Protests around the world after the killing of George Floyd have prompted the U.K. government to launch a review into racism
The U.K. government on Monday responded to anti-racist demonstrations sparked by the killing of George Floyd in police custody in America by saying it will launch an investigation into racial inequality.
Writing in the Telegraph Newspaper, Boris Johnson said it is time to establish a cross-governmental commission to look at “all aspects of inequality” in employment, in health outcomes, in academic and all other walks of life. But he acknowledged “There is much more that we need to do; and we will.”
“We need to tackle the substance of the problem, not the symbols.”
Johnson said It was “utterly absurd” that a load of “far-Right thugs” converged in London over the weekend with a mission to protect the statue of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, leading to violence.
The establishment of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities comes as Black Lives Matter protests have rapidly spread across the globe in the wake of Floyd’s killing on May 25. Work has already started and a report is expected by the end of 2020, the government told MarketWatch.
The news was met with criticism from opposition leaders. Labour Party’s justice secretary David Lammy said the government needs to implement the recommendations of past reviews, not just carry out more.
“It feels like yet again in the U.K., we want figures, data, but we don’t want action,” he told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program.
The U.K. government has previously reviewed racial discrimination in the workplace, disparity in treatment in health and education, and the representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the criminal justice system.
Responding to news of the new Commission, Marsha de Cordova MP, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, said: “We are in the midst of a global health pandemic that has sharply exposed deep structural inequalities which have long since needed urgently addressing.
“Boris Johnson’s Government must acknowledge and act on the racial injustices and should now move to deliver a race equality strategy that sets out plans to reduce the structural inequalities and institutional racism faced by ethnic minorities in Britain,” she added.
The Prime Minister also weighed in on the debate around removing statues of historical figures, after a statue in Bristol of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston was taken down by demonstrators. on June 7.
Johnson said the U.K. should avoid attempting to rewrite its past, adding: “We cannot and must not get sucked into never-ending debate about which well-known historical figure is sufficiently pure or politically correct to remain in public view.”
The review into racial inequality comes as English Heritage is assessing London’s 950 blue plaques to check if any have “problematic” connections and will warrant extra context published about them online, according to a report in the Times.