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Covid 19 is not 'racist' - British institutions are. Covid shines light on Britain's inequalities

By Marceline Powell.

Let's just cut straight to it. I've deliberately picked the above title to allow me to get straight to the point, without apology. And I'll repeat the main point at the start. Corona virus is not 'racist', British institutions are.

Covid 19, Corona Virus, whatever title you choose for this disturbing, killer pandemic, it is not discriminating anyone on the basis of skin colour. Rather, what we are seeing highlighted are the harsh realities and impact of the inequalities Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities live with every day in the UK.

Be it, finance, banking, employment, education, business, politics, media or health. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities are at the bottom of the pecking order, even in the 21st century and despite being such important contributors to the mechanics of British society.

The disproportionate impact on black men and women is most likely caused by lack of - or reduced- quality of care, the lack of cultural policies and strategies that take into account specific cultural needs in health care and recovery, from the most basic things like the food we eat in hospital during recovery to being offered little or no information on health issues that affect us specifically. Examples of such conditions include but are not limited to:

Sickle Cell, Diabetes and Vitamin D deficiency. The latter, being extremely important when we consider the impact Vitamin D has on the immune system and the importance of a healthy immune system when fighting any infection, and specifically Covid 19.

"As a black community we will be disproportionately affected by this pandemic in several ways, our health is the first and most obvious and the black economy is another area where we will take a massively disproportionate blow."

It is important to acknowledge that Vitamin D absorbs calcium from the gut which is required to maintain optimal bone health. If there is a lack of vitamin D in the body, then deficiencies result in rickets and osteocalcin which develop in soft bones, but also hypocalcemia complications. Low calcium can also cause life-threatening seizures and heart failure.

If thousands of people are walking around with a low or deficient Vitamin D count, they can be unknowingly at risk of all sorts of conditions. But research suggests, that since this condition predominantly affects people with higher melanin, it is not featured on any specific health agenda, there is no awareness about it and in some cases people are offered the cheapest drugs due to the most effective drugs being particularly expensive. In February we published an article called; Have you ever heard of Vitamin D Deficiency?

The article highlighted that the number of so called 'BAME' people hospitalised due to vitamin D deficiency rises every day. Specifically, the patients affected by this deficit remain largely unidentified because of the lack of media coverage.

Given the proportion of 'BAME' people in the UK, there is an urgent need to share information and awareness, and to update the current policies and implement useful strategies.

Whilst Vitamin D is likely only one of the many unspoken issues increasing the impact of Covid 19 on black men and women, it is an extremely important and simple factor that will no doubt be playing a part in the disproportionality being reported in the mainstream media. Some would argue that black people are the easiest to target with 'folklore and moral panic' due to our lack of representation at any important table, such as politics, media or the economy and in the decisions made in these arena's.

This means that any public information about us largely goes unchallenged by us as a community. We react to information (Covid 19 and disproportionate deaths amongst BAME people being a prime example) rather than be pro-active and raise issues around lack of awareness on such matters as Vitamin D, Sickle Cell and so on, before we find ourselves in crisis' such as the one we face today with the corona virus pandemic.

As a black community we will be disproportionately affected by this pandemic in several ways, our health is the first and most obvious and the black economy is another area where we will take a massively disproportionate blow.

Looking at the following inequalities that already exist in British society, we see a bleak picture of why we are affected more than others in any crisis that has an impact on social, economic or health conditions.

Let us explore.

Data suggest lower BAME take-up of insurance, this includes contents as well as buildings, and worryingly life and health insurance. This will absolutely have an impact on the quality of care received.

Research from the past 20 years has shown varying levels of disparity between White and BAME communities and their access to financial services.

33% of White people have no savings, compared to 60% of Asian or Asian British people and 63% of Black or Black British people. Despite this, a report from the Department for Communities and Local Government found evidence that people from ethnic minority groups are more likely to have their loan applications rejected than Indian and White businesses. This will have a dramatic effect on our ability to recover from this crisis compared to other communities.

Research has shown that Ethnic Minority Businesses are significantly more likely to exhibit discouragement in applying for finance.

Studies on access to consumer credit have shown that non-White households are less likely to have financing than White households, despite controlling for income levels and other demographics.

Despite being warned about increased levels of fraud during the pandemic, are you aware that we generally face discrimination when trying to claim money back from our banks? Mechanisms of inequality and discrimination may adapt over time but their effect on Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) people has remained similar for decades. A recent Cambridge University study revealed figures showing ethnic minority victims of fraud are more than twice as likely to be denied a refund by their bank as White customers, despite clear rules.

According to the research, Black customers are the least likely to get their money back and White customers are most likely. An implicit prejudice could make banks intrinsically discriminatory of ethnic minorities.

Other key areas of inequality that are no secret:

Pay inequality / education

RESEARCH by the University and College Union found that black and minority ethnic (BAME) academic staff at UK universities were paid less than their white counterparts. They are also considerably less likely to hold the most senior jobs.

The data demonstrated a pay gap of 9% for BAME staff, compared with their white colleagues, and a 14% gap for black staff.

The UCU research, based on analysis of the 2017-18 Higher Education Statistics Agency staff record, confirmed that British universities continued to make slow progress promoting black and other minority ethnic staff to senior positions and ensure pay equality.

Education (highlighted above in relation to careers and pay gaps) and in addition some BAME groups have poorer educational attainment at GCSE and A-levels.

Labor market

BAME groups have different labor market participation rates, as well as inactivity and self-employment rates. Some groups are disproportionately represented in certain [low paid] sectors of the labor market. Restaurant, catering and transport industries.

Some BME groups are far more likely to work in the restaurant, catering and transport industries, and they are also disproportionately likely to be self-employed in these areas. These areas are more likely to be part of the informal economy.


Some BAME groups are much more likely to be social renters, live in low-quality housing, and be homeless. Almost all BAME groups are less likely to own homes. Home ownership is the greatest source of assets for the vast majority of people in the UK.

Credit – evidence for discrimination?

There is evidence of discrimination in BAME Small and Medium Enterprises’ (SME) access to credit in the UK. There is also evidence internationally of discrimination in other forms of credit.

Assets – home ownership and ethnicity

BME groups are less likely to own homes, and less likely to have the largest source of assets in the UK.

It is a bleak picture indeed, and one that vindicates Covid 19 of discrimination and instead shows how the pandemic highlights the racist institutions of Great Britain.

Download and read the reports on BAME communities and inequalities in Britain.

Download PDF • 144KB

FinancialInclusion-2008 Runneymead Trust
Download • 1.29MB

FinancialInclusion-2008 Runneymead Trust
Download • 1.29MB

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