Race in Britain: how did the Sewell report get it so wrong? | Letters

Readers try to make sense of the race commission’s finding that the UK is a model of racial equality

The Sewell report recommends that schoolchildren be taught how enslaved Africans in the Caribbean culturally transformed themselves, thereby providing a more positive impression of the experiences of the enslaved than one that focuses only on profit and suffering (Racial disparities in the UK: key findings of the report – and what its critics say, March 31). To look for positives in the experiences of the enslaved is a grotesque parody of research on slavery, much of which emphasises the heroic efforts of those who looked to escape its brutality.

British Caribbean slavery consumed Africans, yet contemporaries seeking to justify it on economic grounds often asserted precisely the cultural benefits for its victims that the commission now proposes we teach schoolchildren. Slavery has no redeeming features. Many working-class people in late 18th-century Britain understood that and supported the abolition of the slave trade. It is disturbing that the commission should casually align itself with those who looked racially to justify it in the past.
David Richardson
Professor of economic history, University of Hull

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