and have colluded with white people even though that means shafting their own. They have betrayed us."

Ms Lowe added that while things are better for her and her children compared to her father's experiences, the evidence is quite clear of the disparity for black people and that is caused by systematic racism. She added: "Racism is alive and well."

Mothin Ali, is based in Leeds and is the creator of the My Family Garden Youtube channel with over 25,000 subscribers. He is also the founder of the DigItOut campaign to end racism in horticulture and gardening. He says he receives "torrents" of abuse online and even when this report was released on Wednesday he was told "to go back".

He said: "We are absolutely appalled by the conclusions of the government race report, which will set race relations back by 20 years in this country. The report completely goes against what we, as people of colour, experience every single day. On the day the report was issued I was sent messages telling me to go back to my own country, my country is Britain.

"We were hopeful after the Black Lives Matter campaigns that things might change. I set up Dig It Out because I am fed up by constant and angry abuse for the mere fact that I exist. I don't want my children to grow up suffering as we have. I felt I needed to make a stand and change the environment we live in. We reject the findings in this report."

Also critical of its findings were Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) who said it was "out of step with public opinion", leader of the Labour Party Kier Starmer told reporters in Leeds on Wednesday he was "disappointed" by the findings and Lord Sewell, appointed by then-prime minister Theresa May in 2018 to create and lead the government's Race Disparity Unit, said: "This is a report that is steeped in denial."

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