5 forms of racism and racial disparity we should be aware of, according to Boris Johnson’s race commission

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3 min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 23: Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference at 10 Downing Street on March 23, 2021 in London, England. The UK held a Day of Reflection today for 126,000 of its people who have died from Coronavirus. A minutes' silence was held at midday and buildings and monuments across the country will be lit up yellow at nightfall.  (Photo by Hannah McKay - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson's race commission has argued 'more precise language' is needed around different forms of racial disparity and racism. (Hannah McKay/pool/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson’s race commission has suggested five forms of racial disparity and racism that the government needs to recognise.

Part of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report, published on Wednesday, argued the “public debate on race is sometimes hampered by the fact that there is no consensus on the meaning of even fundamental words like racism and discrimination”.

The commission, launched by the prime minister last summer in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, claimed there is a “repeated use and misapplication of the term ‘racism’ to account for every observed disparity”.

It argued “more precise language” is needed because “misapplying the term racism has… undermined the seriousness of racism, where it does exist”.

Watch: Britain is not institutionally racist, says landmark report

It criticised, for example, the “confusing” way the term “institutional racism” has been applied, saying it should only be used when deep-seated, systemic racism is proved and not as a “catch-all” phrase for any micro-aggression.

It said that without “clear, standard definitions” of the terms institutional racism, structural racism and systemic racism, using them will create “further confusion and reduces the likelihood of perpetrators being caught and punished”.

Here are the five forms of racial disparity and racism, quoted word-for-word, that the commission has set out:

  1. Explained racial disparities: "this term should be used when there are persistent ethnic differential outcomes that can demonstrably be shown to be as a result of other factors such as geography, class or sex"

  2. Unexplained racial disparities: "persistent differential outcomes for ethnic groups with no conclusive evidence about the causes. This applies to situations where a disparate outcome is identified, but there is no evidence as to what is causing it"

  3. Institutional racism: "applicable to an institution that is racist or discriminatory processes, policies, attitudes or behaviours in a single institution"

  4. Systemic racism: "this applies to interconnected organisations, or wider society, which exhibit racist or discriminatory processes, policies, attitudes or behaviours"

  5. Structural racism: "to describe a legacy of historic racist or discriminatory processes, policies, attitudes or behaviours that continue to shape organisations and societies today"

The overall report, while saying racism still exists in Britain, said it is no longer a country where the “system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”.

It said geography, family influence, socioeconomic background, culture and religion all impact life chances more than racism.

The report’s findings have been rejected in some quarters:

  • Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said it was an “insult” to “downplay institutional racism in a pandemic where Black, Asian and ethnic minority people have died disproportionately and are now twice as likely to be unemployed”

  • The Institute of Race Relations think tank said “we can see no attempt here to address the common ethnic minority experience of structural racism within areas such as the criminal justice system”

  • TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the commission had “chosen to deny the experiences of Black and minority ethnic workers”, and insisted institutional racism trapped people in poverty, insecurity and low pay

Read more:

'White privilege' a counter-productive and divisive term, Boris Johnson's race commission says

'It's vicious': What it's like living through the UK’s coronavirus racism (from July 2020)

The prime minister, on the other hand, accepted the report’s findings, saying his government will “take the action needed to address disparities wherever they exist”.

“It is now right that the government considers their recommendations in detail, and assesses the implications for future government policy," Johnson said.

Watch: Race report is 'fantastic, honest, evidence-based'