An academic who has criticised the teaching of “white privilege” in schools has been no-platformed from an education conference over claims she would make other speakers feel “unsafe”.
Dr Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, 62, was told her panel discussion at the Rethinking Education conference on Saturday had been cancelled because of complaints from speakers and delegates about her attendance.
Dr Cuthbert, director of Don’t Divide Us, a campaign group which challenges the idea that Britain is systemically racist, had been invited to speak on a panel about “indoctrination within education” and “how we can avoid it”.
However, in an email from a conference organiser on Friday, she was told that the company had been contacted by seven speakers and delegates who said “they would not feel safe to appear at the conference alongside a representative of Don’t Divide Us”.
The organiser said: “In seeking to re-imagine an education system where all young people and adults can flourish and thrive, I strongly believe that we need to have difficult conversations and that people should be prepared to subject their ideas to scrutiny and challenge.
“However, psychological safety is a precursor to free and open debate and the need to subject ideas to scrutiny.”
Confirming the decision to cancel the panel discussion, he added: “I appreciate that the late notice of this decision is not ideal for any parties concerned but once the matter was brought to our attention, safety considerations needed to be our primary focus.”
Responding to the decision, Dr Cuthbert said: “The only person on a panel of three to be disinvited is myself – a woman of colour.” She said it “seems like my belief in colour-blind meritocratic approaches to race upset a few people who don’t have the courage to make their case publicly”.
Contesting Britian is systemically racist
Don’t Divide Us was set up in 2020 as a campaign group to contest the idea that Britain is systematically racist. The campaign group states on its website that it believes that protests which spread to the UK in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in America, did not reflect “the progress the UK has made towards being a largely cohesive and successful multi-racial society”.