Cllr Arooj Shah
Cllr Arooj Shah

Political leaders in Oldham have reacted with dismay at the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities’ new report, which dismisses racism as a significant factor in the life chances of minority ethnic people in the UK.

The report, commissioned by the Government in response to last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, acknowledges the widespread disparities that exist in the UK but refutes “institutional racism” as an explanation. The report also encourages a reframing of slavery as cultural interaction rather than as something negative.

Cllr Arooj Shah, Chair of Oldham Council’s Equality Advisory Group, said: “It will come as a shock to many Oldham residents to learn that, according to the Government, race isn’t a significant factor in their lives.

“The Commission acknowledges the impact that geography, family, socio-economic background, culture and religion have, but somehow decouples all of these from racism, as if your race has no effect on where you live, who you live with, the job you do, or whether you experience poverty.

“Anyone who looks at the data on Covid deaths, on policing practices, or on career progression, for example, and reaches the conclusion that race is irrelevant can only have been sent on a mission to put their head in the sand.

“We can’t overcome racism by wishing it away, or by telling black and brown people that their experience is a figment of their imagination. We need concrete and deliberate action.

“We’re committed to bringing forward those actions in Oldham and are developing a clear strategy to do just that. It’s not about playing people off against each other, or placing blame – it’s about striving for a society where everyone has the chance to succeed.

“Sadly, it appears that the Government would again rather use this opportunity to stoke division in our society to start a culture war that only the Tories seem interested in fighting.”

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