My website makes it very easy for strangers to contact me. In December 2021 I received an email from a student at Manchester University.
The extracts below explained why she had contacted me:
I am ... part of the UN award winning leadership programme ‘ParliaMentors’. This is a programme ran by the The Faith and Belief Forum where students from certain Universities are mentored by their local MP [ours is Charlotte Nichols] and run a social action project alongside local policymakers to create positive change in the Manchester area. Our project is ‘Manchester Speaks’.
Manchester Speaks is a programme which aims to tackle the deficiency of youth turnout and engagement in politics. This will be achieved through running bi-monthly roundtable speaker events where key leaders come together to discuss issues that students care about in front of a live audience of students, with each event featuring an educational package to sum up the key takeaways of the debate and a fact-file of the speakers.
We were hoping that you would be interested in speaking at our talk on racism.
The event was scheduled for 11 May 2022.
I was given a briefing pack in advance, and have reproduced the key parts of it below.
Our discussion will be on the topic of Structural Racism in the UK. Questions from the audience will be largely based on these ideas.
We have compiled a list of thematic questions which we will be appealing to as the topic of structural racism is so big. Roughly keeping in line with these questions will be fruitful for our discussion:
- Is the UK more racist than a ‘casual racist uncle?’ (AKA is casual racism just a teardrop part of a larger pool of institutional racism’)
- Considering the issue of structural racism in Britain, is it a fair assumption to say that we are born racist? Are we born racist? If not, how are these ideas realised and how can we challenge/mitigate these ideas?
- What are your respective parties doing to help combat the issue in Britain?
- How is structural racism different from racism? Why is that difference important when determining what intervention should be undertaken to address structural racism versus racism?
- There is a great deal of data on the impact of structural racism on education, healthcare, access to housing, and relationships with law enforcement, yet people continue to deny that it exists. (Assuming that it does exist), why? What, if anything, can be done to influence those people?
The event took place in the Manchester University Student's Union building. Only the speakers and the Manchester Speaks team were present, with the audience online.
Copied below is part of the Eventbrite booking page information about the event.
Online Panel event on structural racism in Manchester.
ONLINE PANEL EVENT ON RACISM! What happens when a Labour MP, and EX- Chairman Conservative of CMF meet with students?
Our speakers for this event are:
- Charlotte Nichols — Labour MP (Warrington North)
- Mohammed Amin MBE FRSA — Ex-Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum
Although the event was transmitted online, I have not been able to find a recording to embed here or link to.
However with the agreement of the organisers, I made an audio recording having given a commitment to only publish my own own words. (Obviously nobody can object to me recording and publishing myself speaking!)
My first audio recording was done on the spur of the moment, just putting my iPhone 6 on the table and relying on its built in microphone. See my page Lecture: One Muslim’s Perspective on Religious Freedom.
Once I found recording talks and presentations worthwhile, I purchased a high quality Sennheiser digital lapel microphone which plugs into the lightning port of my iPhone. That produces a much better recording.
Each speaker was given about 8 minutes for prepared remarks. Mine are below.
I spoke from a written text, which I have edited to match the recording.
I want to do four things.
So starting with the definitions.
I studied maths at university and my career was spent as a tax adviser. That’s why I regard definitions as absolutely vital. Unless we can agree on the definitions, we can’t have a dialogue.
I looked at The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus. That’s got nothing to do with me being a Cambridge man and being biased against Oxford!
I found the following definitions.
I will read it out.
harmful or unfair things that people say, do, or think based on the belief that their own race makes them more intelligent, good, moral, etc. than people of other races
This is the bad behaviour and bad thinking of individual people. As a personal example, my late mother was very prejudiced about black people. She was racist about them.
policies, rules, practices, etc. that are a usual part of the way an organization works, and that result in and support a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race
I suggest downloading "The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry" conducted by Sir William Macpherson which covers institutional racism extremely well.
Institutional racism means that an organisation produces bad race-based outcomes, even if the individuals in that organisation themselves are not racist.
laws, rules, or official policies in a society that result in and support a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race
Structural racism means that the country as a whole has laws, rules or official policies which advantage some racial groups over other racial groups. If you want a nice concrete example, think of apartheid South Africa.
Racism does exist in Britain today. I am aged 71. I am absolutely certain that there is far less racism amongst British individuals now than there was in the past.
I have lived here since 1952. I am a Punjabi, from Pakistan, I have a brown skin. I have encountered racism personally from time to time. But it has changed.
When I was young in the 1950s, interracial couples would often be jeered at on the street. Now, nobody bats an eye lid. The fastest growing ethnic group in this country is actually “mixed race.” My son-in-law is white British.
Life is always more complicated than you think though. Let’s look at politics.
YouGov have twice polled Conservative Party members. Something quite interesting for me because for 36 years I was a Conservative Party member, although I resigned on the day that Boris Johnson became the Party Leader. We can discuss that later if you want.
YouGov found amongst Conservative Party members deeply racist and anti-Muslim attitudes amongst quite a high proportion of the members. I won’t quote the exact figures; I would have to look them up anyway. You can find the details of this survey on the Hope Not Hate website.
However, it is a Conservative Party Government that has the most diverse Government in British history. I could give you an endless list of black and ethnic minority MPs at the top levels of our present Government.
When I was growing up in the 1950s, many white people were prejudiced against Pakistanis.
But at the same time, the education system even then was completely colour blind. Never mind the education system today, even in the 1950’s, the 1960’s, it was colour blind. Many Pakistani children, not just me, passed the 11+ exam which we had at that time and went on to grammar schools.
In 1968 Clare College Cambridge chose to give me a place instead of the white British public-school boy who was being interviewed on the same day that I was being interviewed.
On the other hand, as an example of the persistence of racism, even today, surveys which involve sending identical CVs to employers, but using either names that look white or names that obviously indicate an ethnic minority background, find significant amounts of discrimination.
On the other hand, the country’s largest accounting firm, my old firm of PwC, revealed in its 2021 accounts, and I was very pleased to see this, that it had completely eliminated its ethnic minority pay gap. In fact, on average ethnic minorities at PwC earn slightly more than white people.
The most important message I have got is this. It goes back to what the Sewell Report was saying, which I thought was a very good report even if it had occasional flaws in some of its data analysis.
If you look at group outcomes, and find that ethnic minorities are doing worse, it may be due to racism, or there may be other causes.
Until you do more research, you don’t know the reasons, you only know there is a disparity. Assuming the reason is racism is frankly intellectually sloppy.
Looking back at the definition of structural racism I read out earlier, and I am not going to read the definition again unless you want me to, I see no reason to believe that Britain is structurally racist.
Most of the hard work has been done. The Equality Act 2010 is really good. But I think it does need stronger enforcement.
I would like the Government in particular to make name-blind recruitment mandatory in both the public sector and the private sector. So when you apply for a job you are not asked to give your name, just as it is against the law to ask you your age.
I think the single biggest thing holding back many people from ethnic minorities is their own expectation of discrimination. It often stops them applying to the best universities because they think that such universities are not for people like them.
It stops them trying to join the top employers. Even though the top employers all welcome ethnic minority applicants. PwC, where I was on the Supervisory Board as well as being a partner, can prove with rock solid data that you are just as likely to get a job at PwC if you are an ethnic minority applicant or if you are a white British applicant.
I can still remember a conversation I had a few years ago with a young Pakistani who was thinking about a career in accountancy. I think he was at school or university, and his dad asked me to have a chat with him.
The limit of his ambition was setting up a small insolvency practice in Bradford to serve other Asians in Bradford. That is how he thought.
The fact that he thinks that way is nothing to do with racism and it’s entirely to do with self-limiting beliefs. I think that there are too many people from ethnic minorities who unfortunately do suffer from self-limiting beliefs and expectations of discrimination.
I have spent my entirely life as the only brown face in the room and you just get used to it.
The question and answer session was also recorded. However, as explained above, I am only publishing me speaking.
Accordingly, I have listened to the Q&A session, written down a condensed version of the questions, and then published the audio of my own answers.
I responded by reminding everyone about the difference between racism, which unfortunately is can still be found in Britain, and structural racism, which I consider does not exist in Britain.
I referenced Kemi Badenoch MP in my response.
I explain how I deal with the question "Where are you from?"
Due to lack of time, I resisted the temptation to share my views on the word "Islamophobia" itself, which I have written about in "The word Islamophobia should be abandoned." Instead I emphasised the difference between Muslim communities and the diversity of British Muslims.
I emphasised the difference between institutional racism and structural racism, and reiterated the importance of ethnic monitoring data. See also my piece "In praise of ethnic monitoring."
I repeated my point that just because a group has disparate, worse, outcomes, that does not automatically mean that it is oppressed.
I rejected the premise underlying the question.