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UK panel fights back ‘misrepresentation’ of its race disparities report

Historians, campaigners and the Opposition Labour Party were among those critical of the report's findings, which is intended to inform the government's equality and anti-racism measures.

By: PTI | London |
April 3, 2021 6:35:48 pm
The commission was set up by Prime Minister Boris Johnson following Black Lives Matter protests in the UK. (File Photo)

The UK government-appointed independent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has hit back at the “willful misrepresentation” of the findings of its report on understanding and addressing the causes of inequality in the country.

In a statement issued on Friday, the commission countered allegations by critics that it had downplayed racism in the UK or the history of slavery.

It said that the facts and analysis presented in its review challenge a number of strongly held beliefs about the nature and extent of racism in Britain today but in some cases fair and robust disagreement with the Commission’s work has tipped into misrepresentation.

“This misrepresentation risks undermining the purpose of the report, understanding and addressing the causes of inequality in the UK, and any of the positive work that results from it. For that reason, it is necessary to set the record straight,” the statement noted.

It added, “We have never said that racism does not exist in society or in institutions. We say the contrary: racism is real and we must do more to tackle it. That is why our very first recommendation to the government is to challenge racist and discriminatory action and increase funding to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to pursue investigations.”

Historians, campaigners and the Opposition Labour Party were among those critical of the report’s findings, which is intended to inform the government’s equality and anti-racism measures.

The exit of Samuel Kasumu, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior-most black adviser as Special Adviser for Civil Society and Communities, was also linked to the report, though Downing Street has strongly denied the link.

The Commission said: “There has also been a wilful misrepresentation by some people of the Commission’s view on the history of slavery. The idea that the Commission would downplay the atrocities of slavery is as absurd as it is offensive to every one of us.”

It added, “The report merely says that in the face of the inhumanity of slavery, African people preserved their humanity and culture. The Commission’s recommendation for the Government to create inclusive curriculum resources is about teaching these histories which often do not get the attention they deserve.”

The commissioners who worked on the report, which include Indian-origin mediaperson Dr Samir Shah, were targeted with social media trolling and personal attacks in the wake of its release earlier this week.

The Commission condemned the attacks as “irresponsible and dangerous”, adding, “Robust debate we welcome. But to depict us as racism deniers, slavery apologists or worse is unacceptable.”

It expressed the hope that its wide-ranging report will lead to further research and a better understanding of the complex causes of inequalities in the UK.

Prime Minister Johnson, who had commissioned the review last year in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of African-American George Floyd in the US, has dubbed it an “important piece of work” which will now define actions within government.

Among its many findings, the report had concluded that Indian pupils tend to perform well in education in Britain and also go on to have high average incomes as a result, a model that needs further research to be replicated across other ethnicities by the Department for Education.

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