A new report by the UK government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has been published today. At over 250 pages, it is a meaty document that makes a total of 24 recommendations, based on four broad themes: ‘building trust’, ‘promoting fairness’, ‘creating agency’, and achieving inclusivity’.
But one of its more eye-catching conclusions – which will inevitably cause a stir in the ‘anti-racism’ circles which have rallied behind the Black Lives Matter movement – is that the report says Britain is a successful multi-racial democracy. It argues that the country has come a long way over the past 50 years in terms of race relations, and as a result we have witnessed considerable ethnic-minority successes in education, and to a lesser extent, in employment. The report asserts that Britain ‘should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries.’
This is an argument I have been making for some time. For all its flaws, Britain has established itself as a European leader in fostering social cohesion and economic fairness – especially when it comes to race. There is a salience and attention on racial equality here in the UK – in policymaking, the media, and academia – which is seldom found in supposedly ‘progressive’ continental nations. In France, the collection of data based on race and ethnicity is deemed to be culturally unacceptable under its model of colour-blind republican universalism. And its traditionally puritanical commitment to defending the ‘indivisible Republic’ means that there is a mainstream political reluctance to engage with matters of racism and discrimination faced by minorities – especially when it comes to groups originating from northern and western Africa.
According to the 2020 Migrant Integration Policy Index, the UK comfortably outperforms diverse white-majority European countries such as France, Germany and the Netherlands when it comes to anti-discrimination protections on the grounds of race, ethnicity, and religion.