The independent UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent has condemned the UK race report and warned that its findings attempt to normalise white supremacy. The report in question was published on 31 March by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which was set up after the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd last year.
The controversial report claims that, while there are still overt acts of racism in the UK, there is no institutional racism. Instead referencing geography, family influence, socioeconomic background, culture and religion as having a greater impact on life chances. Furthermore, the report states that both policing and health are free from institutionalised racism and Downing Street goes so far as to suggest that the UK should be seen as a model of racial equality.
The independent UN Working group rejects the findings of the report and criticises it for making claims that rationalise white supremacy in the UK, commenting that:
“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.”
The group calls it a tone deaf attempt at analysing racial disparities in the UK with insufficient evidence and analysis. Evidence given as to why ethnic minorities were disproportionately dying of Covid-19 as well as labour market discrimination was explained by other factors, such as geography, living conditions and social income, without referencing the role race plays in determining inequality. Since the report’s publication, more than 20 stakeholders have distanced themselves from its findings.
A commission spokesperson stated that the comments from the independent UN working group “grossly misrepresent the report’s findings” and that their response was based on the negative media coverage the report received rather than the substance of its content. Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson stated that the report does not condone racist behaviour and that the government remains proud of the UK’s “long history as a human rights champion”.
The UN working group maintains that while the publishing of the report is reprehensible, it is not unfamiliar. The experts comment that the report has been compiled by those who have historically and financially benefited from the enslavement of others and are:
“Seeking to silence the brutal role of enslavers, the mind-numbing generational wealth they accrued, and the social capital and political influence they gained from exploiting Black bodies.”
The UN working group calls on the UK government to officially reject the report’s findings and to ensure that there is an “accurate reflection of historical facts”, which does not ignore the UK’s history of colonialism and slavery. The experts conclude by stating that “institutional racism, structural invisibility, and longstanding inequalities have disproportionately impacted people of African descent living in the UK”.