WHEN I was eighteen my parents moved to a townhouse complex in Johannesburg. The small garden of our new home opened up into a communal pool. After unpacking boxes in the sweltering South African heat I decided to go for a swim. I asked Esther, our domestic helper, and her daughter Mina, who was staying with us during the school holidays, if they wanted to join me. They both protested that they couldn’t as white people called them ‘black monkeys’ in the street. They were scared that caught swimming with me they would be subjected to that kind of abuse by our white neighbours. Despite attempted reassurances of my protection, they refused point-blank to swim in the pool.
This is what racism does. It discriminates, wounds and oppresses. It is not just against the law in all civilised countries but is regarded by all but a tiny minority of people as vile, vicious and unacceptable. So why, after years of accepted race equality in this country, are white people en masse suddenly accused of being racist and for the crime of being white? It’s a question posed by Douglas Murray in his recent book The Madness of Crowds.
Almost from nowhere, perceived oppression between the races has suddenly built into a frenzy around the term ‘white privilege’, providing a new stick for the woke elite to beat us with. It’s a pejorative term which implies that if a person has succeeded in life it is only because he or she (mainly he) is white, and that white society continues to discriminate against BAME people, even if subliminally. It not only discounts other factors such as class, wealth or even luck in achieving success, but also, ironically, reduces people to the sum total of the colour of their skin. Which is by definition racist.
Judging someone, regardless of their life experience, solely on their skin colour is racist, no matter what race they are. But that has not inhibited the ‘white privilege’ war cry of the grievance merchants in their apparent quest to make white British people feel forever bad about themselves and their heritage. Naysaying the narrative is to incur the wrath of the woke and be branded a heretic, as the actor Laurence Fox recently found out.
While social justice warriors might just parrot the narrative to sound trendy, prominent BAME activists and academics wield it like a weapon, not just to make white people feel collectively guilty for the sin of oppression, regardess of any past historical context or comparison, but to ban or excommunicate noncompliant academics and shut down debate.
Perhaps you need to grow up under apartheid to understand how noxious it is to view the world through the prism of race; to see that this phoney obsession with white privilege serves only to polarise, to humiliate and to deceive. Voluntary ‘confessions’ of white privilege and unsolicited apologies for the crime of being white are par for the course today. They confuse and create resentment. Racism cannot be fixed with more racism.
Where BAME people do experience racism there can be no excuse. The law is clear in Britain, where equal rights for all races are protected. The perversity of this is that though British culture abhors racism and legally does not allow discrimination against a BAME person, it seems that this same courtesy doesn’t extend to white people, even when they are amongst the most disadvantaged, where the narrative of white privilege couldn’t be further from the truth. The irony is that the failing sectors of British society are not ethnic minorities but white working class or ‘underclass’ boys. Chris McGovern in TCW has detailed how this lack of privilege didn’t seem to disturb the post-liberal Puritans who run Dulwich College and Winchester College. In December both private schools turned down an endowment from philanthropist Sir Bryan Thwaites who wanted to help disadvantaged white boys. Seemingly fear of being accused of white privilege trumps caring for these left-behind boys.
In the Rhondda Valleys, where I currently live, almost 98 per cent of the population is white. But white privilege is hard to spot here. A survey last year found that 35 per cent of children in Rhondda are in poverty. My own town centre is full of bargain and charity shops. The people are warm and friendly, but surely would be bemused to know that they are living lives of white privilege.
It must be similarly difficult for white rape victims of the Asian grooming gangs to imagine themselves as white oppressors. No matter how much we are told about the evils of white privilege by Guardian commentators, the accusations exclude vast swathes of reality.
My husband’s parents are from a generation who grew up in poverty in the East End, and who suffered terrible hardship. My mother-in-law had to leave school at 14 to go out to work to feed her siblings after her father was killed fighting in WW1. They never earned enough to buy their own home. They would be astounded by the accusation, based solely on their skin colour, that they had lived a privileged life.
This cultural war currently being waged against white people is not just wrong but misdirected. If activists are really bothered about eradicating racism perhaps they should look towards Eastern Europe, Russia, MENA and Asia where racism against black people is rife and brutal. I guess Western whites are a far easier target for these bullies.
Unless we stand up to them and deride them, this new language of apartheid and spurious privilege will persist and so will its harmful institutional consequences. Those woke SJWs who fling around accusations of white privilege, where none exists, should ask themselves: do they really want to mirror South Africa’s apartheid racists?