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Person wearing face mask. Photo: Pexels

Person wearing face mask. Photo: Pexels

The report into disproportionate BAME deaths from Covid-19 confirms that structural racism is at the heart of the problem, writes Lucy Nichols

After initial delays, the government has been pushed by public outrage into releasing the findings of an inquiry into why certain demographics in the UK are dying of Coivd-19 at a disproportionately high rate. The report, which was supposed to be released in May, was originally pushed back due to ‘worries around current global events’, reported Sky News on Monday night.

A source in Whitehall told the Guardian that the delayed release was due to concerns around the ‘close proximity to the current situation in America’, where protests against police racism have erupted in dozens of states. Cities around the UK are also staging large protests in solidarity with America and against the racism in Britain; thousands of protestors gathered in Trafalgar Square on Sunday and more social distanced protests are planned over the next week.

For months it has been common knowledge that black and ethnic minority Brits are two or three times more likely to die of Covid-19 than their white counterparts, though up until now the government has been unable – or unwilling to explain why.

A lot of what the report revealed was information we already knew to be true; that you are more likely to die if you are elderly, male, or if you come from a BAME background. The report also revealed:

  • The most deprived areas of the country have more than double the death rate of the least deprived areas.
  • The death rate is highest amongst Black and Asian groups; people from Bengali backgrounds are twice as likely to die from Coronavirus than people who are white British
  • Black men are more than four times as likely to die as a result of Covid-19 than white men.
  • Migrants (especially those from Central and Western Africa), care workers, taxi drivers, security guards, and people living in care homes are also more likely to die from the virus.

The report seems to confirm the widely accepted theory that the material conditions of BAME Brits leave them more at risk of contracting the virus, and thus more at risk of dying of Covid-19.

‘This is because BAME people are more likely to live in urban areas, in overcrowded households, in deprived areas, and have jobs that expose them to higher risk. People of BAME groups are also more likely than people of White British ethnicity to be born abroad, which means they may face additional barriers in accessing services that are created by, for example, cultural and language differences.’

‘While it’s true that the virus itself does not discriminate, it has clearly highlighted pre-existing inequalities in society that must be addressed’, argued Alyssa Cassata in April.These pre-existing inequalities have led to the avoidable deaths of thousands of people. The first doctors to die of the virus were of African descent, and the NHS workers who have died are disproportionately from ethnic minority backgrounds. More recently, the tragic death of Belly Mujinga – a ticket office worker who contracted the virus after being spat on at work – has ignited widespread anger, especially after police decided to stop investigating her case. ‘Justice for Belly’ protests are now planned in London and in other cities across the UK.

The truth is that the government were reluctant to release this report because they feared adding fuel to the fire. Nationwide protests in America have brought the issue of racism to the forefront of global discussion, and protesters in Britain are working hard to bring light to the racism faced by Black Brits on this side of the Atlantic as well.

Though racism has been an accepted form of controlling the working classes for centuries, this report places a large amount of the blame in the hands of the Conservative government. For the last decade the Tories have propagated racist attitudes and worked hard to decimate communities of colour through austerity, violent police forces and harsh immigration laws. This official report clearly outlines socio-economic conditions as a key cause of injustices – in this case in the form of health inequality – faced by people of colour in Britain. This surely can only serve to legitimise the Black Lives Matter protests that have erupted in the UK, as structural racism is quite literally a matter of life and death for minorities in Britain.

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