THE Guardian is currently in the middle of a festival of grievance, based on its recent report ‘Bias in Britain’, which desperately hunts for examples of racism. Following Gary Oliver’s recent excellent piece on this, I’d like to pull out some of my own favourite features.
Employment is a big issue in the report. If non-white Britons can’t get the job they want, or are overqualified for the role they are in, that’s racism. The Guardian cites a man with a law degree, stuck in a job he doesn’t like and unable to find an opening in a firm of solicitors. It doesn’t consider that this might be because we have far too many graduates chasing a fixed number of graduate jobs. I wonder if the article’s writer, Damien Gayle, read a Guardian article from 2014 which described how universities have produced a ‘surplus of tens of thousands of highly educated law graduates’ unable to find work matching their qualifications. Perhaps this aspiring lawyer wasn’t a part of the Guardian’s ‘glut’ of lawyers and was just a victim of racism instead?
Mr Gayle also discusses employment discrimination in banking, with the example of another young man denied his desired career. It just so happens that he has a conviction for fraud. You might think that although he deserves a second chance, it’s still best if he isn’t allowed to manage your bank account. But the Guardian, of course, manages to smell racism.
It also draws our attention to how overall household income for families of Pakistani and Bangladeshi (though not Indian) origin is significantly lower than for white families. Here’s a hint for the Guardian: where the wife chooses not to work, the family’s overall income is likely to be lower. Government stats are clear that women from both groups are substantially less likely for various reasons to work than white women. Thirty-eight per cent of Pakistani/Bangladeshi women work, against 73 per cent of white women.
Although I’m sure there are some racist employers unwilling to take these women on, there are many issues at play and there are many cultures across the world where women are less likely to join the formal workforce. If racism was the main reason for their employment levels, there would be a more or less identical ratio for Pakistani/Bangladeshi men not working, when set against white men. But there emphatically isn’t. For men, it’s more like nine per cent against four per cent.
And as the Spectator points out, once in employment, people of Pakistani/Bangladeshi heritage are now very nearly equally represented to the same degree within professional/managerial levels as anyone else. Meanwhile the median incomes of Britons with Indian heritage are on the verge of overtaking the rest of the population. This in a country supposedly mired in racism.
Some of the Guardian’s other examples seem simply daft. Apparently, if someone misspells or mispronounces your name, that can be an example of racial bias against you. Most native English speakers struggle with the consonant-dense surnames of Eastern Europe: is this proof of xenophobia? I’m a lover of Polish history and culture but would be intimidated by names such as Szczygiel, Kolodziejczyk or Skyrzypzak, though my pronunciation would probably be no worse than the average Guardian reader’s. To include this sort of nonsense devalues any attempt to understand or confront real bigotry.
Unfortunately, prejudice and pockets of genuine racism still exist. People from different groups face problems and imbalances in their experiences and outcomes, and individuals have to sometimes deal with downright nasty hostility. But you shouldn’t assume any explanation, including racism, is correct in these complex issues without solid evidence. The Guardian’s report is strong on accusation but weak on causative links. Answers without solid evidence are worse than useless; they poison debate and prevent real solutions being found.
Any racism we still have is thankfully ever diminishing. As TCW’s Karen Harradine argues, by global standards, we are now one of the least racist countries you can find. If you don’t believe it, look at this map of Europe’s most racist countries. Or this list of the world’s most racist countries. Needless to say, it doesn’t feature Britain.
The BBC confirms that 28 per cent of babies now born in England have mothers who were born abroad. What stronger vote of confidence can someone give a new country than choosing it as the place to have and bring up their children? Or are these mothers deciding they want their babies in a land that will condemn them to lives of second-class citizenship?
Whatever the Guardian thinks, huge numbers of people from all over the world, of all cultures and ethnicities, think this a country that is tolerant and decent, one they want to be a part of. One that despite some problems, by any serious comparison to much or even most of the world, is not racist.