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Systematic racism is to blame for black and Asian coronavirus deaths

This article is over 3 years, 6 months old
Issue 2728
It’s a direct result of racism that black and Asian people are suffering (Pic: Xavier Donat/Flickr)

Coronavirus has “thrived on” systematic racism—and more black people will “unnecessarily die” unless there’s urgent action.

This warning in Doreen Lawrence’s report that was released this week should be a rallying cry against racism. 

The murder of her son, Stephen Lawrence, led to the Metropolitan Police being found to be institutionally racist by a public inquiry in 1999.

Doreen Lawrence’s report describes how black, Asian and minority ethnic people have been “overexposed, under protected, stigmatised and overlooked” throughout the pandemic. 

“This has been generations in the making,” she writes. 

It is “the consequence of decades of structural injustice, inequality and discrimination that blights our society”. 

The Tories have tried to deflect attention from racism by scapegoating black and Asian people for spreading the virus.

And just last week the government’s adviser, Cambridge professor Dr Raghib Ali, downplayed systematic racism. He says it “misses the very large number of non-ethnic minority groups and whites who also lived in deprived areas”. 


Of course working class people who are white have also been hammered by the pandemic—because they are working class.

But the Lawrence report powerfully shows how racism and class combine. So, “black, Asian and minority ethnic people are more likely to live in poor quality and overcrowded housing”. 

Lawrence slams the Tories’ “decade-long failure to build social rented housing” which “has pushed many families into the less regulated and less secure private rented market”. Black people are also far more likely to be employed in sectors where they can’t work from home. 

And they “face significant barriers to accessing health care”. This varies from a lack of “language-appropriate communication” to simply “not being taken seriously when presenting with symptoms”.

Health care is an area where the Tories’ racism and welfare policies combine. Under the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) visa rule, some of the most vulnerable migrants are barred from health services and social security. 

And black and Asian people aren’t just dying disproportionately of coronavirus.

They are “more likely to suffer the economic consequences”.

The Lawrence review argues for “systemic solutions to systemic problems”. It puts forward a raft of measures such as suspending NRPF, a Renters’ Reform Bill and more support for people who are self-isolating. 

It will take a huge fight to win such reforms from the racist Tories.

The Lawrence review should make us all rage against the system that produces racism—and fight to uproot the whole of it. 

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