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Blacks in Britain bash report denying institutional racism

LONDON —A royal ruckus over racism roils Britain.

This ruckus has nothing to do with fallout from the widely watched interview that Oprah Winfrey conducted with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex where those royals-in-exile revealed their encounters with racist behaviors arising from Meghan Markle being Black.

This ruckus is reaction to a report released in March, a few weeks after the Winfrey interview, which proclaimed institutional racism was no longer a problem in England, the country long defined by rigid class and race divides.

The conservative government of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson commissioned the controversial report done by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.

The report’s conclusion about minimal institutional racism clashes with abundant evidence of structural discrimination across British society.

For example, the unemployment rate for non-whites in England is triple the rate for whites, and Blacks comprise just 155 of that nation’s 23,000 college professors.

The report that acknowledged 28% of Black households were “on persistent low income” compared to 12% of white households denied that exclusionary barriers from discrimination persist.

The release of the report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities ignited intense outrage across England from petition campaigns to protests. Outrage particularly targeted passages in the report like slavery “culturally” benefited Africans. Nine of the commission’s 10 members are non-white.

“To deny institutional racism is just astounding,” Zita Holbourne said. The London-based rights activist noted that years of fiscal austerity policies from conservative governments that ravished non-whites “has amplified the racism” Blacks endure daily.

The report sparked a sharp rebuke from the United Nations.

According to the United Nation’s Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, the report cited “dubious evidence to make claims that rationalize white supremacy by using the familiar arguments that have always justified racial hierarchy.”

The report from the Disparities Commission found “white prejudice” dwindling in England. The report proclaimed evidence underlying vast disparities from employment to wealth does not support perceptions that being an ethnic minority in Britain “is to be treated unfairly by default.”

The report claimed disparities that some “attribute to racial discrimination often do not have their origins in racism.” The report declared England’s “largest disadvantaged group is low-income white boys.”

Scientist Sir Geoff Palmer said he sees a political agenda behind the report.

“No institutional racism means institutions have to do nothing about racism. This is just a government device to rid the government of responsibility to address institutional racism,” Palmer said. “The prime minister will defend the report saying it was written by Black people.”

Britain’s Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not respond to requests for comment on the commission’s report.

The report asserted that the unsubstantiated claim from non-whites about institutional racism “diverts attention from the other reasons for minority success and failure, including those embedded in the cultures and attitudes of those minority communities themselves.”

Britain’s government set up the commission last year in reaction to Black Lives Matters protests that rocked England following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States.

The commission’s report bashed young activists, contending their criticisms that “institutional racism and white privilege” are dominant features in British society will achieve “nothing” beyond alienating “decent” people.

Leroy Logan, a founder and first chairman of Britain’s Black Police Association, said, “We know [policing] is institutionally racist,” highlighting a fact confirmed by repeated inquiries including some conducted by Parliament, Britain’s national legislature.

“Police have had a problem with race since the 1950s … racism externally and internally,” he said.

Logan was a police officer and ranking police official in London for 30 years before his retirement in 2013. His efforts to address racism in policing resulted in repeated retribution from authorities. Before that Logan gave up a job as a scientist to try to change racist attitudes from within the police force. His story is seen in the “Small Axe” film anthology by Steve McQueen that looks at Black life in Britain.

In November 2020, a report that examined human rights in England released by Britain’s Parliament amplified Logan’s assessment of institutional racism.

Blacks were five times more likely to “have force used against them by police” as whites, stated the section of the report entitled “Over-representation of Black people in the Criminal Justice System.”

That section also noted that Blacks comprised 7.7% of the prison population despite comprising only 3.4% of England’s population and police arrest Black children four times more often than white children.

Another report from a parliamentary body issued in October 2020 listed no “Black chief officers” on police forces in England.

“Stop and search is one of the most clear examples of institutional racism,” Logan said.

Racial profiling like stop and search plus other abusive policing triggered a series of riots including the disturbances in 2011 that spread from London to other major cities across England after police fatally shot a Black man in North London.

Although a February 2021 British government report stated Blacks are subjected to stop and search at more than twice the rate of whites, the Disparities Commission report defended the practice as a “critical tool for policing” that just needs better public awareness of its “legitimacy.”

Velma McClymont, a community activist, is among many who have demanded that the prime minister reject the commission’s report.

“This report gives Britain a free pass to hold itself up as a place without racism that is better than the U.S.,” McClymont said.

McClymont’s Womanz Vue organization hosted two virtual discussions in April to critique the Disparities Commission’s report that attracted hundreds of participants.

The strident backlash to assertions and inaccuracies in that report prompted a swift response from the Disparities Commission two days after issuance of its report.

“The facts and analysis we presented challenge a number of strongly held beliefs about the nature and extent of racism in Britain today,” the commission’s response said. “Sadly, however, in some cases fair and robust disagreement with the commission’s work has tipped into misrepresentation [that] risks undermining addressing the causes of inequality” in Britain.

Family of Andrew Brown Jr. remembers his life and calls for justice in his death at his funeral

The family of Andrew Brown Jr. gathered at a church in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on Monday to remember his life and call for transparency and justice in his death after the 42-year-old was fatally shot by sheriff’s deputies two weeks ago.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, delivering the eulogy at Brown’s funeral, likened the authorities’ lack of transparency in Brown’s killing to a “shell game,” the classic street game that is secretly rigged against those participating.

“I know a con game when I see it. Release the whole tape and let the folks see what happened to Andrew Brown,” Sharpton said.

“Don’t talk to us like we’re stupid. If there’s nothing on the tape, there won’t be nothing on it in 45 days, and if there’s something on it in 45 days, there’s something on it today.”

Sharpton’s eulogy came after comments from members of Brown’s family, their attorneys and families of other Black people killed by police.

Family attorney Benjamin Crump, standing alongside attorneys Bakari Sellers and Harry Daniels, said Brown’s killing was unjustifiable and connected it to the broader issue of police violence against Black people.

“Because Andrew cannot make the plea for justice, it is up to us to make the plea for justice,” Crump said.

Brown was fatally shot by Pasquotank County deputies who were trying to execute a warrant on April 21, just a day after the guilty verdict in the murder trial of a former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck.

Nearly two weeks later, authorities have released few details about what led to the shooting, even as it has prompted protests in Elizabeth City. An autopsy commissioned by Brown’s family and their attorneys said Brown suffered five gunshot wounds — four to the right arm and one to the back of his head. His attorneys said he was not armed.

State law requires that body camera footage can be released only with a court order. A North Carolina judge ruled last Wednesday that Brown’s family would be allowed to see body camera footage of the shooting, but the videos would not be made public for at least 30 days.

Last week Brown’s family was able to view a short snippet of footage, about 20 seconds long, which a family attorney said depicted an “execution.” Only two family members were able to see the footage along with legal representatives, Daniels told CNN.

Sellers told CNN on Monday that Brown’s family wants Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble to recuse himself from the case because Womble has worked extensively with the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Department on other cases.

The family’s attorneys are currently drafting a letter asking for Womble’s recusal, Sellers said. CNN has reached out to Womble for comment but has not heard back.

Brown’s son says they were best friendsLined up outside the Fountain of Life church, the family wore shirts that read “Long Live Drew” and featured Brown’s picture, while the back of the shirts read, “Gone but never forgotten.” Overhead, a plane flew with a banner that read, “Andrew Brown, Jr. Never Forget.”

Two young children walked inside the church holding an adult’s hand wearing shirts that read “RIP Dad” on the front with a picture of Brown. Brown’s closed metallic casket was in front of the stage inside the church.

Khalil Ferebee, Brown’s son, spoke of his love for his father and said he would have loved seeing everyone together.

“Everybody keep their hands up and keep God in your prayers because he going to work all this out for us,” Ferebee said Monday. “It’s a terrible way we had to be together like this but seeing everybody, I’m glad we together like this right now. He would have loved this. I just wish he was here with us. As much as I’m going to wish and wish and wish all day, it’s not going to happen.”

Jha’rod Ferebee, another of Brown’s sons, said his father was his best friend and they were constantly together.

“Me and my dad we were like best friends. Every time you see him, you see me, and every time you see me, you see him,” he said. “I remember growing up, couldn’t nobody tell me nothing wrong with my daddy,”

Jha’rod Ferebee said although his father was not present physically, he was still with them.

“It’s crazy what’s going on right now and I love my daddy to death. He’s here though. He’s definitely here though,” he said.

FBI opens civil rights investigation into shootingThe family and the district attorney have given different accounts of what happened on the day Brown was shot, with the latter saying in a court hearing last week that deputies fired when the car Brown was driving made contact with law enforcement. But the family and their attorneys said Brown was driving away to save his life.

Protests calling for the release of the body camera footage continued Sunday, with a criminal justice reform demonstration held in Brown’s honor. Brown’s family, community leaders and activists marched through Elizabeth City, chanting his name and holding flags that read, “Black Lives Matter.”

“Release the tapes,” marchers chanted Sunday. “The whole tapes. The real tapes.”

Jadine Hampton, Brown’s cousin, told CNN that although the family is grieving, they can’t stop demanding justice.

“I think we are grieving but we are doing what we have to do,” she said. “Because the way things happened, we have to be here, we have to support, we have to protest. We have a long road ahead.”

“The first order is release the tapes, the whole tapes, all of them, every angle, every bodycam that was on,” Hampton said. “We need to see it.”

The shooting is under investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. The FBI has opened a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting, according to the bureau’s Charlotte field office.

“I want y’all to hear the pain in this community. The pain, the yelling that y’all hear, the agony that y’all hear — this is pain,” family attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter said in a news conference last Tuesday. “And a lot of time pain is interpreted as rebellion or whatever people want to interpret it as. Call it what it is. It’s painful for this family. It’s painful for this community.”

Brown’s funeral service follows those of at least two other Black people killed in encounters with law enforcement in recent weeks: Daunte Wright and Ma’Khia Bryant.

Philadelphia City Councilmembers question Kenney's commitment to growing Black-owned businesses in spending plans

Philadelphia legislators slammed the Kenney administration Monday for not investing in the growth of Black- and brown-owned businesses in its proposed spending plans.

During their first legislative budget hearing, members of City Council said Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022, which kicks off July 1, and five-year fiscal plan lack a commitment to growing the wealth of residents of color.

“I don’t really see how we’re trying to grow Black and brown wealth when we have not historically done that through this administration,” Councilmember at-large Derek Green said during the hearing.

Green called for using more of the city’s $1.4 billion in federal coronavirus stimulus funds to grow Black- and brown-owned businesses rather than the $55 million that the administration has proposed.

Under questioning from legislators, Kenney chief of staff James Engler acknowledged the administration has never set measurable goals for expanding the city’s share of Black- and brown-owned businesses, in terms of storefronts or employees.

“We know that that number is far too low,” Engler said, referring to the city’s share of Black-owned and minority-owned businesses. “It’s far too low in relation to our peer cities. It is an area of immediate need for us.”

The Kenney administration invested $77.3 million in small business relief last year from previous federal stimulus funds, Engler said. He added that the administration has set other goals for supporting local minority-owned businesses, including seeking to provide a percentage of city contracts to them.

Commerce Director Michael Rashid said the city aims to expand existing programs that help the Black and brown economy, which include assisting them with supply chain issues.

While Rashid said the city welcomed new commitments from big business and banks to support Black- and brown-owned businesses, he was skeptical those pledges would materialize.

“They’re saying that they’re going to spend money with Black and brown businesses,” Rashid said. “Quite frankly, we’re skeptical that those commitments are going to be carried forward.”

Nearly 6% of Philadelphia businesses with employees were Black-owned, according to U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 Annual Business Survey. When city businesses with no paid employees are included — which African Americans tend to have — an estimated 25% of the city’s businesses are Black-owned, according to the latest census data from 2012.

Legislators also probed the mayor’s proposals to cut wage and business taxes at a time when the city was recovering from the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Kenney administration aims to cut both the wage tax and the business income and receipts tax (BIRT) through fiscal year 2026. Cuts to the wage tax for both residents and non-residents would reduce revenue by $186 million and mark the lowest level for the tax in five decades. The wage tax makes up the largest share of the city’s revenue.

The savings from the proposed wage tax reductions would provide approximately $14 annually for the average median household earning $45,927 in the upcoming fiscal year.

Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez equated the wage tax cut for the average homeowner to “buying people three cups of coffee.” She said the Kenney administration was not aggressively helping Black- and brown-owned businesses, whose biggest liability is the net-profits portion of BIRT.

Councilmember at-large Helen Gym said Kenney’s proposed tax cuts and overall budget did not appear to address racial equity or Black- and brown-owned economic corridors as the city recovers from the pandemic. Gym characterized the tax cuts as a broad-based tax reduction primarily targeting businesses.

“I have concerns that we would be better off using this money and pursuing a much more moderated strategy around the wage tax reductions and front-ending a lot of support getting the [federal coronavirus stimulus funding] going in our neighborhoods for Black and brown businesses,” Gym said.

City Finance Director Robert Dubow said wage and business taxes “get in the way of job growth in the city.” He said that the net-income portion of BIRT also will be reduced over five years, which will help small businesses.

Dubow added that the city cannot impose different tax rates on businesses or individuals. The city is limited by the state’s uniformity clause, which requires taxes on income be set at the same rate.

Engler said the Kenney administration was aiming to reduce the city’s reliance on the wage tax, “which we know causes us harm when we get financial shocks like a pandemic or like a major recession.”

The Kenney administration expects the city to shed 15% of all jobs due to working remotely, which would reduce wage tax revenue by approximately $100 million a year, Dubow said. Non-residents are required to pay the wage tax only if they work within the borders of the city.

Dubow added that non-residents are projected to claw back an estimated $125 million in the current fiscal year and $70 million in fiscal year 2022.

“So, really a substantial hit to our revenues,” he said.

City legislators must pass a budget before July 1. Budget hearings resume Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

FDA appears poised to authorize Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for adolescents by next week

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration is expected by next week to grant expanded emergency use authorization to allow children as young as 12 to receive the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and German firm BioNTech, according to three federal officials familiar with the situation.

The agency is working on the authorization, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely. Shortly after the FDA decision, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee is expected to meet to recommend how the vaccine should be used.

The New York Times first reported that the regulatory action was pending.

Families and pediatricians have been eager for a vaccine to become available for children, particularly in advance of the next school year.

Stephanie Caccomo, a spokeswoman for the FDA, declined to comment on whether the decision has been made.

“The FDA’s review of Pfizer’s request to amend its emergency use authorization (EUA) in order to expand the age range for its COVID-19 vaccine to include individuals 12-15 years of age is ongoing. We can assure the public that we are working to review this request as quickly and transparently as possible,” Caccomo said.

The FDA in December authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in people 16 and older.

Pfizer announced at the end of March that it had submitted data from a trial of nearly 2,300 adolescents between 12 and 15 years old, half of whom had received the same two-shot regimen that has been shown effective and safe in adults.

The shot triggered stronger immune responses in the teens than those found in young adults. There were 18 cases of COVID-19 in the trial, all of them among adolescents who received a placebo, suggesting the two-shot regimen offered similar protection to younger recipients as it does to adults.

Children are far less likely to suffer severe illness from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. About 300 children have died in the United States, out of more than 576,000 total deaths.

Trials testing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in younger children are ongoing.

The biotech company Moderna is conducing a similar trial of its vaccine in teens, with results expected in the summer. Moderna is also testing its vaccine in younger children. Johnson & Johnson is planning pediatric trials of its single-shot vaccine.