Courtesy is Not a Tip
Tricycles of Beijing

The Right Kind of Prejudice

In response to this article, one of our regulars, Clazy, highlighted the words of Lee Jasper, the “Director for Equalities” for London’s Islamist-hugging mayor, Ken Livingstone. Jasper has argued that “you have to treat people differently to treat them equally.” Clazy regards this as “pure Orwell.” Rightly so, I think.

It doesn’t seem to occur to Jasper or Livingstone that the multicultural ‘identity politics’ of which they’re such enthusiasts can actually exacerbate suspicion and resentment. If some notional “communities” are being treated differently and being encouraged to cultivate difference for social or political leverage, then getting past a person’s skin colour or place or origin seems more difficult, not less. One is continually being reminded of how different a person is, or thinks he ought to be. A cynic might point out that the racial grievance industry - and the various commentators and lobbyists who benefit from it - depends on people being preoccupied by the colour of a person’s skin. And therefore, one might suppose, there’s an incentive to make sure lots of people are.

Scott Burgess has pointed out that some commentators can apparently detect racism in “homeopathic concentrations.” This paranormal sensitivity is, I think, pretty much inevitable among some race industry professionals. The threshold of grievance has to be lowered continually in order to justify further crusading – and, of course, to justify status, funding, media attention, etc. Eventually, left unchecked, this hypersensitivity can reach the level of paranoia, perpetuating the attitudes it claims to oppose.

Writing in the Times, Jamie Whyte challenged the assumptions of racial identity propagated by Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality:

“Like many others in the race industry, Mr Phillips is a racialist. He thinks that your race is the most important fact about you… I do not worry about my brown daughter suffering racist discrimination. That is rare in our community. I am more worried that she fall for the idea that her skin is her identity, and believe herself the victim of fantastical injuries such as ‘identity-stripping’… The interests of do-gooding organisations are always at odds with their goals. Succeed and you put yourself out of business. With racism in rapid retreat and mixed-race children on the rise, there is one great contribution the Commission for Racial Equality could make to its official cause. Stop existing.”

I doubt it’s coincidental that the most racially fixated people I’ve met have been uptight lefties schooled in the kind of posturing favoured by Mr Phillips and so many of his colleagues. I realise the very suggestion is likely to provoke the tearing of hair and rending of garments, but there we are. One left-leaning activist even told me, quite triumphantly, that he couldn’t possibly be racist because he isn’t white and “only white people are racist.” 

If those sentiments seem too ridiculous to be taken seriously and too implausible to be shared by any significant number of people, I should point out that the Guardian’s deputy comment editor, Joseph Harker, has said the same, and more, several times: “All white people are racist… As a black man… I cannot be racist… because in the global order I do not belong to the dominant group.” When such views appear in the mainstream organ of the British left, voiced by a member of its own editorial staff, this isn’t exactly a cause for optimism. Presumably, Mr Harker feels he’s writing for a constituency of sympathetic readers. Let's hope not. But if people are exposed to Harker’s views and those of others like him on a fairly regular basis – say, by reading the Guardian with suitable credulity – then it’s no great surprise if some of those readers start to repeat the same ‘correct’ set of prejudices. Righteously, of course.

More on this subject here.


Mary Jackson

Leaving aside the issue of prejudice among Asians against black people, the idea that a black person cannot be racist is absurd, but widely held.

A black person, like a white person, can be anything - good, bad and indifferent. Whatever happened to Martin Luther King's idea of being judged on the "content of your character"?

As for treating people differently to treat them equally, does this extend to being lenient with wife-beaters whose culture permits this behaviour?


In Livingstone's case, it seems it does. Or at least the contradiction is somehow never quite addressed. But then the lovely Ken uses public money to further his own personal foreign policy. So, he's clearly principled all the way.


It wasn't until I moved to Brixton 15 years ago that I saw real racism in action. Unfortunately, It wasn't the white-on-black racism my middle-class upbringing had led me to expect: it was black-on-Asian. I had been brought up to think that racism was fundamentally a white problem -- though those particular scales fell from my eyes very quickly after that.

I have never seen more openly violent racist behaviour, than I did, regularly, in Brixton. There was a level of hatred amongst a certain section of the black community towards anyone Hindu or Muslim. It was open, feral and completely unapologetic.

I hope the area has improved since I moved out 10 years ago.

When are idiots like Lee Jasper going to stop playing victim poker and start realising that racism is something that every single race does?

Certainly not as long as he keeps getting paid £117,000 every year to stir up whatever grudges he can find.

Turkeys, Christmas, vote etc.


It seems to me that many figures within the race industry are pursuing ideas that actually reinforce racial assumptions, from within and without (as it were). Phillips and Livingstone may disagree quite vehemently about aspects of multicultural ideology and its consequences, but both have at times voiced what amounts to a kind of racial determinism, which doesn’t strike me as attractive or progressive.

Likewise, Joseph Harker feels entitled to advance lurid racial stereotypes - all in the name of ‘opposing’ racism. He’s able to perform this strange manoeuvre by claiming that racial prejudice is the exclusive and default property of one particular ethnic grouping, a Caucasian one, which he deems “dominant” and, by implication, morally compromised. Harker thus denies the overt racism of his own argument by redefining the word ‘racism’ until, after much contortion, it suits his purpose.

It’s therefore hard to see Harker as being opposed on principle to racism per se. He just appears to dislike racism when it’s directed at the racial group he identifies with.


I'm honored.

When I saw that line, about treating people differently to treat them equally, the first thing that came to mind was Animal Farm, and the pigs' formulation, "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."

The second thing that came to mind was your post on moral tourism: "Presumably, Enlightenment values are fine for Guardian columnists, but wrong for poor women in rural Pakistan."

You could think of Lee Jasper as one of Orwell's pigs, more equal. Free to leave the house, work, speak his mind, choose his religion, etc.--Enlightenment values are great for him. But they're wrong for rural Pakistani woman, who've got to be treated "differently" to be treated "equally", even when they immigrate to London.


It's the postmodern left, in all its glory. If the meaning of words doesn't suit your argument, simply change what words mean.

I like this reply to Harker, from the Ablution piece linked below:

“There is good news for guilty white folks here, and it comes from a rather unexpected source; namely, the much-anticipated rise of China to world domination. Come that glorious day, no racism will remain among white people, as they'll no longer represent the ‘dominant group’ of the ‘global order’. At that precise point, we will immediately be granted the cherished status of ‘victim’ - the entire Chinese population will, of course, simultaneously become racists. Perhaps some sort of ceremony could be held to mark the event.”

David Hadley

Something I wrote a while ago here:

a brief note about the idea of dropping this whole 'race' business, which - it seems - ends up crating far more problems than it solves.


The idea that only white people can be racists comes from the redefinition of "racism". No longer is it prejudice based upon skin colour. Now it is "power plus oppression equals racism". By this formula, black people have no power so cannot be racist.


It’s a bizarre formulation and doesn’t stand much scrutiny. Harker’s non-reciprocal definition of racism is logically indefensible and morally objectionable. Yet some people take it seriously. It’s not clear to me what the benefits of doing so might be. Though I can see how this perverse definition, suitably repeated, could reinforce a quasi-Marxist outlook – and reinforce precisely the alienation and prejudice that Harker and others claim to oppose.


It’s a bizarre formulation and doesn’t stand much scrutiny.

Maybe so but it is the standard formulation for teaching in say the Social Services. Note that in such an environment, to challenge such assumptions inevitably leads to the challenger being accused of harbouring latent racist feelings (otherwise why else would you challenge any attempt to eliminate racism)



Yes, I’m sure this tendentious definition is common in certain quarters. This isn’t just an academic matter; it has practical fallout and I think it’s actually a little sinister. And, as you suggest, the fact that questioning this definition can result in insinuations of heresy and racist intent suggests a fear of its assumptions being tested. It goes without saying that common usage doesn’t make the definition any less objectionable. Again, from the Ablution piece:

“It is, for example, heartening to learn that were a black man, motivated by a hatred of white people, to break into my house screaming racial abuse, kill me, and use my blood to cover the walls with slogans urging the murder of white people everywhere, this person could not correctly be deemed racist… Nor would it be racist for the ‘dominant power’ within an area as large as an entire country - say, Zimbabwe - to carry out systematic acts of oppression against a white minority, as racist acts can only be carried out by those belonging to the globally dominant group…”

Language is often the first casualty when PC ideology holds sway. If the meaning of words doesn’t reinforce the ideology, then those words are frowned upon or bent out of shape until they do. And if someone challenges the new definition and its consequences, accusations of malign intent are freely handed out, generally to shut down any realistic debate. It’s much easier to rule certain subjects as out of bounds, or indicating wickedness, than to address them and test their merits. The idea seems to be to reduce the frame of reference by getting everyone to learn the same anxieties and dishonesties.

This isn’t a trivial problem; nor is it confined to political belief. The more fraudulent an ideology is, and the more it departs from reality, the more suppression and denunciation is required.

The comments to this entry are closed.