David Harewood’s look into whether Britain would ever have a black Prime Minister ended with a conclusion anyone aware of systemic racism won’t be surprised by – it’s going to be very difficult.
The actor uncovered statistics, with the help of director of the Class think tank Faiza Shaheen, showing just how high the obstacles black people have to overcome are.
Statistics that were not too surprising – but were still quite shocking – showed there’s a one in 17 million chance of a black child born today becoming PM, making them 12 times less likely than a white child.
“If you were going to design a system that disadvantaged black people at every level, from nursery to schooling to university and on up through the social system, you couldn’t actually design it any better,” were David’s thoughts after completing the documentary.
— Raphael K. Dapaah (@RaphDapaah) November 13, 2016
It starts at nursery, David showed, or even before. In Britain 45% of black children live in poverty. That immediately makes things more difficult.
But due to different cultural norms, and unconscious bias, once black children enter the school system their chances of succeeding become harder. Nursery teachers might view a naughty black child differently than they do a naughty white child, just because of their race.
“If you’re always told you’re a problem you go through life believing that is what you are”, a black nursery teacher working at a centre dedicated to nurturing black children said.
It doesn’t get much better in school, with black African and Caribbean students starting at a lower point than their white counterparts with regard to exams.
By the age of 16 though, black African students have surpassed white students, going on to achieve better grades. And Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol believes it has to do with GCSEs being marked independently.
A study showed that teachers often downgraded black pupils because they had lower expectations from them, based completely on stereotypes. When exams are marked outside of the school though, much of that bias is removed.
Wow, unconscious bias affecting the very brightest black students. That is so sad because the students work so hard. #BlackPM— Donia Narh (@DoniaNarh) November 13, 2016
When it’s time for A-levels a black state-educated student is more likely to be excluded than get three As. And even if someone has managed to jump all these hurdles, showing real tenacity and determination to force their way past circumstances they did not create, there’s another obstacle in the way: actually getting into the universities.
Black students are less likely to get accepted into university than white students even if they have the same grades.
Oxford was held up as particularly bad at admitting black students, and refused to issue an “institutional response” for David’s documentary, claiming the issues being discussed were “old and out of date”.
This despite Oxford still taking in a percentage of black students far less than the national percentage would suggest is normal.
A black student from Oxford, Cameron Mansa, didn’t mind speaking on the documentary though, and wasn’t afraid to label the university, and Britain as a whole, institutionally racist.
We need to engage with the issues, Cameron said.
Oxford was an important university to highlight given every Prime Minister since 1930 has been educated there.
In fact, this is where class plays just as much of a part as race. Oxford and Cambridge accept as many pupils from five fee-paying colleges as they do from 1,800 state schools.
A child born into that privilege, who’s able to attend a private school, top college, top university and then get a top job in media, law or a similar field is 90 times more likely to become Prime Minister than a black person. They have a one in 200 chance.
People were left with one conclusion.
Private school really is the key to life. Mad. #BlackPM— Such is life... (@Ceepz) November 13, 2016
Once passing through uni, many future politicians find jobs in the media. A quick look around the BBC’s newsroom for any black faces was revealing.
Overall, despite the deeply disappointing conclusions, David’s documentary was applauded.
And in order to make a black Prime Minister more likely, documentary collaborator Faiza had a few thoughts to offer.
After watching the #BlackPM you may feel angry and want to know how we change things. What’s the answer? 1/7— Faiza Shaheen (@faizashaheen) November 13, 2016
1. Tackle economic inequality and low-paid jobs. Black adults are disproportionately in low paid jobs that's why more child pov #BlackPM 3/7— Faiza Shaheen (@faizashaheen) November 13, 2016
2. Invest in the early years by committing public money to creating a high quality and inclusive childcare system #BlackPM 4/7— Faiza Shaheen (@faizashaheen) November 13, 2016
3. Focus on reducing child poverty – the government must stick to targets to eradicate poverty and end public spending cuts. 5/7 #BlackPM— Faiza Shaheen (@faizashaheen) November 13, 2016
4. Equality and distributional analysis BEFORE policy decisions are made.Not sexy but would ensure policies don't increase ineq 6/7 #BlackPM— Faiza Shaheen (@faizashaheen) November 13, 2016
5. Tackle discrimination and wider racial bias in society, incl more positive Black roles in films etc., & stopping hate speech #BlackPM 7/7— Faiza Shaheen (@faizashaheen) November 13, 2016
You can catch up on iPlayer here.