Thursday, 11 August 2016

Racism, recruitment and the myth of 'white privilege'

Yesterday evening finished with a couple of glasses (large ones of course) and a little engagement with one of the stranger on-line communities - American racists. Today, as with everything, these racists have adopted a new and shiny ideological designation - alt-right. As if, somehow, this will distract us from their racism and apply a sort of pseudo-intellectual polish to white supremicism.

I won't bore you with the details of last night's exchange of views except to say that I tried to get them to define what exactly they meant by 'white'. Given that whiteness - 'white rights', 'White America', 'white genocide' and so forth - is central to their philosophy you'd have though our alt-right on-line agitator would have a clearly set out exposition as to what 'white' means. Now, in part, I was trying to trip them up on the matter of whether or not Jews are white (dealing with their desire to place anti-semitism as a minor crime because "it's a religion not a race") but the truth here is that the inability to define what we mean by 'white' destroys the entire basis of this extremist ideology.

Zip forward twelve hours or so from my exchange of pleasantries with the American racists and this pops into my Twitter:

We have an amazing opportunity for an aspiring current affairs journalist to receive training from Newsnight’s presenters, producers and reporters and learn more about how to embed social media in the reporting process.

First broadcast in 1980, Newsnight is the BBC’s weekday current affairs programme, which specialises in analysis and often-robust cross-examination of senior politicians.

The team at Newsnight are looking for a Trainee Researcher to join their team for this comprehensive, 12-month placement.

The successful intern will receive training from an experienced team of producers and journalist on broadcast and online content ranging from written features and video journalism to social media and live broadcasts.

Fantastic opportunity for, let's say, a working class kid from Barnsley just setting out in journalism. Or a young Polish immigrant who has just finished her journalism MA? Except, um, nope.

All roles advertised through Creative Access are only open to UK nationals from a black, Asian or non-white ethnic minority.
Only applications via Creative Access will be considered – please DO NOT contact companies directly.

The problem here is that the public school educated child of a successful black businessman is getting priority over other less privileged young people simply because that child is black. Now I'm prepared to believe that there might be issues with the 'diversity' of the BBC - they keep telling us there is:

The BBC is struggling to meet its own targets on increasing the diversity of its workforce, with a tiny increase in minority employees over the past year and an actual decline in the number of disabled employees.

The number of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff employed by the BBC rose by just 42 to 2,405, an increase from 11.9% to 12.2%, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Broadcast magazine.

The 2011 census tells us that 12.9% of the UK population is from 'non-white' backgrounds (although this includes 'Gypsy/Traveller/Irish Traveller' most of whom look pretty white to me) suggesting that the BBC is close enough to par for it not really to be an issue.

The BBC is justifying an overtly racist recruitment policy on the basis that it is 0.7% (really 0.6%) short of its target. And please don't insult my intelligence by trying to suggest that saying "sorry mate, you're white, you can't apply for the job" isn't racist.

If you want to understand the pig-ignorant racism of the alt-right, you need to look at the establishment racism of the BBC. How do you suppose that working class white kid feels when he sees a job go to someone else - not because that person is brighter, better-qualified or more experienced but because the working class white kid was excluded from applying in the first place.

This goes straight to the heart of the reasons for that racism - the idea that the rules are different for minorities. And so long as this isn't understood, so long as we treat the white working class as a bunch of thick racist losers (and we do) they will stay angry and excluded. And the sort of approach used by the BBC - and other organisations - in recruitment really doesn't help resolve the problems.

It's not just those American racists who struggle to define 'white' it's our public authorities - indeed 'white' is defined by who defines as 'not white' meaning that the skin colour of the UK majority, in all its glorious varieties becomes a simple binary definition. This covers over a host of variations - some of those US white rights folk weren't prepared to see southern Europeans as white because they - in American terms - are Latinos. And we know that the current president of the National Union of Students describes herself as black - which will come as a surprise to all her Arab brothers and sisters.

I could carry on categorising - putting everyone into a little racial box like the government seems to want. But what purpose does this serve except to valorise racism? To feed an overweening industry built on playing endless games of equalities top trumps? All those human rights lawyers, diversity officers, race relations consultants and ethnic monitoring form designers.

We're a better place for saying that it should be illegal to make decisions - in jobs, schools, housing, whatever - on the basis of someone's 'race' (whatever that might mean). And it's great that we've carried on welcoming people here regardless of where they're from, what they look like and what their beliefs are. It's this stuff that makes us a great nation.

And we've still more to do. Black people are still stopped by the police too often, still make up too much of our prison population and still do worse at school. But we've got to open our eyes, to look at those people we stereotype as chavs or pikeys, dismiss as thick racists, and ask whether we should give them the same sort of attention we give to equally excluded non-white communities? And perhaps speak less about white privilege and more about economic advantage - there are too many white people who simply don't feel in the slightest bit privileged or advantaged.



Anonymous said...

Sick of hearing this tosh. Chinese kids do well at school and are not over represented in our prisons, Sikhs so well at school and are not over represented in our prisons as are many, many other ethnic minorities. Perhaps those minorities who do not forget well at school and are over represented in our prisons should look closer to home to understand why.

Dan said...

I would be tempted to apply for the job, and merely claim to self-identify as black. I am in fact white and slightly red-haired, ergo I'm one step shy of albinism but this is the great joy of ethnic monitoring systems: there is no system to fact-check what anyone actually says. Even South Africa during Apartheid had terrible trouble slotting a smooth gradient of human characteristics into specific boxes; way too many edge cases.

This basically makes any ethnic monitoring as open to abuse and pranking as the religious monitoring system, and most large organisations have learned just how fallible this can be. A case in point was the Met Police, where someone decided it would be a very funny jape to claim that their religion was "Jedi".

Others took up the banner, until the number of claimed Jedi in the force passed a certain statistical check, and the internal ethnic/religious monitoring systems took notice, and issued an edict to Met Police Management: "You have insufficient Jedi on . Recruit more to rectify this balance".

At this point the utter stupidity of such monitoring hit home, and it was quietly dropped.