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The Race and Ethnic Disparities Report and Why it Sucked

On 31st March 2021, a report on Race and Ethnic Disparities was released. This was a so-called independent report, commissioned by the Conservative government, and was used to demonstrate how racism in the UK isn't, it turns out, that bad. It concluded that the success in removing race-based disparity in education and, to a lesser extent, the economy, "should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries". This statement was made even more effective given the numerous black people who helped to construct the report. Call me cynical but I can't help but disagree almost entirely with the report's findings, and how it was communicated by the media.




There were some noteworthy points made by the report. Suggesting we stop using the term BAME as a universal acronym for basically anyone who is not-white is a helpful one. But any agreeable analysis was hugely undermined by its criticism of the "increasingly strident form of anti-racism thinking that seeks to explain all minority disadvantage through the prism of white discrimination". It also rejected terms such as white privilege. Launching the review last summer, Boris Johnson said: “What I really want to do as Prime Minister is change the narrative so we stop the sense of victimisation and discrimination." So, by ignoring the reality of white discrimination, and white privilege, by avoiding the lived experience of People of Colour, and by avoiding the other 6 major reports released in the last 4 years, the government seemed to have made pre-determined conclusions.


As The Guardian put it:


"If it is data on ethnic inequalities that Mr Johnson seeks, Whitehall has published report after report over the past few years proving “overt discrimination” in the criminal justice system (the Lammy review of 2017), “uncomfortable truths” about discrimination in schools, courts and workplaces (Theresa May’s race audit of 2017) , including over pay (the McGregor-Smith review of 2017); as well as “evidence” of racial disproportionality in deaths under police restraint (the Angiolini report, commissioned in 2015) and most recently the Windrush review of last March."


It isn't just most people of colour or most people on the left that disagreed with the report. Samuel Kasumu was the PM's adviser on ethnic minorities but has now quit amid the report's controversy. He refused to comment as to why but he originally tried to quit in February, clearly unhappy with the governments' position on race and racism. Another Conservative source said "we know inequality is complicated", but the report was "tone deaf" on issues such as slavery - described in a paragraph about the "Caribbean experience". If some Conservatives aren't even happy with the report, it is no surprise that other are not.


One of my main issues, along with the report completely ignoring so much other evidence and literature, is its position on assimilationism. The report hails the hard work immigrants have put in to fit in and add to our economy. But success measured by how well a minority community has acclimatised to the majority one is, according to many, a racist idea. In our case, it situates the white, Euro-centric viewpoint as the dominant, most-important one, placed higher up the hierarchy where it can suppress and control the immigrant viewpoint. In this report, other ethnicities are praised for contributing to Britain and not the other way round. White supremacy reigns supreme.


Finally, the tool of using black people to deliver a message against the existence of racism is a familiar propagandist technique that undermines the real, lived experiences of other black people. It is an example of gaslighting. One could also accuse the report of respectability politics, a topic I will write about in my next post.



To summarise, I question the reason of the report when there have been many reports recently. I question the methods. I question the conclusions. It all reeks of a government trying to downplay racism in order to avoid the issue. It doesn't have to address inequality if it denies its existence. And it is exactly this kind of avoidance that is the most harmful, the most irresponsible and the most political.


“If you are not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” — Malcolm X




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