Marsha de Cordova will hold a roundtable talk today in the first of a series of public forums to inform Labour’s plan for a “Race Equality Act shaped by lived experience”.
Commenting ahead of the first meeting this afternoon, to be held on the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, the Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary said she wants to hear from as many people as possible over the summer.
“The events of 2020 including the unequal impact of Covid on Black, Asian and ethnic minority people, the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement were a significant turning point,” de Cordova said.
“Across the country individuals, businesses and civil society are taking action to address racial injustice. The government’s response has been to sow division and publish a divisive and offensive report which downplayed the impact of institutional and structural racism.”
The shadow minister recently described a report published by the race and ethnic disparities commission earlier this year as a “divisive polemic” that “cherry picks statistics” and “downplays” institutional racism across society.
The report from the commission, which was formed by the government in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests sparked last year, said that the UK is no longer a country where the “system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”.
The 258-page document stated that “most of the disparities we examined, which some attribute to racial discrimination, often do not have their origins in racism” and found evidence of what it described as “dwindling white prejudice”.
At least 20 organisations and individuals who were listed as stakeholders in the government’s race disparity commission have distanced themselves from the report and its findings since the document was published at the end of March.
“Labour will not ignore the ambition of British people to build a better society for everyone. We have committed to introducing a Race Equality Act shaped by lived experience,” de Cordova said today. “That is why, today, on the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, I am in my constituency to host the first of what I hope will be many discussions on equality and aspiration.
“This summer, I want to listen to as many people as possible about their experiences of inequality and what they think needs to change to create a better society.”
Keir Starmer announced last year that Labour would introduce a new Race Equality Act that would “tackle structural racial inequality at source” after a review by the party found that Covid had “thrived on” decades of structural discrimination.
The commitment followed the publication of a report by Baroness Doreen Lawrence, in which she investigated why Black, Asian and other ethic minority communities have been so disproportionately affected during the coronavirus pandemic.
It found that BAME communities have been disproportionately exposed to Covid by being overrepresented in public-facing industries, and that overcrowded housing stemming from income and wealth inequalities had exacerbated the issue.
The Labour leader said at the time the report should be a “turning point” and pledged to “introduce a new Race Equality Act to tackle the structural inequalities that led to the disproportionate impact of this crisis”.