It must have seemed a smart strategy. Hand-pick “independent” commissioners whose views on racism are mostly known to be aligned with the prevailing orthodoxy in 10 Downing Street; ask them to produce a report after the prime minister has dropped a heavy hint and declared he wants to “change the narrative” on race; then spin the report by selectively leaking the most helpful passages to the most helpful journalists (which somehow did not include The Independent’s race correspondent, Nadine White).
Things, it is fair to say, do not seem to have gone to plan. So far from “changing the narrative” and closing down an inconvenient debate about institutional racism, Downing Street’s news management has merely made the commission’s report even less credible. So absurd were some of the commission’s ruminations, such as a plea to try to look at positive aspects of slavery, that it made itself look ridiculous. In explaining away almost all of the racism that people of colour encounter as merely to do with class, geography and “family structure”, and thus virtually declaring racism extinct in Britain, it was a risible exercise in gaslighting.
The notion that Britain is a “model” nation may be well-meaning – it is perfectly true that race relations are far better than they were in the days when landlords could pin up signs saying “No blacks, no dogs, no Irish” , and no doubt there is worse racism in other places – but for a country with so many statues to colonial conquerors and slave owners, it is pushing things a bit.
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