Did Institutional Racism cause the Grenfell tragedy and Windrush scandal?

By Thomas L Blair 14 June 2018 ©

One extraordinary effect of the Grenfell fire tragedy and Windrush scandal is that government, industry and public bodies stand accused of institutional racism.

The links are clear.* Disempowered people suffer the human costs of inadequate, dangerous social housing. Disenfranchisement is the lot of the ill-fated generation of Caribbean workers. Many affected had loved ones around the globe.

Institutional racism (IR) defined

The classic IR definition stems from the MacPherson Report on the death of Stephen Lawrence. It is:

‘The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin’.

The ambitious document continued. The deep-seated cause of IR is structural, with damaging effect on its victims.

‘It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people’.

The case for the prosecution

Therefore, campaigners could rightfully charge the Windrush and Grenfell political, housing, social services, industrial and financial groups as institutionally racist.

Why? Because both social housing and immigration policies deny the most basic principles: freedom from injustice and exploitation. Many realise that Grenfell’s collective failure and the Windrush’s abysmal prejudice must be challenged.

Make institutional racism an offense

So, what’s the Grenfell and Windrush campaigners’ best prescription for change in institutions and their behaviours? Well, here are 4 measures in a strong Code of Practice. They derive from the Report’s focus on curbing the faults of the police services, with wider implications:

  • subject institutions to greater public control,
  • enshrine rights for victims
  • extend the number of incidents classified as racist.
  • hold institutions accountable under Freedom of Information and race relations legislation.

Make offenders liable to prosecution

Confident application of a soothing balm of diversity policies is good for starters. The Report warned that inclusive recruitment and promotion strategies are needed. Changing some laws is required.

Intervention strategies soar above the others. Institutions should reflect the cultural and ethnic mix of the communities they serve. Some campaigners say make “institutional racist incidents” as an offense.

Abolish the threat of institutional racism

Campaigners should take stock of how, where and why institutional racism takes hold. Real progress requires a legal charter and proposals for change.

It seems reasonable to conclude: If institutional racism is a systemic problem, then cleansing of the system is called for.

Abolishing the threat must recognise the dignity and value of all people, irrespective of their origin, race, faith or circumstance.

Your comments are welcome.

*For more on the arguments and opinions on the Grenfell fire tragedy and the Windrush debacle read the series of articles here on the chronicleworld.co.uk