Government-commissioned racism report 'contrived' and 'disingenuous' say social campaigners

"Propaganda" and "contrived" are some of the words used by two of the region's leading social campaigners to criticised a government-commissioned report on race and ethnic disparity.

Patrick Vernon OBE will discuss black history in Wolverhampton (Image by Wolverhampton Literature Festival)
Patrick Vernon OBE will discuss black history in Wolverhampton (Image by Wolverhampton Literature Festival)

The 258-page report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities said family structure and social class had a bigger impact than race on how people's lives turned out.

The commission was set up after Black Lives Matter (BLM) anti-racism protests across the country last summer, triggered by the killing of George Floyd in the US.

However, the report, which found that the UK "no longer" had a system rigged against minorities, has been accused of ignoring black and ethnic minority people's concerns.

Political activist Patrick Vernon OBE and journalist and author Sathnam Sanghera have both offered their own criticisms of the report, describing it as narrow and selective and stating institutional racism didn't exist.

Mr Vernon, who grew up in Bradmore in Wolverhampton, said he would have had more of a public engagement for the report and felt the report was not based on proper evidence.

He said: "The report itself is very narrow and selective in the evidence it uses to make the case that there is no structural racism, despite the fact that there's been lots of research work done over the past 30 to 40 years.

"We have clear legislation in place under the equalities act of 2010 which has recognised that public institutions in Britain are racist.

"There's a public sector equality duty to tackle and reduce racial discrimination which completely ignores the legal framework and they have completely ignored a lot of evidence.

"The report is simply focussing on trying to attempt a narrative to describe that Britain is not a racist society and it's down to the victims, which is a very narrow focussed approach in this report."

Mr Vernon also spoke about the approach of the Windrush scandal review, stating that the correct process had been followed, with evidence gathered and people spoken to, and felt that hadn't been done for this report.

He said: "They've also tried to justify the slave trade and say 'let's not talk about the profits that were made, let's talk about individuals', which negates the whole campaign about being colonised and the archives and history.

"It's really disappointing as the report is not a report based on proper evidence, but feels like propaganda that's been engineered to almost pretend to create a colour-blind society, which is not the case."

Sathnam Sanghera, author of Empireland which examines the impact of the British Empire, said the report was one of the most cynical and disingenuous government reports he had ever read.

Wolverhampton journalist Sathnam Sanghera

Mr Sanghera, who grew up in Ettingshall and attended Wolverhampton Grammar School, also offered his own critique of the report, describing it as surreal and contrived.

He said: "When you do actually read the report, as I have, it doesn't actually talk much about institutional racism. I don't think it works even on its own terms."

"The way right wingers have leapt on the report saying it reflects the lived experience of a panel is so weird.

"What, suddenly they're listening to the lived experience of people of colour? That's not true. You're listening to the views of people of colour you've selected for their views.

"We all know it's perfectly possible to be brown and unprogressive, and narrow-minded and even bigoted and the whole thing has been contrived to reflect Boris Johnson's views.

"Boris Johnson and Tony Sewell, have criticised the concept of structural racism in the past and, surprise, surprise, they've got a report saying what they think."

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