DMSF Responds to Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report

In setting out its vision, and driven by its values of acting with integrity, providing opportunities and instilling resilience, the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation (DMSF) was clear that there was an urgency to playing its part in dismantling systemic and institutional racism. This is an issue which is widely acknowledged as deeply harmful, and acutely felt by people from a black or ethnic background living in the UK.

In contrast, a government commissioned report released on 31 March 2021 challenged the very existence of such systemic and institutional racism in the UK, with the foreword, authored by Dr Tony Sewell stating, “We no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”.

The main report findings included:

  • Children from ethnic-minority communities did as well or better than white pupils in compulsory education, with black Caribbean pupils the only group to perform less well.
  • That this success in education has ‘transformed British society over the last 50 years into one offering far greater opportunity for all’.
  • The pay gap between all ethnic minorities and the white majority population had shrunk to 2.3% overall and was barley significant for employees under 30.

In response to this, and the findings in the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report, Diane Modahl, CEO and co-Founder of DMSF states:

My thoughts on the report switch from being extremely disappointing to sheer disbelief, and that the government had missed a brilliant opportunity to understand how the world is no longer prepared to have the wool pulled over its eyes.

I thought about the Windrush Scandal: that black women are five times more likely and mixed-race women three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. I considered that only 14% of black students are likely to get a First-Class degree in comparison to 30% of white students – this despite black students being more likely to go into higher education than their white peers. I reflected that black pupils have rates of permanent exclusion three times higher than white students. There’s more, 46% of black families are living below the poverty line compared to 19% of white families. My final thoughts were taken up with this – black and brown children are three times more likely to have a taser used on them than white children in police interactions.

The problem is, whilst these stats can be helpful, they also magnify the huge divide. In my opinion the report undoubtedly sets us and the UK backwards as it denies an everyday reality for many, not all, but for many people who are black and mixed race.

At DMSF we are driven to be part of the solution by smashing down barriers for every young person on our programmes – to set goals, map out a plan to achieve them and importantly empower them. In this way their potential can thrive, and they have a fair and equitable opportunity to succeed.

Diane Modahl

co-Founder and CEO, Diane Modahl Sports Foundation

Joining a number of other high profile business leaders who have also responded to the report’s findings, DMSF Trustee and leader in education, Aaron Saxton, added (right):

DMSF exists to champion young people from disadvantaged areas and help empower them in all areas of life, and the team feel saddened, frustrated, and angered that the report demonstrates an apparent reluctance to accept that there are structural challenges that have the power to kill hope and aspiration.

The report doesn’t take into account any consideration for the disproportionate school exclusions for Black Caribbean and Black African boys; the Windrush Scandal; the lack of black and Caribbean people taking up the offer of the Covid Vaccine (which points to a distinct lack of trust of the ‘system’); the lack of opportunity for employment for many people of colour; the lack of apprenticeship take up by black girls and boys; the lack of social mobility and the fact that black men are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police.

 Diane continues:

Whilst the report concluded that diversity has increased in professions such as law and medicine, it acknowledged that some communities continue to be ‘haunted’ by historic racism which is creating “deep mistrust” and could be a barrier to success.

Let’s remember that aspiration starts in the mind first. If there is a preconceived stereotype about the way you look, the way you talk, the way you wear your hair, where you live, the amount of money you have in your pocket and the colour of your skin then even without knowing it the odds are stacked against you.”

For me, sport helped me find a way to break through barriers, but even today – at my advanced age – the opportunities to grow and develop professionally have only recently opened up because of the awakening of businesses to the need to have a diverse board.

Based on this report, its denial of structural racism and the lack of a sense of urgency to acknowledge that immediate change is required, I’m tempted to say that positive quotas might be the only way to move the dial.” (It may well be that change can only come about through industries’ willingness to introduce positive quotas and I dearly hope that this report does not halt the progress and inclusive conversation many businesses have initiated since last summer.

Diane Modahl

CEO and co-Founder, Diane Modahl Sports Foundation

A question I’d love to ask is how ‘independent’ are the team that carried out the ‘nonbiased independent report’? For me, this report really deepens, highlights, and reinforces the significant issues we have in society if we are prepared to ignore black and ethnic minorities everyday lived realities and instead measure institutional and systemic racism by school outcomes and how intelligent these young people are.

That in many ways is like saying that black people are great athletes or footballers, so we don’t have a systemic racial issue in society because they’re talented. Does that mean they didn’t suffer racism and bias? Have people from ethnic backgrounds not had to work harder than their white counter parts? Why are so many people of black heritage disproportionality from the most deprived socioeconomic backgrounds?

Big headline reports like this really worry me certainly when it is titled ‘UK a model for other white majority countries’ (the title subsequently changed on the BBC website). Our measure of success needs to be relative to the position and progress of our own country and not necessarily always comparing to others. As a nation we’ve made some big strides in shifting mindsets and creating a culture of inclusivity in our communities and businesses. That being said it’s really important to admit that we still have challenges with racism across all cultures and this conversation needs to continue to ensure future generations can live in a truly inclusive society.

Aaron Saxton

Trustee, Diane Modahl Sports Foundation