WAS I surprised by the Chief Constable of Police Scotland’s admission last week that the force “is institutionally racist and discriminatory”? No, not really.

Minorities have long been aware of the deep-seated biases within the system.

Nonetheless, it is a watershed moment in history that Sir Iain Livingstone has finally spoken out and acknowledged the institutional racism and discrimination that has persisted for far too long.

But this debate is not a new one for UK police forces.

The Macpherson Inquiry, established in 1997, examined the handling by the Metropolitan Police of the tragic death of Stephen Lawrence, a Black teenager who was brutally murdered in a racially motivated attack in London in 1993, and investigated allegations of institutional racism within the police.

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Two years later, the report was published. It concluded that the Metropolitan Police was, indeed, “institutionally racist”.

Institutional racism was defined in this landmark report as “the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin.”

It went beyond individual acts of racism, emphasising the systemic and structural nature of discrimination within the police force.

This was more than 20 years ago. All police forces in this country should have reflected on this and taken proactive measures.

It makes me wonder why it took so long for Police Scotland to acknowledge its issues. Was it not a priority? Or did the sensitivity of the issue deter the police from confronting it head-on?

Then – predictably – the backlash started, with talk of police officers being thrown under the bus, kicked in the chest, and simply offended.

I find it really disheartening to see that despite all the tragedies and discussions surrounding institutional racism and sexism in recent years, there are still so many people who just don’t seem – or want – to get it. It is as if we were stuck in this cycle of misunderstanding and denial.

It isn’t just about the police; the problem of institutional racism and discrimination goes way beyond that. It is like a poison that seeps into every aspect of our society.

You see it in healthcare, where Black women are more likely to die in childbirth than white women. You see it in education, where students of colour face barriers and limited opportunities. It is in the justice system, where biases can lead to unfair outcomes.

Even in the job market and housing, discrimination rears its ugly head, shutting doors for so many.

These instances are not just isolated incidents. They are part of a larger pattern of systemic inequality. It is about how our institutions and systems are set up in a way that disadvantages certain groups while favouring others.

This is why it is not enough to address discrimination on a case-by-case basis, as some suggest, as if it was a matter of a few problematic individuals being mean to Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, and people who are LGBTQ+.

Of course, discriminatory structures and systems require discriminatory individuals to survive, and rely on those who enable or passively accept these structures.

But the narrative of “a few bad apples” is a trap. I get why it is so easy to fall into it – it is comfortable because it allows us to shift the blame and responsibility onto a small group of people.

Recognising this trap is crucial because it means we can’t simply focus on addressing individual attitudes alone. We need to challenge the broader structures and societal norms that allow discrimination to happen in the first place.

It’s not just about pointing fingers at the baddies; it’s about examining and challenging the very foundations on which our society is built.

Fighting against discrimination means challenging and dismantling the structures and policies that perpetuate inequality and disadvantage within certain groups based on their race, gender, or other characteristics. It is about questioning the status quo and pushing for structural change.

Sure, it may be more comfortable to pin the blame on a few individuals, but that won’t solve the underlying problem. We need to dig deeper and confront the uncomfortable truth that discrimination is deeply rooted in our society.

Breaking down those structures requires an ongoing effort to educate ourselves, challenge our preconceived notions, and have open and empathetic conversations.

We need everyone, from policymakers and educators to healthcare providers and employers, to recognise the systemic nature of discrimination. We need everyone on board, from top to bottom, to make a real difference.

Only then we will be able to create a society where opportunities are truly equal, regardless of someone’s race or any other traits.

We can’t afford to brush off these discussions or ignore the experiences of those who face discrimination every day. It is on all of us to actively learn and unlearn, to question our own biases and privilege, and to actively work towards a more inclusive and equitable society.

It is not an easy journey, but it is a necessary one.

But to be honest, I am frustrated.

I remember a speaker at a rally following George Floyd’s murder in Paris in 2020, who said: “I’m tired of talking about systemic racism. I have nothing more to say. I just want change.”

I feel the same. We have been talking and talking about these issues for a long time now. It is like we are stuck in this loop where we keep repeating the same conversations without seeing the real change we want.

It is time to move beyond just talking. We need action, tangible steps that can make a difference. Progress is so slow... but we can’t let that discourage those of us who passionately care about equality.

Livingstone finally admitted that Police Scotland had an issue. It’s about time someone said it out loud. This acknowledgement shines a spotlight on the fact that discrimination goes beyond just a few bad apples; it’s ingrained within the system itself.

It is a big step forward in confronting the biases that have been holding us back.

But let’s not stop at just recognition. I hope that the institution doesn’t just pat itself on the back and call it a day.

No, we need to turn these discussions into real action. I hope they roll up their sleeves and get to work. We need concrete steps to address the systemic issues that allow discrimination to thrive.

This moment could be a catalyst for action, to challenge the status quo, push for meaningful reforms, and set an example for other countries to follow. We have the opportunity to use this admission of institutional racism and discrimination within Police Scotland as a trigger for action.

Instead of trying to shut down the conversation, let’s embrace it, rise to the challenge, and grow as a society.