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Human Rights of Black Britons: Another Damning Report for the Pile, Changes Yet to be Made

By Eliza Bacon, MA Media in Development

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has released the report ‘Black People, Racism and Human Rights’. The report unpacks racism in Britain across issues of health, criminal justice, immigration, and democracy.

“‘A damning indictment of our society’ [the report] found that 75% of Black Britons do not believe that their human rights are equally protected.”

In what the Committee described as ‘a damning indictment of our society’, it found that 75% of Black Britons do not believe that their human rights are equally protected, including the right to liberty, free trial, and a family life. In response, 22 points of action were proposed to tackle racism against Britain’s Black community.

The report highlights the lack of ‘sustained political will’ to implement recommendations from previous reports concerning racism and inequality. Report such as the Windrush Lessons Learned Review (2020) and The MacPherson Report (1999) both found the Metropolitan Police to be institutionally racist following the 1993 murder of Stephen Lawrence. 

The committee reiterated that the promises made by the government in response to the Windrush scandal must be enacted ‘as a matter of urgency’, with focus on ‘securing the cultural changes needed to ensure that people are treated with humanity’.

Baroness Lawrence, a racial justice campaigner and Stephen Lawrence’s mother, told the committee: ‘I am not sure how many more lessons the government needs to learn. It is not just the government of today, but the government of the Labour Party. How many more lessons do we all need to learn? The lessons are there already for us to implement.’

Recently, the relationship of Black communities and the criminal justice systems worldwide have fallen under scrutiny this year following global Black Lives Matters protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in the USA. This report has found that Black Britons continue to be overrepresented at every stage of the Criminal Justice System. A situation that has in fact worsened since the 2016 Lammy Review, from which only 6 of 35 recommendations were implemented thereafter. 

The report also called for a robust response to the Angiolini Review into Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody (2017), as Black Britons continue to die at a disproportionate rate in police custody. A recent poll also found 85% of black participants surveyed did not believe that they would be treated the same as a white person by the police. 

The widespread distrust that burgeons in response to Britain’s criminal justice failures was stressed upon by Lord Woolley as a major factor in the discrepancy of voter registration. Woolley, founder and director of Operation Black Vote, told the committee, ‘Part of the problem is that we have hundreds of thousands of young people, particularly black and minority ethnic, who still see our institutions, particularly the police, as against us and not for us. They do not see the policies of central and local government working for us, so they say to me, ‘Why bother? Why engage in this rigged system?’’

25% of Black voters in the UK are not registered to vote, compared to a 17% average across the population. The committee recommends implementation of automatic voter registration as a means of increasing democratic participation.

In the healthcare sector, the report found that 47% of Black men and 78% of Black women do not believe their health is equally protected by the NHS, compared to the majority white population. In November 2019, a report into maternal morbidity in the UK from researchers at Oxford University found Black women are five times more likely to die in pregnancy, childbirth or in the postpartum period, compared to their white counterparts. A statistic which has been found to continually increase for years.

More recently, research from Public Health England found Black and other Minority Ethnic groups are disproportionately at greater risk of dying from Covid-19. 

For the Runnymede Trust: ‘This new report reinforces what we already know: Black and Minority Ethnic people are not given the same privileges and rights as the rest of the population as a result of systemic and institutional racism.’

Photo Caption: Black Lives Matter Protests, May 2020 (Credit: David Geitgey Sierralupe via Flickr).

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