Slavery was not just about making profit and it would be a mistake to 'decolonise the curriculum' in British schools, a government-backed report has said.
The race and ethnic disparities commission – launched in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests – argued that the UK's education system should tell a story about how 'culturally African people transformed themselves into a re-modelled African/Britain'.
It said the 'banning of White authors' and inclusion of 'token expressions of Black achievement' in the curriculum would not help 'broaden young minds'.
Education about the British Empire should also focus on how 'Britishness' influenced its former colonies, the report said, amid calls to radically change how colonialism is taught in history lessons.
In his foreword to the report, the commission's chairman Dr Tony Sewell said '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'.
This drew immediate criticism from shadow women and equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova, who tweeted: 'Putting a positive spin on slavery and empire.
'Published on a Government website in 2021. Is this for real?'
The report also criticised the 'confusing' way the term 'institutional racism' has been applied to Britain, saying it should only be used when deep-seated, systemic racism is proved and not as a 'catch-all' phrase for any microaggression.
It argued geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion all impact life chances more than racism.
Dr Sewell continued by saying some communities are 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.
Dr Sewell wrote: '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 evidence shows that geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion have more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism.
'That said, we take the reality of racism seriously and we do not deny that it is a real force in the UK.'
Black studies professor Kehinde Andrews branded the claims that there is no evidence of institutional racism in Britain as 'complete nonsense'.
Responding to a summary of the report, Prof Andrews said the study was 'not a genuine effort to understand racism in Britain'.
He said: 'It's complete nonsense. It goes in the face of all the actual existing evidence.
'This is not a genuine effort to understand racism in Britain. This is a PR move to pretend the problem doesn't exist.
'The evidence is clear, it's been there for a long time around ethnic penalties in employment, around the problems in education, around the problems with policing.'
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