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A fair conclusion?

April 2, 2021 2:36 PM

66cw (Photo by James Eades on Unsplash)Over the past few days the media has been full of reaction to the findings of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, (See here Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) for full report ) set up by the Prime Minister after the Black Lives Matter protests last summer. In particular the commission said the term institutional racism was "too liberally used" and that factors such as socio-economic background, culture and religion have a "more significant impact on life chances". They went on to say that "outright racism still exists", the UK was not a "post-racial society", and stressed: "We take the reality of racism seriously and we do not deny that it is a real force in the UK".

It is the claim that the UK suffers from institutionalised racism was "not borne out by the evidence", that has been criticised by race equality campaigners as divisive.

Is the report a whitewash as claimed?

For those old enough to remember the 1970s it is clearly the case that society has moved a long way towards greater tolerance be it on race or sexual orientation. The claim the UK is a beacon of racial tolerance may be a step too far however ( its funny how this government loves to emphasise British Exceptionalism on everything - remember world class test and trace- irrespective of the true situation).

You cannot escape the feeling however that this review was created with a positive answer in mind. The head of the government-appointed race commission, Dr Tony Sewell, had previously suggested that the evidence for "institutional racism" is "somewhat flimsy". Last year Dr Sewell, who currently runs education charity Generating Genius, described the Black Lives Matter demonstrations as a "lower middle-class revolt". He was appointed by Munira Mirza, head of the Downing Street policy unit. Like Dr Sewell, she has previously downplayed the idea of racism as an "institutional problem". saying in 2018 "It reinforces this idea that ethnic minorities are being systematically oppressed, that there's a sort of institutional problem, when in fact what we've seen in the last 20 years is a liberalisation, an opening up for many people."

One of the other Commissioners was Dr Dambisa Moyo, who sits on the board of Chevron and 3M Company, and attracted controversy over her book Dead Aid. which argued that most foreign aid to Africa had harmed the continent and should be phased out, claiming it had fostered dependency and corruption. She clashed with philanthropist Bill Gates over the subject, after he claimed books like hers were "promoting evil"

The Commissions findings have also been tainted by accusations from "stakeholders" named in the report that they had not been involved

S.I Martin, an author who specialises in the field of black British history and literature is named in the report, told The Independent: "I was never consulted, I don't know what record they have of contacting me." "I am not naive enough either to expect either an explanation or an apology from anyone in government for this." A second academic Stephen Bourne said he felt "manipulated" at his name appearing in the report as being consulted by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities' "How dare you do that, I said that is so unprofessional so rude to invite me to what I thought was going to be what we discussed, a round table discussion of historians of black Britain. And it turns out to be this commission which I've never heard of. I said you should have explained all of this".

What has particularly annoyed campaigners for greater equality is the findings go against so many other government sponsored reports

It may be coincidence as claimed by the government but the news that Boris Johnson's most senior black adviser for civil society and communities Samuel Kasumu has told colleagues he will resign from his role next month

Lord Woolley, who appointed Kasumu to No 10's race disparity unit during Theresa May's time as prime minister, said "The only black special adviser in No 10 has felt that his only recourse to this grubby, divisive Sewell report is to resign. I appointed Samuel to the race disparity advisory group when we first launched. He is a decent man whose energy has been hellbent on serving his country and tackling systemic racism," he said.

The first thing you have to do if you have a problem is recognise you have it! If we are to eradicate racism from our society you cannot do that by pretending the problem doesn't exist. That is the risk from the Commissions report