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Saturday, April 03, 2021

Brushing history under the carpet

Considering that the Tory government's kneekerk response to black lives matter was that they were trying to rewrite history, it is ironic that the report they commissioned in response to that movement has received a similar criticism.

In today's Guardian, the historian and broadcaster, David Olusoga, has accused the authors of giving the impression they would prefer “history to be swept under the carpet”:

Olusoga said that, as a historian, for him the most disturbing passages in the report were those in which the authors “stumble, ill-prepared and overconfident, into the arena of history”.

“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,” Olusoga wrote in a Guardian article.

“Determined to privilege comforting national myths over hard historical truths, they give the impression of being people who would prefer this history to be brushed back under the carpet,” he added, describing the report as Britain’s version of the “1776 report” commissioned by the Trump administration, which urged the US to return to an era of “patriotic education”.

Hakim Adi, professor of the history of Africa and the African diaspora at the University of Chichester, told the Guardian that the report’s foreword failed to make clear that the subjugation of millions of African people was a crime against humanity.

“It is forgetting the hundreds of years of the crimes against the African people, the deaths of millions of African men, women and children,” said Adi. “We live in a country where [many] have denied this as a reality, they have refused to make any reparation, and for this report to put it in a paragraph in that manner – the word insulting does not do it justice.”

The British theologian Robert Beckford said it was consistent with the radical and “historical amnesia and vicious historical revisionism” of Caribbean and African history by the far right. Beckford, professor of Black theology at the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham, said the report had reduced slavery’s racial terror and Britain’s racial capitalism to a simple exchange of cultural ideas.

The paper adds that the report has drawn further criticism from hundreds of UK academics who came together to sign an open letter criticising its “selective and distorted use of academic research”:

While the report claims education was “the single most emphatic success story of the British ethnic minority experience”, the letter’s signatories said it had “completely overlooked the substantial base of evidence in educational research that has shown how structural, institutional and direct racism works in and through schools, universities and other sites of education”.

Those involved had a “limited knowledge of education research”, the letter writers said, adding that research was cited so as “to present simplistic understandings of education and divisive views of ethnic minority groups”.

“The report misrepresents, omits and elides longstanding and nuanced academic debate and evidence about the complex relationship between racism and educational practices, cultures, policies, and systems,” they added.

The report's authors feel that they have been misunderstood, and yet they stand by what is written in black and white in the document. Isn't it time the government disowned it?
Johnsons govnt and those of the right will not wish to disown the report (or any others)that do not reflect their beliefs They both prefer the status quo of 'the past' not those of today.Change is a threat to their beliefs and anathema to them.Also it is a threat to their power base.
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