Thu, 15 April 2021

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By Simon Burns
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Race report “gaslights” Black and ethnic minority people into denying lived experiences of racism

Race report “gaslights” Black and ethnic minority people into denying lived experiences of racism
3 min read

The findings of the Race Commission's report are an exercise in gas-lighting on a national level and illustrate a complete failure to meet the challenges posed by the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Believe your eyes”. Those were the instructions given by the Minnesota Prosecutor to Jurors this week at the trial of Derek Chauvin, in reference to the now infamous recording of Chauvin holding his knee on George Floyd’s neck until he is dead. George Floyd’s death triggered a resurgence in the Black Lives Movement which spread across the world and resonated particularly strongly with Black and Ethnic Minority communities in the UK.

In response, the Prime Minister established the Race Disparities Commission who this week published a summary of their findings in which they found no evidence of structural or institutional racism and described the UK as a “model for other white-majority countries”.

In other words, don’t believe your eyes. Yes, black people in the UK might find they are often the victims of police violence, but don’t believe your eyes.

Yes, Covid-19 might be killing black people in the UK at a vastly disproportionate rate, but we shouldn’t believe our eyes.

Yes, black people in England and Wales are nine times more likely to be imprisoned than their white peers, but we shouldn’t believe our eyes.

Yes, black communities are over policed, the national curriculum censors black history and there is a substantial attainment gap in higher education for black and ethnic minority students, but do not, under any circumstances, believe your eyes.

The findings of this report are an exercise in gas-lighting on a national level and illustrate a complete failure to meet the challenges posed by the Black Lives Matter movement. The report’s finding that the term BAME is useless and counter-productive is positive but is itself undermined by the fact that the commission uses ‘BAME’ as a way of ‘calculating’ inequality and racism throughout the report.

Those of us who have experienced and fought racism all our lives shouldn’t accept this whitewash. 

It is important that we see the Race Disparity Commission for what it is – an attempt by the Prime Minister to wash his hands of the issue of racism and instead stir up a ‘culture war’, which he believes will benefit him politically.

If the government had wanted to actually tackle the issue of racism in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement it would have acted on the already existing recommendations of the Lammy Review, Wendy Williams Windrush review or numerous other reports and reviews into issues of racism in the UK. Instead, the PM established a commission manned with long-term deniers of structural racism like Munira Mirza and Tony Sewel who have promptly given him the answer he was looking for.

Those of us who have experienced and fought racism all our lives shouldn’t accept this whitewash. Boris Johnson wants a culture war. We shouldn’t give him one.

Instead we should continue the war on racism and redouble our efforts to introduce a representative curriculum into schools, tackle racial bias in the criminal justice system and address the racism which Black and Ethnic minority people in this country experience every day. We should ignore any attempts by this government to gaslight us into denying our own lived experiences and instead do exactly as the Jury has been instructed in George Floyds Murder trial – believe our eyes.

 

Kate Osamor is the Labour MP for Edmonton.

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