Activists slam UK government commission’s denial of systemic racism in the country 

The commission was formed after the Black Lives Matter protests rocked the country last year. It said that while there was racial discrimination in the country, it was not systemic or deliberate

April 01, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Photo : Socialist Appeal, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Outrage erupted in the UK on Wednesday, March 31 after a report, submitted by a government-appointed commission to investigate systemic racism, denied the allegation. Human rights activists and opposition parties called it “utter whitewash” after the report concluded that the UK can be a model for white majority countries.

Activists claimed that the report downplayed the inequalities in health and other economic sectors between different ethnic and racial communities in the UK. Though the report admits that there is racial discrimination in the country with some minority communities being persistently ”haunted” and discriminated, it claims that these are not “deliberate” or “systemic.” 

The report tries to explain the gaps in the social and economic standing of different communities in the UK by blaming it on factors other than race. It says that, “the evidence shows that geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion have more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism.”    

The UK’s conservative Boris Johnson government had appointed the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities headed by Dr. Tony Sewell after a series of protests broke out last year following the killing of George Floyd in the US. The protests, known as Black Lives Matters (BLM) movement, had highlighted systemic racial discrimination and had demanded immediate remedies. However, the report, which was to be submitted last year but was delayed apparently due to the COVID-19 outbreak, says that though “the UK is not yet a post-racial country,” it can be a role model for the other “white-majority countries” given its accomplishment in achieving equality in education and other economic fields.   

Reacting on the findings of the report, several activists took to Twitter calling it attempted “whitewash” and an act of “gaslighting” where the government denies the lived experiences of ethnic minorities in the country.

Prominent Labour party leaders, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, and Diane Abbott, a Member of Parliament, called the report “hard to understand” and an exercise in justifying racial discrimination.

BLM UK on its Twitter page said that the report did not come as a surprise given the fact that Munira Mirza, the head of the Downing Street policy unit under the Johnson government, who oversaw the appointment of the commission, has always denied systemic racism in the past and the report is a reflection of her thoughts.   

Reacting to the findings of the report, a spokesperson of the BLM movement in the UK told Al Jazeera that it reflects the fact that black Britons’ voices are yet not heard in the country.