Tony Sewell Shouldn’t Be Glorifying Slavery

By Tanya Olusog

The British Government yesterday scored an own goal by associating itself with a report that glorifies slavery. The conclusions of the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has created a controversy in the United Kingdom.

The irony is that it appeared one month after the passing of Sir William Alan Macpherson, who in 1999, published a report on institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police.

Dr Tony Sewell glorified slavery to downplay institutional racism in Britain.

“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” writes Dr Tony Sewell in the foreword of the report.

What has his reassessment of slavery got to do with institutional racism in Britain? The argument that slavery brought out the best in the slaves is a brazen attempt by Dr Tony Sewell, the Chair of the Commission, to resort to distortion of history for personal advancement. The resilience of Afro-Caribbean victims of slavery emphasised in the report as a story to counterbalance the historicity of the slave trade shows the Tory government has adopted relativism to counter what it views as a woke culture.

That the Prime Minister of Britain Boris Johnson in the past made racist remarks about Africa says a lot about the damage the Tory government is causing to cohesion for communities. Critics have pointed out that the new report contradicts, without sound evidence, studies on lower social mobility and high conviction rates of ethnic minorities. With at least two ethnic minority Ministers holding top portfolios in the British Government — The Home Office and the Finance Ministry — one expected that a culture war would not surface to drive a wedge among communities in Britain.

Sathnam Sanghera, the Times columnist, weighs in the controversy.

“My son was murdered because of racism, and you cannot forget that. Once you start covering it up it is giving the green light to racists. You imagine what’s going to happen come tomorrow. What’s going to happen on our streets with our young people? You are giving racists the green light” said Lady Doreen Lawrence whose son, Stephen Lawrence, was murdered by racists 28 years ago.

The report portrays British institutions as racist contrary to what commissioners from ethnic minorities have been persuaded to put a positive spin on slavery. The report is the evidence that institutional racism is thriving in Britain under Boris Johnson.

Tanya Olusog, London