The controversial government-backed report which claimed institutional racism does not exist in the UK will be used as a “cover” by the far-right to “peddle their own racism”, anti-racism campaigners have warned.
Hope Not Hate said the report contains a number of views that are often echoed in far-right groups, as well as right-wing media and on the right of the Conservative Party.
But the far right in particular will use the findings to “deny racism exists” and validate their own narrative of “white people being the real victims of racism”, which could lead to a rise in political and physical attacks on those who strive for racial equality, the campaigners said.
It came as leading the Runnymede Trust, a leading race equality think-tank, said the report was “littered with racist tropes”, including references to the “optimism” of some immigrants as opposed to others, references to absent Black fathers and claims of “rising sensitivity” among ethnic minorities to racism.
The commission “repeats harmful stereotypes”, “belittles the realities of racial injustice in this country” and has “set race relations back decades”, the trust said.
The review has sparked widespread criticism, particularly over its suggestion that British schools should teach “a new story” about slavery that is not only “about profit and suffering”.
The day after its publication on Wednesday, Downing Street’s most senior Black adviser, Samuel Kasumu, quit his post, although No.10 sources insisted his departure had “absolutely nothing to do with the report”.
Nick Lowles, director of Hope Not Hate, said the report amplified “libertarian conservative views on race” that were previously “consigned to the margins for 30 years”.
“The consequences could be very dangerous,” he told HuffPost UK.
“The far right, and racists generally, will use this report to deny racism exists and as a cover to peddle their own racism.
“They will feel that their own narrative of white people being the real victims of racism will be validated and as a consequence we are also likely to see an increase in their political and physical attacks on those who strive for racial equality and justice.”
Our polling showed how the government is out of step with BAME communities with its report today. Over half of respondents to our poll believe Britain is institutionally racist, with just 12% disagreeing.
— HOPE not hate (@hopenothate) March 31, 2021
Lowles also highlighted January polling by Hope Not Hate which suggested 62% of ethnic minority Britons agree Black and Asian people face discrimination in their daily lives, while 40% experienced or saw racial violence in the past 12 months.
“The report is a small group of ideologically minded people telling huge swathes of ethnic minority communities that they are wrong about their own experiences,” he said.
Runnymede policy officer Alba Kapoor said the commission was “a fig leaf looking to disguise the realities of structural racism in our society, instead of taking meaningful steps to address it”.
She told HuffPost UK: “This report not only seeks to belittle the realities of racial injustice in this country, but it is also littered with concerning racist tropes.
“It repeats harmful stereotypes about ethnic minority family structures and goes so far as to claim that some experiences of racism are just imagined.
“This rhetoric is offered without meaningful policy measures to address the injustices faced by Black and ethnic minority families that this government feigns concern for.
“However you spin it, these kinds of comments should never be seen in a government report, and set race relations back decades.”
Earlier, Boris Johnson called the review a “very interesting piece of work” but admitted more needed to be done to address racism.
“I don’t say the government is going to agree with absolutely everything in it, but it has some original and stimulating work in it that I think people need to read and to consider,” the prime minister said during a visit to Middlesbrough.
“There are very serious issues that our society faces to do with racism that we need to address.
“We’ve got to do more to fix it, we need to understand the severity of the problem, and we’re going to be looking at all the ideas that they have put forward, and we’ll be making our response.”