Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most senior black adviser has quit, Downing Street said Thursday, a day after a government-commissioned report provoked outrage by saying that structural racism does not exist in Britain.
Samuel Kasumu will leave his post as Downing Street special adviser for civil society and communities in May, a Number 10 spokesperson said.
Kasumu submitted his resignation last week and informed colleagues on Wednesday morning, according to Politico, just as the controversial report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) was released.
Kasumu had been talked out of resigning by ministers in February, after he complained of “unbearable” tension within Downing Street and said Johnson’s Conservative Party was pursuing “a politics steeped in division”, the BBC reported at the time.
He had already planned to step down in May, the government spokesperson said, insisting: “Any suggestion that this decision has been made this week or that this is linked to the CRED report is completely inaccurate.”
Johnson told reporters that Kasumu had “done some great stuff” on encouraging more people from ethnic minorities to take up vaccinations against Covid-19.
The pandemic’s disproportionate impact on ethnic minorities was among the areas downplayed in the new government report, which said that while prejudice persists in Britain, the country is not “institutionally racist”.
The commission was created by Johnson following last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, which included the toppling of an English slave trader’s statue in the western city of Bristol.
It concluded that many of Britain’s young BLM demonstrators were misguided, and that the country could be regarded “as a model for other white-majority countries”.
The 264-page report made 24 recommendations, notably on building trust between police and minority groups, on extending the school day in deprived areas, and on tackling racist abuse on social media platforms.
“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 re-modelled African/Britain,” it added.
The report was met with incredulity by many campaigners for racial equality and opposition lawmakers, who noted wide disparities in the experience of British minorities in policing, health, education and employment.
The assertion about slavery drew particular scorn.
“The only good narrative about the enslavement of Africans is that we survived,” Simon Woolley, the former head of Downing Street’s race disparity unit, told The Times newspaper.
Marsha de Cordova, equalities spokeswoman for the opposition Labour party, said Kasumu’s exit spoke volumes despite the government’s denials that it was linked to the report.
“Their divisive report appears to glorify slavery and suggests that institutional racism does not exist despite the evidence to the contrary,” she said.
“It is no wonder they are losing the expertise from their team.”
Johnson welcomed the report, and said its findings would be examined to inform government policy.
“There are very serious issues that our society faces to do with racism that we need to address. We’ve got to do more to fix it,” he said.
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