• The Black Project

Institutional Racism in the UK

When we talk about institutional racism in the UK and how the very systems we exist within are designed in a way that hinders people of colour, we are often met with dismissal and doubt.

“But white people are in poverty too!” we hear. “But white people get stopped and searched too!” they say. “But white children go to bad schools as well” we get told.

Here’s the thing. No one ever said this wasn’t true. No one has ever said white people don’t struggle in the UK. And we never will - it would be a total lie, and totally unhelpful. Because as much as the systems in place hinder people of colour, a lot of this is down to the reinforcement of class - it just so happens the cross over of working class and people of colour is almost 100%. White people do suffer, but not because they’re white. People of colour suffer because they’re treated worse even than their white working class peers, and they’re treated worse because they’re not white.

Let’s look at some examples.

Prisons and Justice

  • Black people make up only 3% of the population according to the 2011 census but make up 8% of deaths in police custody.

  • In prisons the population disparity is even higher, with black people making up 12% of inmates.

  • Black people are 5x more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, despite being less likely to be found with illegal content than white peers. (sources: x x x)


  • In 2018 unemployment in black people was 8%, twice that of white british people who saw 4% unemployment.

  • Only 5.2% of black people, and only 7.2% of mixed race people work as managers, directors and senior officials. This is compared to 10.7% for white people.

  • Black male graduates are less likely to be employed after graduation, with 18% unemployment vs 10% for white peers. (sources: x x)


  • Around 2/5 of people from ethnic minorities live in low income households, almost twice that of white people.

  • 30% of black children live in low income households, this is 10% higher than the national average and 13% higher than white british people. This figure is 33% for mixed race children.

  • 17.4% of black caribbean people live in poverty, vs 9% of white people. (sources: x)

Pay Gap

  • On average, black people get paid between 5-10% less than white peers.

  • Black people with degrees earn 23.1% on average less than their white peers.

  • Black people who leave school with A-Levels earn on average 14.3% less than their white peers. (sources: x)


  • Black and mixed white/black students in UK schools have rates of permanent exclusion around 3 times higher than white students.

  • Black students are most likely to drop out of university of any ethnicity, and the reasons most often cited are a lack of cultural connection with the curriculum, and difficulty forming relationships with academic staff due to the differences in background and customs.

  • Black students are more likely than white to get into higher education, but rates of achieving a first class degree are 30% for white students vs only 14% for black students. (sources: x)

As you can hopefully see from the above, its clear that on the ladder of life in the UK, being non white, and specifically being of black origin, puts you a few steps below your white peers. Even if you’re from the same class, even if you’re from the same city, even if you go to the same school or university, you still find yourself a rung below your white peers. Nothing we do causes that, and nothing our white peers do put them ahead of us. Us talking about institutional racism is not a dig at our white peers, how can it be when you haven’t done anything to put yourself ahead of us on that ladder? The system is the problem, not the people who find themselves in it. The rules of the game are the problem, not the people who have to play it.

Its time for this to change. Anti racism training needs to be required for teachers, for bosses, for the police. Companies need to be required to disclose their employment stats by gender and race. They also need to be required to do the same for the pay gap - very few companies would be paying racist wages if the public could see it. Change is needed, and change will come, if we are loud enough and insistent enough.

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