Mercy Muroki: I’m just not sure that labelling everything as institutionally racist will get us very far

A Professor at Manchester University has said that academic research in the UK is, quote, ‘definitely institutionally racist’

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A Professor at Manchester University has said that academic research in the UK is, quote, ‘definitely institutionally racist’.

He told the BBC that black academics were finding it hard to navigate systems of unspoken norms when it came to getting their research funded, and were not being supported.

As a result, more black academic researchers drop out and far fewer are made professors than their white counterparts.

Now, Professor Jackson is allowed to have his opinion and he is indeed in a long line of people who think academia - and indeed Britain itself - is institutionally racist.

But I'm not quite sure that people not being able to 'navigate cultural norms' and not being given adequate mentorship is tantamount to racism.

So, what is institutional racism? Well, there is no agreed definition but the definition given in the landmark Macpherson report into police handling of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence is most widely cited.

Institutional racism, according to Macpherson can "be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviours which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people".

The trouble is, I think the term institutional racism has become so convoluted and ambiguous that it manages to encompass just about everything and ends up meaning very little.

And I genuinely believe half of the people who use the term wouldn’t even be able to give you a sound definition of what it is they actually mean when they brandish the term.

I have been accused of casually dismissing racism… But that is patently untrue. I don’t deny racism at all. In fact, my only crime is that I take the term ‘institutional racism’ so seriously that I don’t think it should ever be thrown around casually.

I certainly don’t think institutions should ever be guilty until proven innocent when it comes to racism.

We have a long way to go until the unfair racial disparities that do exist in Britain are corrected. If you don't think there are still racial injustices, then I'm afraid there's probably no reasoning with you.

But I’m just not sure that labelling everything as institutionally racist will get us very far.