The poisonously patronising Sewell report is historically illiterate | David Olusoga

It condemns young people for doing exactly what it claims to support – exploring their ancestors’ roles in shaping Britain

Since its publication, the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has been denounced as “divorced from reality” by public health experts. Dame Doreen Lawrence has warned that it risks pushing the fight against racism “back 20 years or more”. Academics named in the report have revealed they were not properly consulted, and an author is having his name removed. Windrush campaigners have condemned the report for paying so little attention to the scandal that was exposed three years ago, and just about every leading writer and commentator on race and racism in the UK has criticised the report’s findings and challenged its methodology.

If the report had been intended to help address racism in Britain, it must surely be written off as a disaster. However, many question if that was ever the objective of this commission and this government. The report minimises and at times denies the existence of institutional racism in Britain, despite the fact that, as the government now acknowledges, several witnesses gave detailed evidence of the forms of institutional and structural racism that they feel do operate within the UK. It was produced by a commission led by figures who had rejected the concept of institutional racism years before they began work. Arguably it has achieved exactly what the government wanted, adding credence to the false binary that underpins their culture war agenda: that the nation faces a choice between addressing racial inequalities or class disadvantage.

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