One of the leading British historians of slavery has accused the authors of a controversial report on racial disparities commissioned by Downing Street of giving the impression that they would rather “have history swept under the rug.”
Broadcaster David Olusoga, a professor of public history at the University of Manchester, made the comments in an article for The Guardian, when hundreds of experts on race, education, health and economics joined in criticism of the report for blatantly misrepresenting evidence from racism.
Published in full on Wednesday, The report of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities said its findings presented “a new racial agenda for the country,” and concluded that “the claim that the country continues to be institutionally racist is not confirmed by the evidence.”
The report was quickly condemned by parliamentarians, unions and activists, with comments from the commission’s chairman, Dr. Tony Sewell. in its prologue noted for a special review. Sewell wrote that there was a new story to tell about the “period of slavery” not only about “profit and suffering”, but about how “African peoples culturally transformed into a remodeled African / British.”
Olusoga said that, as a historian, for him the most disturbing passages in the report are those in which the authors “stumble, ill-prepared and overconfident, in the arena of history.”
“Surprisingly, the authors, perhaps unknowingly, unfold a version of an argument that was used by slave owners themselves in defense of slavery 200 years ago: the idea that by becoming culturally British, blacks somehow become benefited from the system. “ Olusoga wrote in a Guardian article.
“Determined to privilege comforting national myths over harsh historical truths, they give the impression of being people who would rather have this story passed under the rug,” he added, describing the report as the British version of the commissioned “1776 report” by the Trump administration, which urged the United States to return to an era of “patriotic education.”
Hakim Adi, professor of history of Africa and the African diaspora at the University of Chichester, told The Guardian that the foreword to the report did not make it clear that the subjugation of millions of Africans was a crime against humanity.
“It is forgetting the hundreds of years of crimes against the African people, the deaths of millions of African men, women and children,” Adi said. “We live in a country where [many] They have denied this as a reality, they have refused to repair it, and for this report to put it in a paragraph in that way, the word insult does not do it justice. “
British theologian Robert Beckford said it was consistent with the “radical historical amnesia and vicious historical revisionism” of the history of the Caribbean and Africa by the far right. Beckford, professor of black theology at the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham, said the report had reduced the racial terror of slavery and Britain’s racial capitalism to a simple exchange of cultural ideas.
Responding to criticism, Sewell said: “It is absurd to suggest that the commission is trying to downplay the evil of the slave trade. It is ridiculous and offensive to each and every commissioner. The report simply says that in the face of the inhumanity of slavery, Africans preserved their humanity and culture. “
The commission behind the report was set up by Downing Street to investigate racial disparities in the UK in response to the Black Lives Matter protests last summer.
The report drew further criticism on Friday from hundreds of UK academics who came together to sign an open letter criticizing its “selective and distorted use of academic research.”
While the report claims that education was “the most emphatic success story of the British ethnic minority experience”, the signatories of the letter He said that he had “completely overlooked the substantial evidence base in educational research that has demonstrated how structural, institutional and direct racism works in and through schools, universities and other educational settings.”
Those involved had “limited knowledge of research in education,” the letter’s authors said, adding that the research was cited to “present a simplistic understanding of education and divisive views of ethnic minority groups.”
“The report misrepresents, omits and evades academic debate and long-standing and nuanced evidence on the complex relationship between racism and educational practices, cultures, policies and systems,” they added.
Signatories to the letter included Arathi Sriprakash, a professor of education at the University of Bristol, who said they came from a variety of disciplines within educational research, including psychology, sociology and economics, and many were prominent figures and respected in the field.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism