I have been reading and watching the growing number of disturbing reports in Britain that claim the fact that virus deaths are disproportionate in people from backgrounds that include African, West Indian, and the Indian sub-continent are ‘deliberate negligence’. There is a Facebook group of British Muslims who openly accuse the NHS and the government of allowing their relatives to die, because of their ethnicity. One member even called it ‘ethnic cleansing’.
Now I see on the BBC that the new Labour Party leader is calling for a public enquiry into this, and it is to be led by Baroness Lawrence, a black woman who is famous for campaigning for justice for her murdered son many years ago.
I have to say that I personally find these accusations to be appalling. I worked in the NHS for 22 years, and know many who still do, including my own wife. I never saw any different treatment given to non-white people, and I worked in an area of huge cultural diversity.
To save Baroness Lawrence the time, and to save public expenditure, I can offer the following suggestions about why the differential in deaths in ethnic minority groups might be happening. And it has nothing to do with racism, as anyone who knows me well will affirm that I am not racist.
1) Traditional living conditions, and culture.
It is rare these days for white British extended families to continue to live in the same house. You might be hard-pressed to find a house where grandparents, parents, children, and aunts and uncles all share the same dwelling. However, in many families with an Indian and Pakistani background that is NOT unusual. The same applies to some West Indian and African families. Therefore, their chances of infecting more people when they return from work or shopping trips are far greater.
Many people of the Muslim faith, and some Evangelical Christian groups come from those same backgrounds. Despite the current restrictions, it has been noted that some are still gathering in groups for religious services and celebrations. This is not the case with prdominantly white Church of England and Catholic followers.
3) City living.
The majority of people from those backgrounds live in areas where other people from those backgrounds also live. And they tend to be in larger cities, like London, Manchester and Birmingham. In Bradford, Yorkshire, Muslims from ethnic backgrounds make up 25% of the population. Therefore, living in populous towns and cities makes those people more susceptible to becoming infected.
4) Pre-existing medical conditions.
I can tell you from years of personal experience that people from those ethnic groups have a higher than average incidence of Diabetes. Much of this is caused by diet and lack of exercise, especially in the older age groups. They also have a very high rate of kidney falure, and the need for regular dialysis. This is supected to be genetic in origin. Being generally ill before the arrival of Covid-19 means you are much more likely to die, if you are infected. That is commonsense, not racism.
Much has been made of economic factors affecting survival. If this was the case, then the black and Indian doctors and nurses who have died would not have been affected, surely? Their income is above average, and in the case of surgeons, very high. And just as many white doctors and nurses have been infected and died. This is about being constantly exposed to infection. Not about how much you earn, and whether or not you are unemplyed and live on a housing estate.
By contrast, white British families tend to live separately. Children move out of home earlier, and grandparents rarely live in the family home. Uncles and aunts have their own accommodation, and family gatherings are usually limited to birthdays, weddings, and funerals. Our culture changed over the decades since my youth, but theirs did not. It’s not racist, it is just a fact. White British people have also been abandoning organised religion in huge numbers over the past forty years. Church attendances are falling, and nobody I know ever goes to any form of religious services. So, less gatherings, not racism.
In these difficult times, the last thing we need is criticism of the NHS, itself an employer of a huge percentage of staff from those same ethnic minorities claiming that those same people are actively allowing their relatives to die, and in some cases accusing them of facilitating their death by mistreatment.
Baroness Lawrence and the Labour leader should know better than to become involved in this sham of an enquiry.