The Labour Party, Affirmative Action and the Problem of Liberal Prejudice, Part 1: Racism

This is another piece about one of the issues raised at the Labour party deputy leadership hustings in Bristol on Saturday. It could be controversial, because in it I question some of the assumptions underlying some of the pro-minority movements and campaigns. I’m doing this not because I’m opposed to them, but simply to try to correct what I regard are flaws and defects in them, which may be the source of other kinds of injustice and fuel a backlash against these programmes from the right.

One of the questions at the hustings came from a student at one of the city’s universities. They were upset at the appearance of posters saying, ‘It’s Okay To Be White’ around campus. Racism was on the rise, and they wanted to know what the candidates would do about it.

Now let’s be clear about it. Racism is on the rise. There has been an increase in racist incidents since Brexit. Yesterday the papers carried a story about poster that had been put up in a block of flats telling non-Anglophone residents that they should only speak English. If they couldn’t do this, it said, that they should hand their property over to an English family and leave for their countries of origin. One of the documentary shows following real police doing their job last night showed them tackling a racist incident. A Romanian family had been abused by their English neighbour, and the father had been attacked. One of the two female rozzers, who made the arrest, said that she didn’t feel that the number of racist people had increased, but that the racists had been emboldened by Brexit. Some of Zelo Street’s posts confirm this. The supporters of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, whose anti-immigrant abuse and vitriol was uncovered by the blogger Jacob’sfriends, also seems to be strongly pro-Brexit. As were the right-wing posters attacking Rachel Riley for getting Katie Hopkins banned from Twitter, whatever lies Oberman wants to push about the far left. 

But the situation is complicated by the fact that many Whites do not feel themselves to racist, and believe that the anti-racism campaigns are racially smearing them. Over a decade and a half ago the Spectator expressed and tried to capitalise on this resentment with an article ‘Blackened Whites’. Another article stated that the only minority not welcome in central London was White working class men. The slogan ‘It’s okay to be White’ is another expression of this feeling. As far as I can make out, it started in America among Conservatives, who believed that Whites were being unfairly tarnished as racists. These Conservatives include Blacks as well as Whites. There’s a series of videos by a group of Black activists carrying a placard bearing the slogan as the confront liberals and left-wingers.

And unfortunately, they do have a point. I’ve read material from anti-racist and Black activists that seems to assume that if you’re White, you have to be racist and which does approach a kind of racial essentialism. There’s a hidden assumption that, through their history, somehow all Whites are racist and can only be stopped from being so through Black activism. I’ll admit that not all Black or anti-racist activists are like this by any means. But it is there, and it is causing a backlash against anti-racism programmes.

All of the candidates expressed their firm determination to combat racism. One of the female candidates – I’m fairly sure it was Dawn Butler, but I could be wrong – announced that she wanted to defend and promote the rights of all minorities. Not only did she want all-women shortlists, she wanted all-Black shortlists, and similar representation for the LGBTQ communities and the disabled. She, or one of the other female candidates, also said that they were also determined to stamp out misogyny.

There have been calls for greater numbers of Black and Asian MPs for a long time. It has been said that if the number of BAME MPs reflected the size of the Black and Asian population, there would be 50 of them rather than the handful there is at the moment. However, as many Black communities form a minority within White majority constituencies, there’s a tendency, conscious or otherwise, to choose White candidates. Hence there was a letter in one of the papers during an election in the first decade of this century by a Black writer, stating that Black people could represent them.

I am absolutely sure in many cases that this is correct. But this also raises the question of Black racism and double standards. If Whites can’t represent Blacks, then it could be asked if it is also unfair to assume that Blacks can represent Whites. And Black and Asian anti-White racism exists. At the same time that letter was written, Whites became the majority of victims of racial abuse and assault. Reading between the lines, I think that the majority of victims were still Black and Asian, but Whites constituted the single largest group of victims. The rise in anti-White racism was throughout the country, and the organisations set up to help victims of racial abuse made it clear that they were also going to help Whites. Since then, and particularly after 9/11, the situation has returned to Blacks and Asians being the victims of most of this abuse and violence. But anti-White racism is still present. And unfortunately some of the Black anti-racist organisations don’t want it recognised or tackled.

A few weeks ago, Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, put up a video about the Black and Asian organisations, which had written to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. They were upset because the Commission was also including stats on incidents against White British. This, they felt, could not be justified because Whites don’t have the long history of racist persecution as non-White minorities. This is an extremely dangerous view. The recognition of racial abuse and violence by ethnic minorities against Whites in no way subtracts from the racism experienced by those communities. It is merely a recognition that anti-White prejudice also exists, and needs to be tackled. If it isn’t, it hardly needs to be said that a certain section of the White community will look instead to the far right as their protectors. Racial tensions have also increased due to the mishandling of the cases of Asian paedophile gangs abusing White girls. In Rotherham it went on for years, and the Manchester police and local authority knew about it, and did nothing. They were afraid that if they did act, it would start riots.

I am very much aware that the majority of child abusers in this country are White. I am also aware that the abusers were secular individuals, and that they weren’t abusing White girls because they were Muslims, as the Islamophobes have claimed. One academic, who has covered the case, has denied that race was a motivation behind their assaults. However, it was a factor in the authorities decision not to prosecute the offenders for about ten years. They did not want to do so because they were Asian, and the girls were White. And this has promoted the feeling that the liberal establishment, as it is so considered, has no interest in defending Whites from victimisation by ethnic minorities. It’s a gift to organisations like Britain First and the EDL. Or simply the Conservative party, as it has moved so far to the racist right under Johnson.

There is also the problem that some of the alienation experience by Whites in constituencies with large ethnic minority communities, has been increased immensely when the parties seem only interested in choosing candidates from those communities. Following the Oldham riots, the Financial Times sent their correspondent, Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, to the town to investigate. The Asian and White communities there were nearly equal, with the White a fraction larger. However, all of the parties – Labour, Lib Dem and the Conservatives – had chosen Asian candidates. And these candidates seemed less interested in the local issues that affected everyone in Oldham, regardless of colour, than in issues far away in India and Pakistan, most specifically the issue of Kashmir. A section of the White community felt ignored and marginalised, tensions increased and then exploded into violence.

This puts any politician elected from an all-Black or Asian shortlist in a difficult position. They are there to represent all of the community. But many will be on the list because they specifically want to help Blacks and Asians. In constituencies where Whites are in a minority, like parts of London, that could mean that parts of the White population feel discriminated against. Some might turn to the far right. Others may leave London to White majority in the ‘White flight’. And some will remain, but become alienated and cynical. It’s recipe for increasing racial tension, not fighting it. The situation is made worse by the network of organisations and schemes that are only open to Blacks and Asians and which exclude Whites in a system that the Financial Times called ‘liberal apartheid’. Black and Asian politicians elected through such shortlists will be seen as part of an establishment that actively discriminates against Whites. Individual politicians elected through such lists will have to show that they can also represent Whites as well. Which means that they also may be too cautious, and fail to give deprived ethnic minority communities adequate help and support.

All-Black and Asian shortlists will help solve the problem of Black underrepresentation in Parliament, but depending on the local personalities and organisations involved, they risk increasing racism by excluding Whites. 

 

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