Racism: Equalities minister says anti-discrimination drives can ‘create prison for black people’

Kemi Badenoch says unconscious bias training should be ‘removed’ from civil service unless it is shown to work

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Wednesday 28 October 2020 19:29 GMT
Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch
Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch

The government’s equalities minister has said that some efforts to root out racism in British society are “creating a prison for black people” by politicising their skin colour.

Kemi Badenoch, who is herself of Nigerian background, said that some prominent supporters of “critical race theory” want to create a “segregated society”.

And she questioned the use of unconscious bias training by the civil service and private companies, saying the courses should be “removed” from government departments if they prove not to work.

Ms Badenoch sparked controversy earlier this year by saying that the UK was one of the best countries in the world to be black, and this week warned that teaching the concept of “white privilege” as a fact in schools’ Black History Month lessons would be illegal.

Speaking to The Spectator magazine, she made clear she would not back down in the face of hostile responses.

“I’d go further and say this is the best country,” she said. ‘I’ve lived in the US, I’ve lived in Nigeria, so I feel like I’ve got some context to compare. I look at South Africa and look around Europe and ask: are those places better to be black than the UK? I don’t think so.”

Asked about guidance issued by the V&A museum suggesting that the term “black” covered people who experience racism because of their skin colour, she said: “This is to politicise my skin colour.

“The logical conclusion of what they’re saying is that people in Africa who are not discriminated against on the basis of their race are not really black. 

"It is associating being black with negativity, oppression and victimhood in an inescapable way. It’s creating a prison for black people.”

She said she had asked to undertake an unconscious bias course, but was sceptical about their value.

“‘I think there’s been enough time to have a look and see whether it’s working or not. And if it’s not, then we should remove it.”

Discussing texts by writers including Reni Eddo-Lodge, author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, and White Fragility author Robin DiAngelo, Ms Badenoch said: “Many people don’t realise that (critical race theory) is political. It’s getting into institutions that really should be neutral – schools, NHS trusts, and even sometimes the civil service.

“Many of these books – and, in fact, some of the authors and proponents of critical race theory – actually want a segregated society.”

Ms Eddo-Lodge has responded to say that Ms Badenoch’s claim about her is incorrect.

Writing on Twitter, she said: “The article includes the suggestion that I am in favour of a racially segregated society. This suggestion is false.”

She added: “I’m not in any way a proponent of segregation.”

Ms Badenoch warned in The Spectator that former Tory leader David Cameron risked feeding into a “victimhood narrative” which was “really poisonous for young people” when he highlighted statistics suggesting that black Britons were more likely to end up in a prison cell than a top university.

Ms Badenoch said that she felt let down by “liberal teachers” who encouraged her as a teenager to seek a career in nursing.

“I would call that racism,” she said. “In their minds, they were probably trying to help me because they thought ‘Oh, this poor black person, she seems to be doing OK at school, let’s get her on the nursing track. She won’t fail at that. But if we give her anything difficult to do, she will fail’.”

A Tory equalities agenda should be based on Martin Luther King’s “dream” that people should be judged on the content of their character not the colour of their skin, she said, adding: “You can’t pick and choose the rules depending on the colour of someone’s skin. That is what the racists do.”

Update 28 October 2020: This article has been amended to include Ms Eddo-Lodge’s comments that she rejects any suggestion that she in favour of segregation.

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