No reasonable person was awaiting the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities with bated breath. It reads more like a student speech for the Conservative society. This government thinks it can silence the unrelenting desire for change, with one flimsy report that dedicates a sinister amount of time to convincing Caribbean people that there are positives to be taken from slavery. The document is nothing more than another piece of propaganda in this government’s ‘culture war’. So why am I giving it the time of day?

Racism issues are easier to gaslight

Well, it does gaslight a significant part of the population — and I don’t just mean ethnic minorities. It tries to snuff out even the faintest hope of change in young people of all backgrounds. Maybe one positive to come from the report is that it sends a message to so-called ‘Instagram activists’ that colourful infographics won’t cut it. It’s hard not to read this report and contrast its self-congratulatory tone with the humility seen in response to the thousands of women who’ve spoken out about sexual abuse across the country; from public streets to primary schools. That’s not to say the response was perfect, far from it. But it’s harder to gaslight half the population.

I take some parts of this report personally. What person who’s ever experienced racism in this country wouldn’t? Especially as it has this menacing psychological undertone that attempts to tell people: ‘It’s all in your head, mate’. And then on the day the report’s released, the spokesperson for all black people (because, you know, we’re a monolith), Tony Sewell, is wheeled out to continue spinning the ‘key findings’. No disrespect to the committee members, but let’s not pretend they were chosen for any reason other than to hold the white hand of those who are still in denial of structural racism in the UK — to assure them it’s not that bad anymore. But, in the interest of balance, the report does contain caveats. Except, it doesn’t. To call them ‘caveats’ is to legitimise contradictions and flaws in thinking. And at its heart, that is what this report is: an exercise in ideology. It contains common conservative arguments. For example, the idea that people should ‘help themselves’ and one’s ‘own agency’. In a twist of the knife, Caribbean students are singled out as the only group to do less well than white pupils. So, on the one hand, the report wants to claim the success of other ethnic minority students as a triumph of the education system. But on the other hand, it suggests that the Caribbean community take a look at itself to understand why it’s seemingly lagging behind. It’s ironic because those minority children probably did well as a result of the strong work ethic and emphasis on education that exists in those communities. But of course, it’s the lack of ambition that’s holding all people of colour back.

It’s not us, it’s you … apparently

That’s all before we even mention the glaring omissions about how students from ethnic minorities excel at school and then drop off when reaching university, and still don’t reach the top 1 per cent of universities in the numbers you’d expect considering their previous success. It’s funny that the report says that black people basically need to stop thinking about the past so much because we’ve all moved on. The only time I’ve thought about the history of slavery is when someone at university said they ‘assume you want to do the bit on slavery because, you know …’. It’s striking that ethnic communities are implicitly accused in this report of letting the past cloud their objective view of the UK’s racial relations today, considering that they’re only ever given a voice to talk about race. Without wanting to fall into the trap of pitting groups against each other, for the sake of logic, why is the failure of Caribbean students a personal failure, but the barriers faced by the white working-class a systemic issue? And here lies a fatal (intentional) flaw in this report. It doesn’t come anywhere near addressing the issues of race and class as the intersectional issue that they are. It’s dumbed-down to placate a certain crowd, and in the process, delivers a slap in the face to others.

All the talk of ‘victimhood’ makes me yawn. Anyone who knows anything will understand that, far from being victims, minority groups are resilient and strong. They have to be. We don’t live in a society that allows them to be fallible because, as the report beautifully illustrates — their failures are always highlighted more than their successes. Why are they always either portrayed as militant BLM protesters or self-pitying victims? It’s almost as if the label changes to suit the narrative. It’s not the story of slavery that needs to be rewritten, as the report bizarrely gets at. I can tell you that my Indian friend whose parents’ shop was vandalised by racist thugs spraying ‘Paki’ on it — they couldn’t even get the right brown identity — doesn’t wallow in victimhood. The next day they opened up and got on with life. They also gave up on any chance of the criminals being caught.

I’d challenge anyone who peddles this ‘victimhood’ line. Please come and explain it to my mother — a qualified veterinary surgeon and biomedical scientist, with a Master’s degree. When she complained about a colleague telling her: ‘If I was in charge I wouldn’t hire black people like you. I’d hire blonde people with blue eyes’, she was offered ‘mediation’. I’m pretty sure a ‘victim mentality’ is the last thing she possesses. I also invite the same people to tell my father that the patients that felt so empowered to tell him they wanted a white doctor are all in his head, owing to a deep-rooted mistrust of the state that makes him imagine things. I think it’s relevant to emphasise my father’s response in this case. He smiled politely, as usual, and said ‘no problem’. When he came home, he said it was the woman’s loss; grumbling that, ‘the only other surgeon available has a history of operating on the wrong limbs, and I have published papers on this technique; but, her choice’.

Hiding behind meaningless comparisons

When the report talks of communities waiting for ‘invisible forces’ to come and sort out their apparent failings, it insults the many people of colour in this country that have contributed expertise, knowledge, culture, and taxes.

If anything, the same communities being attacked as indulging in ‘victimhood’ are the most self-sustaining and independent. It took them generations to work their way up and give their children a better start. That’s not because of progress. It’s in spite of a lack of progress. I talk from a position of privilege, from a middle-class, privately educated background, and it makes things easier. But please tell my brother, who went to one of the top schools in the country, that the teacher who told him his ‘combination of being both Muslim and black is an unfortunate occurrence’,  is not as bad as elsewhere because the UK still does better on race than Paris or Barcelona.

The meaningless comparisons in this report diminish the experiences of ethnic minority groups in this country by essentially saying: ‘It could be worse, so you should be grateful it isn’t’. The discussion circles a drain in what is a race to the bottom. Even the report acknowledges that most of the people they spoke to for testimonies discussed having experienced institutional racism. The emotional labour that’s been extracted by this committee, only to entirely contradict the lived experiences shared, is shameful and inaccurate. In the same week, we see a Channel 4 documentary investigating the shocking statistic that black women are just over four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. What is that if not a systemic issue?

The UK does not have institutional racism

The report’s headline screams that the UK is free of institutional racism. But how can it then acknowledge racism on social media and ignore the fact that social media is merely an amplified microcosm of society? And if institutional racism doesn’t exist, what was Grenfell about? What was the Windrush Scandal a result of? Is Theresa May the only racist in the establishment?

The report conveniently glazes over details while providing blatant untruths. Whilst it heralds more diversity in professions like medicine and law, how many consultants are from an ethnic background? What abuse do ethnic health workers receive? Why are black children much more likely to be on the wrong side of the law? For all the focus on the psychological ‘perception’ of systemic racism, the report overlooks the psychological impact of racism and the debate around its very existence. That’s because it doesn’t really seek to help minorities ‘reframe the narrative’. It wants to erase their lived experiences in the most brutal way. Don’t underestimate the impact of such abusive actions. Research has shown that racism, and the denial of it, contributes to the prevalence of psychosis in black communities. Discrimination has also been shown to have a biological impact on the physical state of minorities — or is scientific evidence also imagined? The smug ‘caveat’ in the report that acknowledges health disparities is utterly futile if it can’t make the link between society and health. This to me is just another example of gross hypocrisy from a government that boasted of changing the Mental Health Act that disproportionately institutionalises ethnic minorities.

I’d also add that, for a government that raged at any attempt to make language more inclusive, they’re quite obsessed with discarding the term ‘BAME’. Personally, I dislike its use, but I doubt it’s being ditched to distinguish between different groups’ experiences. Rather, it’s to further erode any sense of identity or space for minorities in the public domain. We’ll see what comes of it.

This report is quite frankly redundant. It’s patronising, lazy and arrogant. But if it hoped to gaslight people into submission, it failed. The audacity of the likes of Boris Johnson — because let’s not forget that he is all over this — telling hard-working communities who helped build this country, to ‘help themselves’, when his entire life is based on shameless self-interest and failing upwards, is laughable. Just as Priti Patel, Kemi Badenoch, Munira Mirza and Tony Sewell don’t speak for ethnic communities, this report speaks for nobody but the Tories.

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