The CRED Report on Race lacks all credibility

Shoddy, offensive Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report still dangerous

Perhaps the greatest achievement of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) report published on 31 March 2021 has been to unite condemnation from campaigners, business chiefs, academics, MPs and even mainstream media, across the political spectrum. The report, conceived and serviced within the Tory Cabinet Office, is an integral part of the culture wars waged by Trump and now Johnson, to counter an awakening of outrage against racism.

Tasked to look at race and ethnic disparities in education, employment, crime and policing and health, the report has failed peer reviews by independent experts. Historian David Olusoga’s eloquent critique of the report captures its essence in the Guardian headline “The poisonously patronising Sewell report is historically illiterate”.

The commission cherry-picked data to support the Tory narrative that institutional racism does not exist and that black people who find themselves at a disadvantage, in particular those with Caribbean heritage, just need to buck their ideas up.

The focus on explaining disparities in outcomes ignores the racism experienced by people of colour irrespective of their levels of achievement. The analysis rejects  intersectionality and reduces racial disavantages to impacts of class and culture instead of asking how racial and ethnic divisions have shaped class divisions in the UK.

The denial of institutional racism as interacting with other factors to affect educational, health and economic outcomes in the report is itself racist, aiming to divide and rule minoritised ethnic groups, for example in this patronising pat on the back to some African communities:

we were impressed by the immigrant optimism’ of some of the new African communities. They are among the new high achievers in our education system. As their Caribbean peers sit in the same classrooms, it is difficult to blame racism in education for the latters underachievement”.

Several of the report’s 24 recommendations are sensible but some read as platitudes that have been ignored by successive Governments. There is a suggestion to expand and better fund the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) “to challenge policies or practices that cause significant and unjust racial disadvantage, or arise from racial discrimination”. Giving the EHRC adequate resources to challenge racism and all the other forms of discrimination could be desirable if the organisation were radically overhauled to become an effective watchdog over all institutions including the government and government-sponsored enquiries and reports like this one. [See the House of Common, House of Lords, Joint Committee on Human Rights Report on its utter inadequacies in Black people, racism and human rights, 4 Nov 2020.] This cannot happen while the government controls the appointment of commissioners or while the EHRC is meant to concur in the denial of institutional racism in our society and communities.

In other circumstances we might welcome a report from a Conservative Government that recognises the importance of class in determining life-chances, a recognition that they have derided, historically, as a socialist invention. However, by setting class against race to explain disadvantage the report deliberately ignores their complex interaction. The report simplistically blames family breakdown as one of the main reasons for some groups achieving poor education outcomes. Yet there is no recognition of how poverty, discrimination in schools, health services and workplaces, racist immigration laws or historical trauma passed down through generations, might be affecting the resilience of families.

The only reference to ‘slave’ or ‘slavery’ in 258 pages of the report involves seeing the silver lining in this most brutal aspect of empire. The report claims:

There is a new story about the Caribbean experience which speaks to the slave period not only being about profit and suffering but how culturally African people transformed themselves into a re-modelled African/Britain.”

The only legacies of slavery are seen as positive such as reggae and jerk chicken. The report doesn’t see the brutal elimination of the cultures and social structures among enslaved people and the erosion of moral sensibility within British society from centuries of slave-owning, as possibly having any long-term adverse effects…

The recommendation to do away with the acronym BAME could be welcome. Unfortunately, the report does not suggest any better alternative or seek to understand that while many very different heritages are subsumed under this term it does capture their common experience – of being marginalised.

The response from the Labour Leader has been weak. We would have welcomed Starmer echoing the comments of Black MPs like Bell Ribeiro-Addy and Diane Abbott that the Report submerged the lived experience of Black citizens in order to reach its pre-formed conclusions. Black, oppressed and excluded people, such as those still fighting for justice for those impacted by the Windrush scandal, will feel enraged by this denial of their lived experience. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities will be particularly disgusted by the way the report dwells on their educational under-achievement while failing to comment on the fact that the Government is currently legislating to criminalise their mode of life in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

This shoddy and deeply offensive report is entirely compatible with the Conservative Government’s policies and practice, for example, its diktats to teachers on how to teach history, wilfully refusing to recognise that Black history and the detrimental impact of British colonialism IS part of British history.  We further note with deep concern the Conservative Party’s continuing association with neo-Nazi and anti-Muslim parties in the Council of Europe. The Report should be exposed for the deep racism that underpins it. Its publication strengthens JVLs determination to act as an ally in all antiracist struggles.


Select further reading

The Report, Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED)

Race report: Was controversy part of the plan? – BBC

The poisonously patronising Sewell report is historically illiterate, David Olusoga in The Guardian

Structural racism is a fundamental cause and driver of ethnic disparities in health, BMJ Opinion

Doreen Lawrence says No 10 report gives ‘racists the green light’, Rajeev Syal in The Guardian

Windrush campaigners alarmed by omissions of No 10 race report, Amelia Gentleman in The Guardian

Race report: Author listed as a contributor says he was ‘absolutely’ not contacted by Race Commission, Serina Sandhu in the i

Sewell Reports : Runnymede Responds, Runnymede Trust

Sewell Report On Institutional Racism – Whose Side Are You On?, Black Lives Labour

Comments (3)

  • Ben Rogaly says:

    Thank you for this important critique and rebuttal of the Sewell report. Your readers may also be interested in this outstanding analysis of the politics behind the report (along with continuing reasons for hope in multi-ethnic solidarity) by the authors of the recent Pluto Press book Empire’s Endgame https://www.plutobooks.com/blog/the-sewell-report/#.YHAK7aO5ovA.twitter

  • John C says:

    This CRED report reminds me of Oliver Letwin’s 1985 Broadwater Farm Riot memo advising against investment in the black community (for which he apologised “unreservedly” not too long ago). Have we come full circle? If CRED were serious about “the impact of class and culture” it would be talking about reparations. Those who say “I never owned a slave, why should I pay for it?” need to re-think the economics of public investment and should read From Here to Equality, by William Darrity and Kirstin Mullen (https://uncpress.org/book/9781469654973/from-here-to-equality/).

  • Julie Hope says:

    Excellent article. Can I also comment about the rise in right wing hate groups. Just watched the Aljazeera investigation on Generation Identity and their rise in France backed by other groups such as NF, GUD. Frightening scenes throughout but one in particular stays in my mind about singing in a pub “Kill all Marxists; kill all Jews”. I found this whole film really frightening and think it needs to reach a much wider audience.

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