50.50: News

UK report denying racism criticised as ‘culture war posturing’

During a new openDemocracy live discussion, experts called the British government report ‘spectacularly bad’ propaganda

Teddy Wilson
Teddy Wilson
9 April 2021, 2.53pm

A British government report denying the existence of institutional racism in the UK has been condemned by leading academics and activists.

During an openDemocracy panel discussion on Thursday, experts said that the report legitimised a “fringe perspective” and propaganda for “culture war posturing”.

Kehinde Andrews, Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, said that the report was “spectacularly bad” and that it was essentially propaganda. “The more you read it, the worse it gets,” Andrews said. “This is a piece of the culture wars, it’s not a serious document.”

Runnymede Trust, an independent race equality think tank, has published an open letter rejecting the findings of the report, and it also published an alternative report on institutional racism in the UK.

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‘The fact that people of colour wrote the report proves that structural racism exists because it’s not about the individual but rather the system’

Halima Begum, CEO of the Runnymede Trust, said the report was “shocking”. She added: “This isn’t about facts, evidence, or policy, this is about culture war posturing.”

During the discussion, Nandini Archer, openDemocracy’s global commissioning editor, noted that the Conservative government has a relatively diverse cabinet, and as the report’s authors were people of color, asked: “What does this say about having Brown and Black faces in high places?”

Andrews said in response that you can’t expect diversity to “be the thing to fix structural racism”, given that the current cabinet is the country’s most ethnically diverse to date, yet also one of the most racist. “The people who administered the British empire were hugely diverse.”

Begum said that the fact that people of colour wrote the report actually “proves the case of structural racism” because it’s not about “individual actions… but rather the system”.

Ignoring the data

Marcus Ryder, executive producer of new media at the Chinese media group Caixin Global, said that the report lends legitimacy to “a very fringe perspective”, and that it will give license to individuals to deny the existence of structural, institutional racism.

“The idea that anybody who is in the state, in government, in public institutions, denying institutional racism,”' Ryder said. “It was more or less a settled argument. It is now unsettled.”

Kemi Akinola, CEO of the charity Be Enriched and managing director of the social enterprise Brixton People’s Kitchen, said that she was curious if the report’s policy recommendations would be effective if implemented. Among the report’s recommendations were the usage of data to determine and measure the implementation of public policy.

However, as the panellists noted, the report actually ignores data that illustrates racial disparities linked to structural racism, and there is a multitude of data linked to inequality that could be collected but the government fails to do so.

“The area that I work in is food poverty and food insecurity, and I’ve been pushing for years for measurements of food poverty and food insecurity across the board,” Akinola said. “Who are the people experiencing this, and what is their income and why? But of course, once you record this information… then you have to do something about it.”

Why should you care about freedom of information?

From coronation budgets to secretive government units, journalists have used the Freedom of Information Act to expose corruption and incompetence in high places. Tony Blair regrets ever giving us this right. Today's UK government is giving fewer and fewer transparency responses, and doing it more slowly. But would better transparency give us better government? And how can we get it?

Join our experts for a free live discussion at 5pm UK time on 15 June.

Hear from:

Claire Miller Data journalism and FOI expert
Martin Rosenbaum Author of ‘Freedom of Information: A Practical Guidebook’; former BBC political journalist
Jenna Corderoy Investigative reporter at openDemocracy and visiting lecturer at City University, London
Chair: Ramzy Alwakeel Head of news at openDemocracy

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