Tony Sewell Tony Sewell and chair Controversial the of Ethnic … ? Race Who is
Wed, 31 Mar 2021 12:00:00 +0100
Dr Sewell has previously suggested that the evidence for institutional racism is “somewhat flimsy”
The chair of the Commission on Race and Ethnic disparities drew criticism on Wednesday after his report concluded that there was no evidence of “institutional racism” in the UK.
Dr Tony Sewell, a former teacher who grew up in Brixton, was put in charge of the Commission by Boris Johnson last summer.
Dr Sewell was instructed by the Prime Minister to investigate claims of institutional racism following the Black Lives Matter movement which saw mass protests in several UK cities last year.
His appointment to the role in June 2020 was criticised by the Muslim Council of Britain who argued that Dr Sewell was “keen on downplaying race disparities”.
Prior to working on the race commission, Dr Sewell was chairman of Boris Johnson’s Education Inquiry panel when the now-Prime Minister was Mayor of London.
During his time with Mr Johnson, Dr Sewell oversaw the creation of the London Schools Excellence Fund, which helps London schools achieve top grades.
But he has previously been criticised for his comments on race and the LGBT community.
The race report is stuck in a time-warp – it doesn’t engage with the realities of being a minority in 2021
Last year Dr Sewell, who currently runs education charity Generating Genius, described the Black Lives Matter demonstrations as a “lower middle-class revolt”.
He also described protests over statues in London and Bristol as a “side-show”.
Dr Sewell was also forced to apologise last year after comments he made criticising gay people in a newspaper column 30 years ago resurfaced.
In July last year The Guardian reported that Dr Sewell penned a homophobic column while working for The Voice newspaper in which he referred to gay people as “tortured queens playing hide and seek”.
“We heterosexual are sick and tired of tortured queens playing hide and seek around their closets,” he wrote in the 1991 article.
“Homosexuals are the greatest queer-bashers around.
No other group of people are so preoccupied with making their own sexuality look dirty.”
Dr Sewell apologised last year over the comments, saying he was “committed to championing the cause of equality”.
“I am sorry for my comments from 30 years ago which were wrong and offensive,” he said in a statement.
“They do not reflect my views today nor indeed the views of modern society.
I am committed to championing the cause of equality and diversity across all of our communities, including for LGBT+ people.”
Race report: All the times there have been findings of institutional racism in the UK
Dr Sewell was also previously criticised for another article he wrote in 2010 for Prospect Magazine where he wrote that “much of the supposed evidence of institutional racism is flimsy”.
Following the publication of the Commission on Race and Ethnic disparities report on Wednesday, the chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, Dr Hannah Begum, slammed Dr Sewell’s appointment.
Dr Begum also questioned the suitability of the head of the Number 10 policy unit Munira Mirza, who has also previously questioned the existence of institutional racism.
The chief executive of the Runnymede Trust said: “If both these individuals are from the outset denying the existence of institutional racism, then what hope did we have that they were going to look into this in an objective manner, if not follow whatever the Government mantra is?”
She added: “We feel that if the best this Government can do is come up with a style guide on BAME terminology, or what we should do about unconscious bias training, or extend a few school hours, then I’m afraid this Government doesn’t carry the confidence of black and ethnic minority communities any longer, certainly not on race.”
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Tony Sewell Tony Sewell
Wed, 31 Mar 2021 12:00:00 +0100
But one racial equality organisation says it feels "deeply, massively let down" and the government has lost trust
The UK "no longer" has a system rigged against people from ethnic minorities, a review set up by No 10 says.
The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities said family structure and social class had a bigger impact than race on how people's lives turned out.
It said children from minority ethnic communities did as well or better than white pupils, but overt racism remained, particularly online.
The Runnymede Trust think tank said it felt "let down" by the report.
The commission was set up after Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests across the country last summer – triggered by the killing of George Floyd in the US.
The main findings were:
The commission's report concluded that the UK is not yet a "post-racial country" – but its success in removing race-based disparity in education and, to a lesser extent, the economy, "should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries".
A foreword to the report by chairman Tony Sewell, an education consultant and ex-charity boss, said: "We no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities."
While the "impediments and disparities do exist", it continued, they were "varied and ironically very few of them are directly to do with racism".
The report added that evidence had found that factors such as geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion had "more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism".
"That said, we take the reality of racism seriously and we do not deny that it is a real force in the UK."
The report also said there is an "increasingly strident form of anti-racism thinking that seeks to explain all minority disadvantage through the prism of white discrimination" which it said diverted attention from "the other reasons for minority success and failure".
In a statement issued after the report was published, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was "right" that ministers now consider its recommendations in detail and assess "the implications for future government policy".
He added: "The entirety of government remains fully committed to building a fairer Britain and taking the action needed to address disparities wherever they exist."
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Dr Sewell said while there was anecdotal evidence of racism, there was no proof that there was "institutional racism" in Britain.
"No-one denies and no-one is saying racism doesn't exist", he said.
"We found anecdotal evidence of this.
However, evidence of actual institutional racism? No, that wasn't there, we didn't find that."
Dr Sewell added that the term "institutional racism" is "sometimes wrongly applied" as a "sort of a catch-all phrase for micro-aggressions or acts of racial abuse".
Prof Kehinde Andrews, a professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, said the report was not a "genuine effort to understand racism in Britain".
Prof Andrews said: "It's complete nonsense.
It goes in the face of all the actual existing evidence.
This is not a genuine effort to understand racism in Britain.
This is a PR move to pretend the problem doesn't exist."
Baroness Kishwer Falkner, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "This report rightly identifies the varied causes of disparities and by making recommendations to address them gives the government the opportunity to design policy targeting the sources of inequality.
"There are a number of recommendations we can play a leading role in and we welcome the recognition that additional funding would help us carry out our important work to tackle discrimination and disadvantage."
Dr Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think tank, said she felt "deeply, massively let down" by the report, and that the government did not have the confidence of black and minority ethnic communities.
Asked for her view on the commission's suggestion that the UK is not institutionally racist, she said: "Tell that to the black young mother who is four times more likely to die in childbirth than her young white neighbour, tell that to the 60% of NHS doctors and nurses who died from Covid and were black and ethnic minority workers.
"You can't tell them that, because they are dead.
"Institutionally, we are still racist, and for a government-appointed commission to look into (institutional) racism, to deny its existence is deeply, deeply worrying."
She added: "We feel that if the best this government can do is come up with a style guide on BAME terminology, or what we should do about unconscious bias training, or extend a few school hours, then I'm afraid this government doesn't carry the confidence of black and ethnic minority communities any longer, certainly not on race."
Dr Begum also claimed the report had failed to acknowledge the "suffering" of black and ethnic minority communities, adding: "All this is is a whitewash and a script that has been written to 10 Downing Street."
She also questioned the suitability of Dr Sewell and head of the Number 10 policy unit Munira Mirza, who had a role in setting the commission up – both of whom have questioned the existence of institutional racism previously.
The 258-page report makes 24 recommendations which include:
Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said the commission had "chosen to deny the experiences of black and minority ethnic workers" who were "far more likely" than white workers to be in "low-paid, insecure jobs".
She added they have been "far more likely to be exposed to Covid infection and far more likely to die – because they are far more likely to be in frontline roles.
"This is institutional racism.
And it traps too many black and minority ethnic workers in poverty, insecurity and low pay."
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he felt "disappointed" with what he had seen of the report's findings so far, insisting there were "structural" issues that needed to be addressed.
Speaking on a visit to Leeds, he told reporters that whilst there was "an acknowledgement of the problems, the issues, the challenges that face many black and minority ethnic communities" there was also "a reluctance to accept that that's structural".
The report had been due to be published last year but was pushed back until 2021, with the commission blaming Covid restrictions and the large number of responses from the public for the delay.
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– March 31, 2021
Tony Sewell 2021 Who is ? Controversial chair of the Race and Ethnic .