Baroness Stroud is CEO of the Legatum Institute.
The Legatum Institute recently announced the creation of a Race Equality Commission, which I co-chair alongside Rev. Nims Obunge MBE DL. The Commission brings together people from a diverse range of backgrounds and ethnicities, all committed to exploring why racial disparity exists in the UK and identifying the changes that would make a tangible difference to people’s lives.
The fundamental starting point for the Commission is a firm belief that every individual has immense personal worth, dignity, and purpose. At the Institute, we stand against racism in all its forms and are committed to working to increase the prosperity of all.
Recent events, such as the killing of George Floyd in the United States earlier this year, and the global public outcry that followed, raised deep questions about community, identity and belonging; about the distribution of opportunity, power and responsibility; about reform and how to bring about healing and unity. These are some of the questions the Race Equality Commission seeks to answer.
In the UK, there are also challenging questions to engage with: the stories we tell ourselves that give us a sense of place, of value, and of purpose, and the means by which values are transmitted down through the generations. It is vital that we have proper exploration and debate to better understand the causes of and find the enduring solutions to divisions in our society.
We know that creating a better world needs to involve everyone collaborating together, and we are inspired by the countless stories of extraordinary transformation and breakthrough in the UK’s history that were brought about by small groups of thoughtful, committed people working together. Theirs is the example the Race Equality Commission seeks to follow.
During the first meeting of the Commission, I was struck by the willingness of Commissioners to share their views with vulnerability and to have difficult conversations with mutual respect even when there was disagreement. Some spoke of their experiences, some shared stories of the communities and groups they’ve spent their lives working with, while others talked of frustration at years of conversation on these issues with very little change.
All agreed that there is a need for honest discussion in which everyone feels able to contribute fully and knows they will be listened to, as it is only in this spirit of kindness that we can bring about real understanding.
Since the Government published the Race Disparity Audit in 2017 a number of reviews have taken place – from the McGregor-Smith Review to the Windrush Review – all highlighting different areas of disparity. For example, the Race Disparity Audit highlighted that Asian and Black households are more likely to be poor and are the most likely to be in persistent poverty. The McGregor-Smith Review noted that, in 2015, one in eight of the working age population were from a BAME background, yet BAME individuals made up only ten per cent of the workforce and held only six per cent of top management positions. And the Timpson Review of School Exclusion revealed that Black Caribbean children are around 1.7 times more likely to be permanently excluded from education than White British children.
However, while adding much to the data on these issues, these audits and reviews have had little impact on the lived experience of those suffering from racial inequality. Therefore, as well as reviewing all the existing data, the Commission will seek new evidence about the attitudes and experience of ethnic minorities across different sectors of society – from the school environment to the labour market, the criminal justice system to the health system.
We will do this by speaking with as many people and communities across the UK as we can, and will produce a series of recommendations for Government and policy makers, businesses, schools and communities, as well as practical plans for anyone in the UK who seeks to bring about real change.
We want to address the complex and historically thorny issue of racial inequality in a holistic and positive manner. We are committed to working tirelessly until all people have the same opportunities available to them and the support they need to seize those opportunities. In short, we will keep working until we have removed every stumbling block put in people’s way, created the pathways to prosperity for all, and seen the transformation of society – so that every individual can fulfil their unique potential.
But we know that we have much to learn, and that change will take time, so until then, we can all start by being just a little kinder to one another.