DURING the past week The Guardian brought us ‘Bias in Britain: A series of reports on the hidden impact of everyday racism’. Which immediately raises the question: how was this different from every other week in which identity politics is promoted by The Guardian.
The answer is that this week’s series was hung upon the ‘first major piece of UK public polling to focus on ethnic minorities’ experiences of unconscious bias’. As an example of ‘the stark evidence of everyday racial bias in Britain’, the ICM poll records that during the past five years ‘forty-three per cent of those from a minority ethnic background had been overlooked for a work promotion in a way that felt unfair . . . more than twice the proportion of white people (18 per cent) who reported the same experience’.
This is a finding in which ‘felt unfair’ is doing some heavy lifting. But we are now in an age where subjectivity underpins not only the concept of ‘unconscious bias’, but where perceiving discrimination is sufficient to self-identify as victim of a hate crime.
As part of its series, The Guardian identified ‘Ten areas rife with racial bias in UK’. It would, of course, be stupid to deny that Britain still harbours racism. However, The Guardian trivialises its investigation of the problem by reporting as fact the ludicrous opinion of the partisan charity BME Cancer Voice that breast screening services are, somehow, ‘perceived to be targeted at white people’; it also descends into froth when solemnly declaring that ‘in the world of online dating, racial inequalities are rife’.
The Guardian’s evidence for the latter claim is that ‘black men and women are 10 times more likely to message white users than the reverse’. Even if this generalised statistic were broadly true and there is such disparity, innate physical attraction is both individualistic and, dare one say, discriminatory. Thankfully, the state does not dictate which ethnicities we should fancy, date and marry; or at least not yet.
Though not strictly part of its Bias in Britain series, the latest column by Matthew d’Ancona, titled ‘Let’s be honest about what’s really driving Brexit: bigotry’, neatly overlapped with the paper’s theme of the week. However, d’Ancona’s accusation was not one of ‘unconscious bias’ but of the Leave vote having been motivated by ‘extremely unpleasant nativism . . . there is now a sufficiency of Britons who just don’t like people of foreign extraction, and certainly don’t want many more of them around the place’.
From Matthew’s dank corner of The Guardian, wanting ‘a properly staffed NHS’ and ‘social care that was halfway decent’ had constituted tacit approval of concomitant mass immigration; those who had desired such basic services but voted Leave are therefore declared hypocritical bigots. For this bunkum, TCW’s Laura Perrins nailed disdainful d’Ancona: ‘I, a Guardian journalist . . . am a superior being because it turns out all the Eastern European immigrants who arrived courtesy of Tony Blair aren’t that great at knocking out poisonous articles for The Guardian, so my job isn’t threatened. It’s a win-win. I keep my job, get to hire cheaper decorators from Eastern Europe and feel morally superior to boot.’
Less haughty than Matthew d’Ancona, but no less derisive regarding Brexit, is the ubiquitous Nish Kumar, who self-identifies as a comedian. Interviewed by The Guardian on the subject of ‘unconscious bias’, the host of the BBC’s Mash Report has ‘less of a sense of humour about it post-Brexit . . . I now feel this weird responsibility to bring up race as much as possible’.
As if we hadn’t noticed. According to Kumar: ‘We were in denial about the extent to which Britain had cured itself of the poison of racism . . . if that makes people uncomfortable, well they should feel uncomfortable. We should feel uncomfortable as a nation that we sided with the “breaking point” poster.’
Nigel Farage endorsing a provocative billboard should, in Kumar’s mind, have dissuaded all decent-minded folk from voting Leave. To those who had considerations more important than Farage and his poster, and yet voted ‘the same way as that guy’ regardless, Kumar complains: ‘You saw the “breaking point” poster and you calculated the damage that would do, or you didn’t consider the damage that would do, and you decided to act on it anyway.’
For his experience of ‘unconscious bias’ Nish Kumar laments: ‘In the last couple of weeks people have been pathologically incapable of not calling me Nish Patel . . . It’s literally as if they’ve just gone: “Ahh, they’re all Patels, in some way they’re all Patels”.’ So which bigoted Brexiteers have belittled Nish Kumar by misnaming him, either carelessly or on purpose? Apparently there was a programme listing in the Metro newspaper which named him Nish Patel. As did an accommodation booking for his next tour. And a ticket for Kumar issued by the Soho Theatre, where his picture hangs on the wall, was printed in the name of a different Asian comic.
And that, seemingly, is the extent of what Kumar hyperbolically calls the public’s pathological incapability of not calling him Nish Patel. Furthermore, I’m going to speculate that those ‘unconsciously biased’ offenders at the Metro newspaper, the hotel booking agent and London’s Soho Theatre were all much more likely to have been Remainers than dupes radicalised by Nigel Farage posing beside a billboard.
For Nish Kumar, ‘whenever British values are talked about, there is an inherent implication that they are white values’. Despite which, ‘I still hold to this idea that multicultural Britain is possible . . . I have to believe in that idea, otherwise I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning.’
Having seen his act and heard his schtick, I’d like Kumar not to feel obliged to rise for work. Take as many duvet days as you please, Nish.