United Nations says UK racism report is 'reprehensible' and 'normalises white supremacy' by 'repackaging racist tropes and stereotypes into fact'

 An arm of the United Nations today accused the UK Government's racial disparities commission of trying to 'rationalise' and 'normalise' white supremacy in its 'reprehensible' report on race relations in Britain by 'repackaging racist tropes and stereotypes into fact'.

Five human rights experts working for the organisation claimed that the controversial report presented by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities on March 31 effectively whitewashed the history of slavery and colonialism, and 'further distorted and falsified historic facts'. 

The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent condemned its assertion there was no institutional racism in the UK and said the review by educationalist Dr Tony Sewell 'may licence further racism, the promotion of negative racial stereotypes, and racial discrimination'.

In an extraordinary statement released by the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, the Working Group said: 'In 2021, it is stunning to read a report on race and ethnicity that repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twisting data and misapplying statistics and studies into conclusory findings and ad hominem attacks on people of African descent.' 

Downing Street rejected the criticism, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's official spokesman telling reporters: 'Our view is that this report misrepresents the findings. We remain proud of the UK's long history as a human rights champion and we encourage everyone to read the original report in full.' 

Asked if the review 'normalised white supremacy', the No10 spokesman said 'absolutely not' before adding: 'This report in no way condones racist behaviour and in fact it highlights that racism and inequality are still problems for our country.' Mr Johnson had previously called the report a 'very interesting piece of work' but claimed more needed to be done to address racism. 

In a statement to MailOnline, the Commission said it is 'disappointed that the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent has grossly misrepresented the report's findings, and appears to be a response to negative press coverage rather than the substance of its content'.

A spokesperson added:' The misleading claims they have made risk fostering division on the subject of race, rather than constructive discussion on the issues. We urge the UK Government to implement the 24 practical recommendations we have made. These will improve the lives of millions and help deliver a fairer society for all races and ethnicities in the UK.'

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which was set up by the Prime Minister in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, concluded that though Britain is not yet a 'post-racial society', its success should be a model for white-majority countries. 

Its chairman Dr Sewell, who was born in Brixton to Jamaican parents of the Windrush generation and founded the Generating Genius charity, said the UK had progressed into a 'successful multi-ethnic and multicultural community' and was a 'beacon to the rest of Europe and the world'.

However, he was last week forced to insist that he was not denying the existence of racism in the country amid a fierce backlash from Left-wing activists and MPs including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. 

Critics called the study a 'whitewash' after it found no conclusive evidence of institutional racism. Instead, the report said factors such as geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion were found to have more impact on life chances than racism.

Special Rapporteur E Tendayi Achiume
Commission chairman Dr Tony Sewell said the UK had progressed into a 'successful multi-ethnic and multicultural community' which was a 'beacon to the rest of Europe and the world'

Commission chairman Dr Tony Sewell (right) said the UK had progressed into a 'successful multi-ethnic and multicultural community' which was a 'beacon to the rest of Europe and the world'. However, UN experts denounced the report in a statement endorsed by Special Rapporteur E Tendayi Achiume (left)

Thousands of people break lockdown regulations during a Black Lives Matter protest in central London, June 2020

Thousands of people break lockdown regulations during a Black Lives Matter protest in central London, June 2020 

The UN Working Group said it 'cites dubious evidence to make claims that rationalise white supremacy by using the familiar arguments that have always justified racial hierarchy'.

The statement said it had received the backing of E Tendayi Achiume, the UN's Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The Working Group went on: 'This attempt to normalise white supremacy despite considerable research and evidence of institutional racism is an unfortunate sidestepping of the opportunity to acknowledge the atrocities of the past and the contributions of all in order to move forward.'   

The experts said the report omitted any recognition or analysis of institutional racism by international human rights experts, including the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent's 2012 review after its country visit to the UK, the 2016 Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance's report following her 2018 country visit to the UK. 

'Without exception, these reports have highlighted the damaging impact of institutional racism and deep-rooted inequities in areas such as health, education, employment, housing, stop-and-search practices, and the criminal justice system in the UK,' the experts said. 

'The reality is that People of African descent continue to experience poor economic, social, and health outcomes at vastly disproportionate rates in the UK. 

'While racial disparities may not always stem from racism or racial discrimination, there is also compelling evidence that the roots of these disparities lie in institutional racism and structural discrimination as they clearly do not reflect the preferences or priorities of the communities facing structural disadvantage.

'Instead, many racial disparities in the UK clearly reflect specific nodes of power and decision-making by employers, teachers, and others who dictate the opportunities and advantages available to people of African descent. 

'Too often this decision-making reflects legacy mindsets of racial hierarchy. 

'In other words, institutional racism, structural invisibility, and longstanding inequalities have disproportionately impacted people of African descent living in the UK.

'Therefore, the suggestion that family structure, rather than institutionalized and structural discriminatory practices are the central features of the Black experience is a tone-deaf attempt at rejecting the lived realities of people of African descent and other ethnic minorities in the UK.'

The experts urged London to categorically reject the findings of the report. 

'We urge the Government to ensure the accurate reflection of historical facts as they relate to past tragedies and atrocities, in particular slavery, the trade in enslaved Africans and colonialism,' the experts said. 

'The distortion and falsification of these historic facts may license further racism, the promotion of negative racial stereotypes, and racial discrimination.

Following its publication on March 31, the report was criticised as being divisive, while it was also accused of 'putting a positive spin on slavery and empire'. 

The Commission has said any suggestion that it would downplay the atrocities of slavery is 'as absurd as it is offensive'.

In the report's foreword, Dr Sewell said a teaching resource should look at the influence of the UK during its empire period and how 'Britishness influenced the Commonwealth' and how local communities influenced 'modern Britain'.

He added: '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 remodelled African/Britain.'

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has been contacted for comment. 

The landmark review found children from many ethnic minorities do as well or better at school than white pupils, which was creating fairer and more diverse workplaces. 

It called on firms to phase out 'unconscious bias' training because other approaches were needed to 'advance fairness in the workplace'.

The report warned that Britain is not 'a post-racial society' and that 'overt and outright racism persists in the UK', particularly online. 

But it said: 'We also have to ask whether a narrative that claims nothing has changed for the better, and that the dominant feature of our society is institutional racism and white privilege will achieve anything beyond alienating the decent centre ground - a centre ground which is occupied by people of all races and ethnicities.'

A spokesman for the commission said at the time: 'We have not seen conclusive evidence of institutional racism in the areas we have looked at. That is not to dismiss it out of hand, but our report is built on data and evidence. 

'There is definitely disadvantage, discrimination and there are barriers. That is what our report is about and how to overcome them.'

Last month, the Duchess of Sussex used a US television interview to make allegations about racism in the Royal Family. And Prince Harry claimed racism from the tabloid press that filtered into the rest of society was a 'large part' of why he and his wife left the UK.

But the report suggested that the well-meaning 'idealism' of many young people who claim Britain is still institutionally racist was not borne out by the evidence.

While there remain disparities at the top of the public and private sectors, it is an improving picture and there are increasing levels of diversity in elite professions such as law and medicine.

The report also noted the pay gap between all ethnic minorities and the white majority population had shrunk to 2.3 per cent. It concluded issues of race and racism were becoming less important and, in some cases, were not a significant factor in explaining disparities. Different outcomes had as much to do with social class and family structure as race, it said.

The report added: 'We found that most of the disparities we examined, which some attribute to racial discrimination, often do not have their origins in racism.'

The commission said some minority groups continue to be 'haunted' by 'historic cases' of racism. This creates 'deep mistrust' in the system which could prove a barrier to success. 'Both the reality and the perception of unfairness matter,' the report warned. 

It concluded that as the differences between ethnic groups were at least as important as the things they shared, the use of the acronym BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) should be stopped. And it called on organisations 'to move away from funding unconscious bias training'.

Dr Sewell said: 'The report highlights the significance of education as the single most powerful tool in reducing ethnic disparities.

'Another revelation from our dive into the data was just how stuck some groups from the white majority are.'

He told ITV's Good Morning Britain programme: 'No one denies that racism exists. In fact in this report we're doing the opposite. We actually think that institutional racism is being used in a way that's wrong. 

'They use different terms... structural racism, systemic racism. A lot of people don't even know what they're talking about. 

'They just use it willy-nilly in a way, in a sense that it's not being defined properly. We think it should be deep-seated racism, so we want to protect the term.' 

Dr Sewell, a former teacher who grew up in Brixton, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the term 'institutional racism' was 'sometimes wrongly applied' as a 'sort of catch-all phrase for micro-aggressions or acts of racial abuse'.

The ten-person commission also featured Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, space scientist and co-presenter of the BBC's The Sky at Night, and former police superintendent Keith Fraser, chairman of the Youth Justice Board.  

However, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was 'disappointed' by the findings as he insisted there were structural problems that needed to be addressed. 

He told reporters on a visit in Leeds: 'I haven't seen the full report yet and, obviously, I'll want to read that. I've seen the briefings out of it and I'm disappointed.

'On the one hand, there's an acknowledgement of the problems, the issues, the challenges that face many black and minority ethnic communities. But, on the other hand, there's a reluctance to accept that that's structural.'

Sir Keir said there had been 'report after report' on the issue as he called for action and the creation of a full race equality act. 

Dr Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think tank, said it was 'deeply, deeply worrying' that the commission had denied the existence of institutional racism. 

She said she felt 'massively let down' by the review and added: 'Institutionally, we are still racist, and for a Government-appointed commission to look into (institutional) racism, to deny its existence is deeply, deeply worrying.'  

Pictured: A Black Live Matter Protest, Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire, June 9, 2020

Pictured: A Black Live Matter Protest, Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire, June 9, 2020

Dr Sewell stressed that 'no one denies that racism exists' but argues Britain is not institutionally racist - a term he believes is deployed too 'willy-nilly'. 

Amid cries of a 'whitewash', he was branded a Government stooge and compared to Josef Goebbels, Hitler's minister for propaganda, by a Cambridge professor. Dr Priyamvada Gopal initially questioned whether Dr Sewell even had a doctorate.

After finding out that he possesses one from the University of Nottingham, she tweeted: 'Okay, established. It is, in fact, Dr Sewell. Fair enough. Even Dr Goebbels had a research PhD. (University of Heidelberg, 1921).'  

Labour MP Clive Lewis even tweeted a picture of the Ku Klux Klan with the caption: 'Move along. Nothing to see here. #RaceReport.' 

The backlash became so vitriolic that the Commission's members were forced to issue a joint statement railing against the 'dangerous personal attacks'.

Matthew Ryder QC, lawyer to Stephen Lawrence case and ex-deputy mayor of London, was also critical of the review. 

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'I'm glad this work's being done, but from what I've seen I'm not optimistic this is going to be a helpful report and there are some glaring things I would mention.

'The report seems to rely very strongly on access to higher education of being a determination of racial equality. And it relies quite strongly on statistics that suggest working class white boys often have the lowest education attainment. 

'We've known this for about 10 years so this isn't new, but if you put that statistic in context, it tells you something much more important that isn't mentioned in the report at all. 

'And that is: even when white working class boys have lower educational qualifications and a lower likelihood of going to university, they have higher employment rates and higher social mobility, and that was highlighted in 2019 by the University of Aberdeen, and they called this the 'white working class paradox'. 

'If you simply trot out what we've known for 10 years about access to education and say 'that shows racism has been solved', it doesn't show what the problem is.'

This is not the first time that the UN has meddled in UK internal affairs. In 2013, Raquel Rolnik, the then Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, condemned Britain's housing policy and called for the abolition of the so-called 'bedroom tax'.

Mrs Rolnik's report had claimed that the tax - a housing benefit curb for those with extra rooms who claim a spare room subsidy - meant people were going hungry to pay their rent. 

It criticised the Government for encouraging home ownership and called for rent controls, security for renters, and new social housing.

Mrs Rolnik said she met 'many people who are increasingly having to choose between food and paying the penalty', grandmothers forced from homes and single parents with no space for their children. 

The Mail then reported that she had stayed at the Rubens at the Palace Hotel in the shadow of Buckingham Palace during her 12-day mission, put up there by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is supported by UK taxpayers. 

The UN also accused Britain of violating its human rights obligations by creating 'Dickensian' conditions for the poor when Philip Alston, the then Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, came to the UK in 2018 to draw up a report on government cuts and their impact on the unemployed and low-paid.

His report, released in May 2019, claimed that Britain had 'a harsh and uncaring ethos' and was guilty of 'increasing marginalisation of the working poor and those unable to work'. 

He added that the Department of Work and Pensions appeared to be 'designing a digital and sanitised version of the 19th Century workhouse, made infamous by Charles Dickens'.  

United Nations says UK racism report is 'reprehensible' and 'normalises white supremacy' by 'repackaging racist tropes and stereotypes into fact' United Nations says UK racism report is 'reprehensible' and 'normalises white supremacy' by 'repackaging racist tropes and stereotypes into fact' Reviewed by Your Destination on April 19, 2021 Rating: 5

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