Boris Johnson admits he doesn’t agree with elements of a landmark race report, as Stephen Lawrence’s mother says it gives ‘racists the green light’.
The document, published by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, said geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion all affect life chances more than racism.
The Prime Minister insisted there are ‘serious issues that our society faces to do with racism’ and that work needed to be done to ‘fix it’, but warned the report’s findings weren’t necessarily aligned with the thoughts of those at No10.
He said: ‘This is a very interesting piece of work. I don’t say the Government is going to agree with absolutely everything in it, but it has some original and stimulating work in it that I think people need to read and to consider.
‘There are very serious issues that our society faces to do with racism that we need to address.’
Mr Johnson’s comments came as Baroness Doreen Lawrence said the authors of the report are ‘not in touch with reality’.
Baroness Lawrence was made a peer in 2013 after campaigning for justice for her son who died in 1993 following a racially motivated attack in south-east London.
Baroness Doreen Lawrence (pictured) said the authors of the report are ‘not in touch with reality’
Overseen by chair Dr Tony Sewell, the findings from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities were branded a ‘whitewash’ by the Left, but welcomed by other campaigners
Baroness Lawrence was made a peer in 2013 after campaigning for justice for her son (pictured) who died in 1993 following a racially motivated attack in south-east London
Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to Middlesbrough today) heaped praise on Mr Kasumu’s ‘great’ work in encouraging vaccine take-up among ethnic minorities after it emerged he is leaving No10
Speaking at a public event organised by De Montfort University Leicester’s Stephen Lawrence Research Centre on Wednesday, she said: ‘When I first heard about the report my first thought was it has pushed [the fight against] racism back 20 years or more.
‘I think if you were to speak to somebody whose employer speaks to them in a certain way, where do you go with that now?
‘If a person is up for promotion and has been denied that, where does he go with that now?
‘You know, all these things we’ve been working for and showing that structural racism exists – we talk about the pandemic when you look at how many of our people have died, all the nurses, the doctors, the frontline staff, of Covid, and to have this report denying that those people have suffered… they are denying that the likes of my son was murdered through racism and the fact that it took 18 years to get justice for him. The report is denying all those issues.
‘Those people who marched for Black Lives Matter? It’s denying all of that. The George Floyd stuff? It’s denied all of that.
‘So those who sit behind this report (saying) that racism doesn’t exist or it no longer exists need to speak to the young boys who are stopped and searched constantly on the street. They need to speak to those young people.’
Baroness Lawrence continued: ‘They (the report authors) are not in touch with reality basically.
‘That’s what it boils down to. When you are privileged you do not have those experiences.
‘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.’
The landmark review found children from many ethnic minorities do as well or better at school than white pupils
The review highlighted the different fortunes of ethnic groups, pointing out that white British boys from poorer backgrounds are among the most disadvantaged. These figures show the difference between the mean score for the group and the grand mean score across all pupils – which is equivalent to zero
Ministers have been facing a backlash over the report since its publication, with Mr Johnson’s most senior black adviser Samuel Kasumu quitting, despite No 10 insisting his departure was ‘absolutely nothing to do’ with the report.
Asked on Thursday about Mr Kasumu’s resignation, Mr Johnson said: ‘I worked very closely with Samuel in the last year or so and he’s done some great stuff.
‘I thank him very much, particularly on helping to encourage vaccine take-up amongst more hesitant groups and communities.’
Mr Kasumu had tendered his resignation in February, penning a letter warning that ministers were pursuing a ‘politics steeped in division’ and voicing ‘concern’ about how equalities minister Kemi Badenoch handled a spat with a journalist. At that stage he was talked out of going, even though the letter was leaked.
The 33-year-old informed No10 colleagues yesterday that he was leaving, according to Politico.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi is believed to have tried unsuccessfully to persuade Mr Kasumu to change his mind again.
During a visit to Middlesbrough, Mr Johnson told reporters: ‘I worked very closely with Samuel in the last year or so and he’s done some great stuff.
‘I thank him very much, particularly on helping to encourage vaccine take-up amongst more hesitant groups and communities. And, actually, we’re seeing some real success there.
‘It is true that different groups have been coming forward at different paces, everybody is increasing their take-ups, so I thank him very much for that.’
The race report, which was months in the making and produced by a group of 12 experts – only one of whom was white – concluded that there was no evidence of institutional racism in this country.
Overseen by chair Dr Tony Sewell, its findings were branded a ‘whitewash’ by the Left, but welcomed by other campaigners.
Samuel Kasumu: From Tory activist and HuffPost writer to advising the PM on ethnic minorities
Samuel Kasumu, originally from Barnet but now living in St Albans, studied business and management accounting at Brunel University – where he was student President and Vice President and left with a 2:1 – and a postgraduate degree in Ethnicity, Migration, & Policy from Birkbeck, University of London.
While at Brunel, in 2006, he was also the President of the largest African and Caribbean Society on a university campus in the country, the HuffPost says.
Samuel Kasumu: From Tory activist and HuffPost writer to advising the PM on ethnic minorities
He is married to Barbara Kasumu, who held an advisory position at the Cabinet Office in 2018.
The couple ran Elevation Networks until 2018, which was setup to help young and under-represented people in the job market.
Mrs Kasumu has worked for similar social enterprises including The Kids Network and The Foyer Federation.
During the 2011 London riots he acted as a community representative calling for peace, particularly in the Tottenham area in the north of the capital. That same year the political adviser also featured in a campaign called Operation Black Vote, where he was presented as a leading entrepreneur and future political figure.
Since leaving university the Liverpool football fan has worked as a councillor, with faith groups and started out in politics at a local level. He was a contributor for the HuffPost and is still described on its website as a ‘young political commentator’.
He has also written for the Guardian, New Statesman and was a columnist for Nigerian Watch. In 2012 he wrote his first book called Winning the Race, which criticised what he saw as a lack of action by the Tories in appealing to ethnic minorities.
But he was best known for being the founder of Elevation Networks – a student level social enterprise in Euston which tries to give underrepresented young people a more competitive stance in the labour market.
During the 2010 general election he campaigned for Theresa Villiars MP, David Borrowes MP, and Philipa Stroud. He has worked as a special adviser in Downing Street for the past year and a half.
The report, commissioned by the Prime Minister after last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, said Britain was no longer a country where the ‘system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities’.
The report said factors such as geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion all impacted life chances more than racism, and concluded the UK was a ‘beacon’ to the world as a successful multi-ethnic nation which displayed much more tolerance than its neighbours.
But unions said the report denied the experiences of black and minority ethnic workers.
Labour justice spokesman David Lammy said black Britons were being ‘gaslighted’ and called the report an insult to anyone in Britain who had experienced structural racism.
The report’s authors were also accused of trying to put a ‘positive spin on slavery’ after they called on schools to use history lessons to ‘tell the multiple, nuanced stories of the contributions made by different groups that have made this country the one it is today’.
In his foreword, Dr Sewell said there was a new story to be told about the ‘slave period’ and about how ‘culturally African people transformed themselves into a remodelled African/Britain’.
But Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think-tank, said: ‘I’m absolutely flabbergasted to see the slave trade apparently redefined as ‘the Caribbean Experience’; as though it’s something Thomas Cook should be selling – a one-way shackled cruise to purgatory.
‘The cultural deafness of this report is only going to become clearer in the coming days and weeks.’
But Dr Sewell said it was ‘absurd to suggest that the commission is trying to downplay the evil of the slave trade’.
Mr Johnson insisted today there are ‘serious issues that our society faces to do with racism’ and that work needed to be done to ‘fix it’.
And he suggested the government will not agree with ‘everything’ in the report’s conclusions.
‘Look, this is a very interesting piece of work,’ he said.
‘I don’t say the Government is going to agree with absolutely everything in it, but it has some original and stimulating work in it that I think people need to read and to consider.
‘There are very serious issues that our society faces to do with racism that we need to address.
‘We’ve got to do more to fix it, we need to understand the severity of the problem, and we’re going to be looking at all the ideas that they have put forward, and we’ll be making our response.’
Duwayne Brooks, a friend of Stephen Lawrence, said he agreed that not all disparities in the UK were caused by racism.
The activist told Times Radio: ‘What the report is doing is comparing life for the ethnic minorities in Britain, in comparison to the European countries, where life would be much, much worse than how it is today.’
He added: ‘It’s not as simple to just say that the black people of Britain cannot get jobs because they’re black.
‘And that’s what people want the report to say.’
Baroness Kishwer Falkner, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, added: ‘This report rightly identifies the varied causes of disparities and by making recommendations to address them gives the Government the opportunity to design policy targeting the sources of inequality.’
Mr Kasumu wrote a resignation letter from his job, paid up to £75,000 a year, in February.
Although he later retracted it, the BBC obtained a copy.
In it, Mr Kasumu accused the Conservative Party of pursuing ‘a politics steeped in division’ and suggested Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch may have broken the ministerial code in her public spat with a journalist.
He wrote: ‘I fear for what may become of the party in the future by choosing to pursue a politics steeped in division.’
Samuel Kasumu, who advised Boris Johnson on ethnic minorities is understood to have handed in his resignation after long-running tensions
The former Conservative activist and councillor who grew up in Barnet, north London, said ‘the damage that is often caused by our actions is not much considered’, adding: ‘As someone that has spent his whole adult life serving others, that tension has been at times unbearable.’
He reportedly described the actions of Ms Badenoch as ‘concerning’.
Ms Badenoch accused HuffPost reporter Nadine White of ‘creepy and bizarre’ behaviour after the journalist contacted her requesting a comment for a story.
The minister posted screenshots of Ms White’s emails online sparking a backlash against the reporter.
Mr Kasumu apparently notified the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Dan Rosenfield, that he will be leaving last week, and told colleagues yesterday.
Shadow equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said: ‘To have your most senior advisor on ethnic minorities quit as you publish a so-called landmark report on race in the UK is telling of how far removed the Tories are from the everyday lived experiences of Black, Asian and ethnic minority people.
‘Their divisive report appears to glorify slavery and suggests that institutional racism does not exist despite the evidence to the contrary.
In a resignation letter leaked to the BBC in February but later retracted, Mr Kasumu voiced ‘concern’ about the actions of equalities minister Kemi Badenoch (left), who launched an online tirade against HuffPost reporter Nadine White (right)
‘It is no wonder they are losing the expertise from their team.’
Yesterday Dr Sewell, who insisted that the commission simply hadn’t found evidence of institutional racism in Britain, said some communities were haunted by historic racism and there was a ‘reluctance to acknowledge that the UK had become open and fairer’.
He said the review found some evidence of bias, but often it was a perception that the wider society could not be trusted.
NHS Providers said it disagreed with the report’s conclusions and said there was ‘clear and unmistakable’ evidence that NHS ethnic minority staff had worse experiences and faced more barriers than white counterparts.
Sabby Dhalu, of Stand Up To Racism, said: ‘Suggesting Britain should be regarded as a ‘model for other white-majority countries’ is an insult to all those who lost their lives due to racism.’
But Chancellor Rishi Sunak said progress had been made in tackling racism, telling ITV’s Peston: ‘If I think about the things that happened to me when I was a kid, I can’t imagine those things happening to me now.’
The 264-page report also called on ministers to tackle online abuse, lengthen the school day to help disadvantaged pupils, force police to switch on body cameras during stop-and-search encounters, and establish an independent body to target health disparities.
The Prime Minister said the Government will consider the recommendations.
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