Is the UK racist? Report's positive picture draws skepticism

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FILE - In this file photo dated Sunday, June 21, 2020, a woman symbolically covers her eyes as she participates in a Black Lives Matter protest calling for an end to racial injustice, at the Parliament Square in central London. A government inquiry, by a panel of experts, has concluded Wednesday March 31, 2021, that there is racism in Britain, but its not a systematically racist country that is rigged against non-white people, though many ethnic-minority Britons greeted that claim with skepticism. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

LONDON – There is racism in Britain, but it’s not a systematically racist country that is “rigged” against non-white people, according to the findings of a government-commissioned inquiry published Wednesday. .

Anti-racism activists greeted the inquiry's conclusion with skepticism, saying the 264-page report from a panel of experts from fields including science, education, business and criminal justice downplayed the discrimination and disadvantage that ethnic minorities face in Britain.

The Conservative government launched the inquiry in the wake of anti-racism protests last year. The report states that while “outright racism” exists in Britain, the country is not “institutionally racist.” It says race is becoming “less important” as a factor in creating disparities, which also are fueled by class and family backgrounds.

“We found that most of the disparities we examined, which some attribute to racial discrimination, often do not have their origins in racism,” the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities said.

“Put simply, we no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities. The impediments and disparities do exist, they are varied, and ironically, very few of them are directly to do with racism," said the commission, which was established in July.

The report noted that children from many minority backgrounds do better in school than white students, and that the pay gap between all ethnic minorities and Britain's white population has shrunk to 2.3%.

Critics, however, said the commission’s report painted a partial and unrealistically optimistic picture. It was headed by education consultant Tony Sewell, who has long expressed doubts about there being systemic racism in British society.

“This is not a genuine effort to understand racism in Britain,” Kehinde Andrews, a professor of Black studies at Birmingham City University, said. “This is a PR move to pretend the problem doesn’t exist.”