The ‘Race Report’ is blatant propaganda
On 31st March, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities published their first report which was met with sheer disbelief and outrage. In summary, the Sewell report denied that systemic, institutional or structural racism are a part of British society, particularly denying its existence in schools and the police force. Instead, the commission purports that they “no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities.”
This article doesn’t aim to pick apart the disingenuous research, deterministic explanations and offensive suggestions rife in the report because this report should not be treated as a genuine attempt to address racism in Britain. The overwhelming evidence, research, and lived experiences of racialised communities demonstrates the unquestionable fact that systemic, structural and institutional racism is not only deeply entrenched in British society but are the very foundations upon which this society is built. We know this to be true, yet the government wants to convince everyone otherwise.
It is crucial to understand that the government is not naïve, misinformed or unintentionally misdirected; it is experienced and adept at systematic oppression, subjugation and indoctrination. This report amounts to state propaganda, i.e. the systematic spread of biased and deceitful information promoting a political agenda. The agenda, in this case, is racism.
The implications of the report: deepening authoritarianism
The consequences of the report, should it remain accepted as factual, will be devastating. It will be utilised to disempower and disenfranchise racialised communities and organisations, to justify authoritarian legislation, and relinquish the government of any accountability to thoroughly address racial injustice. The Black Lives Matter movement sparked support, funding and donations from charities, organisations and corporations. This report deliberately risks reversing the amount of public support garnered in summer and destabilising the BLM movement’s efforts. Organisations concerned about how this report will be weaponised and used to inform policy are already calling for its rejection.
The report pushes for a national shift towards an unwavering, devout nationalism, where critics of institutional racism are wrongly accused of dividing British society. This marks deepening authoritarianism (i.e. blind submission to state authority) in Britain, where any opposition to state racism is systematically suppressed. Propaganda lauding Britain as “open and fairer”, and anyone who disagrees as “alienating the decent centre ground” destroys any illusions that we live in a truly democratic society.
Representation is not liberation and ‘skinfolk aren’t always kinfolk’
In order to effectively spread racist propaganda while the nation is accepted as a multicultural utopia, a ‘misleadership class’ of compliant Black and Asian people is required. These people align themselves with the oppressive power and sell out the masses to maintain their positions of privilege. Tony Sewell and much of his commission were selected based on their pre-existing antagonism towards criticisms of institutional racism. The false equation of representation and racial diversity with equality and freedom is what often allows harmful individuals to elevate to positions of power, with people of colour citing their privilege as a ‘win for us all’. In the context of the undeniable suffering and loss that communities of colour have faced during the pandemic, the commission’s assertion that institutional racism doesn’t exist is particularly sinister. Representation can never lead to liberation because it only reinforces oppressive power structures. We must seek to tear down these structures, not simply change their colour composition.
The report serves as a distraction
Responding to the report has already created a significant amount of labour for many racialised individuals and racial justice organisations, who have been forced to prove that the report is wrong and that institutional racism does indeed exist. Although this work is undoubtedly important, it reflects how the report intentionally creates the burden of responsibility to prove racism. African-American writer, Toni Morrison, reminds us that: “the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.” This report simply serves as a distraction that burns out our capacity to organise against racism.
Let us organise together towards our liberation
It’s important to release the expectation that the government has any interest in ending racialised oppression and redirect that energy towards yourself and your community. We do not need the government to affirm our reality or to save us from it. We have the potential and collective power to bring about change once we commit ourselves to action. Educate yourself on how you can organise against oppression: 'How to Change It' by Joshua Virasami is an inspiring instructional book to start with. Get involved in grassroots organising and radical movements that are actively working to abolish the system that creates and sustains racial oppression. Take this opportunity to find out about mutual aid groups that you can participate in that are engaging in survival work to address communal needs which the government has no interest in meeting.
Ultimately, as Black people, people of colour and racialised people, we must take care of ourselves and our communities; we are in this together for the long haul and need to cultivate ways of being, fighting and thriving that are revitalising, compassionate, and sustainable.
Tanita is a freelance researcher and writer whose work focuses on Black radical feminism, anti-oppression, neocolonialism, economics and collective liberation. She recently graduated from the University of Leeds, having studied BA Economics & French. Her Twitter handle is: @tanitajl.