The 264-page report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, published on Wednesday, said that while racism still exists in the UK there is no evidence of institutional racism. But the findings have come under criticism, including from London Mayor Mr Khan and Labour MP Ms Abbott.
Mr Khan tweeted: “The idea that our society doesn’t have serious issues with structural racism will be hard to understand for all those who have been confronted by it and whose lives have been blighted by it.
“We need to acknowledge and listen to the lived experience of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in our country, so we can take meaningful action to break down barriers and make our society more equal for everyone.”
Ms Abbott told Sky News: “This is people’s lived experience and it is as if this commission, which was set up by the Tories and by leading Tory advisers who don’t believe in institutional racism at all, is taking us back in the argument for racial justice, not taking us forward.”
And Labour MP David Lammy claimed black Britons were being “gaslighted” by the report.
He said on Twitter: “For my own mental well-being I am not doing media interviews on the race commission today.
“Like so many in Britain’s Black community, I’m tired!
“Tired of the endless debate about whether structural racism exists with little desire to actually address it.
“We are being gaslighted.”
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Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said there had been “report after report” on the issue and demanded a full race equality act.
He said: “We have had report after report.
“We have seen the disproportionate impact on black and minority ethnic communities of the pandemic.
“I think what we now need to see is a proper acknowledgement of the depth of that, the structural nature of that, but, most of all, to act on the very many recommendations that we’ve had for many years, whether that’s in the business community, at board level, in criminal justice, on the pandemic.
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“I think, in the end, what we need is a race equality act, which is what the Labour Party is committed to.”
The report, commissioned in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, questioned the use of the term “institutional racism”.
It says: “The term is now being liberally used, and often to describe any circumstances in which differences in outcomes between racial and ethnic groups exist in an institution, without evidence to support such claims.
“The Commission therefore feels that misapplying the term racism has diluted its credibility, and thus undermined the seriousness of racism, where it does exist, in contemporary Britain.
“Where ‘institutional racism’ is used too casually as an explanatory tool, it can also lead to insufficient consideration of other factors which are also known to drive such differences in outcomes.”
The report said geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion all impact life chances more than racism.
In a foreword, commission chairman Dr Tony Sewell said: “Put simply, we no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities.
“The impediments and disparities do exist, they are varied, and ironically very few of them are directly to do with racism.
“Too often ‘racism’ is the catch-all explanation, and can be simply implicitly accepted rather than explicitly examined.”