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Young, shafted and white


To be young, gifted and black
In this whole world, you know
There are millions of boys and girls
Who are young, gifted and black
With their souls intact, and that’s a fact

AS I was growing up in 1960s Birmingham, West Indian reggae music was part of my coming of age. By 1970, Young, Gifted and Black was the theme music for increasing self-confidence amongst black Brits. The son of an Ulsterman, I felt something in common with minority groups. ‘No Blacks or Irish’ was the sign that greeted my UK-born father in Birmingham, even after he had fought in the British Army against fascism.  

Fifty years on and how things have changed. Today’s song plea for racial self-confidence could be entitled Young, Gifted and White Working-Class Boy. This is the lost generation. Theresa May highlighted as much in 2016: ‘If you’re a white, working-class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university.’ 

Today, in 2020, the prospects for this vast but excluded non-minority ethnic group are as dismal as ever. They are bottom of the pile in terms of GCSE results. Too many white working-class boys are walking the green mile in terms of their life prospects. They leave school without worthwhile qualifications, move on to menial work or unemployment and transition to a future without hope.

Employers’ organisations frequently complain that around 20 per cent of school leavers are unemployable because of inadequate basic skills.

Britain’s education system acknowledges a waste of talent amongst some non-white minorities. To support them, positive discrimination, aka ‘affirmative action’, is on an upward trajectory. Much the same is true of other Western democracies, especially the US.

There are, in my view, much better ways of maximising human potential than positive discrimination. Improving the quality of schools in under-privileged areas should be the starting point. Anti-equality, ‘affirmative action’ in favour of non-whites is, nevertheless, a fact of life in our country.

We see it in this sample of promotional information for scholarships and bursaries:

The scholarship offers financial support to students from Black or Mixed African or Caribbean backgrounds . . . (Bank of England Scholarship)

To be eligible for this award, they must meet the following requirements . . . a BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) background (Akindole Medical Scholarship)

We are the Amos Bursary and we exist to ensure talented men of Afro-Caribbean descent have the opportunity to excel in education and beyond (Amos Bursary in conjunction with Kings College London and UCL)

To be eligible for a Stormzy Scholarship, applicants must: Have one of the following categories of ethnicity: Black African; Black Caribbean; Black Other; Mixed – White and Black Caribbean; Mixed – White and Black African; or Other mixed background (to include Black African, Black Caribbean or Black Other) (University of Cambridge: Stormzy Scholarship for Black UK Students)

The 2010 Equality Act is, in effect, being disapplied to support deserving non-white youngsters. It is equally, but more formally, disapplied to permit all-female short lists for political party election candidates. It is even disapplied on what amounts to religious grounds in Northern Ireland, where the police force has to be 50-50 Protestant and Catholic.

When it comes to pupil bursaries for two of our most sought-after  independent schools, however, ‘affirmative action’ has been strictly outlawed. Dulwich College and Winchester College have both rejected an offered bequest by Professor Sir Bryan Thwaites of a total £1.2million to fund places for disadvantaged white boys. Winchester claims that ‘the school does not see how discrimination on grounds of a boy’s colour could ever be compatible with its values’. Dulwich states that it is ‘resistant to awards made with any ethnic or religious criteria’.

Labour’s former MP, Frank Field, widely respected on social and welfare issues, has described the schools’ stance as ‘racist’.  He is right.

If the new Conservative government allows this anti-white racism to continue it will, surely, pay a heavy price.

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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