Civil rights leader the Reverend Jesse Jackson has today weighed into the UK’s debate on race, by saying that Britain is the ‘mother of racism’.
The influential American, 79, said Britain must face up to its role in slavery, as he flatly rejected the findings of the recent report into race and racism in the UK.
It comes after the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, chaired by Tony Sewell, said it could find no conclusive evidence of institutionalised racism in Britain.
In its report, the commission also declared that the UK was a model to the world of a successful multi-ethnic society – while accepting that ‘overt’ prejudice still exists.
However, Rev Jackson, who worked closely with civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, said there was a ‘pattern of racism’ in the UK.
Speaking to Times Radio, he said: ‘Britain has a certain responsibility to face up to racism and change it.
Civil rights leader the Reverend Jesse Jackson has today weighed into the UK race row, by saying that Britain is the ‘mother of racism’
Reverend Jackson rejected the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, chaired by Dr Tony Sewell (pictured), which concluded there was no evidence of institutionalised racism in Britain
Rev Jackson is one of the most influential civil rights campaigners of his generation, having been close with Martin Luther King. Pictured: Rev Jackson walks with then Mayor of London Ken Livingston during an anti-war march in London in 2003
‘I’ve traveled across Britain and clearly there’s a pattern of racism.’
Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade: How 3.1million Africans were transported to colonies in the Caribbean, North and South America
For more than 200 hundred years Britain was at the very centre of the transatlantic slave trade.
It is believed that English sea captain Sir John Hawkins led the first slaving expedition around 1562 under the commission of Queen Elizabeth I.
He set sail with three ships to the West African nation of Sierra Leon, where he captured 300 slaves, and took them to the plantations in the Americas before heading back to Europe.
This would later become known as the Atlantic triangular slave trade.
Initially slaves were transported to Spanish and Portuguese colonies in South America – in what is sometimes known as the ‘First Transatlantic Slave Trade’.
In what is now modern day American, the first slaves arrived in 1619 arriving at what is now Fort Hampton in Virginia – beginning the ‘Second Transatlantic Slave Trade’.
The arrival was a year earlier than the pilgrims, who arrived on the Mayflower at Cape Cod, Massachusett, in 1620.
Back in England, in 1660, the Royal Africa Company were granted a charter to carry Africans to the Americas.
The company would ship more African slaves to the Americas than any other institution in the history of the transatlantic slave trade.
Many of the slaves were taken from Africa to British colonies, including Jamaica.
By 1690 the English were shipping the most slaves from West Africa, though Portuguese Angola was also a major contributor to the slave trade.
As the 18th century drew on, and the slave trade continued, opinion back at home was changing.
Slavery was made illegal in Scotland in 1778 and in 1790 the first bill for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was put through Parliament – though it was initially knocked back by MPs.
It would take another 17 years, until 1807, that the transatlantic slave trade was abolished by the British Parliament.
Slavery was finally abolished in 1834 but in reality for many of those enslaved it continued until at least 1838 through apprenticeship schemes.
In America, Northern states had abolished slavery in some way by 1805 – though the process was in parts gradual.
The Southern states would continue with slavery.
When Abraham Lincoln when the 1860 election on a platform of halting the expansion of slavery, seven slave states broke away to form the Confederacy.
After the American civil war, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Confiscation Act effectively ended slavery in 1863.
However it was not officially ratified in the American Constitution until 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was added.
Current estimates are that as many as 13million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic over a span of 400 years.
Of those, Britain is thought to have transported around three million, according to the National Archive.
He also claimed ‘blacks cannot… be part of the Crown’ when asked if he thought the Royal Family was racist – in the wake of Meghan Markle’s bombshell claims made in her interview with Oprah Winfrey.
The Duchess of Sussex claimed an unnamed member of the royal family had asked what colour skin Archie would be when she was pregnant with Prince Harry’s first child.
Reverand Jackson refused to say if he thought the royal family were racist, but instead said the marriage between Harry and Meghan showed ‘change is in the air’.
He added: ‘In a democracy, everybody has the chance to be everything.
‘(There is) no superior race and no inferior race. All of us have royal blood. We’re all God’s children. Everybody matters.’
Rev Jackson is one of the most influential civil rights campaigners of his generation and was once close with Martin Luther King Jr.
The baptist minister was by the side of the civil rights campaigner when he was assassinated in 1968.
Alongside his civil rights work, Rev Jackson has also been involved in the creation of charities and twice ran to become the presidential candidate for the Democrats in the 1980s.
His criticism comes amid a strong debate over the findings of the report, which were published last week.
The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, set up by Boris Johnson in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, concluded that although Britain is not yet a ‘post-racial society’, its success should be a model for white-majority countries.
Chairman Dr Sewell said the UK had progressed into a ‘successful multi-ethnic and multicultural community’ which was a ‘beacon to the rest of Europe and the world’.
He warned ministers must also consider the needs of the white working class, saying his report had uncovered how ‘stuck’ some groups were.
Dr Sewell later insisted he was not denying the existence of racism – but railed against people deploying the charge of institutional racism ‘willy-nilly’.
But the report has faced a chorus of criticism from campaigners and politicians, including Baroness Doreen Lawrence.
Baroness Lawrence, whose son Stephen was murdered in 1993 in a racially motivated attack in south-east London, said the authors of the report are ‘not in touch with reality’.
Speaking at a public event organised by De Montfort University Leicester’s Stephen Lawrence Research Centre on Wednesday, she said: ‘When I first heard about the report my first thought was it has pushed [the fight against] racism back 20 years or more.
‘I think if you were to speak to somebody whose employer speaks to them in a certain way, where do you go with that now?
‘If a person is up for promotion and has been denied that, where does he go with that now?
‘You know, all these things we’ve been working for and showing that structural racism exists – we talk about the pandemic when you look at how many of our people have died, all the nurses, the doctors, the frontline staff, of Covid, and to have this report denying that those people have suffered… they are denying that the likes of my son was murdered through racism and the fact that it took 18 years to get justice for him. The report is denying all those issues.
‘Those people who marched for Black Lives Matter? It’s denying all of that. The George Floyd stuff? It’s denied all of that.
‘So those who sit behind this report (saying) that racism doesn’t exist or it no longer exists need to speak to the young boys who are stopped and searched constantly on the street. They need to speak to those young people.’
Baroness Lawrence continued: ‘They (the report authors) are not in touch with reality basically.
‘That’s what it boils down to. When you are privileged you do not have those experiences.
‘My son was murdered because of racism and you cannot forget that. Once you start covering it up, it is giving the green light to racists.
‘You imagine what’s going to happen come tomorrow. What’s going to happen on our streets with our young people? You are giving racists the green light.’
Labour justice spokesman David Lammy said black Britons were being ‘gaslighted’ and called the report an insult to anyone in Britain who had experienced structural racism.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson insisted there are ‘serious issues that our society faces to do with racism’ and that work needed to be done to ‘fix it’, but warned the report’s findings weren’t necessarily aligned with the thoughts of those at No10.
He said: ‘This is a very interesting piece of work. I don’t say the Government is going to agree with absolutely everything in it, but it has some original and stimulating work in it that I think people need to read and to consider.
‘There are very serious issues that our society faces to do with racism that we need to address.’
What did The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities find? The report in a snapshot:
– Poverty affects educational achievement more than race. Poor pupils lag more than two years behind in areas such as Blackpool, Knowsley and Plymouth – all almost exclusively white.
– The pay-gap between white and ethnic-minority groups has closed to 2.3 per cent. Chinese and Indian employees now earn ‘notably more’ than the white average.
– Life expectancy and mortality rates show that ethnic minorities do better overall than the white population and have better outcomes for many of the 25 leading causes of death. Britain’s worst life expectancy is in the North East – which is one of the whitest regions.
– Statistics show that last year, 15 per cent of all families were single-parent – but 63 per cent of black Caribbean children, and 43 per cent of black African children, grow up in one-parent households. The figure is just six per cent for Indian families.
– Although ethnic minorities represent 16 per cent of the population, nearly 50 per cent of doctors working in NHS hospitals are from an ethnic minority – as are 21 per cent of lawyers.
– Poor white boys achieve the lowest GCSE grades. Only 39.1 per cent of white boys got grade 5 or above in English and Maths in 2019, compared with 49 per cent of Asian boys.
– Last year, white students were least likely to go to university (32.6 per cent), compared with nearly half of black pupils and 71 per cent of Chinese. However, ethnic-minority students are more likely to drop out, achieve lower exam results or have lower earnings after graduating.
– The children of recent migrants perform particularly well at school, but long-term analysis suggests that such attainment tails off in subsequent generations.
– The proportion of people, according to opinion polls, who believe that you must be white to be ‘truly British’ has declined from 18 per cent in 2006 to seven per cent now.
– Rather than ‘racism’ being a factor, employers may hire in their own image and choose new staff based on their ‘cultural fit’, or ‘chemistry’ because of ‘affinity bias’. The report says: ‘All people, not just white people, are subject to these biases.’
– Black Caribbean and Arab women earn more on average per hour (£12.09 and £12.49 respectively – based on figures for 2019) than white British women, who got £11.21 an hour.
– Black people are three times more likely to be arrested than white people – but juries are not more likely to convict ethnic minority defendants. Gangs and gang-related violence are linked to broken families, and not restricted to black communities. In the North, they are largely linked with white communities.
– Black African men were almost 3.4 times more likely to die of Covid-19 in the first wave of the pandemic than white British men. But this was related to an increased risk of infection – living in multi-generational households, working in public-facing jobs – rather than from any difference in treatment or their ethnicity alone.
– Some ethnic-minority groups live longer and are less likely to be diagnosed with cancer than white people, despite living in more deprived communities.
– Racism and discrimination is not widespread in the health system, as is claimed. Both black and white patients report being equally satisfied with treatment.