Other alienated groups: 2. ethnic

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 15.43.22In his Channel 4 programme: Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True Trevor Phillips identified a few loosely alienation patterns. These are a relevant way to broaden our alienation experience blog. He shows how good intentions to build an effective multi-ethnic society in the UK may have led to an off-putting elite culture that has increased, rather than decreased, the isolation of some groups and communities – and with tragic effects.  (To view the programme now, you need to register and sign in to channel4.com).

Controversially but with great experience and authority, in this 1 hour programme he uncovers how ‘politically correct’ rules of behaviour and talk may have helped get us into a hell of a lot of trouble. It’s worth watching it all (first shown 19th March 2015 – click here to view it). If you don’t have the time below are some extracted quotes and summarised bits.

Of course – as Trevor Phillips expects – nuanced debate and wider views of ‘facts’ must follow his tight argument with selective facts to make a particular point. Watch Adam Elliott-Cooper doing a good broader corrective (in just 4 minutes). No one is saying racism isn’t a problem. No one is saying comprehensive societal solutions are easy. No one is saying there haven’t been improvements over the years. The question is how far an ideological belief can work by righteously denying those facts, minds and voices that don’t fit in. Statistical, cultural or democratic dominance can still become what John Stuart Mill called the tyranny of the majority.

The programme shows how ideological ways can be counter-productive – believing and saying what we want to believe may not make it happen. And problems may follow. It can isolate the elite ruling academic and professional classes from the people they need to be in touch with. It can blind us and lead us to actively ignore and dismiss some individuals, groups and communities so that those groups become isolated, resigned, abused, enraged, rebellious, even vengeful. It may even help produce the conditions for extremes of home-grown terrorism. Meanwhile, ‘non-elite’ white Brits may also be left feeling dismissed and shut up, deemed backward or bigoted for privately harbouring different views about ethnic groups, immigration etc. They and other similar groups across Europe have of course found their home and voice in nationalistic (if not racist) parties like UKIP.

Trevor summarises the basic rules of the discrimination game, a game that results in the softer kind of two-party types of alienation. (Read more on Not sure about? and in a recent post: Other alienated groups: 1. homeless.) Even children knew the old rules of years ago. At least in the UK now, we all should know these rules are wrong. They go as follows: 1. All blacks are alike. 2 All blacks are inferior. 3 All blacks are required to be subordinate and to know their place. Noble aims of race equality – after the many benefits – also gave rise eventually to a new doctrine that says: 1. All whites are alike. 2 All whites are guilty and tainted. 3 No white person should ever criticise someone who is not white. The new rules are not yet recognised or accepted as problematic. (Take note of these old and new discrimination rules – they will be adapted in another post to come out soon: Other alienated groups: 3. gender.)

All those isolated and out-of-touch ethnic sub-groups – including the white ones – sound broadly like kinds of soft-end alienation patterns and experiences, don’t they? And within those generally alienating experiences we know there can be hard-end kinds of Alienation too – ‘three-person’ patterns where one person or group turns another against a third. For example, the grooming of teenage girls at the school gates, or the internet promotion of becoming an extremist terrorist.

To repeat Trevor Phillips’ conclusions about how we need to do better to prevent these isolating and alienating experiences:

“When you are able to look at the data without obsessing .. you can start giving help to those who most need it. That’s true equality. People need to feel free to say what they want without fear … We are going to have to become more ready to offend each other. But that way we might save lives, protect from abuse. And in time see each other in our true colours.”

Read more about how this fits together with other thinking on equalities in another blog: equalism.org.uk. Effective non-alienating communication and debate may need a grasp of steady reason along with readiness to give and take some offence. But there’s no need for offence to be gratuitous or some kind of duty. Trevor Phillips and his TV programme also provide a great model for how we can discuss complex and difficult matters in an open and robust way.

The third post in this series will be: Other alienated groups, 3. gender. I will propose a direct translation of Trevor Phillips rules to what has happened in the field of gender equality debates. So do try to keep this one in mind. Then that will be a stepping stone to a future invitation to those who feel brave enough to think about joining in some whistle-blowing.

Nick Child, Edinburgh


Trevor Phillips: Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True

C4 TV programme 19th March 2015.

Caption: For a diverse society to succeed, do we have to get used to giving and taking offence?

Trevor Phillips: For 10 years I led Britain’s Equality Commission … Campaigners like me sincerely believed that if we could prevent people expressing prejudiced ideas then eventually they’d stop thinking them. But now I’m convinced that we were utterly wrong. In a world riven by racial and religious strife, some things are just too important to be left unsaid, even if they might offend people.

(7.10) There’s no prejudice in numbers. I don’t think we should be put off talking about ethnic patterns of behaviour because of what bigots and racists might say.

(15.20) None of these statistics [about race and crime – white specialty crime being drunk offences!] tells us why they’re true. But they are. I don’t think we should be shy about trying to find out what they mean.

(16.15) Simon Woolley:  The danger is when (the talking) gets too lazy and uses catch-all descriptions. .. If it’s nuanced then fine. But if it’s this headline “You’ve got to do something about black gangs” it’s dangerous. … I don’t think you have to fudge it, dodge it. You just have to be articulate about it, and if you are, you can talk about it as it is without having this generic stuff, this lazy stuff. … We just have to be mindful .. smart.

(22.10)  (Post 7/7 London bombing)  So what had we all missed. … The ugly perversion of Islam that had led to this carnage would thrive only in isolated communities.  .. The message was one nobody really wanted to hear … TP in Sept 2007: We are sleep-walking our way to segregation. We are becoming strangers to each other and we are leaving communities to be marooned outside the mainstream.

(23.00) What I had realised that summer is that it’s not about what you want to believe, it’s about what’s true. .. The belief behind the New Labour mission was that if we could solve the problem of discrimination then racial barriers would come down, integration between communities would naturally follow.  But we’d reckoned without human nature. Left to themselves people prefer segregation. .. Sunset segregation: We may often be workmates but at the end of the day we tend not to be neighbours.

(26.30) Jack Straw: A lot of white politicians are nervous, lack confidence, about what their views are and think that someone will criticise them, call them racist.

(27.00) People of Jack’s and my generation believed that if you got rid of discrimination Britain’s racial divisions would heal with multi-ethnic London leading the way. But it just hasn’t happened.  [Well over half a million white Londoners left London as its overall population grew by a million.]   After the riots in Paris, we urged Paris to end the Moslem ghettos. Ten years later Charlie Hebdo happened.  Segregation didn’t cause that, but it is one of the conditions for extremism to thrive.

(31.00) [Football is not as multi-racial as it seems. Lots of fuss about John Terry’s racist slur. But the continued exclusion of blacks from becoming managers is more shocking.]

(33.50) [Award-winning advertising campaign. Small racist brain advert – research showed it didn’t change a single racist mind. But many white people were made to feel they were accused of something they hadn’t done.]

(36.00) The rules of the (discrimination) game had changed and not entirely for the better. [Trevor as a child used to know the laws of race relations] 1. All blacks are alike. 2 All blacks are inferior. 3 All blacks are required to be subordinate and to know their place. Today few children black or white would accept those rules. .,. Martin Luther King … History shows that a noble set of aims just isn’t enough. … We start with good intentions, we turn those into a set of informal laws, and then they become dogma .. thought control, and worse. Unwittingly we gave birth to an ugly new doctrine that says 1. All whites are alike. 2 All whites are guilty and tainted. 3 No white person should ever criticise someone who is not white.

[Victoria Climbie case. Pretty well everyone who could have saved this little girl’s life said they cared, but were walking on egg-shells … of being accused of being racist.]

(39.20) [Rotherham 2003. Ann Cryer MP Keighly. Mothers told of their young teen girls groomed from school gates. Gangs nearly always from Pakistani community. No one will do anything about it. Never mentioned by Labour Party members who knew about it. Couldn’t make arguments without being called a racist. Last resort was to go public. … News eventually comes out. (41.45) Andrew Norfolk, The Times. Liberal journalist feared it would be dream story for the far right. Shame on me. … The accurate and compelling film commissioned by child protection chiefs to raise girls awareness accurately showed a 20-something Asian groomer. It was never allowed to be shown until it was re-shot with a teenage white groomer, and mixed race girl victims. Now we know that in many cities a huge number of white girls were groomed and abused by very predominantly Asian community young men. Effectively avoiding being racist condoned burgeoning abuse and crime.]

[Gordon Brown’s “bigot” gaff … one of increasing signs of political correctness ignoring the underlying wave of protest and changing view. Matthew Goodwin, political scientist, a group of voters that feel forgotten by the political mainstream, being left behind – older, white, not so well educated.  UKIP has now given voice to them. TP: I left the UKIP event in no doubt that I stood for what is wrong with Britain today. Nigel Farage confirms Trevor’s own view that he was very much part of the problem of this faulty PC culture, that NF now says things that used not be said in politics and by the media class  (i.e. what TP was part of) e.g. about immigration and race. TP says NF says that: Tony Blair / New Labour was the secret of NF’s / UKIP success now. TB: You have to understand the concerns  people have but put the argument to them.]

(1.01.20) Whoever is in political power, tens of millions of voters across Europe think that the political elite favour the minorities at their expense. They also believe that if they say how they feel they’ll be called backward or bigots or racists or by the liberal establishment. … this is the raw power of the anger and resentment that Nigel Farage is riding.

We need to offer a new vision of a multi-ethnic society. … [Leicester school where the kids come from 35 different countries and speak 46 languages. Yet this is among the most improved schools. The head says that diversity is not a burden but a benefit. The children for whom English is a second language are outperforming those for whom English is their first language. The school records the performance of every child meticulously. Head teacher systematically analyses the data to know which children needs what attention. This year, the group that needs priority is: underachieving white British students. The very group that feels so forgotten by the elite are about to start benefiting from the way the system works in this school.]

(1.04.00) When are able to look at the data without obsessing about racial prejudice, or being afraid of being called racist, you can start giving help to those who most need it. That’s true equality. The most important lesson I think I’ve learned is that preventing anyone from saying what’s on their minds won’t ever remove it from their hearts. People need to feel free to say what they want to without the fear of being accused of racism or bigotry. It means that we are all going to have to become more ready to offend each other. But that way we might save some children’s lives, and we might protect some others from abuse. And in time finally we can begin to see each other in our true colours.

Transcription by Nick Child

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About Nick Child

Retired child and family shrink now family therapist living, working and playing in Edinburgh.

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