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Thursday, April 01, 2021

Uk Government report tries to put a positive cultural spin 'on the slave trade'

Yesterday I referenced the report from No 10’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which rather optimistically concluded that the UK should be seen as an international exemplar of racial equality, playing down the impact of structural factors in ethnic disparities. 

In fact the report has attracted a huge amount of criticism and scepticism with many people of colour arguing that it does not reflect their experience of living in the UK.

There is a suspicion that the conclusions of the report are seeking to promote a government agenda, but that is not the most shocking part of it. That comes in the chair's forward. He writes::

The ‘Making of Modern Britain’ teaching resource is our response to negative calls for ‘decolonising’ the curriculum. Neither the banning of White authors or token expressions of Black achievement will help to broaden young minds. We have argued against bringing down statues, instead, we want all children to reclaim their British heritage. We want to create a teaching resource that looks at the influence of the UK, particularly during the Empire period. We want to see how Britishness influenced the Commonwealth and local communities, and how the Commonwealth and local communities influenced what we now know as modern Britain. One great example would be a dictionary or lexicon of well known British words which are Indian in origin. 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.

Any careful reading of that passage, especially the last sentence could well conclude that it is an attempt to put a positive spin on slavery. Perhaps some clarification is needed.

The report reinforces George Orwell's assessment that the English possess a "world-famed hypocrisy". While the legal framework is non-discriminatory (apart from the subtle discrimination in immigration law from James Callaghan onwards) and institutions are on the face of it free of bias, we know that in practice racial attitudes are little better than average and well behind the leaders. The evidence is there in the paucity of non-white faces at the top of the legal profession, of the civil service and in the boardroom.
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