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NUS comments on appointment of Tony Sewell to Race Commission

Friday 17 July 2020

NUS comments on appointment of Tony Sewell to commission on race and ethnic disparities

Sara Khan, NUS Vice President (Liberation), said -

“While it is necessary that the UK Government take action to address the ubiquitous and pervasive systemic racism that exists in the UK, NUS is deeply concerned at Sewell’s appointment.

Sewell has consistently published damaging racist and misogynistic rhetoric, explicitly stating that “Black boys are too feminised” and “racism is not the problem” that Black students face in education in the UK. This demonstrates a fundamental failure to critique or even acknowledge the existence of systemic oppression.

The appointment of such an individual to the new race commission’s leadership bodes poorly for the government. Under such leadership, this body will not only serve as a tokenistic and insincere response to the reality of racism in the UK, but an actively damaging one, perpetuating and strengthening the very structures it pretends to address.

Racism is woven into every aspect of our society. There is a vast amount of lived experience and statistical evidence that proves the existence of racism in healthcare, education, employment, and more. NUS has been one of the organisations that has sought to bring this issue into public consciousness over the decades, including producing the Race for Equality report in 2011, and our ongoing work supporting and advocating for Black students.

NUS calls on the Government not only to remove Tony Sewell from this position, but to scrap their proposed race commission entirely, as it has clearly been developed in bad faith as a tokenistic response, rather than a genuine effort to address racism. Instead, the Government should listen to and implement what the Black Lives Matter movement is actually demanding.

If the UK Government sincerely cares about addressing the racism endemic in our society, we ask for the funding intended for this commission to be reallocated to a new commission that looks at actively de-funding the police and investing in our communities. For example by allocate funding towards abolishing tuition fees and making our education free and accessible to Black students and allocating funding towards our NHS, instead of continuing to cut and privatise it.”