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Opinion Systemic racism thrives in Britain (as does the dishonesty about tackling it)

Shaista Aziz is a Britain-based freelance journalist.

It seems not a day or week passes without studies, data, reports, and commissions released about racial inequality, social mobility, integration and inequity in Britain.

After each report, the headlines follow a tired formula: The findings are always "truly shocking," the data always showing the ever-increasing and widening structural racial injustices in the country.

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However, the word "shock" is difficult to take seriously. After all, these injustices have been playing out for decades and impacting generations. Minorities are not shocked by the level of structural racism in Britain; we live it daily.

We remain the most surveyed and researched people in the country and yet our human rights and opportunity to be treated as equals and flourish in almost every sphere of life continues to be restricted.

This week, Prime Minister Theresa May's government issued the findings of its first audit on race disparity. The report's data is not new – recycled and packaged fresh for 2017, it's more of the same old, same old.

Ms. May announced she had commissioned the report in September 2016 but it was only published last week, alongside the Prime Minister's call to address "burning injustices."

The report is the latest in a number of government reports released this year alone into the state of Britain's minorities, focusing on integration, the criminal justice system and social mobility.

There is nothing new in the report – but the one thing it has succeeded in is this: there is now accessible data stored in one place, laying bare the ugly truths of structural racism in Britain. There are huge discrepancies in the opportunities afforded to and the value of life placed on non-white people in Britain.

The audit shows black men are nearly three times more likely to be arrested than white men, and black children three times more likely to be excluded from school. Black, Asian and mixed-race women are most likely to experience common mental health disorders. Mental health is a complex health issue – but let there be no doubt, racism and the impact of racism is visceral. For many on the receiving end, it manifests mentally and physically.

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The same day the racial audit report was released, a report by the Runnymede Trust and Women's Budget Group showed how the government's cruel and disastrous austerity program is disproportionately impacting women of colour the hardest. They are still most likely to live in poverty.

The report says the poorest black and Asian households have faced the largest fall in living standards: 19 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

Tinkering and repackaging structural systems of racial oppression rather than reforming and dismantling them is something our political leaders and establishment have perfected over the decades.

As evidence of the deepening structural racial injustice and disparity keeps mounting, so does the deliberately dishonest rhetoric about racism.

Britain has never been comfortable about talking about race; any attempt to talk about racism truthfully and meaningfully almost always turns into an exercise of defensive derailment.

In 2017, in Britain (just as in the United States) racism is being weaponized by the powerful against minorities and the marginalized.

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Even when reams of data and the realities of our lives show we are being denied our rights to live as equal human beings and citizens, we are told the data is creating a culture of victimization and victimhood. We need to stop playing the race card, they say.

This is the ultimate political punching down.

The shameful, uncomfortable truth is that there is a lack of genuine political and societal will to tackle structural racism in Britain. Because, in order to dismantle structures of oppression, it is the privileged who have to make way for change – and it is not in their interest to turn the tables on a system that they benefit the most from and denies minorities our rights.

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