The chairman of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities said he believes their controversial report will be positively regarded in years to come.
A month after it was published – to claims that it was culturally deaf, out of step with public opinion, and “steeped in denial” – Dr Tony Sewell said the report is now getting “more and more support”.
He said he is feeling much better about the report’s reception now because “people are bothering to read it, and once they read it, they get it”.
And he encouraged the public to lobby for the report’s recommendations to be implemented – some of which will “make this Government sweat”.
Dr Sewell was speaking at the first of several online events hosted by think tanks where commission members will discuss the report and its recommendations over the coming weeks.
He told around 700 attendees of the Policy Exchange event: “There’s been some misconception around the notion that all of our board members are not fiercely anti-racist.
“We believe racism exists. It exists in institutions, it exists in structures, it exists across the piste, and we have found that in the report.
“And I would really kind of urge people to revise their perceptions of what they’ve seen of this, and I do welcome the fact that now we’re getting more and more support for this.
“And I think that you’ll find the Sewell report in years to come will be something that people will really look back positively on.”
Dr Sewell also encouraged the public to look carefully at the 24 recommendations in the report, commissioned in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, which he said are “very, very progressive”.
He said: “What I would love for the public to do is get behind us, to lobby the Government to make sure that they do put these recommendations into action.
“We are not here to make it easy for them, and we haven’t done that in terms of what we recommended.”
It comes as one of the panellists, chief leader writer at The Observer Sonia Sodha, accused the report of being “intellectually dishonest”.
She said the report’s evidence base “underplays the importance of lived experience”, and the analysis of racial inequalities across the four areas considered is “highly partial and statistically illiterate”.
Ms Sodha added: “So intentional or not, I do think that that statistical illiteracy, the misinterpretation of the evidence, makes the report an intellectually dishonest endeavour, and it hinders discussion of the report, because quite frankly, you can’t take anything it says as read without a detailed fact check.”
Dr Sewell said members of the commission were “very open” when considering the evidence, and what they saw was “something that was more complex than simply landing everything on racism”.
He continued: “However, and I’ll say this again, the lived experiences of people… the idea that we would deny that or we would avoid that is ridiculous.
“That is a reality and people live that every day and the report, if people bothered to read it, acknowledges that.”