When the government’s commission on race and ethnic disparities (CRED) published its latest report on racism in Britain, which, for the purposes of this article we shall call the Sewell report after the chairman of the body, Tony Sewell, it caused instant uproar. The government was looking for some way of answering the Black Lives Matter (BLM) groups that have been formed in Britain following in the footsteps of the huge social movement of the same name in the USA, which in turn has arisen in response to continuing police assassinations of black people on American streets.
It is apparent that some people had already decided that the Sewell report would just be a sop to black people’s experience of racism and a cover-up for a government that is increasingly using force on the streets to contain any criticism of itself and its policies. Without even giving the ink time to dry, let alone giving enough time for anyone to read, digest and analyse the report, a scream of left-liberal rage went up, and Mr Sewell was likened to the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
One Labour party MP (Clive Lewis) tweeted that Tony Sewell “belonged in the Ku Klux Klan”. Add to this the instant wails of ‘house negro’, ‘Uncle Tom’, ‘token’, ‘racism denier’, ‘slavery apologist’, and ‘race traitor’ coming from leading representatives of anti-racist charities and organisations, and you can plainly see where liberal-left identity politics have brought us and where they are leading us.
Tony Sewell had apparently stated that the evidence for “institutional racism” is “somewhat flimsy” before being selected as chairman for the commission. That he doesn’t accept the concept of institutional racism is, from the government’s point of view, something that made him perfect for the job, since those who really run this country and depend totally on its parliamentary lawmakers, its judicial and police law-enforcers, its armed services and the substantial numbers of other organisations that exercise power over us do not want these institutions meaningfully scrutinised, or the ‘isms’ that are used to break up working-class unity recognised as being an important means by which these institutions keep control over the masses.
But what did the Sewell report actually say regarding institutional racism?
In their report, the commission’s members said thst they had “argued for the use of the term ‘institutional racism’ to be applied only when deep-seated racism can be proven on a systemic level and not be used as a general catch-all phrase for any microaggression, witting or unwitting”. In conclusion, they said that “while there was anecdotal evidence of racism”, they did not feel that “there was any proof that it was structural”, adding that there were data to show “some ethnic minorities were doing well in the jobs market and in education”.
We can only disagree with the idea that institutional racism does not exist. In fact, it is a necessary part of the capitalist-imperialist state machinery. It is through the institutions of a capitalist society that the desired anti-working class unity ideals are fed into the populace. Racism, sexism and all other isms that divide workers regardless of their own interests are drip-fed, not overtly but certainly constantly, disguised by a blanket of anti-racist (and any other isms) rules that are paid lip-service to.
Often, the organised opponents of racism etc actually help to propagate the very thing that they are supposed to be opposing. When we are told by black groups that “only black people can understand and change the crime that is racism”, this can drive many white people who agree that racism is a crime away from the struggle. When women’s groups tell us that only women can understand and fight the crimes that are misogyny and sex discrimination, the same hardening of a divide among us results.
It has been proven in practice (in the Soviet Union for one) that when the class system is overthrown these divisions amongst workers will disappear, and also that if the class system is reintroduced these divisions make a speedy come-back.
In the capitalist class system all workers are competitors with each other for jobs, housing, education etc, and they will tend to form into groups of those most like themselves, even though all are competitors, in order to seek protection and advantage.
This, hopefully, explains not only why the Sewell report is wrong on its assessment of institutionalised racism, but also why much of the rabid response to the report has the effect of protecting rather than fighting racism. Racism must be challenged, but the political system under which we live, which creates much of that racism, must also be challenged, since without doing away with capitalism, there is no hope of really eradicating racism.
The Sewell report also recommended that the acronym Bame (black, Asian and minority ethnic) should no longer be used, since differences between groups are often as important as what they have in common when studying a society.
The report pointed out that this trendy left-liberal acronym “disguises huge differences in outcomes between ethnic groups”, which “allows our institutions and businesses to point to the success of some Bame people in their organisation and absolve themselves of responsibility for people from those minority groups that are doing less well”.
We agree that the use of such acronyms probably brings more confusion than unity between workers.
On the question of health, the commission rejected “the common view that ethnic minorities have universally worse health outcomes compared with white people; the picture is much more variable”.
The report pointed to the fact that ethnic minorities had better outcomes for some key measures like life expectancy, overall mortality and key diseases and conditions, saying: “This evidence clearly suggests that ethnicity is not the major driver of health inequalities in the UK but deprivation, geography and differential exposure to key risk factors.”
The conclusion was that much more research be given to the reasons for these differences between various groups. For our part, we find it quite astonishing that the authors were able to point to the reasons for bad health outcomes in some groups but were apparently unable to find the reams of published data that have explained this divergence.
Simply put: if you are poor and live in a poor and run-down area with the worst healthcare, if you are eating un-nutritious or insufficient food, if your clothing doesn’t protect you from the weather and you cannot heat your home (if you have one); if you live close to a factory pumping out fumes all day, every day; and if the stress of all this is adversely affecting your mental health, it doesn’t matter what colour or ethnicity you are, your overall health cannot but be bad!
There will be different racial groups in different locations whose health will differ, but whatever racial group they belong to if they are poor and working-class their overall health will be worse than that of those who are better off.
On the subject of education, the report rightly pointed out that children from many non-white communities are performing as well as or even better than white pupils in compulsory education, with the exception of black male Caribbean-origin pupils whose performance as a group is often below their white counterparts.
Comparing GCSE grades in English and maths, the Sewell report showed that the ‘white British’ group ranked 10th in attainment, while the Chinese-origin and Indian-origin children were outperforming white students by wide margins. On this basis, the commission concluded that education had been the “single most emphatic success story of the British ethnic minority experience”, although it acknowledged that some groups “experience lower than average educational outcomes, which can have a significant impact on employment rates, earnings and general wellbeing”.
The report stated that a higher proportion of ethnic minority young people attend university compared with their white counterparts, but that (giving the lie to the commission’s earlier views regarding institutional racism) it is the latter who have the best outcomes at the top universities!
Another aspect of the report that outraged left-liberals was its statement that: “Pupils should be exposed to the ‘rich variety’ of British culture including empire and the arrival of the Windrush generation.”
In our view, the empire, its causes and its vile practices in their entirety should be taught to all our children. But, again, this will not happen properly in a capitalist society, since that society needs to hide and misrepresent its past.
It is in the area of policing that the commission made its most serious omissions. It rightly concluded that black people were disproportionately victims of violent crime and homicide. For every white victim of homicide aged 16 to 24 in the year 2018/19, there were 24 black victims, the report stated.
But what of the numbers of black people targeted by the police for arrest or beatings? What of the serious problems around stop-and-search in predominantly black areas, or of the targeting by police of black people in all areas? What of the disproportionate punishments and jail sentences meted out to black people? Ignoring all these issues, the rerport instead opined at the racism suffered by black police officers from the public!
On the whole, the Sewell report has given us little that is new, but one gets the idea that it wasn’t really supposed to. There is nothing here that might further a greater understanding between black and white workers but, again, we don’t think it was supposed to. Meanwhile, the response from some of the self-identifying anti-racists has merely helped to push black and white workers a little further apart.
Whatever our colour, our ethnicity or our place of birth, we need to learn that it is only when all workers are united that we will become strong.