Labour accuses government's new race report of 'glorifying' the slave trade 1 year ago

Labour accuses government's new race report of 'glorifying' the slave trade

Marsha De Cordova has demanded an "urgent explanation" from the government over publishing content that "glorifies the slave trade"

A report by Downing Street's Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has been accused of "glorifying" the slave trade by a Labour MP.


No. 10 agreed to carry out the review on race after the widespread Black Lives Matter protests, which took place across the world following the death of George Floyd. However, the report has been widely criticised for claiming that there is no evidence to show that Britain is an institutionally racist nation.

The report on Race and Ethnic Disparities said: “We found that most of the disparities we examined, which some attribute to racial discrimination, often do not have their origins in racism.”

While the chair of the commission, Dr Tony Sewell, acknowledged that "outright racism still exists in the UK," be it through the means of violence on the street, racist graffiti or prejudice in the job market, he said the country is not "institutionally racist".


Dr Sewell said: "Put simply we no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities. The impediments and disparities do exist, they are varied, and ironically very few of them are directly to do with racism. Too often ‘racism’ is the catch-all explanation, and can be simply implicitly accepted rather than explicitly examined."

The report is 264 pages in length and makes a total of 24 recommendations to tackle the problem of racism, one of which includes the "high quality teaching resource" entitled 'Making of a Modern Britain', to aid children's understanding of different race's contributions in the UK.

According to the report, the teaching resources aim to "tell the multiple, nuanced stories of the contributions made by different groups that have made this country the one it is today".

The report said 'Making of a Modern Britain' is "our response to negative calls for ‘decolonising’ the curriculum".


"Neither the banning of white authors or token expressions of Black achievement will help to broaden young minds," the report stated.

"We have argued against bringing down statues, instead, we want all children to reclaim their British heritage. We want to create a teaching resource that looks at the influence of the UK, particularly during the Empire period.

"We want to see how Britishness influenced the Commonwealth and local communities, and how the Commonwealth and local communities influenced what we now know as modern Britain."

The review said one clear example would be a dictionary of well-known British words which have Indian origins.


"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," the report said.

Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, Marsha De Cordova, described the paragraph pertaining to African people as "one of the worst bits of the Sewell report".

On Twitter, she said: "Putting a positive spin on slavery and empire. Published on a Government website in 2021."


"Is this for real?" she asked.

In a statement, the Labour MP said: "This report was an opportunity to seriously engage with the reality of inequality and institutional racism in the UK.  Instead we have a divisive polemic which cherry picks statistics.

"To downplay institutional racism in a pandemic where Black, Asian and ethnic minority people have died disproportionately and are now twice as likely to be unemployed is an insult.

"The government must urgently explain how they came to publish content which glorifies the slave trade and immediately disassociate themselves from these remarks."