Bijan Ebrahimi was beaten to death and set alight in July 2013 on a Bristol estate. “A police force and council “repeatedly sided with the abusers” of a man murdered after being wrongly accused of being paedophile, a report has found”. Findings by Safer Bristol Partnership (SBP) identified Institutionalised racism a factor among others which caused the death of Bijan Ebrahimi.
Institutionalised racism can be defined as failure of an organisation to provide adequate service to individuals due to the colour of their skin, race, culture or ethnic origin. Areas affected include, criminal justice system, employment, housing, health care, education and political power whether covertly or overtly expressed. This is often expressed when a particular groups is targeted and discriminated against based on the factors identified above. Institutionalised racism can go unnoticed as it is not always expressed overtly.
The overrepresentation of black people within the mental health system in the UK is a problematic issue that needs to be reassessed. Statistic show that black people are 17 times more likely to than white people to be diagnosed with serious mental health illness such as bipolar and schizophrenia.
This coupled with failure to provide adequate services for black victims also constitute to this hidden problem. Black people are four times more likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1998 and less likely to receive support when trying to access support from mental health services.
A BBC report (2017) stated that “Black people are being failed by the UK’s mental health services because of “institutional racism”. In the UK, institutionalised racism is expressed in social and political institution. It is racism practiced by individuals and informal social groups governed by behaviour or norms that support racist behaviour and thinking.
The criminal justice system is another area of institutionalised racism criticised by many people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities. Within the UK notorious cases such as the one of Steven Lawrence clearly showcased racism in the police system.
Although there was clear evidence to convict killers (all white males) of Steven Lawrence (black male) , the trial was ruled out in 2004 when The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone for Stephen’s murder after review .In 2005 “Government drops the legal principle which prevents suspects being tried twice for the same crime”.
Case went to trail in 2011 following on from further investigations and two (2) men were found guilty of murder in 2012. This prime example of institutionalised racism alongside many other examples including stop and search (where young black men in London are more likely to be stopped and searched than young white men) in the UK to date also highlight corruption within the police system.
Crimes committed by and or crimes committed against individuals from Ethnic groups have been and are been dismissed due to race.
Tola Munro (National Black Police Association (NBPA) president) stated that, police forces need do more to recruit black and minority ethnic (BME) officers. Statistics show that, 6.3% of police officers in England and Wales are BME, compared to 14% of the population. Home office data (March 2017) only found 1,863 BME female police officers out of a total of 35,844 , which is 1.5% of the total compared to 7% of the population.
Other areas of institutionalised racism include educations systems whereby exclusion rates for children from BME groups are much higher in comparison to white British students (The Guardian. 2017- Lola Okolosie).
This issue of racism does not stop at primary and secondary school stage, recent reports have shown that Black people in UK are 21 times more likely to have university applications investigated for suspected false or missing information than their white counterparts (Independent. 2018).
Institutionalised racism of BME groups in these systems is due to a combination of many factors including slavery, lack of knowledge and understanding about the needs of people from BME groups.
Employing people from BME groups in many of these systems can support with this issues due to better understanding about needs of BME persons and common knowledge about cultures, behaviours, common struggles, religion etc. Subsequently, the employment systems itself is another area of racism where individuals from BME are not represented or support but rather discriminated against.
In a short video created by The Guardian (2015) Akala (English rapper, poet and political activist) stated that Racism is a business. Like any successful business it needs great marketing, PR and advertising to ensure lasting success. Akala reported that adverts showcasing racial assumptions causes micro aggressions which lays a foundation for larger systemic racism/ institutionalised racism.
He later states “racism seems to be one of the only problems that some people conveniently believe that we can solve without first analysing its cause and then plotting its destruction as any concerned doctor would with any other disease”.
As Akala points out, analysing the cause of institutionalised racism which includes the events of slavery, white supremacy, misunderstanding about BME culture, challenging our own personal prejudice about particular ethnic groups and challenging improper practice / conducts by ensuring that justice is served could be the beginning of plotting the destruction of the disease known as institutionalised racism.
Have you been a victim of racism?
If you are a victim of racism, you can contact Stand Against Racism and Inequality (SARI) on 0800 171 2272. SARI is an organisation that provides support and advice to victims of hate. SARI promotes equality and positive relationships between people with “protected characteristics as defined by law”.
References and Further Reading
- YouTube Video by The Guardian (Everyday Racism: What you should we do about? Akala/comment is free)
- Music: Wu-Tang Clan- Wu-Revolution (Please note this song contains offensive language)