UN human rights experts say UK racism report ‘rationalises white supremacy’

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On 19 April, the UN’s Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent called the UK government’s recent racism report – the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities – a “reprehensible” and “deliberate attempt at historical misrepresentation”. They also called it an “attempt to normalize white supremacy”. And they said the failure to correct the “distortion and falsification” within could have dangerous and divisive consequences.

‘Rationalising white supremacy’ and ‘repackaging racist tropes as fact’

The experts stressed that:

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

And they added:

The report cites dubious evidence to make claims that rationalize white supremacy by using the familiar arguments that have always justified racial hierarchy. This attempt to normalize 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.

‘A tone-deaf rejection of people’s lived realities’

Referring to previous UN reports on institutional racism, the experts highlighted “deep-rooted inequities in areas such as health, education, employment, housing, stop-and-search practices, and the criminal justice system in the UK”. And they asserted that:

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

They also emphasised the “compelling evidence that the roots of these disparities lie in institutional racism and structural discrimination”.

They then criticised the racism report’s “suggestion that family structure, rather than institutionalized and structural discriminatory practices are the central features of the Black experience”, calling it “a tone-deaf attempt at rejecting the lived realities of people of African descent and other ethnic minorities in the UK”.

‘Sanitising slavery’

A UN press release described the government report’s “mythical representation of enslavement [as] an attempt to sanitize the history of the trade in enslaved Africans”. And the experts said:

This is a reprehensible, although not unfamiliar tactic, employed by many whose wealth came directly from the enslavement of others, ever since slavery was outlawed. 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 is a deliberate attempt at historical misrepresentation

Finally, they called on the British government to correct the “distortion and falsification” of historical facts relating to “slavery, the trade in enslaved Africans and colonialism”. Failure to do so, they warned, “may license further racism, the promotion of negative racial stereotypes, and racial discrimination”.

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