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There is nothing ‘anti-racist’ about identitarian activism

Why has the perennially divisive Shola Mos-Shogbamimu been given an honorary doctorate?

Rakib Ehsan

Rakib Ehsan
Columnist

Topics Identity Politics UK

This week, academic and activist Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu announced that she had been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Newcastle, seemingly for her ‘contributions to race equality, combating discrimination and promoting diversity and inclusion’.

This award would be laughable if it weren’t so insulting to those who genuinely care about cultivating social cohesion. After all, Mos-Shogbamimu is arguably the queen bee of toxic identitarian politics in the UK. Since the Black Lives Matter protests, she has been a regular feature of Britain’s culture wars. She rarely misses an opportunity to denounce British society as racist or white supremacist to its core.

Yet Mos-Shogbamimu’s most vicious barbs tend to be directed towards other ethnic-minority figures. Those who refuse to toe the identitarian line will find themselves bombarded with racially charged slurs.

Take Munira Mirza, former head of the policy unit in Boris Johnson’s Downing Street. When Mirza set up the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED), to examine the extent of racism in the UK, Mos-Shogbamimu took to Twitter / X to accuse her of being a ‘brown executioner’ of ‘white supremacy’.

A year later, the CRED’s landmark report confirmed what anyone with experience in the field of race relations would have expected – namely, that there is scant evidence of ‘institutional racism’ in Britain. For Mos-Shogbamimu, this conclusion was unacceptable. It flew in the face of the narrative that she and other activists have tried so hard to peddle. And so she denounced the CRED’s chair, Dr Tony Sewell, as a ‘token black man’.

Yet despite her many racially charged interventions, Newcastle University has decided to honour Mos-Shogbamimu with the same honorary degree that it once gave to Martin Luther King – as if her poisonous identitarianism represented some kind of brave blow for equality.

Academia’s celebration of Mos-Shogbamimu stands in stark contrast to its snubbing of Tony Sewell. In what was a truly shameful moment in British race relations, Sewell revealed last year that the University of Nottingham had withdrawn its offer to award him an honorary degree. What was the justification for this? Apparently, he had become the subject of ‘political controversy’ following the publication of the CRED report. Essentially, because identitarian activists took umbrage at its findings, Nottingham saw fit to cut ties with Sewell.

While I did not agree with everything in Sewell’s report and felt it could be improved in parts, it helpfully challenged a number of tired and outdated orthodoxies about racial inequality. In particular, it challenged the view that disparities between different ethnic-minority groups can all be blamed on institutional discrimination. Crucially, the report noted the importance of family structure and community culture in the shaping of young people’s life chances. And while it acknowledged that racism remains a ‘real force’ in our society, it also noted that the UK is one of the most successful examples of a multiracial democracy.

As it happens, Sewell has done more than most to create opportunities for young ethnic-minority Britons from disadvantaged backgrounds. His charity, Generating Genius, has helped numerous youngsters from the UK’s inner cities to win places at prestigious universities and to build successful careers in science and tech. But because he dissents from woke orthodoxy, his contributions no longer seem to count.

The fact that Sewell can have the offer of an honorary degree withdrawn by one British university, while Mos-Shogbamimu can be awarded one by another, demonstrates just how pervasive racial identity politics has become in our higher-education system. It shows that telling unfashionable truths about race relations will be punished, while sowing identitarian grievances will be rewarded.

Following the unjust treatment of Sewell, the honorary doctorate awarded to Mos-Shogbamimu reveals a university sector that has been rotted to its core by identity politics.

Rakib Ehsan is the author of Beyond Grievance: What the Left Gets Wrong about Ethnic Minorities, which is available to order on Amazon.

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Topics Identity Politics UK

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