Members of the Government’s racial disparities commission last night hit back at the ‘irresponsible and dangerous’ criticism being levelled at them by politicians and public figures.
The authors of a controversial report into racism in Britain said they welcomed ‘robust debate’.
But in a joint statement released last night, they raised concerns about abuse they have received in recent days, including from those in Westminster.
They highlighted a tweet from Labour MP Clive Lewis showing a picture of the Ku Klux Klan with the caption: ‘Move along. Nothing to see here. #RaceReport.’
The authors (pictured, chair Dr Tony Sewell) of a controversial report into racism in Britain said they welcomed ‘robust debate’
They highlighted a tweet from Labour MP Clive Lewis showing a picture of the Ku Klux Klan with the caption: ‘Move along. Nothing to see here. #RaceReport’
Cambridge don’s ‘Goebbels’ jibe
A Cambridge University professor has sparked outrage by comparing the chairman of the Government’s race commission to Joseph Goebbels.
Dr Priyamvada Gopal initially questioned whether Dr Tony Sewell even had a doctorate.
Dr Priyamvada Gopal initially questioned whether Dr Tony Sewell even had a doctorate
After finding out that he possesses one from the University of Nottingham, she made the comparison to Adolf Hitler’s minister of propaganda.
Dr Gopal, a professor of post-colonial studies, wrote on Twitter: ‘Okay, established. It is, in fact, Dr Sewell. Fair enough. Even Dr Goebbels had a research PhD. (University of Heidelberg, 1921).’
The tweet drew widespread criticism. Former ITV News presenter Alastair Stewart said: ‘This is obscene and devalues anything and everything you have to say.’
Cambridge University distanced itself from Dr Gopal’s ‘gratuitous comment’ but defended her right to express her views.
The statement said: ‘The deeply personal attacks on many of us by politicians and other public figures are irresponsible and dangerous.
‘For example, one MP presented commissioners as members of the KKK. Robust debate we welcome.
‘But to depict us as racism deniers, slavery apologists or worse is unacceptable.’
Critics called the study by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities a ‘whitewash’ after it found no conclusive evidence of institutional racism in Britain.
The report, published on Wednesday, said factors such as geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion were found to have more impact on life chances than racism.
Baroness Lawrence, whose son Stephen was murdered by white thugs in 1993, said it had ‘given racists the green light’.
But last night the commission insisted: ‘We have never said that racism does not exist in society or in institutions. We say the contrary: Racism is real and we must do more to tackle it.’
They added: ‘The facts and analysis we presented challenge a number of strongly held beliefs about the nature and extent of racism in Britain today.
‘Sadly, however, in some cases fair and robust disagreement with the Commission’s work has tipped into misrepresentation.
‘This misrepresentation risks undermining the purpose of the report – understanding and addressing the causes of inequality in the UK – and any of the positive work that results from it.’
Dr Tony Sewell, the chairman of the commission, has faced particular criticism about his foreword, with some accusing him of ‘glorifying’ the slave trade.
The education consultant and ex-charity boss called on schools to use history lessons to ‘tell the multiple, nuanced stories of the contributions made by different groups that have made this country the one it is today’.
He said there was a new story to be told about the ‘slave period’ that was not all about ‘profit and suffering’.
In the statement last night, the commission said there had been a ‘wilful misrepresentation by some people’ of its view ‘on the history of slavery’.
‘The idea that the Commission would downplay the atrocities of slavery is as absurd as it is offensive to every one of us,’ they added.