Race and inequality – do we really understand it?

by | Jul 6, 2022 | Global inequalities | 0 comments

 Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash  

By Bolakale Sanyaolu

Inequality contributes to the death of approximately 213,000 people every day, that is one person every four seconds. It is often defined as the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities amongst members of society. Ethnic minority groups in Britain tend to have lower societal outcomes and it is important that we start to question these outcomes and develop strategies to solve these issues. A recent report by the government, commissioned as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement concluded that “there is no evidence of institutional racism in the UK”. The commission said that the use of the term “institutional racism” was wrong and could not be used as a general term for microagressions. This conclusion is suggesting that there are equal opportunities available to everyone regardless of race (a damaging narrative). However, recent figures suggest otherwise.

So, how are race and inequality connected? Racial inequality can be defined as the uneven distribution of opportunities and difference in treatment because of someone’s race.

Figures show that unemployment rates are higher for ethnic minorities at 12.9% whereas white people had unemployment rates of 6.3%. In addition, 8.8% of ethnic minorities work in senior positions within companies while 10.7% for white people. These numbers suggest that ethnic minorities would earn less than Caucasian people. This increases income inequalities and widens the gap between the poor and the rich – leaving people of colour at the bottom of the pile. Wilkinson and Pickett argue that more unequal societies tend to have worse societal outcomes. For example, “to be obese or get murdered, to mistrust others or have a pregnant teen daughter, to become a drug addict or stuck in poverty”. From their argument, it is clear that income inequality often leads to a myriad of other societal issues. In this case, this principle looks to be accurate. Research suggests that Britain can be classed as an unequal society as a result of its income distribution compared to other developed countries. This may explain racial inequality because of the statistically worse outcomes for ethnic minorities.

 Imagine people working just as hard as their counterparts only to earn less and live a less comfortable life. It could often lead to anger, stress and frustration making people turn to crime, for example to earn a living. It becomes a never-ending cycle that will constantly affect the social status of ethnic minorities within the population.

In addition, health inequalities also differ by race. The BBC states that black women  are four times more likely to die in childbirth.  This is a result of a lack of acknowledgement of cultural differences as well as bias. Often, the concerns of minority patients are dismissed due to racial stereotypes and microaggressions. Also, more ethnic minorities are likely to be detained under the mental health legislation than white people. This would reduce trust in the healthcare system and make people more anxious when seeking help. This was also apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic when minorities suffered more deaths than white people. Often, this may cause more drastic consequences for ethnic minority groups as they would refuse to seek help from medical professionals when unwell as they fear they may be misdiagnosed or unheard. Sometimes, leaving people unable to work and earn money or even causing death.

So how do we begin to tackle these problems? Firstly, it is imperative that people in power acknowledge that there is an issue with racial inequality, institutionally. A problem cannot be fixed if there is not thought to be one. However, it may be beneficial to start by addressing income inequality. This may mean hiring more ethnic minorities in senior positions in the workplace, leading to an increase in access to resources. In addition, education is key. It is important to educate the population, especially younger children in schools to break biases and correct negative stereotypes.

Inequalities appear to be interlinked. One form of inequality i.e., income inequality, often leads to another such as health inequality due to a lack of access to resources. When analysing race and inequality, there is no straightforward link between the two. Inequalities, because of race, may be due to institutional racism.  Stokely and Hamilton (1967) state that “institutional racism refers to particular and general instances of racial discrimination, inequality, exploitation, and domination in organizational or institutional contexts, such as the labour market or the nation-state”. There is no simple way to fix these problems. As society, we must work together to reduce inequality and improve these outcomes.A black pawn separated from white pawns


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