Racism – our responsibility to tackle

15th April 2019

By Sietske van der Ploeg, Head of Impact and Partnerships, Mayor’s Fund. 

Recently, the media has lauded football players such as Raheem Sterling and Danny Rose for speaking up about the persistent racial abuse they receive whilst doing their job. The praise is deserved – these are young men who show courage in standing up to targeted, bullying behaviour.

Yet, in almost all articles, our sports heroes receive more attention than the actual issue in hand. Given our celebrity-obsessed culture, it may not come as a surprise that football players are featured so prominently in the media. But this should not detract from the fact that as a society we are failing people from ethnic minority backgrounds. And more, that we are so quiet about it.

Sadly, racism is not limited to shouting unacceptable abuse in football grounds.

It is about not having the same opportunities as your peers because your last name is different. It is about being excluded from jobs and networks because employers sift out those who do not sound ‘British’. It is about not seeing your community reflected in the higher echelons of working life and assuming aspirations are limited by background.

You may be forgiven for thinking I am exaggerating. But consider the evidence.

Research published earlier this year by the Centre for Social Investigation (Oxford University) demonstrated that levels of discrimination have remained unchanged since 1960[1]. One of the findings showed that in today’s day and age, British applicants from black or South Asian backgrounds have to send 60% more applications compared to their white counterparts to get a positive response.[2] We also know that people who are BAME are more likely to be low paid.[3]

A month or so ago, I interviewed young Londoners from non-white backgrounds who had previously encountered unemployment. They spoke of the disappointment of not being able to contribute and shared their frustrations of being perceived as ‘lazy’ and ‘less deserving’ of jobs, simply because of the colour of their skin.

If we want to create a society where all people can flourish, we must stamp out racism in all its forms. This is down to every one of us. First, we must be transparent and acknowledge how ingrained racial inequality is in our society. The government’s initiative to tackle racial bias in its decision-making is a good start[4]. It also means businesses leading the way to create more inclusive recruitment practices and actively seeking to increase diversity of thought. Finally, we must cherish and nurture young people regardless of their background and prepare them for a fulfilled life where they can achieve their full potential. At the Mayor’s Fund for London, we intend to do just that. In 2018, our work reached 35,000 young people, from all over the capital. We helped broaden horizons, build resilience, and prepare young people for meaningful careers in exciting, and sometimes unknown, industries.

We invite you to join hands with us and create positive and long-lasting change.

[1] https://www.nuffield.ox.ac.uk/news-events/news/new-csi-report-on-ethnic-minority-job-discrimination/

[2] https://www.nuffield.ox.ac.uk/news-events/news/new-csi-report-on-ethnic-minority-job-discrimination/

[3] https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/with-british-bangladeshi-and-pakistani-people-in-the-lowest-skilled-and-lowest-paid-jobs-we-know-we-a8504851.html

[4] https://www.publictechnology.net/articles/news/government-race-disparity-unit-join-data-ethics-centre-algorithmic-bias-probe