“In 2021, it is stunning to read a report on race and ethnicity that repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twisting data and misapplying statistics and studies into conclusory findings and ad hominem attacks on people of African descent”, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, said in a news release.
The report was presented on 31 March by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which was set up by the UK government after the Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests erupted across the world, following the death of George Floyd, last year.
The human rights experts also said that the report cited “dubious evidence to make claims that rationalize white supremacy by using the familiar arguments that have always justified racial hierarchy”.
“This attempt to normalize white supremacy despite considerable research and evidence of institutional racism is an unfortunate sidestepping of the opportunity to acknowledge the atrocities of the past and the contributions of all in order to move forward.”
The experts called on the British government to categorically reject the report’s findings and to ensure the “accurate reflection of historical facts” as they relate to past tragedies and atrocities, in particular slavery, the trade in enslaved Africans and colonialism.
The Working Group also said that the British Commission’s report omitted any recognition or analysis of institutional racism by international human rights bodies, including the Working Group’s 2012 review, the concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the 2018 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism.
The experts also condemned the report’s assertion that while there might be overt acts of racism in the UK, there was no institutional racism.
“The report’s conclusion that racism is either a product of the imagination of people of African descent or of discrete, individualized incidents ignores the pervasive role that the social construction of race was designed to play in society, particularly in normalizing atrocity, in which the British state and institutions played a significant role.”
The experts noted that while racial disparities may not always stem from racism or racial discrimination, there is compelling evidence that the roots of these disparities lie in institutional racism and structural discrimination, as they clearly do not reflect the preferences or priorities of the communities facing structural disadvantage.
“The suggestion that family structure, rather than institutionalized and structural discriminatory practices are the central features of the Black experience is a tone-deaf attempt at rejecting the lived realities of people of African descent and other ethnic minorities in the UK”, the experts added.
‘Reprehensible’ but not ‘unfamiliar’
The Working Group also said that the report’s mythical representation of enslavement was an attempt to sanitize the history of the trade in enslaved Africans.
“This is a reprehensible, although not unfamiliar tactic, employed by many whose wealth came directly from the enslavement of others, ever since slavery was outlawed. Seeking to silence the brutal role of enslavers, the mind-numbing generational wealth they accrued, and the social capital and political influence they gained from exploiting Black bodies is a deliberate attempt at historical misrepresentation.”
Part of the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council, the Working Group of Experts of People of African Descent was established in 2002 with a mandate to study the problems of racial discrimination faced by people of African descent living, and to make proposals for the elimination of racial discrimination against them.
The Working Group is composed of five independent human rights experts, who are not UN staff and do not receive a salary. They serve in their individual capacity and are independent from any government or organization.