Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Still with us

The election of the first black man as President of the United States has inspired people everywhere who yearn for equality. But half a century after the birth of the civil rights movement the depth of racial inequality in the United States continues to shock.

A new study highlights how there has been a ‘huge’ increase in wealth inequality with a typical white family earning five times that of African-American families of the same class. A significant factor for this growing divide is a deeply embedded institutionalised racism in American society. The report identifies the detrimental impact ‘of persistent discrimination in housing, credit and labour markets. African-Americans and Hispanics were at least twice as likely to receive high-cost home mortgages as whites with similar incomes’.

It is now commonplace in the UK to deny the reality of institutionalised racism. I know from my own experience in Birmingham City Council that any mention of its existence invariably gets a derisory dismissal from the ‘Progressive Partnership’ that runs the city. Yet institutionalised racism is real. And just as it continues to blight the lives of generations of African Americans, so too it also continues to blight the lives of minority ethnic communities here in Britain. At least across the water they appear to recognise it still exists.