Two authors named as “stakeholders” in a landmark report into race disparities in Britain have hit out at claims they provided evidence, with one protesting: “I was never consulted”.
It comes as the government faces a backlash over the findings of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which concluded that the UK was no longer a country where the “system is deliberately rigged” against ethnic minorities.
The appendix to the 258-page report — commissioned in response to the Black Lives Matter movement — expressed thanks to stakeholders including professional bodies, charities, and academics for providing “evidence during the course of its work”.
S.I Martin, an author who specialises in the field of black British history and literature, who is named in the report, told The Independent: “I was never consulted, I don’t know what record they have of contacting me.”
“I just would not have agreed to have been consulted even if I had been asked, but I’ve not been asked. I have been invited to things in the past — not by this administration — I just don’t go, I just refuse. It’s just not something I do.”
Pressed on his reaction to seeing his name in the report, the historian who founded the 500 Years of Black London walks, said it was a “growing shock”, asking: “How many other people have been roped unknowingly into this? Rubber-stamping this nonsense.
“I am not naive enough either to expect either an explanation or an apology from anyone in government for this.”
Describing the report as a “horrible, typical, right-wing fig leaf”, he went on: “I would ask them when did they consult? Who did they ask? Who are these stakeholders and participants? On which planet do they live that they can arrive at that conclusion?”
A second academic, Stephen Bourne, a historian of black Britain, also told The Independent he felt “manipulated” at his name appearing in the report as being consulted by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.
Mr Bourne, who described the report as “flawed” and insisted institutional racism does exist, claimed to have been contacted by No 10 adviser Samuel Kasumu. After having a conversation with him in June, he was later invited to a Downing Street roundtable of historians of Black Britain in October 2020, he said.
“Nothing was explained to me,” he went on. “I wrote down some of their names of the people there [at the roundtable], and when I googled them and the penny dropped that they were this commission.”
Mr Bourne, whose best-known work is ‘Black Poppies — Britain’s Black Community and the Great War’, added he later contacted Downing Street and read the “riot act” to Mr Kasumu.
“How dare you do that, I said that is so unprofessional so rude to invite me to what I thought was going to be what we discussed, a round table discussion of historians of black Britain. And it turns out to be this commission which I’ve never heard of. I said you should have explained all of this”.
Publishing the long-awaited report on Wednesday, the commission said the term institutional racism was “too liberally used” and that factors such as socio-economic background, culture and religion have a “more significant impact on life chances”.
However, the authors said that “outright racism still exists”, the UK was not a “post-racial society”, and stressed: “We take the reality of racism seriously and we do not deny that it is a real force in the UK”.
Speaking on Thursday, Boris Johnson said the government would respond fully to the commission’s report “in due course”, adding that there were “serious issues that our society faces to do with racism”.
“If you look at it, they have come forward with about 24 interesting ideas to promote equality and to promote equality of opportunity, to give people of all communities, all races, all backgrounds in this country, more opportunity,” the prime minister added.
“But also to understand the true nature of the barriers and the discrimination that they unquestionably feel. There are some interesting things in it, I’m not going to say we agree with every word, but we’re going to be responding in due course.”
No 10 has been contacted for comment.