The Government Are Using Doublespeak To Tell Those Affected By Racism That It Isn’t What They Think It Is

It is wildly irresponsible of the commission to admit racism exists in the UK while simultaneously claiming that it is a self-sufficient mechanism, writes Kelechi Okafor.

BLM protest

by Kelechi Okafor |

‘Gods always behave like the people who make them’ is one of my favourite quotes by the author Zora Neale Hurston. I thought about this quote as I read the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. Reports always behave like the people who write them.

I wasn’t shocked that the overall takeaway from the report - better used as chip shop paper - is that although racist acts take place in the UK, the UK itself is not ‘structurally racist.’

From the moment Boris Johnson announced that the commission would be put together, and then names started floating around as to who would be part of the commission, I knew their ‘findings’ would lack integrity.

Tony Sewell is frequently called upon to speak about racism in the UK, and I have always found his assertions rather disconcerting because they usually lack nuance. When previously asked about knife crime and the over-representation of Black boys being the victims, he said one of the contributing factors was ‘absent fathers.’ It is therefore no surprise that with Tony Sewell being one of the commissioners - the report suggests that the actual reason for the over-representation of Black people in the criminal justice system, is due to ‘broken families.’

When we look at data, we can claim anything if we choose to ignore context, history and nuance.

This manner of addressing the inequities faced by non-white communities in Britain is disingenuous because while it acknowledges the impact that racism has on Black families, it simultaneously takes that data and wields it against those already reeling from socially encouraged inequities. What I am saying here is that when we look at data, we can claim anything if we choose to ignore context, history and nuance.

Statistically (based on the proportion of white people in the UK compared to non-white people) white families have more ‘broken families’ yet we don’t tend to see this used as an excuse or justification for the societal failings affecting them.

It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so unbearably tragic that due to the Black Lives Matter protests last year, a Prime Minister (who has referred to Black people as ‘picanninies with watermelon smiles’) would put a commission together to investigate whether Britain is structurally racist. An oppressive government is investigating the oppression it relies on to remain in power? What a farce!

I would love to write something extremely eloquent about the ways in which Black and Asian communities are being gaslit by this report, but I don’t have anything in me but rage. It would be a disservice to my community to intellectualise our collective feeling because in some regards that too is a white supremacist patriarchal tool - to extract all feeling from something in order to prove oneself astute and ‘logical’.

What we are seeing happening in real-time is a white washing of the very real experiences of Black and Asian communities in the UK. We are watching a callous government implement doublespeak as a way to tell those affected by racism, that it isn’t what they think it is.

The commission is nothing more than a bunch of institutional racism deniers, getting together to support the government in its violent oppressive policies. There’s nothing new about this dynamic of non-white people who are chosen to further the whims of white supremacy in exchange for access to certain privileges only afforded to those who don’t look like they do.

Was I expecting a group of which there are members who have ‘British Empire’ at the end of their most celebrated titles, to come to a conclusion that Britain is racist? Definitely not. Why would they bite the hand that feeds them even if that hand continues to muffle the rightful protests of who they share histories with? I guess this would be a discussion for an entirely different written piece, because I have plenty to say on the matter.

It is actually quite audacious that the report would assert that not only is Britain not ‘structurally racist’ - it is also a brilliant model for other white-majority countries on how to tackle their racism.

Ha! What is going on? The heady feeling I get when reading such bold proclamations is actually testament to the effectiveness of a government-backed attempt to rewrite history and thus make me question the history (and present day experiences) that I know so intimately.

If this could happen to me - somebody well versed in this machinations of white imperialist propaganda, then what about the everyday Black or Asian person who hasn’t done as much research as I have? It is those people I am worried about and scared for because they might start to question whether they imagined the fact that no matter the space they find themselves in, racism rears its ugly head there too.

At the same time, the report isn’t entirely incorrect in its choice of language, because from the interviews I’ve done with Black people living in France, The Netherlands, Spain and Italy specifically - they speak often about the fact that their countries won’t even address race theory as a legitimate discourse let alone that racism could then be a motivating factor for the social-inequities experienced by marginalised communities within these countries.

It is actually sickening when you consider what the commission is attempting here, because it appears as if they are proposing that the best way to go about tackling racism is to pretend that any change (hard fought for through protests) attest to the benevolence of Britain and thus proves that Britain can therefore not be racist.

Fifty years from now, we will still be having the same conversations about whether Britain is racist.

To put it plainly; the UK is structurally racist and it is irresponsible of the commission to admit to racism existing in the UK while simultaneously claiming that it is a self-sufficient mechanism. Without a system that is inherently racist, individual acts of racism would not be able to thrive. Willfully choosing to misconstrue the importance of decolonising the school curriculum is to actively support a governmental effort to teach incomplete history in schools. This then guarantees that fifty years from now, we will still be having the same wayward conversations about whether Britain is racist.

I’ll leave you with another quote from Zora Neale Hurston since I’m on a roll: ‘If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.’

The whole reason I started my podcast ‘Say Your Mind’ was to document my lived experience as a Black British woman of Nigerian heritage. I created #SallyInHR as a satirical way to discuss racism in the workplace. My social media platforms grew in popularity because I have remained consistent in telling my truth, and it is clearly a truth that resonates with thousands of Black and Asian people in this country because I have the letters and emails to prove it.

I say all of this because I want to remind anyone with Black or Asian heritage who read the report, and felt a moment of gut-wrenching fear and confusion that your experiences are valid and there is no useless report fashioned against your truth that will change that. We must continue to speak truth to power despite a government that persists in trying to quell that truth.

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