March 26, 2024 - 10:45am

Yesterday, Government adviser Dame Sara Khan published her review on social cohesion and democratic resilience in modern Britain. The review, 150 pages long, calls for a “new strategic approach”, building the analytical framework and operational capacity to assess social-cohesion trends at both a local and national level. It talks at length about conspiracy theories and disinformation. Along with referring to Islamist and far-Right threats, it provides a comprehensive account of “Sikh fundamentalism” (without any mention of the Hindutva ideology supported by activists aligned with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party).

But what is an especially glaring omission from the review is an in-depth examination of the impact of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the UK, and the import of American racial identity politics. BLM is mentioned only once in the entire review, under a section on “international activity impacting social cohesion”. Considering the level of public disruption at BLM protests and the fact that an Opinium poll in November 2020 found that 55% of the public believed the movement had increased racial tensions, there is a strong case that this should have been a greater feature of the Khan review.

With the emergence of the BLM movement in the UK, there has been a proliferation of American-inspired race theories in both the public and private sectors — the BBC, the NHS, local councils, schools, universities, small businesses and large conglomerates. Young children have been exposed to controversial US-origin race theories presented as fact, such as that racism towards non-white people is entrenched in a white-majority society.

As has been stressed elsewhere, Britain is not America: one is a broadly successful multiracial democracy and the other is a youthful experiment which is still getting to grips with the legacy of slavery and segregation. If anyone wants a quick understanding of how comparatively advanced the UK is on matters of race, reading up on the Battle of Bamber Bridge during the Second World War would help.

The rise of BLM in the UK has brought with it the rise of the radical-progressive holy trinity of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), which in practice has proven to be deeply exclusionary based on “protected characteristics” such as race and sex. A recent inquiry found that the Royal Air Force had unlawfully discriminated against white male recruits in its efforts to fast-track ethnic-minority and female candidates. Leaked RAF emails contained references to “useless white male pilots”. To make matters worse, pro-BLM calls for economic and social neo-segregation have reached the UK, with shoppers encouraged to boycott white-owned businesses in the name of “Black Xmas” and a West End theatre planning to stage shows for black-only audiences to ensure they will be free from the “white gaze”.

Social cohesion in a racially heterogeneous society such as ours rests on meaningful intercultural exchange and developing bonds of mutual understanding which cut across racial identity. It also requires national recognition of the significant strides the UK has made in terms of racial equality over the last few decades — and that life chances here are ultimately shaped by non-racial factors such as family structure and cultural norms in the local community.

The Khan review into social cohesion and democratic resilience represents a missed opportunity in terms of developing our understanding of the risks of importing racial theories from vastly different national contexts. Most pernicious among these is the grievance culture of the United States.

Dr Rakib Ehsan is a researcher specialising in British ethnic minority socio-political attitudes, with a particular focus on the effects of social integration and intergroup relations.