Almost half of UK population thinks systemic racism plagues society, survey suggests

Exclusive: Less than one in five Britons polled believe recent race commission report will have a positive impact on society

Nadine White
Wednesday 21 April 2021 15:38
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<p>One in five would encourage more conversations about racism</p>

One in five would encourage more conversations about racism

Almost half of adults think systemic racism is common across the UK, despite a recent report from the government’s race commission claiming otherwise, new research has found.

Some 43 per cent of Britons think structural discrimination continues to blight society, the survey found, while only a quarter (27 per cent) of respondents believe that systemic racism is “uncommon”.

Around a third (37 per cent) of the more than 2,000 adults polled by Opinium on behalf of voluntary initiative Reboot said they agreed with the commission’s findings that there is “no evidence of systemic or institutional racism” in modern Britain.

Over half of the people who expressed this view (55 per cent) are based in London.

Suki Sandhu, founder of INvolve, an organisation championing diversity in business, said: “Rather than a call-to-action, the report acted as a stop-to-action, at a time when social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter clearly show that inequality and racism is still embedded across society. We therefore cannot become complacent by pretending change is not needed.”

Some of those polled also raised concerns that the widely contested report may even set back efforts to achieve greater equality.

One in five people (20 per cent) thought the commission’s report will have a negative impact when it comes to progressing race issues in the UK, while 18 per cent believe the report will have a positive impact on society.

On Tuesday, the equalities minister Kemi Badenoch defended the 258-page probe and claimed experts, campaigners and politicians who voiced criticism had made “false assertions” over the report.

A significantly high number of the UK public also agree that workplaces have a crucial role to play in raising awareness about racism.

In terms of the measures employers can introduce or uphold to raise awareness about racism, half of the respondents (50 per cent) would recommend actively promoting a zero-tolerance policy on discrimination as the most critical measure employers can introduce, followed by clear policies for reporting discrimination in the workplace (44 per cent).

One in five respondents (21 per cent) would encourage more conversations about racism.

Robert Walker, co-head of asset stewardship at State Street Global Advisers and a Reboot ambassador said: “A significant finding of the survey is the crucial role of employers in elevating the conversation and awareness around race in the workplace and wider society. All individuals, regardless of background, need to work together to promote zero tolerance on discrimination. Clear policies and training are paramount in achieving this.”

Reboot is a non-profit organisation made up of ethnic minority allies, working to maintain dialogue around race in the workplace and society.

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