Daily Mail


- COMMENTARY by Katharine Birbalsing­h ■ KATHARINE BIRBALSING­H CBe is headmistre­ss and cofounder of the Michaela Community school in london.

YEStErDAy’S landmark report from the Commission on race and Ethnic Disparitie­s caused a sensation. Commission­ed in the wake of the Black Lives Matter ( BLM) protests last summer, and led by a panel of distinguis­hed experts from a range of fields, it concludes that Britain is a model of a successful multiethni­c society: a ‘beacon to the rest of Europe and the world’, as the commission’s chairman, tony Sewell, put it.

Does that mean that there is no racism in Britain? Of course not — far from it. the report rightly states that ours is by no means ‘ a post-racial society’.

And yet across its 264 pages, the report nonetheles­s ends one of the most enduring myths of the woke Left: that Britain is irredeemab­ly racist.

As a headmistre­ss of Indo-black Caribbean heritage who has spent a lifetime working with inner- city children, I have experience­d the challenges of our multicultu­ral country on the front line, as well as its many joys.

that is why I was most intrigued to read the report’s conclusion­s about education — even though it also focuses on areas such as employment, the criminal justice system and health.

Some people in our society see racial injustice everywhere they look. Only last week, the Guardian newspaper ran an ‘exclusive’ story claiming that, in some local authoritie­s, exclusion rates for black Caribbean pupils in English schools are six times higher than those of white pupils. A comment page on the newspaper’s website was headlined: ‘ British schools are institutio­nally racist.’ yet the new report delves into some of these issues in a sensitive and nuanced fashion, and comes to some intriguing conclusion­s.

It reveals, for example, that average GCSE scores for Indian, Bangladesh­i and black African pupils are above the average for white British children, even though black Caribbean children do fare worse.

Does that mean that the British education system is ‘racist’ against black Caribbean schoolchil­dren, but not black African ones? I sincerely doubt it. Something else is clearly at play.

In the case of those excluded black Caribbean pupils, families, culture and values must be part of the discussion. How much ‘drill’ and ‘grime’ music do the pupils listen to? How involved is the father in their lives? Are there trust issues between the parents and the school? How much do they use their smartphone­s? It is high time that we — and especially woke social- justice warriors — began asking these questions and engaging in a serious conversati­on about these issues, rather than pretending everything comes down to race.

As a society, we should be working to help all children succeed in good faith — and we should be interested in the truth about how to enable them to do so. Only then can we lead them to success.

Don’t get me wrong: racism does exist in Britain, though happily there is far less of it today than

there was all too recently. At school in the 1980s, I was often called appalling, racist names. A generation earlier, during the 1960s, my black Jamaican uncle — who married a white Englishwom­an — was regularly spat at in the streets when he walked hand-in-hand with her. There is simply no comparison with the Britain of today.

And yet, as the report acknowledg­es, racism and discrimina­tion do persist.

Studies show, and I know from personal experience, that if a candidate for a job sends a CV with a ‘white’ name, they are more likely to be shortliste­d than if the same CV has a typically non-white name.

That might be down to crude racism, or it might simply be that the interviewe­r feels a greater affinity with a name they recognise — in much the same way that we all might feel a greater affinity with a stranger from our home town or who went to the same school or university as we did.

Nowadays, I am invited reasonably often to appear on panel discussion­s and to advise organisati­ons. I often ask why they have approached me. More than once I have been told: ‘Well, to be honest, you tick the diversity box for us.’ They might mean well, and of course this is a long way from ugly racism and abuse. But I often wonder whether these people can accept or understand that they have failed to judge me as an individual. Instead, all they can see is my race and, to a lesser extent, my gender.

The fact is that it is human to make snap judgments about someone based on superficia­l calculatio­ns such as accent, clothing — and even race. That doesn’t necessaril­y mean you are a ‘racist’ — but it does mean you should beware of making such calculatio­ns and the implicatio­ns of doing so.

That is why I don’t get angry and join a Black Lives Matter protest when I’m told I ‘tick a diversity box’. Instead, I forgive the other person their silly error and put it down to them finding it difficult to ‘see past’ race.

Some, indeed, would argue that it is all the more difficult to see past race when that seems to be all the country is talking about these days. I think there is some truth to this.

If we want to treat other people as fairly as possible, we should all be questionin­g our biases and assumption­s. If you are an employer, it is a good idea to examine your own biases regularly, if only so that you are able to employ the best person for the job, whatever their name. The same goes if you are a teacher.

It is unfortunat­e that the woke brigade have made it so difficult to have this much-needed nuanced conversati­on on race. So prevalent is the scourge of ‘cancel culture’ today that many people understand­ably fear losing their jobs after being called out as ‘racist’ simply for saying the wrong thing. Others are scared of losing their friends. The tyranny can be overwhelmi­ng. AS THE new report rightly says, the solution is not ‘unconsciou­s bias training’ — even though taxpayerfu­nded bodies from the Metropolit­an Police to the NHS and BBC have all implemente­d it in the past. The commission’s report makes a bold and brave stand against it, arguing that it ‘alienates’ staff with a ‘baseless’ narrative of ‘white privilege’ and all too often amounts to a ‘tick-box exercise’.

No, the true solution is clear: education. Good teachers and good schools allow any underachie­ving group to rise over time and climb the ladder of social mobility: that is why I have spent my life fighting for a better education system.

As yesterday’s report rightly says: ‘Education is the single most emphatic success story of the British ethnic minority experience.’ The commission’s report has ended the woke mob’s divisive idea that Britain is racist to its core once and for all.

 ?? Picture: MARIO MITSIS/WENN.COM ?? Gesture: Police take the knee at a Black Lives Matter protest in London
Picture: MARIO MITSIS/WENN.COM Gesture: Police take the knee at a Black Lives Matter protest in London

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