Skip to content

The egregious Sewell report only bolsters those who want to discredit antiracism

An article I wrote for the Guardian UK on the report of the Commission on Ethnic and Racial Disparities has been published. It it I build on my theorisation of ‘not racism’ as a form of discursive racial violence, developed in Why Race Still Matters. I focus especially on the lauding of the report by prominent pedlars of the ‘not racism’ thesis such as David Goohart, whose Policy Exchange was among the first to congratulate Tony Sewell, the chair of the Commission, and Eric Kaufmann, author of Whiteshift and defender of eugenicist Noah Carl.

It is also worth noting, as many have, that Tony Sewell was nominated to the role of Commission chair because he is a long standing opponent of institutional racism. Specifically he was nominated by Munira Mirza, a senior political advisor to Boris Johnson. In 2010, Mirza edited a series of Prospect Magazine which included an article by Sewell, opposing institutional racism. So, the latest report is part of a decade+ long campaign to dismantle some of the gains of antiracism against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter global movement. An article Gavan Titley and I wrote about that series in 2010 can be read here.

The report should be understood as a political instrument, part of the onslaught on what Kaufmann calls ‘institutional wokeism’ that is attached to the campaign to discredit, and in some places ban, race scholarship. This should properly be seen, not as an internecine academic war, but as part of a deliberate, highly funded, and political hegemonic campaign to attack antiracism. This is why I felt it was important to write about it.

The publication of the commission’s report is the culmination of a long campaign to discredit antiracism. It is part of a general strategy, not confined to the UK, to blame those who speak out against racism for the very social divisions that they’re identifying. From this perverse point of view, people who experience, study and challenge racism – not those responsible for maintaining and reproducing it – keep it alive. Every factor can be used to explain racism but race itself.

Read the article on the Guardian website

Alana Lentin