Boris Johnson Distances Himself from Race Report After Backlash

Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought to distance himself from a report into U.K racial inequalities that drew an angry backlash after suggesting the history of slavery could be taught from a different perspective than one of only pain and suffering.

“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,” Johnson told reporters on a visit to Middlesbrough on Thursday.

The report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities rejects the idea the country is structurally racist, stating that geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion all affect life chances more than racism. In his foreword, Commission chairman Tony Sewell wrote that teachers should look at the influence of the U.K. during its Empire period.

“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 remodelled African/Britain,” wrote Sewell, who’s Black, in the report published Wednesday.

Johnson, who commissioned the report in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests, was responding to criticism that the report was “gaslighting” the experience of ethnic minority communities.

“Their divisive report appears to glorify slavery and suggests that institutional racism does not exist despite the evidence to the contrary,” Labour Party’s women and equalities spokeswoman Marsha de Cordova said in an email.

Earlier, the Politico website reported Johnson’s most senior Black adviser Samuel Kasumu had resigned on Wednesday ahead of the report’s publication. Kasumu’s decision to leave is not linked to the report and he will remain in post until May having planned his departure for several months, a spokesperson for the prime minister said.

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