Sathnam Sanghera tells David Lammy: UK race report 'contrived to reflect PM's views'

1 April 2021, 12:54 | Updated: 1 April 2021, 12:56

By Fiona Jones

Author of Empireland Sathnam Sanghera tells David Lammy the UK's race report, which makes "culturally deaf" claims about slavery, "has been contrived to reflect Boris Johnson's views."

Boris Johnson's most senior black adviser has quit his role amid the report's backlash - but Downing Street insists his departure has "absolutely nothing" to do with the report.

The dossier has been branded "culturally deaf" after it stated there was a new story to be told about slavery, which was not just about profit and suffering.

It insisted the era was about how “culturally African people transformed themselves”, describing the transportation of slaves as a "Caribbean experience".

Sathnam Sanghera, author of Empireland which examines the impact of the British Empire, branded the report as the "single most cynical and disingenuous Government report I've read in my lifetime."

"This is in a long tradition we have in this country of denying racism," he told David, "the abolition of slavery, when that happened, that became the only narrative.

"It's almost as if we sent three million Africans across the Atlantic purely so that we could be good and liberate them. We forget their experience and what we did to these people. We forget the fact that we were involved in this bloody business for a very long time and it made us very rich."

He then critiqued the "surreal" report as a whole, which in its summary stated the UK was not institutionally racist: "When you do actually read the report, as I have, it doesn't actually talk much about institutional racism. I don't think it works even on its own terms."

"The way right wingers have leapt on the report saying it reflects the lived experience of a panel is so weird.

"What - suddenly they're listening to the lived experience of people of colour? That's not true. You're listening to the views of people of colour you've selected for their views."

He continued, "We all know it's perfectly possible to be brown and unprogressive, and narrow-minded and even bigoted.

"The whole thing has been contrived to reflect Boris Johnson's views."

Mr Sanghera said that both Boris Johnson and Race and Ethnic Disparities Commission chair, Tony Sewell, have "criticised the concept of structural racism in the past - and surprise, surprise, they've got a report saying what they think."

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