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The race report was a cynical trap – but if I point that out, I'm 'doing Britain down'

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The public discussion about racism in Britain today has become hopelessly binary. The starting point is always some variation of “is Britain racist?”. It is a question that sifts respondents into two camps. There is no way to answer such an inquiry that does not elide a lot of the truth, both about the pervasiveness of racism in Britain today and the clear progress the country has made. With that nuance absent from “yes” and “no” responses, each party is angered further and fuel added to the flames. This is where we stand in the UK today, trapped by a futile framing of the problem, farcically yelling at each other like pantomime audiences.

This is the result of years of work by the right to smear anti-racist positions. When we talk about racism today, what we are unwittingly doing is subjecting ourselves to a loyalty test. Pointing out that Britain is racist becomes not an observation about the facts, but a choice to undermine a well-meaning country doing its best. It is “doing Britain down”, aggressive, transgressive, a declaration of war against the country and its fine people. Thus the attempt to discuss racism becomes about everything except racism itself, reduced to merely a tool to distinguish between saboteurs and supporters.

This is an environment in which much political capital can be made. Last week’s government report on racial disparities in the UK was a clear example of using binary framing to appeal to one camp and admonish another. The report looked into institutional racism and effectively declared that it did not exist.........

© The Guardian

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