Racialists Are Raging

The racialists are raging because they are afraid

Suppose the U.S. government had commissioned an official report into race relations following the Black Lives Matter riots. Suppose the report discovered that, while racism existed, it was not all-pervasive. Suppose it found that, although some minority communities were disadvantaged, most were outperforming the white majority.

Suppose it concluded that prejudice was not a big factor in holding people back and that recognizing this truth was an important part of getting ahead.

What do you imagine the response would be? Would commentators thank the authors for soothing an overheated debate with facts and forensics? Or would they shout them down as race traitors doing the work of white Nazis?

I think we all know the answer. But, for what it’s worth, precisely such a report has just been published in Britain to predictable howls of disapproval. The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, established after last summer’s unrest, offered its conclusions on March 31. The commissioners were not race activists but, rather, were distinguished in their fields as economists, scientists, charity organizers, and the like. Of the 11 authors, only one was white.

This unhesitating acceptance of American cultural references predetermined the response to the report. Its authors were “Uncle Toms” and “house negroes.” One Labour member of Parliament posted a reference to findings alongside an image of a Klansman in front of a burning cross.

The Ku Klux Klan, Uncle Tom, segregation, voter suppression — what have these things got to do with us here in Hampshire? Or, come to think of it, with people in New Hampshire? Selma is as far removed, politically and historically, from most of the United States as it is from the rest of the Anglosphere. Yet we seem determined that every child should enter the world with a set of preexisting debts or grievances on the basis of vague physical resemblance to people who lived in another time and place.

No one in such a climate wants to hear that, all things considered, race relations in Britain are pretty good and continue to improve. The commission presented a mass of data — for example, nonwhite children do better than average at school and, among younger workers, there is no income disparity. But that seemed only to enrage its critics all the more. BBC news bulletins led, not with the report itself but with the supposedly widespread anger it had provoked. A Cambridge professor, Priyamvada Gopal, was at first incredulous that the chairman of the commission, a London educator who has helped hundreds of disadvantaged black children into top universities, could truly be “Dr.” Tony Sewell. When his credentials were established beyond doubt, she responded: “Fair enough. Even Dr. Goebbels had a research Ph.D.”

In Britain, as in America, there is something peculiarly vicious about the abuse hurled at black people who step outside the leftist tramlines.

In part, this is a question of simple self-interest. If your job as a racism awareness counselor or a diversity outreach worker depends on the idea that bigotry is everywhere, you will not want to have that idea challenged. The current orthodoxy is so entrenched that any optimism, however moderately phrased, however grounded in data, strikes a jarring note.

Underneath the anger, though, I detect anxiety. Could it be that race professionals fear that their views are not especially widely shared among people of any ethnic background? I have no idea, as I write these words, whether you, the reader, are black, brown, or white. So let me phrase it this way. Think of your nonwhite friends and co-workers. Are they as determined as the paid grievancemongers to see everything in terms of racism? Do they tell their children that the system is irremediably rigged against them, or do they encourage them to work hard and get on?

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