Research finds UK is far from a ‘racially just society’

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Ethnic and religious minorities in the UK are suffering “strikingly high” levels of abuse, according to a major survey into race equality.

The research by the universities of St Andrews, Manchester and King’s College London found more than one in three people from minority backgrounds have experienced racially motivated physical or verbal abuse.

Released this week in a book called Racism and Ethnic Inequality in a Time of Crisis, the two-year research – which has been seen by The Guardian – discovered widespread inequality and racial discrimination at work, education, housing and dealings with police.

Azeem Rafiq racism case
A protest outside Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s Headingley Stadium in Leeds (Peter Byrne/PA)

She said: “The UK is immeasurably far from being a racially just society. The kinds of inequality we see in our study would not be there if we had a really just society.”

More than 14,000 people from 21 ethnic groups – which included white British – were questioned for the Economic and Social Research Council-funded survey between February and October 2021.

Among the findings, the survey found more than a quarter of those from minority ethnic groups had experienced racial insults with almost one in three experiencing racism in a public place.

One in six reported suffering racism from neighbours while 17% had suffered damaged property in racist attacks.

Among minority ethnic and religious groups, one in six said they had been victims of racist physical assault prior to the coronavirus pandemic – a figure which increases to one in five Jewish people and more than one in three from Gypsy, Traveller and Roma respondents.

Discrimination in dealings with the police was reported by more than one in five of all respondents, but that soared to 43% among black Caribbean groups and more than one in three of those from Gypsy, Traveller and Roma groups.

Overcrowding housing and lack of outdoor space at home were also common responses in the survey.

It found 60% of Roma families lived in overcrowded conditions with a quarter of Pakistani and Arab people reporting the same.

Despite the stark findings of inequality, the survey found a sizeable majority of minority groups felt a strong sense of belonging to British society alongside a deep attachment to their ethnic identity.

That sense of belonging is reflected in higher levels of trust than white British people in Parliament and devolved governments, which were elevated during the pandemic when ethnic minorities had an increased chance of contracting Covid-19.

The survey found ethnic minority groups were more likely to experience bereavement related to Covid-19 while Chinese and Asian groups reported a rise in abuse during the pandemic.

And it also found a high degree of political engagement among ethnic minority groups.

Jewish respondents said they were more likely to vote Conservatives with Labour more popular among black African, black Caribbean and Pakistani groups and Liberal Democrats attracting support from Chinese and white Irish and eastern European groups.

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