Oral evidence: Black people, racism and human rights, HC 559
Monday 7 September 2020
Written evidence from witnesses:
Members present: Ms Harriet Harman (Chair); Fiona Bruce; Ms Karen Buck; Joanna Cherry; Lord Dubs; Mrs Pauline Latham; Baroness Massey of Darwen; Dean Russell; Lord Singh of Wimbledon; Lord Trimble.
Kenny Imafidon, Managing Director & Co-Founder, ClearView Research; Burphy Zumu, Director & Senior Research Executive, ClearView Research; Celine Henry, Research Executive, ClearView Research; Dr Niamh McGarry, Research Director, ClearView Research.
Oral evidence: Black people, racism and human rights
Examination of witnesses
Kenny Imafidon, Burphy Zumu, Celine Henry and Dr Niamh McGarry.
Q29 Chair: Good afternoon everybody, and welcome to everyone who is watching this evidence session of the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. Half our members are Members of the House of Commons, and half are Members of the House of Lords. Our focus is obviously on human rights: the right to life, the right not to be detained unlawfully, the right not to be discriminated against, the right to family life, freedom of expression, et cetera—the basic, fundamental human rights.
In response to the Black Lives Matter moment and movement in the summer, we decided to conduct an inquiry into black people, racism and human rights. Our evidence session today is the third session in that inquiry, and we are very pleased to hear evidence from the polling and research organisation ClearView. Our witnesses are Kenny Imafidon, Burthy Zumu, Celine Henry and Niamh McGarry. Thank you for joining us and for the work that you have done.
We commissioned ClearView to do polling to look at black people’s views on human rights and how protected those are, on human rights in relation to the police, and on human rights in relation to the National Health Service, focusing in particular on the right to life. Perhaps I could start by asking ClearView to explain the methodology of this poll. Tell us, for example, about the sample size and how you collected the information. Presumably there are standards in the polling industry. Have you met the requirements in the work that you have done for us?
Kenny Imafidon: Thank you for having us. We are very confident about the methodology that we chose—[Audio missing.]—for the period 29 July to 12 August. Our sample is more than you would expect for a poll that looks at people in the black community. The general standard is that you might see around 200 to 400 at best. This sample has 515, so we are very confident about the numbers that we have.
We achieved the sample mainly by using our database, which has a few thousand people from the black community. We also did some specialist recruitment through our strategic partners and internally in our team to make sure that we could capture people who do not tend to involve themselves in research projects like this one—for example, men and people from the older age groups in the black community. Niamh can speak to the weighting and how we went about doing that, but that was our methodology.
We also did some focus groups before we started in order to frame the questions and to ensure that what we were asking people was completely clear. One of the questions, as we know, was: “I believe that my human rights are equally protected compared to white people in the UK”. We decided to say “compared to white people in the UK”, because one of the things that became clear in the focus group when we asked them about human rights was that the standard was white people. That is why that question and the following questions that we asked were framed in that way.
Chair: Thank you very much for that. I think people are used to the idea of pollsters stopping people in the street to get their sample. Obviously with lockdown that has not been possible, for you or for other polling organisations. So presumably like all other pollsters you have had to find different ways to reach these different populations. Would you like to add to that, Niamh?
Dr Niamh McGarry: I guess the important thing is that through those recruitment practices we were able to recruit people who represent a wide range of demographics across the country. Geographically there were a lot of respondents from London, but we were also able to get a good response rate from outside London in the wider UK.
We also got a wide range of ages, religious backgrounds and ethnic backgrounds within the black community. We approached that in a targeted way, in that we calculated how many within each of the groups specifically to do with gender, age and ethnicity we would need to get to have a really representative group in our sample. Once we attained that within the 1,500 we already had quite a representative group.
We then weighted that data, which means that we calibrated the responses based on the percentage within each group that we wanted to achieve, so that groups that we had a smaller response rate from were given a little more value so that it balanced out. Doing that we were able to apply our findings to the wider population across the UK.
Chair: Thank you. So we are dealing with a robust report here. Dean Russell will now ask a question about the report’s substantive findings.
Q30 Dean Russell: I am keen to know the report’s key findings in relation to human rights, but before we go there can you say how you explained the term “human rights” when you asked people to respond to it?
Kenny Imafidon: When we defined “human rights” in our focus groups—we did not ask people in the poll, only our focus groups—a lot of the participants asked straightaway what the definition was. However, because the definition is so broad, people had a sense of what human rights are about but they would link it to “my right to an education”, “my right to life”, “my right to a fair trial”. But they did not understand, I would say, the whole breadth of what comes under human rights—like most of the public, to be very honest.
The definition of human rights comes down to what the person believes to be their rights. Commonly, a lot of basic rights will keep being mentioned.
Dean Russell: Absolutely. I should have introduced myself first; I am the Member of Parliament for Watford. When I talk to my constituents about human rights, it is more a general term than the legal definition. Would that be correct for you?
Kenny Imafidon: Yes, for the poll.
Dean Russell: Thank you. Would you mind walking me through the key findings of the report? I appreciate that it is very lengthy and detailed, but what key findings on human rights in particular came out in your research?
Kenny Imafidon: The major finding with regard to human rights in particular was that three-quarters of black people in the UK do not believe that human rights are equally protected compared to white people. That, for us, was definitely a major finding in relation to the question on human rights specifically. However, when we looked in relation to gender, we saw that black women are less likely than black men to believe that human rights are equally protected compared to white people in the UK. That was also very interesting for us. We saw that more men—around 15%-plus—are more likely to agree that human rights are equally protected than women. Fewer than 5% of women agree. You can see about a 10 percentage point gap there.
Another is that the majority of black people across all ages do not believe that their human rights are equally protected when compared to white people in the UK. When we looked across different age groups—between 16 and 17, 18 upwards, and kind of following on in 10-year ranges—we found that a lot of people felt the same way anyway, so it was not a case of millennials feeling this way and the older generation feeling differently.
That said, however, compared with young age groups, older age groups were more likely to believe that human rights were equally protected, even though the majority still believed that human rights were not equally protected compared to white people. The older the people were, the more likely they were to believe that human rights were equally protected, if that makes sense.
Dean Russell: Absolutely. Thank you. Was there any anecdotal or qualitative feedback on that? Did they have evidence, or experience, of where they felt that their human rights were not protected? Was there a more general question about their feeling that their human rights were less protected, or did they know from experience that they were not?
Burphy Zumu: In terms of the poll, we would not really be able to tell, because a question simply on how they felt would not give us an understanding of what made them feel that way. But we also conducted a series of interviews. From those we got a sense that, for some people, it was direct experiences of their life that made them feel that way. For others, it was the stories they heard from others in the community—from their close friends, their families. That gave them a feel, which was also supported by their knowledge of certain research that exists.
Particular examples that came up were in relation to crime and how they felt they were treated in the criminal justice system, what rights they should have, and how those were not applied. People were given the context of what we were asking about: the right to life, the NHS. There were different anecdotes or stories from people who had personal experiences but also the experience of their loved ones, their friends, backed up by research that they have heard in the wider society, supporting their feeling that their human rights are unprotected.
Q31 Dean Russell: Sure. Thank you. One last question on the human rights research before moving on to policing, if that is okay. I know you just mentioned crime. You must do an awful lot of research, especially within this community, from what you were saying. Did any of the findings really surprise you or perhaps were things that you thought were a given that should not be a given, in terms of people’s expectations or perceptions of the protection of human rights? Were there any really surprising findings that you were not quite expecting?
Celine Henry: The main surprises were how different genders reacted. With regard to the NHS and health services, we often found a disparity between men and women. The men we interviewed described their fair experiences with the NHS, whereas most women expressed concerns about poor experiences, often because they were in care-giving roles. A particular male mentioned that he avoids the NHS completely, his reason being that his father died of a brain tumour when he was 10, and the mismanagement that he saw stuck with him.
You see that, on the surface, even though we can make the blank statement that men often do not engage with the NHS, we found reasons as to why. We also found loads of reasons why women are more exposed to the NHS: because they are in caring roles.
Dean Russell: Just to clarify that specific point, when you say “care givers” do you mean care givers within the family?
Celine Henry: Within the family, yes—I apologise. We have two case studies. One is a female who looks after her mother, who has had MS for about 17 years. During this time, she and her mother, who was a nurse before getting MS, have experienced the NHS, which has fully exposed her to it. The male I mentioned, in the other case study, had an experience a while back.
Dean Russell: Thank you. If I may, I will segue that into the point that Burphy made about policing. What were the key findings on policing? Again, please elaborate on whether the findings were based on experience or principle, if that is okay.
Kenny Imafidon: This was also surprising, because first we asked questions in relation to human rights generally and human rights with regard to the NHS. Then, when we asked about the police, we saw that a big majority of people felt that there was unequal treatment. We saw that 85% of black people in the UK were not confident that they would be treated the same as a white person by the police.
Coming back to Celine’s point, we saw that black women, compared to black men, were less likely to believe that they would be treated the same by the police as white people. Even when we looked at age difficulties, older age groups were likely to be somewhat confident that they would be treated the same as white people by the police.
One thing I did not mention at the beginning was that the benefit of this study was that we did not look at the black community as a homogenous group. A lot of studies of the black community just say “black”; we do not know who is black African, who is black Caribbean, who is mixed black. With this study, hopefully you can see from the findings that we have been able to break that down and look at what particular communities felt. Even when we looked at all-black ethnic groups, we found that they still believe that they will not be treated the same as white people by the police.
For me, when it comes to the whole police topic, there has been enough research, enough evidence, enough testimonies about this stuff. We have seen constant reviews, such as the Lammy review—I know that David Lammy was in the last session—and we can see that it is a very big issue. There is so much research to support why this is obviously the case.
Q32 Dean Russell: I have one more question about the police. I speak to the police quite regularly in my role, and I know that there is concern on all sides in the conversations about systemic racism—they say, “Well, actually we’re not”—and perceptions about it and whether that is true or not. I would be keen to get a sense from your survey of whether there was experience of it, and whether in your report you were able to recruit existing police officers to respond. I appreciate that that is a very specific ask after the fact. Did you get the sense that police officers who responded, if you had that, were saying the same thing, or did they have a different point of view?
Kenny Imafidon: We do not necessarily know whether anyone in our poll was a police officer in particular. However, that is interesting research in and of itself, and maybe we can look at that next time.
This is very much a sticking point when it comes to talking about the black community and race. The whole reality around stop and search, which is not perception but actually government research, is that people from the black community are way more likely to be stopped. One interesting thing that Burphy can speak on is that, before we planned to give evidence, even as the poll results were coming out we saw people talking about the belief that this is just perception and not actually a reality. Hopefully this is something that we can discuss, because a lot of this belief is founded on real stuff, not just human psychology—that people just think this is the case.
Burphy Zumu: From being in the research and seeing the research, I can say that the premise is basically that there cannot be smoke without fire. Our polling is not saying that 85% of people say that their experience of the police has been 100% negative because of their race; we are saying that they feel that there might be mistreatment because of their race.
From that, let us say that half those people had actually had a negative experience. The other half expect it to happen to them because the existing research says that it is more likely to happen to them. So even though I as a person have never been stopped by the police, the reality is that I am more likely to be stopped by the police, so it does not stop me feeling that my rights are not protected. Does that make sense?
Dean Russell: Yes, absolutely. So would you say that it is creating mental health/anxiety issues within the community?
Burphy Zumu: Exactly, and it can lead to other things. It makes it difficult to hold conversations with police forces across the country, because the perception is that something negative will happen in our engagement, even if I have had no negative engagement in the past. Does that make sense?
We are not just fighting the possibility; we are fighting the fact that the possibility is very real to me, because the research indicates that it is a real possibility and not just, “I heard it happened to my friend and I feel that it could happen to me”. The reality is that it is very likely to happen to me next.
Q33 Dean Russell: I have one tiny additional question. Did any findings in your report identify any solutions for overcoming that concern?
Burphy Zumu: We did not look specifically at policing. However, we had a broader question about what people felt could protect their human rights. When we get to that question we can delve deeper into the issues.
Dean Russell: Thank you for your responses.
Chair: Now that Dean has raised that point and we are on it, can you deal with that now, Burphy? What did people think would make a difference?
Burphy Zumu: We sent out two forms. First, we gave the respondents a list of options which they could select from. Then we gave them a text box where they could write in their different ideas and solutions from the ones that were preselected.
Among the top three was having more black leaders in decision-making roles. This was selected by over 85% of the participants. It was the No. 1 option, because we also asked them to rank the three choices and it was chosen as No. 1 by at least one in four people.
This was followed by more equal education opportunities, followed by having more people from outside the black community challenging unacceptable violations of black people’s human rights—I guess, the concept of violation, and people who are not black also defending the rights of black people; when they see something happening that should not be happening, using their voice to help to protect the rights of black people.
Kenny Imafidon: Coming back to the question, one of the key answers that came out consistently when we gave people the opportunity to give any answer they wanted was that there should be better record keeping of racist incidents—because the police do not want to do anything—including more investigations into and more charging of those guilty of racist offences. There is something around how we want to change people’s belief in the community and people seeing actions being taken against those who have committed racist offences in society.
Chair: Burphy, when you said, “I haven’t been stopped, but I could have this perception”, were you talking theoretically or in personal terms?
Burphy Zumu: I was speaking theoretically, but it still affects me personally.
Chair: Okay. You were giving a scenario.
Burphy Zumu: Yes.
The Chair: Baroness Massey has a follow-up question to the series of questions we have just asked.
Q34 Baroness Massey of Darwen: I have a brief question. I am a House of Lords Labour Peer and I have worked with Burphy before, in seminars about youth justice, so my question relates to that and to Dean’s questions.
Could I extend this a bit beyond the police to the general issue of justice, particularly youth justice? What perceptions were there about the treatment of people in the youth justice system? That includes courts and the institutions they might find themselves in. I know from talking to people and from the seminar that Burphy was involved in some years ago that there are serious issues about how people are treated in the youth justice system and how the courts deal with this.
Burphy Zumu: Sadly, our poll did not look at the youth justice system specifically or focus on any of the justice system specifically. It was more general, but hopefully with future research we could home in on that, because, like you say, there are serious issues there. We do not have a clear image from polling as yet.
Kenny Imafidon: However, even though we did not ask people, when we gave people the open option, one of the key answers that came was that there should be purposeful reform and review of the criminal justice system.
Q35 Chair: We go to Lord Trimble for our next question.
Lord Trimble is in the meeting, but there must be a technical issue. We looked at the findings on human rights, which we asked you to look at. We asked you to look at the perception of equal treatment by the police. We also, because there is a right to life and the right not to be discriminated against, asked you to look at black people's perception of whether they were treated equally by the NHS. What were your findings on that, please, and perhaps if Lord Trimble has a supplementary he can come in after you have given your initial response?
Dr Niamh McGarry: Similarly, we found that the majority of black people found that their health was not treated equally by the NHS compared to white people, and that a larger proportion of women felt that way compared to men. We also found that while the majority of men also said that they did not feel that they were treated equally, a small portion did feel that their health was treated equally by the NHS. That portion was significantly larger than among women, which was an interesting finding.
Some interesting stories came out of the interviews related to that. Celine mentioned earlier that they centred around the idea that women tend more often to be care givers in the home, with the family or friends, and therefore may be more exposed to health services and therefore may have more opportunity to have negative experiences. It was definitely reflected in the interviews that women were also more likely to have negative comments to make about how they had been treated and how they had felt that they were not treated equally or as white people would be treated by the NHS.
Chair: Thank you. Lord Trimble, do you have any follow-up question, or is that clear enough? I think that is very clear, Niamh. Thank you very much indeed. We turn to Lord Singh for the next question.
Q36 Lord Singh of Wimbledon: Good afternoon. I am a Cross-Bench Peer in the House of Lords. Before I come to my main question I have a small curiosity about the demography. There are more Sikhs in this country than there are Jews. Can any of you explain why the Sikh community has not been recognised as such in your tick boxes?
Dr Niamh McGarry: To be honest, Lord Singh, that has been an oversight on our part and definitely something that we should remedy going forward, and I apologise for that.
Lord Singh of Wimbledon: That is quite all right. The point I am making is that discrimination is thought to be very closely related to oversight, ignorance, and prejudice arising from that. That has not been considered in the report at all. I leave that with you.
Kenny Imafidon: Could you repeat the question? We did not catch it.
Lord Singh of Wimbledon: Yes. There is no reference to the part played by ignorance and prejudice in the discrimination against black people.
Dr Niamh McGarry: I guess that because of the nature of how we put the poll out and how we were looking for a quick turnaround in responses so that we could get more people to respond by taking up less of their time, we did not have the opportunity to really delve into the whys and the hows. It was more about whether someone has experienced these things, to give us a broad view. Hopefully we can look into this more deeply in the future and use interviews then to see a little of why and how things are happening to inform us a bit more and maybe see where we should take future research.
Q37 Lord Singh of Wimbledon: Thank you. I turn to my main question. Is anything in this report particularly surprising? I am not surprised that black people feel that they are discriminated against by the police or in the National Health Service.
Burphy Zumu: I think that for us the most surprising thing was that across all three subject areas—human rights, health and the police—black women in particular felt more unprotected than their male counterparts.
Lord Singh of Wimbledon: But they are also more marginalised than the rest of the majority.
Burphy Zumu: Yes. Obviously it was surprising to see, but once we tried to contextualise it what came across was the crossover between gender and race. Obviously, as women you are marginalised. Then, if you add the factor of race, you are also marginalised in that respect. The combination puts you in the position where you feel largely discriminated against. That was surprising in the sense that it came up so clearly across the three different areas, if that makes sense?
Lord Singh of Wimbledon: Thank you. Those are frank answers.
Kenny Imafidon: Just to come back to your first question, I have just checked the poll and we did give people the option to state their religious identity, but no one mentioned Sikh. The only other thing they mentioned was that they are spiritual.
Lord Singh of Wimbledon: I do not think that many would have mentioned Hindu, for example. The opportunity should have been there, because it is a response paper and if the box is not there they will not mention Sikh.
Chair: Kenny, could you clarify that? Are you saying that the box about religion was for them to fill in? You did not give them a list of religions.
Kenny Imafidon: They got a list. You always give people a list. However, if something is not in the list, we also give people the option to write. We would never just leave it. For example, as much as we break ethnicity down there will still be people who do not identify—
Chair: I think Lord Singh’s point is that, bearing in mind the representation of Sikhs in the community, they should have been in the list, not in the “other” category, which I think is conceded by Niamh, so perhaps we can move on from that.
We turn now to the next question, from Lord Dubs.
Q38 Lord Dubs: I am a Labour Member of the House of Lords. Thank you for all this. I am totally fascinated by it, having had a chance to read it beforehand and having seen the Guardian. Well done.
My question, which you have partly covered, is this. What do you think is the most important thing that your findings tell us? What do you pick out—not the interesting things but the most important things?
Dr Niamh McGarry: I can speak from my perspective at least from looking at the data. I found it really interesting, when you go through the analysis, that while the majority of people do not feel that their human rights are equally protected, they do not feel that their health is equally protected by the NHS either. But then when you ask the question about the police, that majority increases dramatically; actually, over 85% of people—
Chair: You are talking about black people, just to be clear for the people watching this evidence session. It is not 85% of people; it is 85% of black people.
Dr Niamh McGarry: No problem. Thank you for that. Eighty-five per cent of black people do not feel confident that they will be treated the same as white people by the police. That in itself was quite striking; that while a majority have other negative feelings, that one was held by so many people that it really is something that we should be looking to address.
Lord Dubs: Any other comments from the experts?
Kenny Imafidon: Another thing that the poll shows is that there are clear actions which the Government should be able to take to make a tangible difference to the lives of black people in the UK. For example, one of the key recommended actions was better antiracism laws and, as I mentioned before, better record keeping of racist incidents, including more investigations into and more charging of those guilty of racist offences.
In one of the interviews, something that very much stuck with me was fact that the Government need to address the many unfulfilled recommendations from countless UK inquiries into racial inequality rather than commission new ones. I watched the last session, and a lot of representations have been made to the Government. Even if just those are actioned, I believe that would make a tangible difference to how black people feel and what they believe about human rights in the areas that we have explored in this poll.
Q39 Lord Dubs: Do you think that the timing of the poll was influenced by what was going on in the media, on the streets, and so on? In other words, was there a particular sharpness to the answers because of what people were particularly aware of at the time?
Kenny Imafidon: I would say no. That is the great thing about this research. I know that this inquiry was set on the back of Black Lives Matter and recent events. However, as we have seen in the media, to be very honest that has peaked already; there are no more front pages about racism or the issues that are going on. It is kind of yesterday’s news from a media perspective. We did this poll when the dust had settled in relation to all the media hype. So, if anything, this is actually perfect timing.
Chair: So you are saying that you do not think that these results and the great weight of the majorities here would have been different if the poll had been done this time last year.
Kenny Imafidon: No.
Dr Niamh McGarry: If I may, I will just add an example from one of the interviews. When a young man was asked how he felt about his human rights and whether he felt that they were equally protected compared to white people in the UK, his response was yes. But then when he began to think about it and started to explain why he believed that, his reasons for believing it were that he had never been in a situation where he had had to deal with the police. So even though he was being positive, which shows that the media were not affecting his response, he was being positive because he had not had to deal with the police. It was more about his human rights not having been violated, rather than him feeling that they were protected.
As he thought on it more, he then talked about experiences that he had had, such as being followed by a security guard in a shopping mall. He defined himself as a learned man, he did not see himself as a threat to anyone, and he felt that that would not happen if we lived in a world without prejudice.
Dean Russell: I have a quick comment about the demographics. I was interested to hear you mention right at the start that you had tried your best to reach outside London. Did you manage to get responses from all four corners of the UK? Was there a difference in Scotland versus Northern Ireland, or England versus Wales, or was it primarily England-centric?
Kenny Imafidon: We got respondents from all four nations, but most of the black community live in England anyway. I believe that the proportion of black people who live in Northern Ireland is about 0.2%, and 1% in Scotland. Most—about 98%—of the black population live in England, if I am correct.
Q40 Joanna Cherry: Good afternoon. I am the Scottish National Party Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South West.
I would like to go back to the really interesting significant differences you found between the perceptions of men and women. Celine and Niamh have already talked about specific examples and explanations given in the field of the difference in perspective about healthcare in the NHS and that perhaps it is down to the fact that women are often in the care-giver role. I am really interesting to know whether you can give us other examples from the interviews about why black women are less likely than black men to believe that their human rights are equally protected compared to white people.
Also, in the field of treatment by the police, it is very interesting for me to see that more black women than black men feel that they are less likely to be treated in the same way as white people by the police, because we perhaps have a perspective of stop and search being directed very much towards young black men. But then, as you have found out, a higher percentage of women feel that they would be less likely to get equal treatment from the police.
So I am really interested in what your interviewees told you about why women feel that way.
Celine Henry: In the interviews, women did not really provide reasons as to why they think these situations go on. We had a really interesting interview with a young woman from Kent who had ended up getting stopped and searched. After the whole debacle, she spoke about the situation to a few friends who are not black themselves. It seemed that it was not the normality for any of her friends, to the point where they were quite shocked and in fear for her safety.
She said that while the number of black females who get stopped and searched is not high, she acknowledged that the process is very familiar within the black community. Even though it is not something that a lot of black women face, the fact that, from outside research, it happens in the community a lot did not seem to be a surprise to her.
She also mentioned other situations such as being outside her household, and because there was a group of black people standing together the police stereotyping them and assuming that they were a gang. There is a particular quote from her when she mentioned a policeman saying, “Oh, because I saw you guys as a group I thought you were a gang”.
You realise that women have an observatory role, but it is also familiar thing that they have. That is something that I realised from the interviews. Niamh, do you want to add anything else?
Dr Niamh McGarry: No.
Joanna Cherry: That is an example of an interviewee giving a colourful explanation of the perception in relation to the police. What about the more general perception in relation to human rights? Did you get any insights into why more black women than black men feel that they do not have equal protection in relation to their human rights when compared with white people?
Celine Henry: If I could generalise most of the interviews, what popped up was more the understanding that they were seen as less than. That is where the definition of human rights was played out; people felt that oftentimes they are seen as less than because of stereotypes and maybe media perceptions and narratives, and even because of education and the criminal system, which we have mentioned.
On the educational point, some students who had grown up in the British system had seen themselves as maybe just a part of a quota. We interviewed a young lady who was brought up in Devon and felt that she was in the school to be part of a good quota so that the school could say that, yes, they had a diverse cohort. She said that she realised this, because oftentimes if she was in trouble she might not get the extra assistance after. It seems as though she was not really given any room to be disciplined to full effect, and she felt as though she did not get enough educational support, be it applying to university or to something else.
Burphy Zumu: Just to give you some context, some research by Hope Not Hate that came out a couple of weeks ago very much looked into racism and discrimination. In their sample, they had about 1,001 people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities as a whole. One of the key findings of their report was that black people face racism and discrimination in their everyday lives. They came out with that finding, because 75% of black respondents in their research agreed that black people face discrimination in their everyday lives.
When we are talking about human rights, even on the very basic level of everyday life we can see that this is playing out in the reality of black people’s lives in the UK. Their research, which came out just a few weeks before we published our poll, would very much support what we are saying in this research.
Joanna Cherry: I do not doubt it at all. I just interested in trying to explore the factors. I am interested to know why the female respondents felt that they were more discriminated against.
Going back to the example of the healthcare in the NHS, Celine and Niamh talked about care givers. Did you come across any other examples of contexts in the interviews that you conducted with specific reference to healthcare that might explain why more black women than black men feel that they are not treated equally in that field?
Celine Henry: We had an interviewee who was eight months pregnant, and she had other health conditions. She mentioned that the first time she went she did not have the most comfortable of experiences. This was addressed and she was quite satisfied with what was sorted out. She said that the second time she went she observed another woman who was black but who did not have a great command of English. She said that this woman was later seen as though she had mental health issues, maybe just because of how she expressed herself and she was not understood.
So in terms of reasons, by way of the lady’s observation we can see that black women perhaps see inequality just because they cannot express themselves or they are not understood by a healthcare professional, for example. Yes, the reasons are just the lack of understanding or cultural difficulties perhaps.
Joanna Cherry: On both occasions this was when she was going for prenatal care?
Celine Henry: No. It was because she has pre-existing health conditions. One was her throat, I believe. She was admitted to hospital for a few days.
Joanna Cherry: But was it to do with her pregnancy?
Celine Henry: No, but it was because she was pregnant, just to be quite clear.
Joanna Cherry: Right. Okay. It was in the general context of healthcare being provided and perhaps somebody whose English was not their first language being treated as though they had mental health difficulties rather than just in a straightforward way.
Celine Henry: I beg your pardon, yes. In the second incident where she saw the woman being passed off as having mental health issues this was actually for her pregnancy; the lady was pregnant. She expressed her fear that the woman may be separated from her child. Of course, she does not know anything about that situation.
Joanna Cherry: That is very interesting. Thank you all.
Q41 Chair: Celine, you mentioned the familial position. I wondered whether, in relation to the very great number of women who felt that black people are not treated equally to white people by the police, that it might be women’s role and that this is disproportionately felt by women, albeit that a majority of all black people feel that. Women in particular are in a very high majority here.
Could it be partly to do with women’s position in the family as grandmothers and as mothers concerned about black youth? Could it be something to do with their exposure, awareness and sensitivity because of their concern with young black men in their family? Is that what you mean by the familial aspect—as grandmothers and mothers worried about black youth?
You have talked about young women seeing young men in their group, but is there something about women taking it with them through their lives, because there are young women seeing it with young men, but then there are mothers worried about their sons and grandmothers worried about their grandchildren. This is conjecture, because we did not ask you to look at the reasons; we asked you to look at the levels. But because the levels are so high I am asking you further.
Celine Henry: I beg your pardon if I said “familial”. I meant “familiar”, as though it is a common thing.
Chair: I see. But can you deal with my proposition? Does that resonate with you, or is that me just barking up the wrong tree?
Celine Henry: No. On both spectrums we found that even though women are in the care-giving role, even when we speak to younger women, who perhaps do not have as many responsibilities and maybe just have friends, they are not expressing it from a familial or family perspective or a care-giving perspective. We often found that men mentioned things about their family as well. So on both spectrums it is not mainly because the women have to focus on family aspects of things.
Chair: In relation to the police, do you have any other explanation or conjecture as to why black women should feel that there is more inequality in the treatment of black people by the police? What is then the explanation of the disproportionate number of women who felt that compared to men, if it is not to do with their role in the family and being worried about black youth? What might it be to do with?
Kenny Imafidon: I believe that the mum and the grandma are definitely a factor to consider—anecdotally anyway, because that has come up in some of the conversations I have been having in and around this research in relation to the internalisation of issues that black men or young black men might face. Women take that on. Even when you talk about healthcare and X, Y and Z, you will see, generally speaking—anyone else can come in here—that a lot of the time that is left traditionally to the mums to sort out.
Chair: So women have their own problems but they internalise the problems of the men in their family as well.
Kenny Imafidon: Yes, because obviously those issues can become their own. Going back to what Burphy said, for example, my own mum knows the reality of what could happen to young black men like me. Obviously any parent is going to care and be worried. I do not mean that my dad would not care, but generally speaking my mum is really going to care, because more times than not she will probably be the one who comes and gets me from the station. This is why I probably feel that that has been the case. It would be great to explore, but that observation could be one of the answers to explain why.
Chair: Perhaps this is something for the police to explore further, since this should be of great import to them.
Q42 Baroness Massey of Darwen: Hello again, everybody. You found in your research that older groups—I assume that means men and women—were more likely to believe that their human rights are equally protected compared to younger age groups. Do you have any thoughts about why that would be so? Did the interviews say anything about this? Was it because, for example, young people are more aware of their own rights through education or empowerment? What is going on there?
Celine Henry: The interviews did not really provide any examples of this, and the majority in all the age groups in the poll did not feel that their human rights are equally protected. So it is not surprising that those who we interviewed felt quite similarly about it.
One thing that comes to mind is that those in the age bracket of 30 to about 40—30-plus is what we consider older—were the ones who saw their human rights as not being equally protected. People who were 50-plus did think that their human rights were protected. We realised that during the 80s and 90s, when perhaps they were teenagers, they might have been much more exposed to much more racism, or what have you; Niamh already mentioned the example of the learned man who mentioned that a security guard follows him around.
The interviews did not provide us with any likely reasons why, but they did show us perhaps that in the wide range of ages that we consider older there were different and mixed feelings and that some people would say that their human rights were protected and some would say that they were not at all. But generally we found that older people believe that their human rights are not protected at all.
Baroness Massey of Darwen: That is really interesting. Do you have any other fears about this? Would it be to do with class, education or anything like that? I know that you do not have the nitty-gritty evidence for this, but what do you think?
Q43 Chair: May I add a supplementary for you to answer at the same time as answering Baroness Massey’s question? This, again, is just asking for your conjecture. Do you believe that the older people who were less disaffected, if you could call it that, were more concerned when they were younger but as they grew older their attitudes changed, or do you think that this cohort of young people will keep those views as they grow older?
Is this about a particular cohort, or is it about age—do you get the point—
Celine Henry: I do.
Chair: —and that by the time these young people are as old as the older people who, marginally, feel that they are treated less unequally they will feel the same? But you are right: it is all in the context of the majority still feeling that they are unequally treated. Is it about changing views over time, or is there a new set of views among young people which they will carry with them even when they themselves are older?
Celine Henry: As you said, this is conjecture. If I could place a thought on that it might be the amendments or changes that they have seen over time. It is not necessarily about class, but perhaps as they have grown older they have gone up the ranks of careers, or they have other things that are much more to their attention, as well as societal issues and the fact that laws may be getting better or people are becoming more aware and sensitive to diversity and inclusion.
You find that perhaps as people get older they see that, okay, human rights are getting better. I would not presume that at 50 everyone has a full idea of how life is, but perhaps they have a few experiences under their belt. I think they become more expressive and say, “Actually, I thought this was going well, but perhaps it’s not going well, and in my reality as a black person I’m dissatisfied with what’s going on”. That might be another thought.
Baroness Massey of Darwen: Did you get any impression that young people know what their rights are? Are they more aware of their rights than they were some years ago?
Burphy Zumu: We are living at a time when people may not necessarily know what rights exist to them, but they have a basic understanding of how the standard of life should be, they are not willing to move or budge from that standard, and they are more likely to fight for that standard.
It might not fit into any existing understanding among young people of the legal requirement of how people should be behave, but there is a standard that young people today want to reach and are pushing for, and they believe that all people should have that similar standard of rights, of life, regardless of their race, class, where they have been brought up, or any of the social and economic factors that affect people growing up in the UK.
As Celine said, as time goes on you gain different experiences. You might learn that something that you thought was an issue of racism is not but is simply an issue of prejudice, and something that you thought was prejudice on the grounds of race was actually a prejudice on the grounds of class. You might learn how discrimination can be fuelled by different things. As time goes on, you learn to discern what things are at play.
That is possibly why, when we look at the small minority that felt that their rights were protected, that belief was more prevalent in the older cohorts than it was in the younger cohorts.
Chair: Might it be that when those older people were growing up in this country there was no expectation that they should be treated equally, and they have seen that there is now an argument that there should be equal treatment, whereas the young people have grown up in a circumstance where they are told, “You’re entitled to equality”, but they know from their experience that they are not getting it?
Might it be that, because there is a variance between what is presented as being the reality—ie you all have human rights now—actually you have not, and young people then feel, “Well, we’re being told that we’re equal, but we’re not”? Older people were not told that they were equal. They were very firmly told, “You’re not equal”.
Burphy Zumu: That has a strong play in it. The history of the research has also shown us that there have been long-standing issues, such in the education system, where young black men are excluded more than their white counterparts. That is not an issue of 2020; it was an issue in 2010, and it is still an issue. Young black men getting into Russell Group universities, or one of the top universities, is an issue now, and obviously it was an issue 10 years ago.
There are similarities. Seeing that things are not improving may also solidify the thought that, “No, we’re not equal, because if we were equal the problems that were in the past would have progressed, and they have not progressed, so clearly something has gone amiss during the time period of our parents and ourselves as young people”.
People can talk generally about how some things have improved. However, if we are looking at the fundamental keys to success in terms of the economy and moving up—social mobility—if those things have not improved, clearly the protections that are said to be in place are either failing or were not in place at the beginning. Does that make sense?
Chair: Yes it does.
Q44 Ms Karen Buck: I am the MP for Westminster North. Forgive me, but I had to leave the session and ask an education question, so if this question has been covered just tell me quickly.
I wondered to what extent the relatively recent contextual events of the Windrush scandal and more recently the George Floyd murder had impacted on people’s concept of discrimination and racism as a human rights issue. Did that come through at all? Was that something that people expressed?
Burphy Zumu: I do not think that in the interviews and with the questions that we asked at the time anyone particularly mentioned the Windrush scandal or George Floyd’s death as a catalyst to their thinking. However, generally speaking, I feel that black people in the UK—I am just giving a thought here; I am not saying anything that is supported by any existing research—have grown up in a context where we feel that the discrimination that we face is not as bad as it is in the US, so we can kind of coast along because there are some things in place that prevent it extending to that degree.
However, I feel that, over the years, that is not enough. Just because it is not as bad as elsewhere does not mean that that is enough, and there are things that can be done, not necessarily ground-shaking things but small changes here and there that could adjust and help the relationships between systems that exist and black people for the better protection of their human rights. Does that make sense?
Ms Karen Buck: It makes perfect sense. In a way, I find it interesting that people perhaps did not volunteer a view that might have been triggered to some extent by these pretty seismic political events.
Let us just stick with Windrush, because obviously that was a British story. Was there any sense with people that things might have been improving, but then a scandal like Windrush changes people’s perspective and perhaps shakes them out of a sense that there has been progress? Again, I am totally speculating. I just wonder whether anybody, or you with all your other evidence to draw on, had felt that within the communities.
Chair: Or was it that Windrush just told them what they thought they already knew?
Burphy Zumu: Yes. I was just about to say that when you talk about these big things that have happened, a lot of the time they just affirm what people already believe. I mentioned the research into everyday discrimination of black people. If you already feel like this happens every day, something like this is basically “what we have been telling you anyway”. That is one reason why people do not even need to think about George Floyd or Windrush, because to be honest they probably have enough stories to tell you that have nothing to do with that anyway.
I feel like there is enough real-life personal experience for people to draw on in order to explain why they feel the way they do.
Chair: I thank the ClearView team very much indeed. You have done what the name says on the tin; you have absolutely given us a very clear view on the views of black people about their human rights, about their relationship with the police, and about how they are treated comparatively to white people in the health service. All those things are things which those responsible for human rights, the police and the NHS have to take deeply seriously, so thank you for exposing the really harsh reality of those opinions and presenting them to us.
I also thank Committee members for putting the questions and the clerk’s team who have prepared for this evidence session. Our report on this inquiry into black people, racism and human rights will include ClearView’s polling report and will be produced later this autumn. That concludes this session. Thank you very much indeed.
Oral evidence: Black people, racism and human rights