Friday, 2 April 2021

The Tories' Racist Gaslighting

1. The government's 258-page report on race and racism wasn't worth the keystrokes. This is gaslighting on an extraoridnary scale, and goes out of its way to deny the life experiences of minority ethnicities and purposely ignore the multiple indices that have recorded and continue to record the consequences of racial discrimination and inequality. The British Medical Journal are especially scathing, damning it for "cherry-picked data" and its attempt "to undo several decades of irrefutable peer-reviewed research evidence on ethnic disparities, previous governments’ reports, and independent reviews all reaching similar conclusions." All of which point to the inescapable fact that "ethnic minorities have the worst health outcomes on almost all health parameters." If this wasn't a government-endorsed report, its correct repository would be the bin and its contents laughed out of contention.

2. The authors of this "independent report" were government appointed, and it selected a tranche of lackeys and useful idiots who were always going to turn something out congenial to the Tories' interests. Again, the BMJ criticising the author selection observes it "included a space scientist, a retired diplomat, a politics graduate, a TV presenter and an English literature graduate, but no one with an academic background in health inequalities." Even worse, it transpires a number of experts the report claims to have consulted were not. Befitting a government of organised cynicism, the report's authors were selected from minority ethnicities to give this shoddy document a cover it would never have acquired if the Tories had relied on the Toby Youngs and Sarah Vines of this world.

3. The document might be a load of rubbish, but it is reflective of a layer of opinion within minority ethnicities, particularly those who are upwardly mobile and find themselves occupying comfortable professional or business occupations. Not dissimilar from the brief flap of so-called conservative feminism from eight or so years ago, this is an individuated and individualising mindset of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, working hard, and overcoming racism and discrimination to make a good go of things and becoming successful. Having made their way in the world, this layer looks around itself and puts its success down to their personal qualities, such as talent, intelligence, and graft. From their point of view, because they have a nice house and a nice salary, institutionalised racism is so much poppycock. Racist attitudes are the mindset of ignoramuses and bigots, a matter of individual fault, and therefore responsibility. To even talk about structural racism is, for these people, to provide excuses for those who did not rise with them. Their situation at the bottom of the occupational ladder is thanks to not enough application, a lack of effort, a revelling in victimhood, or in a racialised twist of the cultures-of-worklessness claims beloved of Tories and centrists, not being socialised into the right values. Therefore white privilege does not exist. What we see instead is racialised underperformance. Or, to put it another way, minority ethnicities are to blame for their predicament for being insufficiently British.

4. This is pure propaganda with a firm objective in mind. It is, obviously, another effort in the Tory culture wars. With Brexit done, Boris Johnson has to cast around for new glue to keep the Tory voter coalition together. He has the advantage of having kept his word at his back, but no Tory government can manage without finding scapegoats and ourgroups to pin their failings on. The report, coming with the official stamp of approval, serves these purposes in two ways. With the Tory coalition disproportionately dependent on the legacy print media for news and opinion formation, headlines trumpeting the "findings" that Britain is a beacon for race relations and inclusion tells its mainly white, mainly old, mainly propertied support that all is fine and dandy. Where this voter coalition has racist views, it's telling them they don't matter in the grand scheme of things. And when the government is on the hook for the likes of the Windrush deportations, profile policing, and immigration bashing, these aren't racist either. Where there is fault it's an honest mistake or somesuch - so goes the frame. The second consequence is to attack and delegitimise complaints about racism, and moving to a position where protests and marches against racism are stripped of political recognition and positioned as social order problems to be managed. By rejecting claims about institutional racism in the shoddiest manner possible, the aim is to show those who complain or take to the streets have nothing to get angry about. It's entirely perfomative, and therefore entirely illegitimate.

5. It's a good job Labour have come out strongly against this. Oh, wait a minute. It wasn't until lunch time on Good Friday that the party pushed out a statement from Marsha de Cordova deploring how the report sets the clock back. But nothing from the top, which is what is exactly warranted in response to such a blunt force attack. A Labour leader worth their salt would be all over this and challenging the naked Tory attempt at reframing race, ethnicity, and nationality in a way that suits Johnson's political positioning. But, as we have seen, not only are the Labour right not serious about winning office, Keir Starmer is practically allergic to contesting the Tory definition of political issues. He has not dissented from their management of the pandemic, so he's not about to wade into what the Labour right would regard as identity politics. And so the party concedes more ground to the Tories and fails to stick up for key constituents of its own coalition, making the job of cobbling together a coalition broad enough to turf them out of office even more difficult.

Image Credit


Dipper said...

Lets take exclusions. Data shows that children of Caribbean extraction are more likely than white children to be excluded from school. But that children of African extraction are less likely to be excluded than white children?

If Caribbean children being excluded is due to racism, then why aren't African children excluded in similar numbers? Are teachers consciously discriminating against black Caribbean children and in favour of black African children?

simplistic chants of 'institutional racism' are simply not up to the task of understanding the role and effects of different races and cultures in the modern UK. And people who just like to chant simplistic slogans are fooling nobody, not even themselves.

Dipper said...

just to bang on, your analysis requires considerable numbers of clearly smart and capable people of colour to be somehow deluded when it comes to the matter of racism in the UK. You have to explain why that is the case. Or else you don't really have a view, you're just cheering your team when they are 5-0 down.

It is sadly typical of modern labour that nowhere in your analysis do you consider the outcomes for the white working class. You state 'Their situation at the bottom of the occupational ladder is thanks to not enough application, a lack of effort, a revelling in victimhood, or in a racialised twist of the cultures-of-worklessness claims beloved of Tories and centrists, not being socialised into the right values.' but this is true of the white working class too isn't it? Hence a likely explanation for disparity between races is that they disproportionately occupy different classes Or is class analysis not relevant in modern labour; immigrant populations do badly because they are discriminated against, white populations do badly because they are just intrinsically stupid and useless?

"Therefore white privilege does not exist.'. Does Jewish privilege exist? If not, what is your explanation for the stellar performance of the jewish community? And why does that not apply to that section of the white population that is doing well?

Unknown said...

Hi Phil

Your email is saying your are on leave. Can you contact me about Wednesday's talk.


Dippert said...

'"to undo several decades of irrefutable peer-reviewed research evidence on ethnic disparities, previous governments’ reports, and independent reviews all reaching similar conclusions." All of which point to the inescapable fact that "ethnic minorities have the worst health outcomes on almost all health parameters." '

yet this article here states "Conclusions Males and females in most of the larger ethnic minority groups in Scotland have longer life expectancies than the majority White Scottish population."

and from "Using alternative methods of analysing ethnic differences, some evidence suggests most Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups have lower mortality than the white population, but that differential has been reversed by the higher mortality among BAME groups from Covid-19."

There are lots of reasons why different ethnicities may experience different life expectancies, and different classes experience different life expectancies too. Just screaming 'racism!!' whenever a difference appears is irresponsible nonsense.

What is your point? What is it you hope to achieve by demonising 85% of the population and indulging in lazy stereotyping? Whose vote are you trying to capture here? What outcome are you trying to achieve?

Blissex said...

«It is, obviously, another effort in the Tory culture wars.»

One of the funniest lines about a serious subject, at the level of the numerous articles in the whig rightist "The Guardian" accusing the tory right to sow identity politics based division. One of those articles even depicts as outrageous various french intellectuals for using the class issues that "the many" to distract from the priority that is identity based race and sexual politics sponsored by "the few":
“These two respected scholars lament what they see as the substitution of “class struggle” with “race struggle”. They scorn the “gender bandwagon”, are dismissive of intersectionality and criticise the “racialisation” of social problems and public discourse. [...] By asserting the primacy of class, and an idealised account of republican values, France’s culture warriors devalue the ideas and movements that help to better understand – and act against – current social injustices.”

Looks like that both the tory right and the whig right (with which many leftoids identify reflexively) are gaslighting the public by staging a noisy fight about cultural and identity issues.

«the inescapable fact that "ethnic minorities have the worst health outcomes on almost all health parameters."»

How better are those minority outcomes than those of stale, pale, low income "deplorable" males? That this question is not even considered gives the tory/whig game away. Is the cause of those health outcomes a low income or racial discrimination?

Consider just the jewish minority, which is under the law both an ethnic and a religious group, where structural antisemitism has meant that just 70% are upper-middle or upper class: are their health outcomes worse than those of low income white males?

Blissex said...

There is an interesting table of "marketing" grades ABC12D by official ethnicity, based on the 2011 census, which are probably extremely familiar to our public sociologist, so here they are for the benefit of other readers:

Notes: I think that the "Never worked/long-term unemployed" category is meaningless because of cultural and religious issues (e.g. forcing women to work among some asian minorities, forcing men to work among some religious minorities). Also I may be too cynical but "Small employers and own account workers" is largely a proxy for tax "avoidance" (taxi drivers, shop owners, restaurant owners, tradespeople, ...). Other warning: the 47% of "Chinese" men in "Never worked or long-term unemployed" probably means that they work cash within the chinese sub-economy, or that they are foreign students.

What seem interesting to me are the percentages of both "Higher" and "Lower" "managerial/administrative/professional" and especially of "Full-time students" in the tables, in particular in the table "Percentage of men within each ethnic group in the different socio-economic groups" (the table for women is too biased by non-race cultural issues).

It seems to me that the outcomes of different ethnic minorities wrt each other are more different than those of the same wrt to the "white" majority (which is by far a single, and there are interesting differences between "White british" and "White irish").

There are other telling details in the data, and it would seems to me exceptionally stretched to argue that socio-economic outcomes are explained mostly or even in part by "structural racism".

But for so many people it is very important instead to make as big a deal as possible of the tory vs. whig identity politics staged fights, After all they are much more important than the 60-70% cuts to private pensions, the 50-70% of low incomes that go to housing costs, the near disappearance of labor unions from private businesses, and other "distractions".
«Dogbert: "Dear Senator, I demand a constitutional amendment banning the obscene and anti-american lyrics in opera"
Dilbert: What makes you think a senator will care about an issue like that?
(senator's aide): I think we found another issue to keep us from working on real problems.
(senator): Ooh-ooh!»

Blissex said...

«Whose vote are you trying to capture here? What outcome are you trying to achieve?»

My impression is that the staged tory vs. whig identity politics fights are meant to get people like "Dipper" to vote "tory", and people like our blogger to vote "whig", and to distract them both from the "proletarian" interests they so obviously share. That "Dipper" in particular does not realize this is quite ironic (I guess that our blogger realizes this).

Dialectician1 said...

This ludicrous report, as well as being a 'dead cat' distraction is also yet another typical Tory (and past Labour Governments) analysis/policy solution to social problems using the age-old trick of 'social pathologizing' solutions to inherent structural problems that arise from living in a capitalist system. It's interesting that the report identifies class (rather than race) as an indicator of reduced life chances but then blames dysfunctional family life and so-called cultural deficiencies as the cause of inequality rather than as inevitable symptoms (the injuries of class).

Kamo said...

The report is partly a deliberate attack on the professional race relations industry, and the reaction from the industry was entirely anticipated. Personally, I suspect it has strengths and weaknesses, but a lot of the key points are neither new, nor particularly controversial of themselves. A lot of the criticism from the race relations industry reeks of double standards, many narratives within that industry also rest on selective evidence, ignorance of study controls, or forced misreading of statistics in specific areas e.g. educational and economic outcomes. These fundamental contradictions, omissions and questionable assumptions are well known to those who take an interest in professional race relations; but it's not considered 'progressive' to notice them, and people who raise awkward questions are cynically branded 'racist'. That tactic doesn't work here because of the panel's ethnic make up, so the currently modish 'gaslighting' is applied to warn off pesky questions instead.

Earlier comments have raised some of some common problems where disparities are ascribed to 'racism' despite robust supporting data e.g. the 'racism' that targets black Caribbean boys, despite preferring just about every other ethnic group over white boys. Refusing to incorporate other, often more relevant, demographic factors into the analysis, turns the concept of racism itself into a kind of ‘deus ex machina’ for the race relations industry, resolving contradictions without having to resort to rational explanation.

FWIW I personally believe the existence of structural racism within society, but I also think the term 'institutional racism' has become a lazy catch-all often doing the work of those excluded demographic factors. But the report doesn't deny the existence of racism, or its effects, but it is quite deliberately targeted at some of the most dubious claims of professional race relations. The progress of recent decades is obvious to anyone with a basic grasp of history; just as anyone who is aware of the world outside the UK knows how it compares on the tolerance and acceptance of minority groups. But attempting to strike a balanced and nuanced view is a commercial threat to those 'marketing' a more catastrophic narrative.

Dipper said...

re 'structural racism'

I suspect there is quite a lot of this. As there is also, structural sexism, structural ageism, structural regionalism, structural classism. There are lots of ways in which organisations and society makes witting or unwitting assumptions and hence are biased against particular groups of people. And we should, as a society and individuals, be sufficiently self-critical to be open to evidence of these structural bias and be open to finding ways to remove them. we should, as a society, be ambitious for everyone.

But, the political forces criticising this report clearly have no interest in correcting structural racism. Their entire existence requires an unending tide of structural racism. They will always find it. And their interest in finding structural racism is not about correcting it; it is about finding people reasonable for this racism and persecuting them. Hence the response. They are not interested in debate, they are only interested in finding the baddies and persecuting them.

Dipper said...

... which is why the BLM movement just loves slavery. It is the issue that cannot be undone. No matter what I, or another white English person, or our children do, this is a sin my race must carry down the years, and hence must be persecuted and punished without end for it.

It doesn't matter that slavery was universal before the end of the 17th century, that slavery was widespread in Africa, that slavery happened under Arab nations for years, even that it happened under ISIS. It doesn't matter that the UK was one of if not the first major nation to actively outlaw slavery and campaign angainst it. All that matters is some white English people in the 17th century and before were involved in the slave trade, and that is sufficient to condemn all white English people for all time.

TowerBridge said...

There are people who will take this report seriously and will refuse to see what it is designed to do. This government is dishonest and corrupt (points well articulated by Peter Oborne's latest book and not even therefore a left-right contention). It will and does produce lies.

[as an aside I note that the authors fall back on the classic line of pulling oneself up by bootstraps (a line coined originally to describe something that was impossible).]

Kamo said...

BLM focuses on a closely cropped picture of the transatlantic slave trade, which doesn't dwell closely on its origins, or as Dipper points out the wider history of the practice down to the present. I took my kids to the transatlantic slavery exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands, it was very good and brought home the inhumanity of the practice, but one thing I noticed was that in an entire floor dedicated to the subject there was one smallish panel at the start alluding to the pre-existing mechanisms the Europeans exploited, and it was the only part that (very lightly) dealt with the capture and sale of slaves. I couldn't help feel that was a deliberate nod to sensitivities.

The complicated reality of modern Britain is that we have people whose ancestors owned slaves, we have people whose ancestors were slaves, we have people whose ancestors captured and sold those slaves, we have people who fall in to more than one of those categories and we have people who fall into none.

But back to the report itself, it's interesting to see more nuanced criticism emerging from commentators who don't subscribe to the one dimensional view that all ills reduce to racism regardless of coherence. This reinforces my view that the panel have made a deliberate attempt to discredit that kind of cynical, commercially driven race relations narrative. But we're still left with a tacit acknowledgement from the critics that questionable claims and dubious scholarship are acceptable as long as they don't rock the boat for the industry as a whole.

Anonymous said...

"The document might be a load of rubbish, but it is reflective of a layer of opinion within minority ethnicities, particularly those who are upwardly mobile and find themselves occupying comfortable professional or business occupations"

Strangely reminiscent of the comment which dismisses working-class Tories, and in fact led the left (as opposed to Labour) to abandon the white working class, and class in general, back in the Seventies because it rejected its neo-Marxist agenda, and instead target the isms - race, sexuality, etc with the intention - rather successfully, it has to be said - to achieve its objective to undermine confidence in the capitalist settlement (to answer your question, Dipper, ie - WTF do they do this for).

Although in reality, it is only partially successful because while they have achieved clear division in society - turning black against white, woman against man, etc, they seem to have forgotten the point of it all. Capitalism remains triumphant, and has probably rather benefitted from the 'divide and rule' that has launched a thousand academic and professional careers but also relegated social class to a mere afterthought.

This Left has obviously become intellectually, and morally, bankrupt. It certainly bears no relation to the movement that used to be known as 'socialism'. But socialist ideas - because they are founded in truth, ie the class struggle, will survive - while identitarian politics will ultimately be regarded as a sad and pathetic phase, akin to the 'Cultural Revolution'.

Anonymous said...

Zizek on why white liberals have no problem criticising minorities who do not adhere to their particularist dogma. Or 'why white liberals love identity politics'.