The Spectator

The false narrative of BAME vs white

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Almost 20 years ago, Michael Howard spoke about the ‘British dream’: that immigrant families like his could come to this country and find every door open for their children. The same was true for Priti Patel’s parents, both refugees from Idi Amin’s Uganda. Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, has spoken movingly about his father, who was a refugee from the Nazis. Our islands are and have always been a beacon of light for those fleeing darkness, or simply seeking a better life for their families.

Over the years, our country’s reputation has drawn millions of people who have settled here in search of the British dream. They have faced headwinds of racism and bigotry, as migrants and their families invariably do. But overall, how good a home is Britain for ethnic minorities? This week, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has released a landmark report which casts new light on multiracial Britain. It exposes huge differences in attainment: educational, economic and even criminal justice.

But the biggest differences are between ethnic minorities — and concealed by the acronym BAME. The phrase ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic’ lumps all non-whites together as if they were a homogenous whole. But, as the report says, this is ‘a group that is held together by no more than what it is not’. The bundling of these separate groups together disguises problems that cannot be addressed or analysed unless they are broken down. Anyone applying the label BAME before coming to conclusions about Britain is destined to get things wrong. The children of Indian, Chinese and black African parents are likely to do better than whites at school — and in the workplace. The children of Pakistani, Traveller and black Caribbean parents tend to do worse. The vital question is: why?

The report attacks the unduly ‘pessimistic narratives about race’

Crucially, members of the commission were not drawn from the race relations industry.

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