The essence of this report is to divorce racism from class; to portray social class and the distribution of wealth as a neutral environment within which everyone has the opportunity to better themselves, and that failure or success is down to the capacities of individuals or groups. In order to establish this, it undertakes a revision of British colonial history, and deploys examples of those who have defied institutional racism to ‘disprove’ its existence.
Revision of colonial history
The most egregious revision of history is described by historian and TV presenter David Olusoga, “ Shockingly, the authors – perhaps unwittingly – deploy a version of an argument that was used by the slave owners themselves in defence of slavery 200 years ago: the idea that by becoming culturally British, black people were somehow beneficiaries of the system.’ Guardian2
Labour’s shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Marsha de Cordova accused the Chair, Dr Sewell, of “putting a positive spin on slavery and empire,” highlighting a paragraph in the foreword where he wrote: “There is a new story about the Caribbean experience which speaks to the slave period not only being about profit and suffering, but how culturally African people transformed themselves into a re-modelled African/Britain.” Morning Star1
As the Runnymede Trust commented, “That this Government see fit to comment on the slave trade as a ‘new story’ in which they commend the transformational ‘re-model’ of Black Britons is nothing short of shocking and racist.”
Samuel Kasumu, the government’s senior advisor on ethnic minorities resigned. Former equality and human rights commissioner Lord Simon Woolley said there was a “crisis at No 10 when it comes to acknowledging and dealing with persistent race inequality”. BBC.
“The very suggestion that government evidence confirms that institutional racism does not exist is frankly disturbing. A young Black mother is four times more likely to die in childbirth than her white friend. A young Black man is 19 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the Metropolitan Police than his young white neighbour and those with Black or Asian ‘sounding surnames’ have to send in twice as many CVs as their white counterparts, with the same qualifications, to receive the same jobs. (“Black Britons and those of south Asian origin face “shocking” discrimination in the labour market at levels unchanged since the late 1960s, Nuffield College, Oxford” Guardian.Job discrimination.
“As we saw in the early days of the pandemic, 60% of the first NHS doctors and nurses to die were from our BME communities, despite the NHS comprising only 20% BME staff in total. For Boris Johnson to look the grieving families of those brave dead in the eye and say there is no evidence of institutional racism in the UK is nothing short of a gross offence. Tell those 60% BME NHS doctors and nurses who died from COVID that institutional racism doesn’t exist. Runnymede Trust
“For ages 4-5, 10-11, 16 year olds at GCSE and 18 year olds at A-level, mixed white/Black African, white other, Pakistani, Black other, mixed white/Black Carribean, Black Caribbean, Irish traveller and Gypsy/ROMA all have lower attainment rates across the four categories used by the Commission compared to their white counterparts.” ekklesia-runnymede-trust
David Lammy, author of the Lammy Report into the Criminal Justice system concluded, “ […] having looked at the evidence over the past 18 months, my judgment is that we have a significant problem in the criminal justice system itself, and that the treatment of BAME young people shows this problem is getting worse […] Today 41% of under-18s in custody are from minority backgrounds.” Guardian.Lammy.
Nazir Afzal, “Black people account for 3% of the population, but 8% of deaths in custody. As a former chief prosecutor, I know this is only the end point of a system that disproportionately suspects, arrests, convicts and imprisons BAME people […] of course, deaths in custody are only a small percentage of deaths following police contact, which include apparent suicides and police shootings, among other categories.” Guardian.Afzal
As this website has recorded, the ‘hostile environment’, a deliberate creation by Tory governments, has institutionalised racism in the Home Office BLL.Home Office racism,
And the failure of any justice for the Grenfell residents.BLL.Home Office Windrush
It is the class system which drives oppression and exploitation, and institutional racism is a core component of this system. Wedded to capitalism Sewell, in seeking to impose a human face on this reality, has no alternative than to blame the victims for their own oppression.
As the Runnymede Trust commented, ‘This Commission lost the confidence and the trust of ethnic minority communities when Tony Sewell was appointed to lead it – a figure who had previously asserted that institutional racism does not exist, and whose commitment to the wider equalities agenda was questionable.’ Runnymede Trust
As Doreen Lawrence put it more starkly, “Once you start covering it up it is giving the green light to racists. You imagine what’s going to come tomorrow. What’s going to happen on our streets with our young people? You are giving racists the green light,” Guardian
The Sewell report has received wide publicity across all mainstream media, much of it highly critical. In the Sunday Observer (4.4.21), Starmer had half the front page, and two further half page articles, but fails to make any reference to the Sewell report. The dangers seen by Doreen Lawrence don’t appear to be on his radar.