By Sabby Dhalu
The controversial Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) report is a right wing ideological attempt to shift the narrative on racism away from discussing how to address institutional racism to questioning its very existence. It ignores an abundance of evidence illustrating institutional racism across a range of sectors. Many – including some of the commissioners – have accused CRED of cherry-picking data used in the report to suit this narrative.
CRED attempts to put a positive spin on slavery, is divisive, undermines the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report, and seeks to roll back several decades the debate on race relations in Britain. It is a shameful rebuttal of the findings of the landmark Stephen Lawrence report and nothing short of a propaganda exercise.
The Observer reported on 11 April 2021 that one of the commissioners told the newspaper anonymously the government was “bending” the work of the commission to fit “a more palatable” political narrative and that it denied the working group the autonomy it was promised. It is alleged that officials at Downing Street rewrote much of the report. The same commissioner is reported to have said that they did not read Tony Sewell’s foreword and that:
“We did not deny institutional racism or play that down as the final document did. The idea that this report was all our own work is full of holes. You can see that in the inconsistency of the ideas and data it presents and the conclusions it makes. That end product is the work of very different views.”
Many described CRED as a whitewash and a cover up. Some even expressed concern that its findings could lead to more racist attacks on the ground as institutional racism led to the perpetrators of racist attacks quite literally getting away with murder.
Responding to the report, Baroness Doreen Lawrence said to the Guardian on 1 April 2020:
“My son was murdered because of racism and you cannot forget that. Once you start covering it up it is giving the green light to racists.”
The narrative of the report is to deny that institutional racism is the cause of race and ethnic disparities. Instead it claims that social class, culture, religion, genetic risk factors, behavioural factors lead to disparities. Therefore the report places the blame and responsibility of racism onto the communities experiencing it instead of the system and institutions that perpetrate it.
CRED attempts to pit different BAME communities and the so-called ‘white’ working class against one another. For BAME communities attacks on the working class are actually exacerbated by racism. A higher proportion of BAME communities are working class than their white counterparts and BAME communities have been hit harder than white communities by attacks on the living standards of the working class through austerity and the recent covid economic crisis. However the report does not address this.
The report’s publication on 31 March 2021 – weeks before the first set of elections since the pandemic – was a cynical attempt to blow the dog whistle by a Tory government that has savagely attacked the lives and living standards of the working class during the Covid crisis.
CRED’s monstrous prettifying of the enslavement of African people states that:
“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.”
This is an attempt to undermine the link between enslavement, colonisation and imperialism in the past and the racism and oppression of BAME communities today. In order to deny institutional racism today, one has to deny the scale of racism in the past. In reality racism today is the legacy of the racism that accompanied slavery, enforced poverty and deaths of millions as a result of the British empire.
The report was commissioned by the government in the wake of the 2020 BLM movement ignited by the police killing of George Floyd in the US, which resonated with the experience of racism and policing amongst black communities in Britain.
BLM emerged at a time when the disproportionate impact of Covid19 on BAME communities shone a spotlight on institutional, systemic and structural racism. Tens of thousands of BAME people have died form Covid. A wealth of evidence was produced by a range of medics, scientists and other experts on this, including Public Health England, the British Medical Association, Royal College of Nursing, Independent SAGE, the Office of National Statistics, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, to name a few.
Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) in May 2020 found that:
“After stripping out the role of age and geography, Bangladeshi hospital fatalities are twice those of the white British group, Pakistani deaths are 2.9 times as high and black African deaths 3.7 times as high. The Indian, black Caribbean and ‘other white’ ethnic groups also have excess fatalities, with the white Irish group the only one to have fewer fatalities than white British.”
A report published by Independent SAGE in July 2020 found that Black people were 2.6 times as likely to be hospitalised, with Asians 1.4 times higher and other ethnic groups 1.4 times higher.
Regarding racism this report said:
“Moreover, there is an urgent need for research to examine how structural racism plays out in the present pandemic and how the policies developed to control the pandemic impact differently on BME communities. The very fact that we do not have such information is in itself an indication of the extent to which BME experiences and BME lives are under-valued in our society.
“Structural discrimination is of critical importance in determining the jobs that people get, the living conditions people experience, their access to different forms of public transport and other factors that impact levels of exposure to infection. Moreover racism renders people precarious and those in precarious positions are less able to challenge conditions (particularly at work) which places them at risk.
“Structural racism is particularly likely to impact BME infections and mortality rates through systemic social and economic inequalities that drive health status..Racism also creates barriers to accessing healthcare.”
In the year up to March 2020, Black African and Caribbean communities were 9 times more likely to be stopped and searched and BAME communities overall were 4.3 times as likely than white people. In the same year the police were 5 times more likely to use force against African and Caribbean than white people.
Between October and December 2020 Young black males in London were 19 times more likely to be stopped and searched than the general population. During the lockdown period from 27 March to 14 May 2020 the Metropolitan Police were twice as likely to fine black people than white people. In addition a staggering 31 per cent of arrests were African and Caribbean people, when they only make up 12 per cent of London’s population.
The economic disparities caused by institutional racism are starkly reflected in youth unemployment figures, which show that Between October and December 2020, 41.6% of black people aged 16-24 were unemployed. More than one-in-three young black graduates were unemployed in the second half of 2020 – an unemployment rate almost three times that of young white graduates.
All of this is evidence in the last year alone, across a wide range of sectors, starkly illustrating institutional, systemic and structural racism. The commission chose to ignore this evidence.
This added to a wide range of evidence over decades showing institutional, systemic and structural racism in policing, the criminal justice system, education and employment, which the commission also ignored.
In response to the BLM movement the government could have taken action to eradicate racism and ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the Public Health England Review on Covid19, Lammy Review into the criminal justice system, the Angiolini Review on Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody and the McGregor-Smith review into employment and BAME communities.
Instead the government has waged a counter-campaign to deny the existence of institutional racism. In June 2020 Mirza and Tony Sewell were appointed to lead the commission precisely because they have a history of denying institutional racism and to counter the vast amount of evidence and public discussion on racism.
That same month the government prevented the publication of the section on racism of the Public Health England (PHE) review. The review was commissioned by the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty in response to the media coverage and research illustrating the disproportionate impact of Covid19 on BAME communities. In July 2020, after public pressure the government was forced to accept PHE publishing this section.
The PHE review called The Beyond the data: Understanding the impact of COVID19 on BAME groups said that:
“Stakeholders pointed to racism and discrimination experienced by communities and more specifically by BAME key workers as a root cause affecting health, and exposure risk and disease progression risk. Racial discrimination affects people’s life chances and the stress associated with being discriminated against based on race/ethnicity affects mental and physical health.”
In October 2020 government adviser Dr Raghib Ali dismissed claims that structural racism is behind the disproportionately high Covid19 mortality rates in BAME communities and that it should not determine resource allocation. This was in stark contrast to studies earlier in 2020 by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), Office for National Statistics ONS), Independent SAGE, PHE and others.
Soon after these claims by Dr Ali, the ONS produced more statistics which showed that when factors such as geography, socioeconomic an pre-existing health conditions were adjusted for, minority groups still retained a disproportion risk.
CRED is the latest development of this propaganda campaign.
During the Winter 2020-21 Covid wave there was much less coverage of the disproportionate impact on BAME communities compared to Spring 2020. In light of the numerous authoritative research on this and the government’s disregard for it, this suggests the lack of information is due to government pressure to suppress such information to prevent the galvanisation of the Black Lives Matter movement. Huffington Post journalist Asma Day reported on this in January 2020.
CRED undermines the BLM movement, its just demands and the fundamental reason for its emergence during the pandemic. It paves the way for it to be treated as a “nuisance” with no credible grievances or demands, that justifies violent policing as we have seen recently in Bristol and other parts of the country.
Boris Johnson’s government signalled a sharp shift to the right on racism by the Tories. Whereas Enoch Powell was on the fringes of the Conservative Party – Powell was sacked as Shadow Defence Secretary by Edward Heath after his inflammatory “Rivers of Blood” speech in 1968 – Powellites now lead the government.
There were problems on racism with the David Cameron and Theresa May governments, as illustrated by the “hostile environment” in the 2014 Immigration Act, which led to the Windrush Scandal, “Go Home” vans and May’s undermining of free movement and concession’s to racism post Brexit.
However the Cameron and May governments felt the pressure to take action on aspects of racism not related to immigration. The Race Disparity Unit, Lammy Review, Angiolini Review and McGregor-Smith Review were all commissioned/published during the Cameron and May years. Even the Scarman report in response to the 1981 Brixton riots, commissioned by the Thatcher government, concluded that “urgent action” was needed to prevent racism becoming “endemic, ineradicable disease threatening the very survival of our society.”
The Johnson wing of the Tory Party represents those that seek to massively deepen inequality for the benefit of the super-rich. The appalling response to covid that has lasted over one year has been a choice of this government.
Britain has had one of the worst covid death tolls, infection rates and a economic damage compared to other major economies in the world. In refusing to attempt to eliminate the virus, the government has created enormous suffering for the population, with women and BAME communities hit hardest. Hence the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, and more recently the women’s movement in response to Sarah Everard’s killing at the hands of a police officer.
Meanwhile the very wealthiest in society have profited from the Covid crisis. Share indices like the FTSE 100 and S&P 500 have increased their returns during Covid. The S&P 500 recorded its highest ever profits at the end of March 2021.
In order to continue the strategy of protecting and increasing profits while creating even more suffering, it is using racism to divide, distract and scapegoat. This is the aim of CRED.
CRED represents a major ideological assault. It is a Trump style attempt to sow racism and division in society, marginalise communities, then flatly deny racism’s existence. Now more than ever BAME communities, the anti-racist, trade union and labour movements, the left and all progressives must unite against this grotesque and divisive attack on our society.
The government’s campaign clearly has a fight on its hands with many – including some of the named commissioners – rightly opposing this report. We must continue this momentum. CRED’s findings fly in the face of much evidence which clearly illustrates, institutional racism. We must reject the CRED report and we cannot allow it to set the agenda on racism.
The correct response to Black Lives Matter and the disproportionate impact of Covid19 on BAME communities is an independent public inquiry like the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry into the disproportionate impact of Covid19 on BAME communities and to implement recommendations in all previous reviews and inquiries on racism.
A statement opposing the CRED report’s denial of institutional racism can be signed here.
Stand Up To Racism is hosting an online public meeting on Monday 26 April 6pm, to discuss opposition to the CRED report. To register visit here.
Speakers include: Diane Abbott MP, Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP, Kehinde Andrews, Professor of Black Studies in the School of Social Sciences at Birmingham City University, Kevin Courtney, National Education Union (NEU) joint general secretary, Patrick Vernon, Social Commentator, campaigner and cultural historian.
The above article was originally published here by Stand Up To Racism.