'Judge Softly' a poet wrote more than 100 years ago. Words that are still appropriate now.
According to Warwick District Council data, 17% of our local population is classified at non-'White British'. So this week's report from the Commission on Race & Ethnic Disparities is very relevant to our area.
The Commission was set up by our government in response to the Black Lives Matter activities last summer after the murder of George Floyd in the USA. It was asked to review how factors such as poverty, education, employment and health impact different ethnic groups in Britain.
The report has been published in the week when Derek Chauvin is on trial in the USA for the murder of George Floyd and a Police Officer in London has been charged with being a member of a far-right extremist organisation. Also, it coincides with the departure of Samuel Kasumu, the Prime Minister's Special Adviser on ethnic minorities, without his replacement being announced. Even the Church of England has this year been accused by more than 100 of its own clergy for its racist action towards one of its own employees.
The report says that family structure and social class had a bigger impact than race on people's life chances. That may be true.
It says racial discrimination has often been misapplied to "account for every disparity" between ethnic groups. Also possibly true.
And it says that references to racism in the UK being "institutional" or "structural" have sometimes been used without sufficient evidence. Wow, it would be surprising if this hadn't happened.
But all of this misses the point. Instead we should be asking ourselves why are there so many Black and Asian children in poverty? Why is there an over-representation of Black and mixed-race people in prison? Why are our courts, company boards and our councils dominated by white people? And why has COVID had a disproportionate impact on ethnic minority communities and our vaccination programme fallen short in vaccinating members of these communities?
There are some practical steps we should take:
1) abolish discriminatory Hostile Environment immigration policies,
2) end disproportionate use of Stop and Search, and
3) develop a proper Race Equality Strategy.
But above all else we should learn to see things through the eyes of others. Instead of focussing on the acronym of BAME, perhaps we should focus on PWER, People Who Experience Racism. Because if someone experiences racism, it matters not one jot whether it's intentional or systemic, to the recipient it's still discrimination based on race and ethnicity and it has a negative impact.
As the poet wrote, if we walked in the mocassins of others, if we experienced life the way others do, then perhaps we'd see the world differently and act accordingly.