The hot topic that brought the MixEd community together for our first event.
Many of us have been deeply affected by the Racial Disparities Report by Dr Sewell. For many, including myself, it evoked an emotional response. As a person of colour, working in diversity and inclusion, the MixEd webinar to discuss the report was the safe space I needed. It provided a place to learn more, to ask questions, support others and to hear from the experts.
Co-founder, Marcus Shepherd, chaired a fascinating panel of diverse voices sharing their views on the report. This included MixEd co-founder Louise Cooper, Raj Unsworth, Pauline Anderson OBE, Christie Spurling MBE, Alison Kriel and Shonagh Reid.
We covered a lot, because the Sewell Report is BIG news. Both the panel discussion and the accompanying chat were full of vibrancy and energy. I won’t be able to cover everything here, but I’d like to share the key elements I took away from the evening in this short blog post.
I hope it will help to summarise an information rich evening and inform people who weren’t able to attend.
I also hope that it helps those who are feeling frightened by the implications of the report, who feel their lived experience has been dismissed, who feel they are not listened to, and are scared by the green light that seems to have been given to racists here in Britain, to know that we are here. All of us who are dedicated to antiracism, including the MixEd community, are more committed than ever to support each other and to drive change.
A “lazy report” designed to re-direct the narrative
Most of the webinar’s attendees are teachers. They know what a poor piece of work looks like. They can spot contradictions, lack of evidence and omissions a mile off. As Louise Cooper explained, to her, this report is “lazy”.
Selective subjects – there are many important subjects being discussed in the public domain. Islamophobia, intersectionality, Grenfell, Stephen Lawrence, Covid deaths, death in childbirth. It feels obscene to list all of these huge, tragic and important topics in one sentence. These are just some of the topics that are not addressed/or glossed over in the report.
Lack of evidence – the report is full of stats, but with no analysis of the cause. It consists of sweeping statements, stereotypes and the ideological views of the writer, with no back up from individuals’ experiences- as these are dismissed.
No root-cause analysis – as the panellists explained so well, data only presents the facts. To understand a situation, a report needs to ask the questions why, and then ask why again. It also needs to explain accountability. Dr Sewell’s report does not do this. It states that Black Caribbean families are often “broken”, for example. It doesn’t interrogate the reasons why. It mentions the distrust that people from ethnic minority communities feel towards British police and government. It doesn’t explain why this is the case. This limits the usefulness of the findings and provides no insight into how society can progress.
Yes – we are allowed to feel emotions
Panellists and attendees felt safe in the MixEd community. Away from the fear of judgemental tropes, we felt able to share our emotions. Individuals used words such as “gutted”, “gas lit”, “deeply disappointed”, “insulted” and “hurt”.
A concern shared by the MixEd panellists was around the permission the report will give to racists. At best, it gives people the excuse not to do anything about racism, because it conveniently says that there is no need. At worst, it adds fuel to the fire of racist hatred by furthering stereotypes, pitting ethnic communities against each other, and giving rise to the harmful and dismissive description of “angry Black people”.
We spoke at length about the disappointment of the missed opportunity of the report. As Christie Spurling MBE explained, this was a chance to say “this is what’s happened in the past, this is what will happen in the future.” And how powerful would that have been? To ensure that people who have struggled feel heard, and to inspire all of us, and especially young people, that their country is determined to do better.
A question that ran through the evening, right from the beginning, was “are there any positives in this report?” It was a tough question, but we all agreed that it brought us closer together. Everyone involved in last week’s webinar is committed to antiracism. By bringing us together, the MixEd team have helped us to find support from each other. Our resolve is strengthened. We know that there is work to do, maybe more than we thought, but we’re up for the challenge.
Claire Bale (@bale_claire)