To What Extent And How Does Institutional Racism Operate In UK Housing?

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Along with social inclusion, institutional racism represents a serious challenge for many minority ethnic households living in Great Britain, including those ones represented by persons that were born on the territory of the United Kingdom. It is what Macpherson of Cluny (as cited in Ball, 2012) refers to as “the collective failure to of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people, because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin” and manifests itself in those types of “processes, attitudes, and behaviour” that involve indiscretion, defiance, neglect, unintentional and non-direct discrimination, (un)conscious biases and stereotyping directed toward representatives of ethnic and racial minorities (p. 216). It pervades society while contributing to the perpetuation of distinctively poor housing for the most vulnerable population groups, including black, Asian people, those ones of a mixed ethnic background and from other minority ethnic groups. In the sphere of housing, institutional racism that is normally exercised through subtle discriminatory practices serves as a great obstacle to obtaining access to affordable social housing and has a significant impact on the overall quality of life endured by minorities. At the same time, there is a wide range of population groups that are exposed to it at various stages of interaction with UK housing departments.  

First and foremost, it is of particular importance to touch upon the emergence of institutional racism in the UK, which is helpful in comprehending how pervasive this problem really is. As Milner-Thornton (2012) and Khalili (2017) argue, this phenomenon is not new to British society; it goes back to the establishment of the British Empire and its infamous policy of imperialism, which allowed for the classification of any group of people of different skin colour and origin with the aim of clearly defining their social roles and how power is concentrated (in the hands of the ruling white elite). At the same time, it is remarkable that the British government tended to hide its race policy, which made it easier to camouflage race-based discrimination (Milner-Thornton, 2012). In such a way, the phenomenon in question turned into a rather abstract concept that is difficult to properly explore. It is indeed more complex than overt hatred and bigotry that is normally perceived as racism, for only people representing minorities who experience it in their social and economic lives, manage to get a grasp of what it represents, and yet, institutional racism is based on race-based harassment and that is all that matters. Either way, it is clear that colonialism played a direct role in the emergence of institutional and structural racism people living in both Britain and its former colonies encounter today.     

And now, it is crucial to touch upon facts and figures related to homelessness in the UK. Thus, according to the recent data presented on the official website of the British government, in the period between 2017 and 2018, the percentage of displaced households that were Black, Asian, of mixed race, from the other ethnic minority groups reached up to 14%, 9%, 4%, and 4% respectively (Statutory homelessness, 2018). It was impossible to identify the ethnicity of 6% of homeless family units, but what is the most interesting is that White households constituted the absolute majority of destitute households (62%) (Statutory homelessness, 2018). However, when comparing the dynamics of homelessness among representatives of different race groups between 2002 and 2016, Gulliver (2016) notes that in contrast to the majority, Black and Minority Ethnic (abbreviated as BAME) communities are more vulnerable to homelessness and vagrancy and that non-white people living in the UK more actively acquire the status of homeless individuals. More than that, the report presented by Gulliver (2016) indicates that “poverty is greatest, and has increased the most, for Black and ‘Other’ BME groups (at 40 and 44 per cent in each case)” (p. 38). At the same time, the document demonstrates that the poverty rates among Whites remained virtually unchanged for 13 years (around 19%) (Gulliver, 2016). Overall, it is evident that data provided in the study published by the Human City Institute does not comply with the official statistics on homelessness, as it highlights that in reality, poverty is twice as high among BME communities as among representatives of the white majority and it is highly unlikely that homelessness grew so massively in the white community (from 19% to 62%) only in 2 years. This is what enables one to arrive at a conclusion that the British government may be reluctant to report on the actual level of poverty and homelessness among diverse population groups and to accept the fact that institutional poverty is an integral part of British policy.


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