We write in response to Roger Southall’s criticism that the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) is promoting a right-wing agenda (“IRR now a right-wing agitator”, June 24) and John Endres’s claim that “the IRR is deviating not an inch from the liberal positions it has steadfastly defended over the past 90 years” (“In attacking CRT, IRR is holding true to liberal position it’s defended for years”, June 28).

As grandchildren of the late Edgar Brookes, a founder and president of the IRR, we would like to point out that the IRR’s championing of the libertarian concept of an unfettered free market economy and gun rights is not in line with the original liberal positions of the IRR and its founders.

The IRR stood for the proper functioning of the state to protect its citizens from all forms of exploitation. Their notion of civil liberties did not extend to the personal right to use force as a solution to social ills.

The IRR has adopted the notions of economic and individual freedoms of libertarian groups in the US, which advocate the removal of the state from regulating the economy and society. The IRR is now insidiously importing these libertarian ideas under the guise of so-called liberal “freedoms”.

It is with great sadness that we have observed the decline of the IRR from a part of the broader anti-apartheid and human rights movements imbued with liberal-humanist values, to the extremist libertarian misinformation machine of the present. One only has to glance at the manipulation of facts on its “news” site, The Daily Friend, and Endres’s mischaracterisation of critical race theory (CRT) to see this.

The IRR was founded on the principles of truth and justice. It accurately researched, reported on and addressed the inequalities and injustices in SA. It was not founded to promote one ideological position over another. Edgar Brookes would have been horrified by the current positions of the IRR and its lack of moral and intellectual integrity.

Today, the IRR no longer upholds the principles of humanism and truth for which he stood and which drove his strong opposition to apartheid, his advocacy for the rights of black South Africans and the economically oppressed.

The IRR and its polemical positions do not play a constructive role in promoting race relations in our country, nor promoting good relations or constructive, thoughtful dialogue of any kind. The IRR should eschew its name and refrain from claiming that it is continuing the legacy of its founders.

Kathy Brookes
Prof Heather Brookes
Prof David Brookes

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