Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Mythologies of Statistical Racism A Facebook Debate Between Lee Jasper (former Mayor Ken Livingstone's Race Adviser) and Paul Atherton

A Facebook debate about racism was sparked by Dr. Tony Sewell's appearance on BBC London Tonight, discussing the demise of the term "institutional racism" and suggesting that Black children are failing because of their own problems and not because of race.

This led to a much wider debate on race and the use of statistics an extract is contained below:


"How many mixed area developments in a single ward do you know? There a simply thousands so its entire possible to suffer white flight in the way I describe."


"White Flight" in the UK was researched by the Institute of Community Cohesion in their report published in July 2009 (3,000 participants) .

It covered 13 areas, all in the heartlands of working class environments. All the schools involved, were failing, underperforming and showing poor results.

The report shows that most parents were concerned of the impact of non-english speaking students in the schools and how it would impact on their own children's education.

And it was for that reason that they moved them to different schools.

This isn't racism. This is good parenting.

Other research, that shows "White Flight" in the middle-classes is born out of residents moving to richer area's and as I rightly contended has nothing to do with race and everything to do with money

(Prof Ceri Peach, of St Catherine's College, Oxford, author of a study of ethnic geography based on the 1991 census to date.


Moveme Study (20,000 participants)

What is most important here, is the overwhelming evidence that we all self segregate. People move to places where people like them live.

That's why Southall is predominantly Indian, Brixton (at least until recently) predominantly afro-caribbean.

Again, I reiterate that I am not contesting that racism exists merely proving that certain factors often blamed on racism are in fact something entirely different.

And there is a danger of playing the victim to racism where none actually exists at the cost of fighting on the fields where it actually does.

To use a football analogy, you'll get penalised for diving in the penalty box and trying to claim a foul and overlooked by the referee the next time your legs are actually taken out from underneath you.


Secondly we know exceptions that does not change the objective facts. The figures for black and white people in the same economic groups are not as you say comparable.


I think Harriet Seargent's conclusive report for the Centre of Policy Studies, "The betrayal of white working class and black Caribbean boys" would be a good place to start to counter that.

She shows that both groups are suffering from a poor education, which by the age of 14, are worse for the White working classes than for the Black:

"...at the age of fourteen, 63% of white working class boys and 55% of black Caribbean boys has a reading age of seven or less"

The National Union of Teachers report "Opening Locked Doors" 2010 says much the same thing:

"While white working class children are not the only underachieving group, they are the largest in number and by many criteria the greatest under-achievers. Thirty years ago a 14 or 15-year-old working class young person could walk out of school and into a decent working class job. That is no longer the case."


"Social class has the greatest effect on educational achievement. It is still the case that how much your parents earn and the quality of their own education has the greatest influence on the achievement of their children."

In 2009 Exam results proved that White working class boys were performing worse than their Black Counterparts in primary schools:

"There are almost 200,000 white British boys, of whom 31,237 (16%) were from homes poor enough to qualify them for free school meals.

In the past, poor black boys have tended to have the weakest performance.

But this year 51.6% of black boys on free meals made the grade and the gap in their attainment compared with the national average, 20.2, was down from 21.8 in 2008.

Attainment was 49.7% among the weakest group of black boys, those from Caribbean backgrounds.

This left the white British boys on free school meals at the bottom."


And the Runnymede publication

Who Cares about the White Working Class? edited by Kjartan Páll Sveinsson, Runnymede Perspectives, 72 pp, January 2009,

"Thus the primacy of anti-discrimination not only performs the economic function of making markets more efficient, it also performs the therapeutic function of making those of us who have benefited from those markets sleep better at night. And, perhaps more important, it has, ‘for a long time’, as Wendy Bottero says in her contribution to the recent Runnymede Trust collection Who Cares about the White Working Class?, also performed the intellectual function of focusing social analysis on what she calls ‘questions of racial or sexual identity’ and on ‘cultural differences’ instead of on ‘the way in which capitalist economies create large numbers of low-wage, low-skill jobs with poor job security’. The message of Who Cares about the White Working Class?, however, is that class has re-emerged: ‘What we learn here’, according to the collection’s editor, Kjartan Páll Sveinsson, is that ‘life chances for today’s children are overwhelmingly linked to parental income, occupations and educational qualifications – in other words, class.’



"Black graduate unemployment, the fact that research tells us that blacks are usually over qualified for their job. Talk to African here and they tell you they are doing cleaning jobs whilst holding a Master's degree."


The research in this area is incredibly spurious and much debate is being played into its accuracy. Not least, where the degree was obtained (in the UK or elsewhere), what kind of degree held and the subsequent competition of entry levels for entry into the required profession etc. the grasp of English, the ability to network etc.

In the Sheffield University Paper "Labour market job matching for UK minority ethnic groups. January 2007"

The author explains the problems:

"More recent approaches to measuring over education have started to combine data from different sources. Green and McIntosh (2006) pointed out that less than half of those defined as over educated reported having skills they were not using in their job. This has led to the recognition that the use of only one of the above definitions will lead to the spurious and over classification of over education. Chevalier (2003) combined several measures to define over education and the skill level of graduates to create 6 possible outcomes including defining a category of ‘apparent over education’. A later paper also incorporated workers’ job satisfaction scores (Chevalier and Lindley, 2006)."


However, another study acknowledges the problems with race, but not down to ethnicity alone:

Ethnicity and graduates' early outcomes Study 2004 concludes:

"ethnicity is almost certainly making a contribution to the relative labour market disadvantage some individuals experience, but the causes are more complex than ethnicity alone….It is a combination of a number of indirect effects, rather that direct ethnic effects that have the greater significance, though in different ways for different ethnic groups"


And anecdotally, I know as many Black People woefully under qualified for their roles as I do being overqualified for them.


"The most telling statistic is that black boys who are not get free school meals do just as badly as those who do. Damming evidence if ever there was. How about the ethnic pay gap in the UK that results in black being paid on average £7,000 pa less than their white counterpart or the fact that racial attack on blacks are more in frequent majority white middle class wards than in mixed working class wards."


The only statistics I could find in relation to the academic achievements of black boys who did or did not receive free school meals came from Warwick University

"Strand, Steve (2010) Do some schools narrow the gap? Differential school effectiveness by ethnicity, gender, poverty and prior achievement. School Effectiveness and School Improvement"

And in an abstract reads

"The results show that Black Caribbean boys not entitled to free school meals, and particularly the more able pupils, made significantly less progress than their White British peers. There is no evidence that the gap results from Black Caribbean pupils attending less effective schools. There is also no evidence of differential effectiveness in relation to ethnic group; schools that were strong in facilitating the progress of White British pupils were equally strong in facilitating the progress of Black Caribbean pupils."


Which would imply this again, wasn't a race issue.

But if you could point me in the right direction for other evidence, will address this in more detail at a later date?.

But the Times Education Supplement makes my point about statistical imbalances of using a national average to measure a minority outcome in education:

"The reason white children as a group perform at or around the national average is simple: in statistical terms they determine the average."


In relation to your pay gap, I think your referring to the headline grabbing report published by The Ethnic Minorities Employment Task Force back in 2004.

But a quick glance at their methodology immediately eliminates any results:

"The figures are based on average wages for each ethnic group, rather than comparing salaries for those in equivalent jobs, which means part of the gap is likely to be rooted in under-achievement at school, leading to low-paid, dead-end jobs."


Clearly not comparing like with like.

However the TUC report "BLACK WORKERS IN EMPLOYMENT 1997 - 2007" acknowledges how the bangladeshi contingent skews the results even further:

"In important research for the Ethnic Minority Employment Task Force and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Lucinda Platt has pointed out that Bangladeshi men have outstandingly low pay"


Which is of course a language issue, with the vast majority of Bangladeshi's unable to speak English.


As for racially motivated crime:

'"The British Crime Survey reveals that in 2004, 87,000 people from black or minority ethnic communities said they had been a victim of a racially motivated crime. They had suffered 49,000 violent attacks, with 4,000 being wounded.

At the same time 92,000 white people said they had also fallen victim of a racially motivated crime. The number of violent attacks against whites reached 77,000, while the number of white people who reported being wounded was five times the number of black and minority ethnic victims at 20,000.

Most of the offenders (57%) in the racially motivated crimes identified in the British Crime Survey are not white.

White victims said 82% of offenders were not white."


And as for more attacks in middle class wards (again I couldn't find any research on this per se) it could be caused by

"Middle-class girlfriends are highly prized by violent gang members because they can stash weapons, drugs and cash under the police radar, a study warned today.

Young women attending private schools and living in the Home Counties are being drawn into crime by their "bad boy" boyfriends, academics said.

...The findings were contained in a report into the impact of youth violence on girls by social policy think tank Race on the Agenda."



How about the offense driving whilst black Michael Eboda former editor of New Nation can testify to that or the fact that black youth are still 7 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than their white working class counterpart?


I'm sure most of us have a stop and search story.http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2003/feb/23/race.ukcrime
I certainly have a couple most of them in Cardiff (one in Streatham - none in Central London).

Though whenever I got pulled over in my early twenties because I drove a sports car, the officer would approach my window and be confronted with the chorus of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana or some other piece of classical music emanating from it, he would immediately profusely apologise for having inconvenienced me and withdraw almost as quickly as he had arrived.

I love the notions of stereotypes.

I was cultured therefore I couldn't possibly be a criminal.

As for the 7 times figure, whilst recognising stop & search as a problem (as does the European Court of Human Rights), this really doesn't tell the true story.

If we take the 2005/6 figures. 878,153 people were stopped and searched. 77% or 684,959 were White, 15% or 131,723 were Black and 8% or 70,251 were Asian.

If we use the demographics of London in 2006 (as most stop and searches took place there) the population breaks down to 69% White, 13.1% Asian, 10.2% Black and 7.7% Chinese and other.


Suddenly the figures look more in keeping with the demographics of the population, don't you think? With bias being shown more to White than Black, whilst Asian, Chinese and others are entirely under represented.


"Its a fanciful dream that you can rebuild community and family whilst not tackling racism and poverty. What is ludicrous is this the acute denial I hear about the reality of racism All this aspirational community building stuff only works in the context of a equal society . One where racism is not a feature and opportunity abounds - to urge people to strive against the odds whilst not tackling the disproportionate economic exclusion they face is to entertain a dangerous illusion."


I am always bemused about people's notion of equality.

We are not all born equal in any real sense.

Some have greater intelligence, others greater physical prowess, some are born healthy others born sick, some are born into wealth, others into poverty, some are born into caring loving families others abandoned to fend for themselves.

No one is equal.

There is no level playing field, there never has been and there never will.

Even communism proved unsuccessful with the famous quote from George Orwell's "Animal Farm" encapsulating the problem:

"We are all equal. But some are more equal than others".

A top down approach can never be successful, to much resistance from those requiring to change.

The only place change can ever be affected is with the individual, then the family, and only then society at large.


"Its an act of political and moral cowardice , its a betrayal of our struggle for freedom and justice, its dillussional and dangerous. Im sorry but I feel that strongly about it"


As do I, about how important it is to accept personal responsibility for your successes or failures with or without the problems of perceived or actual racism.

I genuinely think, that you can't blame anything on others until your own house is in order and I think as a community we are a long, long way from that.

The full debate can be found on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1275452798&v=wall&story_fbid=156552304370118&il=0

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