How the discourse of “racial inequalities” serves capitalism

It is fashionable in contemporary media and political circles in the UK to racialize everything. I notice an endless stream of articles in the media – usually based on reports from various charities – which highlight some way in which Black people (elevated now to a capital B) are disadvantaged. The key idea is that if on any metric there is a disparity between black and white people this is due to ‘structural inequality’ or racial discrimination. The assumption is automatic and no one ever looks for an alternative explanation.

This is an example. Apparently the Labour party has commissioned research which shows that Black people have less savings than white people. The Labour spokesperson says: “Instead of confronting the racial inequalities in health, housing and the workplace exposed by the Lawrence Review, the Conservatives are questioning whether structural racism even exists”.

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Josie Appleton on the pandemic restrictions

This is well worth a read, Josie Appleton’s essay on the pandemic restrictions.

She discusses how the state’s response to the pandemic (in the UK but also in other countries) has been to place restrictions on social life. It seems that a kind of shift in thinking has occurred. At one level the restrictions and pressurised whole population vaccination campaigns do have some scientific-medical basis. Vaccinations for example are a good idea, at least for the clinically vulnerable. But the state seems to have come to believe that the problem is social relations and supressing them has become and end in itself. Appleton gives some to-the-point examples; the well-publicised case (including by the police themselves) of Derbyshire police fining people for walking as a couple in the hills – probably the least likely way to spread the coronavirus one can imagine. Or again; the fact that restrictions focussed on parties in the home and clubs. Other venues such as hospitals, factories and supermarkets were not controlled even though transmission can be much greater in these places. And the mask; Appleton thinks the function of the mask is to restrict social interaction. She may be right though I have always thought its function is as a kind of sign like making everyone wear a lapel badge saying “we are in a pandemic”.

The essay is as Appleton acknowledges informed by Foucault’s work on how the modern state dealt with plague after the Middle Ages. It is the threat to social order that the state responds to rather than to the medical emergency. This explains why the response has been so disastrous if we evaluate it in medical terms.

An excellent piece and well worth a read.

Segregation is back

This is a Guardian article about a bird-watching club “that organises monthly walks for people of colour”.

First of all – great that people are getting out into nature. I don’t want to take anything away from the organisers.

Also – I’m only commenting on this one because it happens to be one of a series; i.e. I’ve noticed a trend. The trend is that of clubs for “people of colour” only to do certain activities. (I think I’ve also seen walking).

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Political censorship and suppression in the UK – the new norm

Look at this story. Look at the banner. It is making an intelligent point – that the regime in Saudi Arabia is pretty distasteful by Western standards – they do indeed carry out beheadings and persecute minority groups. They do not respect ‘civil rights’ in a Western sense. The claim that the regime is involved in terrorism may be arguable but there is no doubt at all that the regime ordered the bloody and revolting murder of a critic in their embassy in Istanbul. The statement from the fans is informed and intelligent political comment; they are simply pointing out the double-standards from the Premier League in supporting women’s football and gay rights in the UK while allowing a regime which has built in suppression of women’s rights and which suppresses homosexuals to take a big stake in English football. (PIF – which has taken ownership of Newcastle is the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia). There is nothing racist about the banner. Zero.

Yet – people are apparently being investigated by the police for displaying it.

This is really pretty alarming stuff; the police acting in support of corporate interests controlled by a rather nasty regime (by normal Western standards) to prevent informed public criticism of those interests. The Guardian simply reports the story giving plenty of space to Newcastle’s PR efforts. No comment. All normal for the Guardian.

This one is arguably even worse. No one is having to live in fear of prosecution by the state for commenting that one of the allied regimes of the state has a bad human rights record but in this case academic discussion is being shut down. A youth worker has complained that a history text book for schools about 19th century America asks students the question: “To what extent do you believe the treatment of Native Americans has been exaggerated?”. The youth worker has kicked up a fuss – on Twitter and the publisher has withdrawn the book.

Let’s be clear; this is a valid question. (Even if poorly worded – it should say “bad treatment”). Of course there will be those who might want to exaggerate the bad treatment of Native Americans by the colonisers – and it is the job of historians to see through any such attempts and establish an objective conclusion. The book is training students to think about history. It is asking a question. In academic circles many questions can be posed and entirely without implying that the answer will be Yes. It is perhaps telling that the complainant is described as a youth worker who “offers history mentoring lessons to students”. Does she understand how academia works? Apparently not; but it is a sign of the times that the publisher has bowed down before this ignorance. This is a sign that children are not allowed to think. They are simply to be fed the correct single-truth uncomplicated party line. (The treatment of Native Americans was terrible and we should all feel guilty and ashamed). The tradition of free enquiry and thought is being silenced before our eyes. It really is very worrying. For clarity; of course Native Americans had a terrible time at the hands of the colonisers and were to all intents and purposes wiped out as a civilisation – but asking whether in the present day or since then there might not be those who exaggerate this (just asking) is a very valid training in history studies for students. The complainant cannot even tolerate the exercise of considering alternative points of view.