The Sewell Report: Our initial thoughts

    The Sewell Report:  Our initial thoughts

     Dr Sewell’s report says racism is a real force to be taken seriously…and that’s where he’s right.  

    A week after the dust has settled on Dr Tony Sewell’s report on Racial Disparity in the UK we’ve had time to digest and absorb his findings.

    The Sewell report doesn’t change anything in terms of opinion. Those who have seen and experienced institutional racism in their working lives know that it is real; and a government enquiry can do nothing to refute that truth. But people who perceive that the systemic problem of inequality is exaggerated will feel exonerated.

    While the Sewell Report alters none of the reality, it isn’t exactly helpful in the way it could lead to complacency with its claim that the UK has a record on racial inequality which other nations should aspire to.

    Try telling that to the Windrush generation.

    Or tell it to anyone who has suffered a worse outcome in health, education or job opportunities, purely because of the colour of their skin.

    But the danger we must guard against is a knee-jerk reaction here, by dismissing the report in its entirety. To simply call it government propaganda could risk widening the gap between those on the side of ED&I progress and those, in areas of influence, who just can’t see a problem.

    There is no real point in preaching to the converted if we want to affect real and lasting progress. That outcome necessitates the changing of minds, and we can’t do that by simply improving the policies and practices of the already enlightened.

    Dr Sewell did not deny that racism was a ‘real force’ in the UK which must be taken seriously, and in that pronouncement he is on the money. But tackling racism is a frustratingly slow process. It took almost a generation for racist language to become universally unacceptable.

    In the battle to rid our country of racism, in any institution, we need allies, and resist the temptation to be embroiled in the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ scenario which invariably produces two losing sides. White working class people have become weary of they way they feel blamed for all of the world’s ills; and most citizens believe they can be patriotic as well as being passionate about equality of opportunity and inclusion.

    90 per cent of people in any organisation, or nation, can find common ground and an agreement. Let’s leave the five per cent on either extreme to their own immovable ideology.

    And let’s tackle structural racism together, wherever it exists. A country cannot be racist, only the people who live in it. But while racism doesn’t infect every operation in the UK, there are barriers for black and ethnic minority workers in far too many organisations for anyone to say institutional racism isn’t a problem.

    The debate over the use of the acronym BAME has resurfaced, Dr Sewell suggesting it is an unhelpful catch-all, and that may be the second point he got right.

    So, okay Dr Sewell, the UK may not be as backward as some other nations, in terms of tackling racism, but that doesn’t make us particularly good at it. If we really are to be world leaders in ED &I then we must become exemplars, and stop being happy with being ‘not as bad as the others’.

    More to come on this from HDN.

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