Mon | Dec 6, 2021

Letter of the Day | Racism is deep rooted in United Kingdom

Published:Tuesday | April 13, 2021 | 12:08 AM


I write as one individual (although I suspect I’m not alone) just as I’ve learned that a petition signed by 20,000 people is calling for the withdrawal of the recently published Sewell Report on Race and Ethnic Disparities. The main sin of this report, according to opponents, is its denial of the existence of ‘institutional (systemic, structural) racism’ in the United Kingdom (UK).

This charge is, in my view, a premeditated political contrivance at work, even before the publication of the report, by protectors of a status quo that masquerade as a fight against racism. However, far from ridding the country of racism, it feeds the beast by ever more vigorously and ingeniously focusing on disparities and a narrative of grievance that perversely ensures massive funding and other perks benefiting some.

The reality is the battle against racism in this country is stuck in a morass of imprecision and vested interests. Imprecision because while laws and regulations exist to ensure equality, this remains difficult to quantify. If we don’t know our destination, we won’t know our proximity to that destination. It may help to say, for example, that our destination is to achieve a presence in all strata of society equitable with our presence in the population. This, for African and Caribbean people in the UK, is approximately three to five per cent, depending on how we count.

Fiduciary and other forms of interests understandably benefit from this ambiguity of what equality looks like, highlighting and sometimes exaggerating the nature of the racism problem in the country.

After all, if there is nothing wrong with the motor engine why continue to employ a mechanic or the breakdown service annual membership fee!

Don’t get me wrong, racism (personal, societal, structural, systemic and institutional) is, and has been for the past half a millennium, embedded in the fabric of western culture, as is evident in terms like ‘denigrate’, ‘tar with the same brush’ and much beside. The root from which this comes is deeply human and expressed differently around the world in all cultures.

To counter this, we need, and have, in this country strong, effective equalities, anti-discriminatory laws and a lot of mutual humanity. A society free from any kind of ‘ism’ is, I fear, a pipe dream; and those who encourage predicating our prosperity upon such are peddling an illusion.

Those demanding withdrawal of this current report and demonising its authors (10 commissioners, nine of whom are minority ethnic) should read the 400-page report published in 2000 by the Runnymede Trust after a two-year study, chaired by Professor Perekh and whose commissioners included Lord Herman Ousley and Trevor Phillips. That report made similar claims to the current Sewell Report on race and ethnicity in the UK.

I beg to differ from those calling for the abandonment of this report and its conclusions. While I do not doubt or underestimate the power of machinations, I suggest we pivot away from our sterile strategy that necessarily focuses on the negativity of what has not been achieved and, instead, focus upon, and take encouragement from, what has been achieved and how much further we can go together as one diverse human family, even though we cannot rid our world of all the ‘isms’ and schisms in it – including racism.

I beg to differ.