Every day I thank God for the British Empire. Without it I wouldn’t exist. My Gold Coast-born mother would never have met my English father. She herself is the descendant of a Scottish merchant called Bruce. Now she lives happily in rural Perthshire. She’s the only black in the village.
Growing up in the 1990s, I faintly remember debate over whether non-whites could be British. Certainly the question had receded by the time Monty Panesar made his England cricket debut midway through the following decade. Meanwhile, however, Britain quickly became one of the best places for cultural entrepreneurs to promote the pernicious fallacy that we are best understood through the prism of race and culture. So we have ‘blackness’ and ‘black culture’ pushed by people and groups state-funded via quangos and academia, or propped up with charity money. These cultural entrepreneurs’ livelihoods depend on the continuance of grievance, so they encourage division between groups while suppressing diversity within groups. Black Lives Matter organisers are cultural entrepreneurs par excellence. They are re-racialising society along the lines of white history vs black history. In fact, the only time I’ve ever been told to ‘go home’ was last Christmas, by a Jamaican.
I can see how some blacks might reasonably find a victimhood of blackness seductive, but it’s to their detriment. To see race as a component of all social interaction is psychologically damaging. It induces a conspiratorial mindset where every comment or gesture is decoded for racial bias. My favourite instance of many I’ve recorded concerned last year’s royal baby. I had visited my Afro barbershop. Inside, some men were hollering at BBC footage of Nicholas Witchell, accusing him of avoiding calling baby Archie ‘black’. I pointed out that ‘Anglo-American’ referred to his nationality as opposed to his race. The din immediately died.
The other weekend I was peacefully subverting lockdown at a friend’s house when in floated a black life, fresh from the front line. He droned on about how wonderful it is that his white friends are now interested in listening to his experiences as an ethnic minority on a film crew. He was angry because one colleague praises his work less than the others. ‘But how do you know it’s because of your race?’ I asked. To my shock he replied: ‘That’s a fair point. I suppose I just assume it because I can’t see any other reasons.’ Perhaps the colleague just thinks he’s a total bore. But you can see how convenient the whole system is. You never have to face your flaws, let alone correct them.
I’ve never understood how being defined by skin colour can be emancipatory. Isn’t that what the racists want? The opposite of racism is being colour blind. Blacks should uphold the idea of society as a shared common possession and support egalitarian measures that would actually improve the lot of impoverished people of all races. We can all refuse to complete ‘diversity monitoring’ forms. We can all refrain from using the word ‘community’ to describe anything non-geographical. We can expunge from our lexicon the dreadful term ‘BAME’, which lumps together a load of people in a way that has nothing to do with their own self-understanding. Identity is a lot more complex than the arbitrary categories used by activists and pundits.
If we don’t begin to do some of this, there’s a danger that more and more people will also swallow the myth of the cultural separateness of blacks. And who — aside from self-flagellating diversity cultists — wants to hire activists? Who wants to work with people who possess inferiority complexes and are on constant watch for ‘micro-aggressions’? Who wants to feel nervous about being racist in a way they can’t even detect because it is apparently ‘unconscious’?
It’s interesting to me that some of the most fervent white supporters of BLM are the same kinds of cosmopolitan people who previously marched for Remain. Then, they used a constitutional dispute to elevate themselves above their supposedly parochial fellow citizens. Now, they display their superiority by drawing attention to the sin of their own whiteness. Make no mistake, it’s essentially the same culture war.
In response to the protests, the government has announced a commission to examine racial and ethnic in-equalities in Britain. Well, perhaps it’s an opportunity. It could begin from the premise that some disproportionate outcomes are fair, others unfair. And it could underline the fact that this country is the best melting pot on Earth.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10