72 thoughts on “Britain’s commission on racism reports that everything’s fine

  1. I agree with the report’s conclusions that Britain is not fundamentally racist.

    I have lived in London since 1994 and have observed very little racism during this time. The worst incident I observed was in a pub when a member of the Brexit Party said that a member of the bar staff, was “not British”. The staff member concerned was born in London and had Asian parentage. I intervened and told the Brexit Party member that his behaviour was unacceptable, and I would do the same thing again.

    The racism I do observe is almost exclusively amongst the older generation. I don’t remember the last time I heard someone under the age of 50ish say anything with racist undertones.

    Turning to the report, the head of the Commission is non-white. I find it odd that the report is being described as “racist” by some (although not by you).

    I also find it peculiar that one of the historians you quote appears not to have heard of the work of the Commission. The Commission’s work has frequently been referred to in the media. Therefore I am astounded by his apparent lack of awareness concerning it’s existence/work.

    I am white and I do, of course accept that I can not as a consequence of my skin colour experience racism in the same manner as a non-white person. I can (and have) been deeply shocked on the very few occasions on which I have observed racist behaviour, but I can’t feel it in the same manner as someone who is black, Asian Etc.

    Having said the above, speaking to non-white friends and acquaintances in London, many of them tell me that they have never experienced racism and I do, of course believe what they say.

    Ultimately those who believe that the UK is a basically racist society will continue to hold those views whatever evidence is produced to the contrary. I am therefore not surprised that those who hold such views attack the report’s conclusions as they threaten their narrow view that Britain is a fundamentally racist society.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t do justice to the full argument I’d like to make here. It would take a book. But let me toss a few quick thoughts at you.

      I won’t argue about individuals’ experience of racism, although don’t believe it’s rare as you do and the stories I hear from people I know are different from the ones you hear. But neither of us has statistics (I’m reasonably sure there are none) and it’s not what the report was about in any case. It was about structural racism, or as it puts it, disparities: Are the differences in income, housing, education, policing, etc. that different ethnicities face the result of structural racism or of something else–individual bad choices, for example?

      To say that there’s structural racism isn’t the same as saying that the people who keep the system functioning are individually racist. All they have to be is people doing their jobs. The system itself will limit people’s chances. The system will perpetuate itself.

      Take a look at the police right to stop and search people without cause. It happens to Blacks–especially young Black men–far more often than Whites. For that there are statistics. This should make us uneasy. It should make us look at why and how that happens. We should also want to know why Black and minority ethnic people have been hit harder by the pandemic than whites. What is it (or–let me try to be neutral in how I pose this–is it something) in the structure of our society that makes that so? We should want to know the ethnic breakdown of the House of Lords, the Commons, the cabinet, the police, the civil service, not to play numbers games but to ask why they’re structured the way they are and what impact that has. We should look at how income is distributed. How did that come about? Do we have any indication that it’s changing? Why? How?

      We should also look at how we got to where we are. Some of the “great” British families made fortunes out of slavery and were compensated when their slaves were freed. The slaves weren’t compensated and the descendants of those two groups (let’s keep it simple and limit ourselves to two groups) enter the present day with or without riches and education and public respect–in other words, having inherited very different life chances. A few descendants of slaves move into the upper echelons, but for the bulk of people the system perpetuates itself. That, my friend, is also part of structural racism.

      As for the historian you mention, it’s not that he wasn’t aware of the commission but that they weren’t clear about what they were asking him to participate in or how. In other words, they blindsided him–possibly not deliberately, but that was the effect.

      A final point: You mention that the chair of the commission was Black. Indeed he was. People within ethnic groups and genders and religions take different political positions. None of us speak for all of us.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Amazed and very surprised about the result really, considering the minister given the responsibility for delivering the report, who was already on record as saying she didn’t believe there was such a thing as institutional racism, recommended the man to carry out the report, who was on record as saying he didn’t believe there was such a thing as institutional racism, concluded that there wasn’t actually any such thing as institutional racism.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yes, you demolish those bogus reports pretty well. Unfortunately, lazy people just read the headlines and think “Yeah, what are those black people/women/protestors whingeing about?! Snowflakes!” And think no more about it.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Revisionist history is alive and well just like in the US! You didn’t mention the colonization of Africa which was as racist as could be possible and still is. Remember that slaves were not slaves but arrived in America by “forced immigration”! All plantation owners, including George Washington, “treated” their slaves well, and if they were disciplined they deserved it because they were bad. And George Floyd got what he got because he was a bad person. And there is no structural racism? I am not making any of this up and many people in the US spout these racist tropes. You also left out the racism of the royal family and the racism against Pakistanis. Watch the Queen movie for examples of this.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The not-so–cunning low politics of this report on race, as I see it, is as a combination of dog-whistling and coat-trailing to stir up a “culture war” (see also the nonsense about flying the Union flag and messing about with school curricula), against precisely the opposition it has aroused. We all know about the attitude of Johnson and his acolytes to experts and academics who actually have some basis for knowing what they’re talking about.

    It is no coincidence that we’re coming up to local elections and a parliamentary by-election, nor that the initiative behind this particular “commission” was led and fronted by people of non-white heritage who apparently don’t see why other people can’t do as they’ve managed to do with their lives. This allows Johnson to appeal to not only the Tory faithful in the press and the party membership but also the socially conservative but non-metropolitan traditional Labour voters who have been swinging over to the Tories, by portraying the opposition as self-interested, out of touch, unpatriotic and all the rest of it – and also implying that this is all a row among non-white people, so the rest of us can just sit back.

    Of course, there is a bit of a sting in the tail for them, given that the report does point to social class disadvantages, which ought to be an open goal for the opposition, but we shall see.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It should be an open goal, but I don’t think the opposition’s figured out what the game is yet. Football? Go Fish? Scrabble? Other than that, yup, I think you’re right on all points.


  6. You’re sure this isn’t fiction? I wanted to stop reading after the first segment, but it’s like watching a train wreck. I couldn’t look away.

    Good to know you’re living in the land of the enlightened.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh, I am. So enlightened that in this morning’s paper I read that plainclothes police broke into the houses of two young women disguised as letter carriers (that’s the police, not the women) and arrested them. Because they’d been at demonstrations against a bill expanding police powers. They even arrested the one who hadn’t been at the demonstration and didn’t match the photo they had, while she was still in her underwear. Proving that yes, their powers clearly need to be expanded.

      Liked by 3 people

      • What century is it over there.

        Then again. I have family in Iowa. In response to the wave of mas shootings in this country, their legislature just passed a law (and the Governor signed it) making it easier to buy and carry guns. So, you don’t have a lock on fact that should be fiction.

        Liked by 3 people

        • I think it’s considerably crazier in the US than in Britain, even with the new incumbent in the White House, but this new policing bill is genuinely worrying.

          Remember the argument that more guns would make us all safer?

          Liked by 1 person

              • Yeh – over here they broke in on the wrong young woman and killed her (Brianna Taylor) and no one has been brought to account after more than a year. And of course the new voter laws in Georgia (the US State, not the former SSR) are designed to foil voter fraud – of which there was none to speak of. And no Asians or blacks or Hispanics have been beaten or attacked or killed…in the last half hour since I’ve had a baseball game on.

                Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve been pondering what is the next best step for dealing with racism. Education and saying to people “Don’t be racist” isn’t close to enough. In the U.S. at least, maybe a separate republic or nation-state would be a meaningful way forward. We’ve got the land for it. Britain doesn’t, it seems.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Separation would be giving in to the racists, who say we can’t live together. And what happens, then, to people who don’t fit into the two-choice model of humanity? Those who are neither white or black? Those who are neither? Those whose families span the divide? Those who’ve made their lives in one place and are told they’re no longer welcome there, they have to start over someplace else? If you look at the division between India and Pakistan, it was a disaster, complete with massacres. We have no choice but to live together–within nations and with other nations.

      I do agree that telling people not to be racist isn’t a winning strategy, although when individuals take on the task it does make a difference. If theirs a social price to pay, racism doesn’t disappear but it does die back a bit. But it’s not only about individuals and their opinions. It’s also about the structures that keep racism in place. I don’t have a plan–I’m just someone sitting on the couch–but if as a country (either country) we got serious about it, we could put one together. The knowledge is there. What we need to do is tap into it.

      And if in tacking inequality, we also addressed (as we’d have to) low pay, insecure jobs, the health care crisis, we might find that some of the anger dies back, because those are issues for whites as well as Blacks and everyone in between.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. One can only wonder how a small child got that close to the computer in the first place. Actually, one doesn’t need to wonder. One is simply glad the child had enough sense not to push the BIG RED BUTTON that adults can’t seem to resist.


  9. Although some research reveals infants demonstrate a preference for caregivers of their own race, any future racial biases and bigotries generally are environmentally acquired. (Adult racist sentiments are often cemented by a misguided yet strong sense of entitlement, perhaps also acquired from one’s environment.) One means of proactively preventing this social/societal problem may be by allowing young children to become accustomed to other races in a harmoniously positive manner.

    Some people — who may now be in an armed authority capacity — were raised with a distrust or blind dislike of other racial groups.

    The first step towards changing our irrationally biased thinking can be our awareness of it and its origin. But until then, I believe, such biased sentiments should either be kept to oneself or counselled, especially when considering the mentality is easily inflamed by anger.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t disagree, but I’d add that racism is also both reinforced and sometimes created by the people around us–work, family, neighborhoods. So if you drop someone from the majority group into a racist system–well, many people will take on the attitudes around them and others will keep their opinions to themselves. It takes a lot of strength to stand against it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • At a very young and therefore impressionable age, I was emphatically told by my mother (who’s of Eastern European heritage) about the exceptionally kind and caring nature of our Black family doctor. She never had anything disdainful to say about people of color; in fact she loves to watch/listen to the Middle Eastern and Indian subcontinental dancers and musicians on the multicultural channels. This had a positive effect upon me. Had she (for whatever reason) told me the opposite about the doctor, however, I could have aged while blindly linking his color with an unjustly cynical view of him and, eventually, all Black people.

        When angry, my (late) father occasionally expressed displeasure with fluent-English-speaking Anglo-Saxon citizens/immigrants, largely due to his own experiences with bigotry as a new Canadian citizen in the 1950s and ’60s. He, who also emigrated from Eastern Europe, didn’t resent non-white immigrants, for he realized they had things at least as bad. Plus he noticed — as I also now do — in them an admirable absence of a sense of entitlement.

        I believe that as a result of my rearing environment, and basically by chance, I reached adulthood essentially unstricken by uncontrollable feelings of interracial contempt seeking expression. Some people were not as lucky as I.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s amazing how deep the roots of our childhood lessons–the deliberate ones and the accidental–reach. And equally amazing, when we can back away far enough to see it–that we live in a culture that treats color as such as essential division. Having grown up with that, it took an Iranian immigrant’s casual comment on US history to make me realize that it doesn’t play the same exact role in all cultures. I was in my thirties by the time I realized that.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, the U.S. and much of the rest of the Western world (Canada and Britain, in particular) have not treated Iranians very well, especially following the Iranian Revolution.

            While you may not have heard it through our mainstream news-media, I believe the primary reason the revolution and Western-nation expulsion occurred was in relation to foreign oil companies, notably those of the U.S. (though perhaps even of Canada and/or of major European nations), exploiting Iranian resources.

            Liked by 1 person

              • Every culture/nation has its own propaganda and core beliefs, true and false; though some culture/nations — usually the most powerful — are much more corrupt and brutal than others.

                I often hear and read praise heaped upon The New York Times for their supposed uncompromised integrity when it comes to humanitarianism and ethical journalism; however, did they not help create the Iraq (No Moral Reason For) War, through then-VP Dick Cheney’s self-citing via a Times blog? The same Cheney who monetarily benefitted from the war (more like a turkey shoot) via Iraqi oil fields.

                I recall reading that the Times essentially claimed honest-ignorance innocence on the grounds that it was its blogger’s overzealousness to blame. But is it really plausible that the Times doesn’t normally insist upon securing the non-publishable yet accurate identity of its blogger’s anonymous information source—in this case, a devious Cheney—especially considering that Dick was using the anonymous source’s (i.e. his own) total BS about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify a declaration of war that inevitably resulted in genuine gratuitous mass suffering?

                I think that The New York Times may have jumped on this particular atrocity-prone bandwagon, perhaps due to the mindbogglingly huge 9/11 blow the city took only a few years prior.

                Liked by 1 person

              • You’re into a bit of history that I don’t know here. The Times usually does good journalism, but perfect it’s not. Ditto the Guardian. All I can say is that compared to the competition, they start to look saintly. That’s a low standard for sainthood.

                Liked by 1 person

              • In Canada, we have a near-monopoly corporate news-media (i.e. Postmedia’s ownership/control of all-except-one major print publications) who are formally allied with one of the planet’s greatest polluting solid forms of “energy” and the most polluting form of crude oil — bitumen crude oil, a.k.a. tarsands.

                During one of its presentations, it was stated: “Postmedia and CAPP [Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers] will bring energy to the forefront of our national conversation. Together, we will engage executives, the business community and the Canadian public to underscore the ways in which the energy sector powers Canada.”

                Also, a then-publisher of a Postmedia national newspaper said: “From its inception, the National Post has been one of the country’s leading voices on the importance of energy to Canada’s business competitiveness internationally and our economic well-being in general. We will work with CAPP [Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers] to amplify our energy mandate and to be a part of the solution to keep Canada competitive in the global marketplace. The National Post will undertake to leverage all means editorially, technically and creatively to further this critical conversation.”

                Liked by 1 person

  10. Or in the case of Georgia (U.S.) that thumb was tipped with a pen that signed a voter suppression law into effect with a portrait of a plantation in the background and Governor Kemp was surrounded by…..you guessed it. As for the hairstyle, I just wish I could actually tease my hair enough that it would stay put instead of falling into a limp piece of slime. If I had hair like that you bet I would let it be known. At one time the beehive was popular so kind of the same concept & it was allowed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m old enough to remember the beehive, although I never did manage one. What’s amazing is that if enough people are walking around with absolutely anything on their heads, it starts to look normal. Then forty years later you look at the photos…

      I’ve followed the Georgia law. And the ones other states are working on. I’d say it was shocking if it wasn’t so damn predictable.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. A question about this: “every day in every way everything’s getting better and better.” Do you know where you have it from or is it just something that you’ve got memorised?

    Good to be reading you again. In your company one definitely feels less alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a phrase out of my childhood (we’re talking prehistory here) and is from one of the early self-help promoters, although I don’t think it was called self-help then. The idea was that you’d repeat to yourself, “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.” And you would. To my surprise (I just looked it up), it’s from the 1920s, from a French psychologist, Emile Coue. It got enough of a grip on popular psychology that I was still hearing it (with a slight smirk and a raised eyebrow) in the 1950s.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. It is disheartening to say that despite the biggest democracy we are still having the issue. Racism is harming most of the regions here like northeast India etc. I have written a separate blog about it.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

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