The Black Writers' Guild has shared an open letter expressing its deep concern that the minister for equalities has implied anti-racist books such as Reni Eddo-Lodge's Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race "advocate for racial segregation".
The letter follows an interview published in the Spectator last week, in which Kemi Badenoch criticises "critical race theory" as "political" in nature.
"[Critical race theory is] getting into institutions that really should be neutral: schools, NHS trusts, and even sometimes the Civil Service," Badenoch says in the Spectator interview. It also says: "She is particularly incensed by the boom in sales of texts such as White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo (which claims all white people are racist and any denial of this is further evidence of racism) and Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race (whose thesis is that black history has been eradicated for the political purpose of white dominance). ‘Many of these books—and, in fact, some of the authors and proponents of critical race theory—actually want a segregated society.’ The ideas in such texts, she says, are reaching deep into large private companies and our institutions, as part of the movement to train people to be aware of their supposed ‘unconscious bias’."
Responding, the Black Writers' Guild shared an open letter in which it condemned the implication anti-racist writers want segregation as "clearly false", as well as arguing the quotes could lead to threats against the personal safety of anti-racist writers.
The body furthermore raised the possibility that such a statement could be in breach of the ministerial code, and it asked the government to "act with a duty of care".
"We are deeply concerned by the recent attack made by the minister of equalities against the work of anti-racism writers including our member, the bestselling author Reni Eddo-Lodge," the letter from the Black Writers' Guild reads.
"In an interview (published in the Spectator magazine on 24th October 2020) the minister implied that the work of Ms Eddo-Lodge and some of our other members and peers advocates for racial segregation. The minister’s words: ‘Many of these books—and, in fact, some of the authors—actually want a segregated society.’
"The allegation here is not only clearly false but dangerous. It risks endangering the personal safety of anti-racist writers. In recent years progressive writers, politicians and activists across Europe and the United Kingdom have been physically attacked and killed by far-right extremists.
"It is in this climate that we ask the government to ensure ministers are responsible with their language, avoid spreading misinformation and apply better judgement in order to protect the lives and freedom of minorities.
"Such profoundly incorrect and inflammatory statements by a government minister are also alarming as they are arguably in breach of the ministerial code.
"We ask the government to ensure that ministers adhere to the highest standards of public life, uphold democratic values such as freedom of speech and act with a duty of care."
More than 100 members of the Black Writers' Guild signed the letter, including the body's founders, Sharmaine Lovegrove, Afua Hirsch and Nels Abbey, and authors Malorie Blackman, Dorothy Koomson, Candice Carty-Williams and Kadija Sesay.
Badenoch has yet to respond to a request for comment.
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