Is there ‘systemic racism’ in Britain? Two views (i)

In the first of two articles, Will Jones writes: Systemic racism, according to those who campaign against it, is the disadvantage experienced by ethnic minorities on account of the bias, conscious and subconscious, that some people, particularly from the ethnic majority, have in respect of them.

Even though racial discrimination in most contexts is unlawful, it still happens, and the impact falls largely on ethnic minorities, putting them at a relative disadvantage. This appears to be what is meant by most people who speak about ‘systemic racism’. While I do not think the term is apt—a point I return to below—the phenomenon certainly seems real and worthy of proper engagement.

One of the main examples is the attitude of the police in America. Studies consistently show that black people in America are disproportionately likely to be stopped and searched, even though searches of white people consistently turn up more contraband. A disproportionate number of black people (compared with their numbers in the population) are also shot or injured by police. The reason for this appears to be a combination of disproportionately high crime rates in black communities and an associated assumption amongst police officers that black people are more likely to be involved in criminal or violent behaviour. While it may also be a result of simple racial prejudice, the fact that it is evident among black and ethnic minority police officers as much as white officers suggests it is primarily linked to higher crime rates and a psychological generalisation from them.

This is an extreme example, but the idea is that this kind of thing happens all the time. Indeed, this seems unarguable, since as humans we instinctively generalise about the categories by which we organise the world, so that behaviour commonly (or disproportionately) experienced amongst one category of people becomes associated with the category as a whole.


It isn’t just white people who do this—racial or ethnic generalisation, both conscious and subconscious, is a universal human trait arising from the way our brains organise the world. Humans also have an in-built preference for the familiar, which by nature asks less of us and is more comfortable, and this adds to the instinctive bias. It is ethnic minorities who typically suffer most negative effects from these universal instincts, and as a result in white majority countries the issues come to focus on the conduct of the ‘white’ majority and the impact it has on minorities. However, since other ‘white’ groups have also at times been disadvantaged by this bias, such as the Irish in Britain in an earlier period, connecting it specifically with ‘whiteness’ is not correct. ‘White British’ are also sometimes affected, such as when they are said to be lazy by those who prefer to hire ‘hard-working’ immigrant workers.

The faddish terms ‘white privilege’ and ‘white supremacy’ are obviously inaccurate and unhelpful, since what we are really talking about is minority disadvantage. To link it specifically to one racial group, as though it is unique to them or they are affected by it more than others, is incorrect, and indeed racially inflammatory. The use of these racially charged terms as epithets by those who are violent towards people considered representative of them demonstrates that the danger is not only hypothetical.

‘Systemic racism’, as a race-neutral term, is less problematic, but still inaccurate. Systemic racism, properly understood, is where the system itself is based on rules and processes that expressly (or by design) favour or disfavour certain ethnic groups, such as apartheid or the current Malaysian system of Ketuanan Melayu or Malay supremacy. Systems like ours, which prohibit racial discrimination and encourage integration, and indeed which include numerous positive action schemes, cannot justifiably be called systemically racist.


That does not mean, however, that actors within the system do not continue to exhibit racial bias to varying degrees. Racism persists, both conscious and subconscious, and although in many contexts (such as employment) exhibiting it is unlawful and actionable, it still happens, and this disproportionately disadvantages people from ethnic minorities. The result is not systemic racism, as the system is opposed to it and seeks to end it, but it is racial bias, and it has a statistical impact. However, since it is mostly low-level, subconscious, and in practice unlawful it is probably best to regard it as part of the more general phenomenon of minority disadvantage, in that having sometimes to endure racial prejudice, even when the system itself opposes it and aims to end it, is one of the unpleasant aspects of belonging to an ethnic minority.

Two questions arise here. First, what is the real scale of the problem—how much disadvantage does persisting racial prejudice actually cause? This will vary between ethnic groups, as racial generalisations are not all the same, nor equally negative. Those regarded as a greater crime risk by police officers and others are likely to suffer more acutely than those who might be regarded as unusually hard-working or morally upright. The negative generalisations about black people by law enforcement officers in particular are one reason why black people, very understandably, feel particularly exercised about the issue. They do not appreciate being tarred with the same brush as black criminals just because they come from the same ethnic group, or are mistakenly taken to be so.

Nonetheless, it is a fair question to ask, how much this bias actually holds people back, given that the UK is systemically anti-racist, with strong equality laws and many positive action initiatives. To what extent are ethnic minorities genuinely held back by the persisting low-level racial biases in the UK? The fact that black school children in the UK outperform white school children and are more likely to go to university, while Asian school children are well ahead of their white counterparts, are strong indications that the overall impact is small and should not be exaggerated.


A second important question is what, if anything, can be done about persisting low-level racial prejudice that doesn’t end up making things worse? Allowing that minority disadvantage arising from negative racial generalisations has some unquantified but likely small statistical impact on life chances, a key practical question is how much more can helpfully be done about it beyond what we have already done in making discrimination illegal?

The central difficulty here is that by focusing on the issue the problems are frequently made worse. The challenges for ethnic minorities in integrating with majority society are reduced by, for example, encouraging integration into a shared heritage and citizenship, stressing common humanity and common belonging, diminishing differences in the public space, and encouraging an aspiration among all to be good citizens who respect one another’s culture and do not discriminate. Insofar as negative racial generalisations arise from genuine (and not merely perceived) problems within ethnic communities an important part of the answer must involve those problems being addressed, which to succeed must primarily be driven by the community itself. The unhappy association by police officers of black people with crime risk would, for instance, be much improved if the crime rate among blacks came right down. This is certainly not to justify the bias, which is a terrible thing, but it is nonetheless to state an undoubted psychological truth. (I should add that I am not aware that I personally make a psychological association between black people and greater crime risk, and I am not sure how common the association is outside of policing. However, it does appear to be an association made by many of those involved in law enforcement, especially in the US.)

On the other hand, to magnify the issue, as is now very much in favour, has the opposite effect. It foregrounds racial difference in the public space, encourages thinking in racial terms, and promotes the idea of the ethnic majority as somehow privileged or even oppressive with ethnic minorities as their permanent victims. It increases racial tensions, divisions and resentment which is not conducive to building common citizenship. It heightens cultural sensitivities so that problems within ethnic communities are left unaddressed. This is the opposite of what will make things better. Any lawlessness associated with discontent will only reinforce negative generalisations about violence and crime risk. In a situation where what is needed is a concerted effort from all to promote social harmony within a common framework of shared citizenship, what is pushed instead is a sense of grievance and a demand for remedy and even reparation from the ethnic majority. As long as this framework persists the problems remain intractable.

Similarly problematic are the positive (or affirmative) action and positive discrimination initiatives that are commonly proposed as solutions to ethnic disadvantage. Such initiatives mismatch talent with function, patronise and undermine those who achieve by their own merits, and discriminate against those who do not benefit from the preferential treatment.


I do not doubt that many from ethnic minorities continue to experience a measure of bias and disadvantage on account of their race, a state of affairs I deplore. Nonetheless, the UK is systemically anti-racist, not racist, and I question both the true scale of the problem and whether the difficulties ethnic minorities experience in this regard can be made anything other than worse by magnifying them and making them loom large in our consciousness and politics.

Further reading:

David Goodhart https://unherd.com/2020/06/facts-vs-feelings-in-the-blm-debate/

Esther Krakue https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8443669/ESTHER-KRAKUE-dared-question-aims-Black-Lives-Matter.html

Melanie Phillips https://www.melaniephillips.com/black-brown-jews-white-imperialists/

Munira Mirza https://www.spiked-online.com/2017/09/11/lammy-review-the-myth-of-institutional-racism/

Tony Sewell https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/don-t-act-white-act-migrant

A response to this piece, by David Shepherd, will be published tomorrow.


Dr Will Jones is a writer living in Warwickshire, a mathematics graduate with a PhD in political philosophy and a diploma in biblical and theological studies. He blogs at www.faith-and-politics.com and is author of Evangelical Social Theology: Past and Present (Grove, 2017). He tweets at @faithnpolitic


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65 thoughts on “Is there ‘systemic racism’ in Britain? Two views (i)”

  1. 1. White privilege exists in many places where white people are the minority, because of the legacy of colonialism.
    2. Systemic or structural racism isn’t just about the conscious or unconscious bias of people within the system, it’s about the system itself and the way it has been built to advantage certain groups of people over others. This happens, of course, because of the conscious/unconscious bias of those who built it. But it means that everyone working within the structures and systems will be contributing to the racism that the system itself perpetuates, regardless of any bias they have themselves. Of course the systems do not have to be “expressly” racist in order to be racist. That is ridiculous.

    Reply
    • ‘1. White privilege exists in many places where white people are the minority, because of the legacy of colonialism.’ But that doesn’t apply in the UK.

      On 2, can you explain how ‘the system itself has been built to advantage certain groups of people over others’? And how do we explain this phenomenon?

      ‘The same picture is emerging in the UK, where 42 per cent of Indian households have a weekly income of £1,000 or above, compared to 26 per cent of white British households. If whites are born with a knapsack full of advantages over all non-whites, as Peggy McIntosh maintains, they appear to be squandering them on an epic scale. Is that what she means by “invisible”?’

      Reply
  2. I would say the UK is becoming systemically anti-racist, but at the very least, we should recognise that the repercussions of systemic racism take a long time to die away. My own field is education. In the 1960s, many Afro-Caribbean children were wrongly assigned to ESN schools, blighting their educational and career prospects for life and having a knock-on effect on their children and grandchildren.

    Reply
  3. Dr Jones raises some interesting, and on the surface reasonable, points in this piece. There seem to be no directly cited sources, but the list of further reading he includes does lead me to feel that his thoughts come largely from one side of the debate.

    To pick up on one of his points, Dr Jones observes that – referring specifically to the US situation – black people are disproportionately likely to be stopped and searched, which he attributes to (allegedly) higher crime rates in black communities, and the associated assumption that black people are more likely to be involved in criminal activities. I do not have relevant data at hand about the US, but if I can apply the same thinking to the issue of drug crime in the UK, it is well known that black and minority people are also, as in the US, disproportionately much more likely to be stopped and searched on suspicion of drugs (or other) offences. These minority groups are also however not, as might be assumed, more likely to commit drugs offences that white people. In fact the evidence indicates that the levels of illegal drug use are very similar among the two groups. The large disparity continues into the fields of prosecution and sanction of those caught in possession of illegal drugs. (My data is from “The Numbers in Black And White: Ethnic Disparities In The Policing And Prosecution Of Drug Offences In England And Wales” published by Release in 2013 – full report at: shorturl.at/aAQRZ).

    I do not accept, as Dr Jones states as the ‘proper understanding’ of systemic racism, that the disparities have to be deliberately designed into a system for the term to be valid. Surely when such systemic (I can think or no more appropriate word) disadvantage is observed it cannot be wrong to ‘name and shame’ such behaviour and seek to mitigate and eliminate it.

    I look forward to the second article in this series, which I anticipate will present some counter arguments to those of Dr Jones.

    Reply
    • Dear Mike

      You have said that Will Jones, in his article, approaches it as:
      “….Dr Jones observes that – referring specifically to the US situation – black people are disproportionately likely to be stopped and searched, which he attributes to (allegedly) higher crime rates in black communities, and the associated assumption that black people are more likely to be involved in criminal activities…..”

      And yet Will Jones actually writes:
      “…..I should add that I am not aware that I personally make a psychological association between black people and greater crime risk, and I am not sure how common the association is outside of policing. However, it does appear to be an association made by many of those involved in law enforcement, especially in the US…..”

      So could it be that you are the one misreading the article?

      Reply
      • I’m a little confused by this reply. Will Jones says both of these things in different places in the article. Both are relevant in different ways. Mike’s point is perfectly valid.

        Reply
  4. I would say there is not systemic racism in this country. During the 2nd World War British people were appalled by the treatment of black American GI’s and insisted they should attend local events. Britain has had a sense of fairness instilled over centuries. That does not mean to say that there is not a caution of staying within your own grouping. I can remember in the 1960’s there were signs outside lodging houses which said ‘No blacks, No Irish” – so the skin colour was not the reason because the Irish were excluded also. It is more to do with “difference”. I feel it also has to do with settling in to the host culture – I grew up in a large northern city in the 50’s and 60’s which had a large Jewish population because of the Nazi atrocities. Many spoke Yiddish and followed their traditions, but quietly joined the society and prospered as business people. The acceleration of immigration which started with Tony Blair has destabilised our country. Under Peel’s Policing we were a country policed by consent, each area had its own police officer who was known to the residents and this was the case when I moved to Nottingham in the 1980’s. When you have immigration from countries with very different culture and history, you fragment society. Many have come and made a great contribution to the country, especially the Ugandan Asians in the 70’s And the peaceful Hindu population. However, we have major problems with some of the Caribbean Community with knife and drug crime. I believe Trevor Phillips addressed the issue of a lack of black father role models. My main concern is in the Muslim population. If the birth rate continues as
    at the present rate my grandchildren could be living in an Islamic state, and that scares me. There are some places where I feel I am living in a different country, and I am from the one if my childhood. My grandson was taken to Aylesbury for a Ronald Dahl parade a few years ago. He was only 5 or 6 and he looked around at the crowds and innocently asked his mother “What country are we in?” Well it certainly was not the England of my childhood or the Lincolnshire village he lives in!
    I am a Christian and I believe that we are all equal before God and I am interested in what sort of person you are, not the colour of your skin. But I also know what happens to Christians in other parts if the world if they are in the minority. It is not white people who are killing Ugandan Christians daily and it was not white people who were selling African slaves to Europeans 200 plus years ago. It was sinful humanity who needed a saviour.

    Reply
    • My parents lived through World War 2 and they remembered clearly how after the war and into the 50’s when they traveled from Ireland to England for work, when they walked the streets, looking for accommodation they found time and time again signs saying ‘No Blacks’ or ‘No Irish’ on the doors. They eventually found a kindly landlady who took all in. But she was the exception. People were happy that black and ethnic minorities fought and gave their lives in the war, but once it was over they went back to the standard societal racism.

      You are looking at the history of the UK since the war through rose-tinted spectacles.

      “it was not white people who were selling African slaves to Europeans 200 plus years ago.”

      That’s right, white people just bought those slaves!

      Peter

      Reply
      • Peter
        I was making a comment that we are all human beings, and all sinful.
        Tribes in Africa fought between themselves and sold off their captives to complicit Europeans. The Roman Empire had slaves, Barbary pirates raided the English last a d sold people as slaves to Arabs. Slavery is still happening with ISIS, in fact Islam teaches that slaves can be taken.
        What is my white privilege? My grandmother never owned a house or much else. She lost her husband in WW1, but managed to bring up her children in a back to back house with a toilet shared on the block. Am I privileged because I had to have clothing coupons as a teenager when my father had to go on sick pay?
        I have worked hard to provide for my family. I respect anyone who comes to this country and makes the most of the opportunities – many generations have, as is shown by the diverse Cabinet Government we now have. I do not expect to be told by a black Professor that “white lives do not matter”. That is a racist statement.

        Reply
        • Tricia

          The slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ does not mean that white loves do not matter, any more than a campaign for breast cancer funding means that prostate cancer does not matter. It means that black lives also matter.
          My forebears, like yours, were poor. But they were not disadvantaged because of their skin colour.

          Reply
          • Penelope
            I was referring to an explicit statement from a University Professor that “white lives do not matter”. I would certainly agree that black lives matter just as much as every other ethnicity of humanity. There are many hues of skin colour, but it only seems to be those of the palest skin who are not allowed to be disadvantaged. I am sure many poor, abused children from low income households would disagree with you.

          • Tricia

            Who was the professor?

            There are huge numbers of underprivileged white people, but they are not underprivileged because they are white.

          • Tricia

            She said ‘white lives don’t matter. As white lives’. Her words were taken out of context. Cf. Savi Hensman Ekklesia.co.uk.

      • Peter
        I don’t think I am rose tinted, as we seem to have many members of the medical profession who are from different ethnicities. We now have a Government made up different ethnicities. So it would seem that many people have thrived by coming here.
        Many others may not, but neither has the white working population since we sent their jobs overseas.
        My reference to slavery was that all ethnicities have played their part, including black Africans.

        Reply
        • Tricia,

          You wrote: “That does not mean to say that there is not a caution of staying within your own grouping. I can remember in the 1960’s there were signs outside lodging houses which said ‘No blacks, No Irish” – so the skin colour was not the reason because the Irish were excluded also.”

          Well, the complete sign concluded “no dogs”. To follow your line of reasoning would mean that a person can’t be anti-Irish and anti-canine at the same time.

          “When you have immigration from countries with very different culture and history, you fragment society.”
          Really? Then you’ll understand why the Suez Canal and other foreign interests, like Iranian oil, were nationalised and why British armed occupation of other regions was such a disaster, but that doesn’t stop people being proud of that colonial legacy.

          “Many have come and made a great contribution to the country, especially the Ugandan Asians in the 70’s And the peaceful Hindu population. However, we have major problems with some of the Caribbean Community with knife and drug crime. I believe Trevor Phillips addressed the issue of a lack of black father role models.”

          However, when evidence reveals that white British pupils are now under-performing worst educationally (https://www.tes.com/news/white-british-pupils-underperform-across-social-strata-not-just-working-class-ones-why), instead of similarly blaming it on defective or absent parental role models, it’s just cited in support of the fallacy that racism has almost disappeared.

          Also, the next time you’re asked: “What country are we in?”, you might think of the indigenous populations of other countries, like Australia, New Zealand and Canada, which were flooded with British post-war emigrants.

          Alongside the low post-war birth rate, this was the cause of the UK’s dire labour shortage that drove the then government to encourage the Windrush influx through the 1948 Nationality Act.

          Alternatively, given that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof”, you could reply: “God’s country”… just like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and other former British colonies.

          Reply
  5. Did the Great War and WW2 have any contribution to make to racism in the UK, both positive and negative?
    Where do we start with the assessment, where are the comparisons to be made : only set against the USA, or against European States, or further afield, such as Asia?
    Historians, will trace the ebb and flow, throughout history and the philosophical buttresses, but taking a lead from Tricia above, I’d suggest tracing it from WW2.
    Which people groups fought from the UK? Largely, the indigenous, who were were overwhelmingly white skinned?
    And who were part of a historically, sovereign democracy, which brought in the NHS in the flush of One Nation that fought together for freedom?
    As an aside the Methodist classes had a big effect on education, literacy teaching (to promote Bible reading).
    As the mammoth task of rebuilding the Country began, I was a beneficiary of a state Grammar School education, most of the pupils from working class families, not one was black skinned.
    With the benefit of a means tested, Local Authority financial grant, I went on to study law. It was as student, in Nottingham, that my previous localism was exposed to a significant black local population, though other than through playing soccer, friendships gravitated through commonality of interests, and music, a view of life, (where none of us took ourselves too seriously, with self deprecation) of mostly white students from England and Wales.
    Was that system racist? Was it meritocracy? Yes, and no as far as merit is concerned. Generally middle class had a head start, (if middle class is extended to level of income, rather than profession) and the old age of who you know, and family background carried significant weight (and accent, regional or Queens English).
    Even in this century, in NHS reorganisations it was frequently foreseeable who would get the new jobs as they were within a circle, a type, if you will.)
    Against that there were horrible so called comedy TV shows (in my youth and young adulthood) that peddled racism with canned laughter, and which revealed as much about those who laughed, as much as about the writers, who admittedly were given a platform.
    Are the systems, structures, organisations racist in the UK? They are devised by people of today.
    I’d suggest it is doubtful? Are they
    Racist in application? As they are administered by people who may be racist, yes, in part.
    Is there racism in the black and ethnic communities?
    Am I racist simply as a result of my white skin?
    Am I a straw man?
    Am I privileged by virtue of my working class family? in my generation, my time? A beneficiary, as are all those who live in the UK today, of those who fought for freedom in both wars? Who have the freedom to seek change and oppose the status quo, some of whom have been highly favoured, with a standing, significance and influence, beyond many of my contemporaries.

    Reply
  6. I will say it again: the issue is not about “black lives” but people of West Indian origin who were and still are primarily from low skilled or unskilled backgrounds. I think the majority of “blacks” in Britain now are from post-1980 emigration from West and East Africa with a high level of professional or business backgrounds. They are aspirational and very keen on education and single parenthood is much less common among them. They are far less likely to be involved in interactions with the police – and it’s the same for Indians, East Asians and Jews. At the bottom of the heap is the white underclass, for whom nobody has any time except hooligan gangs. The crime figures from America bear out pretty much an identical story. It isn’t fundamentally about race, it’s about class and public behaviour in large cities, where drug dealing, rave parties in the street, lawless schools and groups of young males congregating in malls create flashpoints. The statistics from America bear out the wretched story: blacks are 13% of the population but are responsible for 53% of homicides (90% black on black), 37% of armed robbery, 30% of theft cases (FBI figures for 2018). Because the police have to confront violent crime before all others, that means in these cases they are going to be interacting with blacks 3 to 4 times more than their proportion of the population as a whole. If the police retreat from enforcing the law – as may happen under political pressure- then criminals and drug lords will simply control those neighbourhoods.

    Reply
    • James, I’m not clear what you are suggesting here. You say that ‘blacks’, Indians and East Asians are ‘far less likely to be involved in interactions with the police’. You then go on to say that ‘crime figures from America bear out pretty much an identical story’ but the figures you quote from the US suggest that blacks *are* disproportionately more likely to be involved in crime. What are the figures for UK, and what do they show? My response above highlighted the disproportionately harsh treatment of black and minority people in the area of drug offences, where the evidence is that the minority groups are no more likely to be involved in drug offences that white people, but are far more likely to be stopped, charged or prosecuted than the white comparators. This seems in stark contrast to your assertion quoted above.

      Reply
    • James,

      Only by routinely dismissing the hard evidence of racial bias in the US judicial system (that’s emulated in other countries) can demonstrate that the disproportionately high African-American conviction rate is evidence of a disproportionately high African-American (inherent?) propensity for crime.

      There’s clear evidence from 20 million traffic stops that US police disproportionately target blacks and latinos (despite this tactic yielding a 3% conviction rate) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/07/17/what-data-on-20-million-traffic-stops-can-tell-us-about-driving-while-black/

      You have also not considered the impact of the concentration of African-American in urban environments, as I’ve outlined in a comment below.

      You’ve also neglected to consider is the awful history of US prosecutors efforts to disqualify black jurors to improve the odds of convicting black defendants. You’ve also neglected any mention of the Supreme Court eventually having to pass a law to prevent prosecutors from using race as the prima facie reason for excluding prospective black jurors.

      Despite this, prosecutors have bypassed this law by successfully rejecting black jurors through neutral-sounding proxies for race, such as affiliation with a historically black college, a son in an interracial marriage and living in a black-majority neighbourhood.

      The other influence on the conviction rate is plea bargain overuse (especially for poorer suspects) and bias. A 2017 study of about 48,000 criminal cases in Wisconsin showed that white defendants were 25 percent more likely than black defendants to have their most serious charge dismissed in a plea bargain.

      A 2016 review of nearly 474,000 criminal cases in Hampton Roads, Va., found that whites were more likely to get plea deals that resulted in no jail time for drug offenses. While facing charges of drug distribution, 48 percent of whites received plea bargains with no jail time, vs. 22 percent of blacks. Among those with prior criminal records who pleaded guilty to robbery, 36 percent of whites got no jail time, vs. 8 percent of blacks.

      A survey of data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission last year (2018) found that when black men and white men commit the same crime, black men on average receive a sentence almost 20 percent longer. The research controlled for variables such as age and prior criminal history:
      https://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/research-publications/2017/20171114_Demographics.pdf

      It’s not good enough to rattle off statistics and assume ceteris paribus when the whole truth is anything but that.

      Reply
  7. Ian, once you have published the second article on this topic, please can you commission two more articles with the heading “Is there systemic faith-ism in Britain?”

    Reply
  8. Will Jones speaks in tune with my education and much of my life experience. But watching the video of George Floyd’s death and subsequent brutal policing of protests, watching “Sitting in Limbo” (govt policy, laws of our country): a ‘hostile environment’ enacted on people more British than we know, seeing the Nazi salutes of those who came to London to protect our statues, the banner over a football stadium, has stirred me to start on a catch-up programme.
    Michelle Obama put me on to Toni Morrison’s novels that take me into a world I really don’t know. Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book “Why I’m no longer speaking to white people about race” is readable and compelling, likewise Akala in Youtube videos, articulate and nuanced (his book “Natives” came through my letterbox today). I found Robin DiAngelo on Youtube helpful: discussing her book “White Fragility” one phrase stuck in my mind, she asked a white audience to consider ‘the sheer mental energy black people must use trying not to offend white people’.
    The systemic aspect of the problem is different in the UK (cf US) but no less daunting for those who experience it adversely. Many of us have gleaned a bit of knowledge of Martin Luther King, e.g. but not much about the Deptford fire or Notting Hill riots. To discount skin colour in our analysis is to disallow a significant part of the data and other people’s life experience. Akala deals well with crime stats suggesting a more telling correlation with age and deprivation than ethnicity – but it is black men who get stopped by the police.

    Reply
    • Steve, you were obviously affected by the video of George Floyd’s brutal arrest, but there had been a case of a white man dying in the same circumstances, with no unrest or outcry. A brutal arrest is just that and should not be automatically seen as racist,. This is the problem of separating people by colour – you increase racism. Martin Luther King’s dream was that we should not be judged by the colour of our skin, and I support that wholeheartedly. If you read the manifesto if Black Lives Matter it is an anarchist “smash capitalism, destroy the family, collectivism” – modern day bolsheviks. Millions died in Russia under that system. Read Alexander Solzhenitsyn rather than Michelle Obama!

      Reply
      • Tricia
        I have read BLM’s summary of ‘what we believe’ on the BLM website and found it very moving. I can find no reference to ‘smashing’ or ‘destroying’. Instead I read …
        ‘Every day, we recommit to healing ourselves and each other, and to co-creating alongside comrades, allies, and family a culture where each person feels seen, heard, and supported.’
        ‘We acknowledge, respect, and celebrate differences’.
        ‘We work vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people.’
        ‘We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” …’
        ‘We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.’
        ‘We embody and practice justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another.’
        Well I would be proud to find a local church expressing living out this kind of vision in its community. Can you tell me what, as a Christian, you find problematic or dangerous about these values? And I simply do not understand in what way you think this mission statement (or Michelle Obama’s life and example) bears any resemblance to the mass slaughter and terrors of the Bolshevik Russia era.

        Reply
        • Rev David Robertson has written a piece entitled “Why I won’t bow the Knee” on his Wee Flee blog. That piece answers far better than I can.

          Reply
        • David
          No organisation that is trying to lure in mass popular support for substituting Marxism for Western democratic capitalism would be silly enough to talk about ‘smashing’ or ‘destroying’ things. Indeed they may not intend things to pan out in that way. Their program is to bring about a Marxist utopia through cultural change rather than the original economic model which failed. And it’s well observed that the ‘long march through the institutions’ has indeed been a very long, mostly silent, phenomenon. The shocking thing about the events of the last few weeks (to those who have not previously given thought to it) has been the overt support of the institutions, including chief police officers, for BLM as an organisation rather than just the slogan. The truth is that our institutions have been taken over in terms of values and politics. And it’s not gone unnoticed that a clutch of bishops has ‘taken the knee’ – with no disassociating comment from their seniors – so there can be no doubt where the CofE hierarchy’s loyalty lies.

          If your vision of a wonderful society is one where the freedom of the individual to order his or her own life is exchanged for a benevolent state which oversees the lives of everyone according to its own view of what’s ‘best’ for them, you are substituting the state for God. He chose to give people free will (much to his own cost) as the basis on which they, created in his image, would best reflect his own nature.

          And there is no halfway house between a society built on the foundation of autonomous heterosexual family units (‘honour your father and your mother’ – in the singular – carried the promise of benefit passing down the generations) and an all controlling state authority. The idea of loving community groups, mutually supporting each other and where all the adults form a collective of parents to all the children is a similar nightmare prescription where individuals are forced to bow to the ‘groupthink’ of the most dominant voices in the community. These experiments regularly end with psychological trauma, if not violent coercion; they do not suit the human spirit.

          Although we have natural social intelligence, we are also strongly individual in will and aspiration; we are not naturally herd animals in the way that some species are. In fact we lose the best aspects of our human nature when we yield to crowd psychology or mob activity. It is in thinking for ourselves individually that we truly fulfil God’s wish that we be creatures to whom he can meaningfully relate on a one-to-one basis. When we participate in crowd activity it needs to be on the basis of our own autonomous decision with limits over which we individually have sovereignty. When it’s like that it is a self regulating arrangement which works to everyone’s benefit – people have to work together or the whole thing falls apart.

          The historical evidence of attempts to bring about utopian societies is that, because they work directly against human nature, they always have to resort to coercion. And history tragically reveals that we can be talking about deaths in their millions. Black Lives Matter is headed by a self declared Marxist: she needs to explain how her ‘What we believe’ manifesto can convert human nature when none of her Marxist forbears succeeded.

          Of course we’d both agree that God can works miracles in the hearts of people who turn to him, but I don’t see that as changing human nature with regard to how it was always meant to be. Tricia has simply pointed out the inevitable outcome of the BLM manifesto.

          Reply
          • The desirable outcome of the BLM manifesto is the protection and celebration of black lives and bodies and the dismantling of white supremacy.

          • Hi Don,

            I’m not a supporter of the left-wing policies of the BLM organisation.

            No political organisation (including the right-wing campaigning groups that some Christians supported in furtherance of Brexit) can convert human hearts.

            As you say, only Christ can do that.

      • Tricia,

        The focus of the BLM movement is protest against the tacit reluctance of authorities to tackle and prosecute police brutality, especially when it’s disproportionately meted out to unarmed BAME people.

        You refer to the case of Tony Timpa (the white man who died in similar circumstances to George Floyd). The reason that Timpa’s death did not provoke the same outcry was that, unlike the video of Floyd’s death which went viral within hours of his death, in Timpa’s case, the body-cam footage only emerged three years after his death on 30th July, 2019.

        Also, it could not be proven that the officers had caused Timpa’s death because the coroner identified cocaine as a contributory factor.

        Concerning your reference to MLK’s dream and the BLM organisation, I remember similar arguments (citing the left-wing political stance of ANC in South Africa) against Christians ever campaigning or protesting against apartheid.

        Surprisingly, I’ve never hear a similar argument to yours that protesting against State interference with religious freedom separates people by religious belief, thereby increasing religious tension and persecution.

        A few decades ago, it was entirely possibly to campaign and protest as part of the anti-apartheid movement without subscribing to the ANC political organisation. Similarly, it’s entirely possible to campaign and protest as part of the BLM movement without subscribing to the BLM organisation.

        I’m glad that history has shown that it’s entirely possible for peaceful protest to apply immense political pressure that resulted in dismantling of apartheid and a world that is far closer to MLK’s dream than the Communist dystopia that your comment suggests.

        If you do want to engage further, I’d ask you firstly to read my subsequent counterpart to Will Jones’s post: https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/is-there-systemic-racism-in-britain-two-views-ii/

        Reply
        • David
          Black Lives Matter followers have now annexed part of Seattle and are running it as a separate entity. They are calling for defunding of the police. You do not change hearts and minds by Anarchist activity. How are you going to force people to your view point? The only True answer is in Christ where there is no ethnicity, only the one body.
          My son is a Police Officer and I have raised him in truth and fairness. My son is one of those who have to face danger, like those who were targeted by a baying mob in Downing Street. Left to face the mob with insufficient protective cover by leaders who are too afraid to confront ethnic violence because it would be “racist”.
          Peaceful protest is part of democratic life. It is the way that we all live free lives. Violent mobs imposing their will is not and cannot be a way forward.
          Neither is it appropriate to have organisations and football teams bending the knee. This smacks of North Korea – what about the ones that don’t want to bend the knee?

          Reply
          • Tricia,

            I’ve already written that: “history has shown that it’s entirely possible for peaceful protest to apply immense political pressure that resulted in dismantling of apartheid and a world that is far closer to MLK’s dream than the Communist dystopia that your comment suggests.”

            So, yes. I agree that: “You do not change hearts and minds by Anarchist activity. How are you going to force people to your view point?”

            These people protested in support of BLM peacefully: “https://www.basingstokegazette.co.uk/news/18494064.multiple-black-lives-matter-protests-organised-basingstoke-week/

            The notion that BLM protests have been mostly violent is right-wing media outlet ‘fake news’

          • David
            Thank you for reply.
            I was referring to the BBC footage of Downing Street where 30+ police offers were injured as missiles were thrown and a policewoman was thrown from her horse because of a bike being thrown. Mobs were pulling down and defacing statues, all on BBC. I know that other meetings around the country were peaceful as ordinary people wanted to show their support against racism and stood at a distance from one another as the Govt had asked.
            The organisation BLM is using the race issue and fuelling violence against the police by disaffected youth. It has already been pointed out the Marxist credentials of the leadership. Marxism is anti Christian as the State allows no opposition.

          • I’m glad that we’re agreed that a person can support the BLM movement without supporting the BLM organisation.

            I deplore protest violence, which has been sparked by various issues, such as Brexit, climate change and racism.

          • David
            No, I am afraid we cannot agree that you can you can support the BLM movement and not the BLM organisation. Most people who stood in protest at racism were totally unaware of the aims of BLM. Funds have been raised for the BLM organisation because people were unaware of the aims of the organisation.
            I support Christian ethics which state that we are equal before God. We should not be judged by the colour of our skin – in factthe Martin Luther King principle.
            I have just watched a video from the Saturday BLM with LGBTQIAA or however many letters of the alphabet parade/protest. A young woman on the podium demanded the destruction of capitalism and the defunding of the police.

          • Hi David
            I don’t understand your fixing on the Pro life issue. As a Christian you fully understand God despising the Molech tradition of child sacrifice and that every child is beloved of God.
            I actually was quite Luke warm on this issue when the Law was that abortion was carried out if there was a mental or other risk to the mother and that it was early termination. However, the situation has changed and it is a big money earner. Planned Parenthood, whose founder was a eugenicist, Margaret Sanger, was also a racist and considered the black population needed to be reduced. By far the most abortions in America are of black babies and PP are pushing their so called services into Africa to kill many more. There is now a push for abortion up to birth And this is what Parliament has foisted on NI, even though the now up and running assembly voted against. I steeled myself and watched a video of one of these abortions to inform myself. Watching a child have their skull crushed and their limbs removed while in the womb to facilitate exit is not something I want to watch again, or promote.
            How about the quiet prayer group that the council will not allow near the clinic in London are you in favour of them? And finally I don’t condone violent protest even over such an evil trade as abortion.

          • Tricia
            One of my good Christian friends is a Marxist and an anarchist.
            She believes in dismantling capitalism and defunding the police.

          • Penelope
            Well that comes as no surprise, as I know from reading this blog that your views are very “progressive”.
            Jesus taught that we should pay to Caesar what was due to Caesar. He was not Revolutionary.
            The Russian revolution caused the murder of priests who would not accept the glorious Godless revolution
            Millions died in the camps. The same with the Chinese revolution.
            Capitalism is not perfect and needs people with morals to be in Government, but it is the only system which allows freedom and opportunity to improve their living standards.

          • Tricia

            Well, she’s much more ‘progressive’ than I am! I don’t think I would describe myself as progressive, and I’m not a Marxist, I’m just an old-fashioned liberal really.
            I certainly don’t think capitalism is the only moral system; it does great systemic harms. But I don’t know whether I would abolish it.
            I would certainly wish to abolish or dismantle patriarchy, imperialism, colonialism, and white supremacy. Those are godless creeds.

    • People should look at this 2018 report on race and crime before pronouncing too readily.
      https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/849200/statistics-on-race-and-the-cjs-2018.pdf
      A few takeaways;
      – (South) Asians have the least experience of crime in the UK.
      – Blacks are over-represented in the crime stats (convictions, imprisonment) proportionate to their numbers in the population.
      – London has the highest number of minority ethnic arrests (52%).
      – Whites are more likely to be arrested for drunkenness, blacks for drug possession.
      – The incidence of black “children” (i.e., boys under 18) being arrested is growing, especially associated with violence. Knife crime is the main form of homicide.
      – Crime is overwhelmingly a male phenomenon (86% overall; 92% for blacks, 95% for Asians). This suggests to me that while females are more often coming up against the law than other races; perhaps for drinking or driving offences.
      – There is a high proportion of black homicides against ‘children’ – which must include crime against teenagers under 18.
      I don’t think the report distinguishes between African blacks and persons of West Indian heritage.
      The enormous differences between ethnic groups suggests to me that the issues are not racial but cultural. If an ethnic group as a whole comes to adopt disaffected attitudes toward school, marriage, religion and authority (the factors that train and constrain us in life), then it isn’t going to succeed as it might in a society and economic system that rewards skills and knowledge.

      Reply
      • Exactly. I would encourage everyone to read James’s analysis.

        Ethnic groups will come to be disaffected if they have a rough deal: being born with no dad or in a dysfunctional home. Asian females come out best, because they have little chance of being born in a dysfunctional home and because they are in hard working cultures and marriage cultures. Marriage culture supposedly gives you the least ”choice”, so why then are those in it the most healthy, happy and successful?

        The trouble is that these studies always have the same lessons to be drawn from them and always point the same ways, so people should stop doing studies and start applying the lessons learnt. And they do not, because (yet again) political correctness is a killer.

        Reply
        • Christopher,

          I’d point you to other studies that don’t have the same lesson that you’ve gleaned from those cited by James. (Presumably, when compared to Asian females, the converse lesson is that the kids from those ethnic minorities who come out ‘worst’ because they’re from work-shy cultures that despise marriage).

          Such broad-brush characterisations are lazy stereotypes. As Lesley Yang, McNair Scholar, explained about the fallacy of characterising Asians en masse as the model minority:

          “The findings of this study suggest that the model minority myth may not exist. The variation of educational disparities among Asian ethnic groups dispels the myth that all Asians perform at high levels. Study findings provide support for continuing research in deconstructing racial categories and further examining the academic achievement of Asian and other ethnic minorities whose educational needs are masked by aggregate data.”

          https://scholarworks.boisestate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1133&context=mcnair_journal

          Reply
          • Not sure about that. My question was only about how it is that Asians attain a higher *average*. In a world of 7.5 billion people it is a given that there will be exceptions, so the point about exceptions is trivial. Whereas, given the number of people in the world, if an average is significantly better, that really is telling us something.

            And why on earth would marriage (growing up, maturity) be such a fantastic common denominator for doing better? Is that not common sense?

          • And as the study shows your focus on averages is misleading. To prove that your theory is correct, you would need to demonstrate that the difference in the performance between Asian sub-groups is causally related to variations in domestic dysfunction, ‘hard-working’ culture and marriage culture.

            You didn’t so much ask a question as you supplied a faulty causal link to ethnic outcomes that’s little more than confirmation bias.

            Thankfully, that’s not how government formulates its policies.

          • That is just the correlation/causation thing which prevents progress in every discussion. Meanwhile the human cost rises. I have treated this at length in WATTTC p261 – listing several hurdles which the mere appeal to correlation-not-causation needs to jump.

            When things that actually greatly overlap as concepts/realities are correlated, they are correlated for a reason.

            It would be a brave person (and a counter-intuitive one) who thought either hard work or marriage or anything else that requires effort and organisation was inversely related to success!

            We’re Christians, so we have known the answer for years. Do things the Christian way. Period. The sexual revolution (or: sub Christian sexual norms) is a quintessentially anti Christian movement, and while it is merely shrugged off, and while poor dads, the ones who can make all the difference, are not allowed to be built into the essential way a society functions, everybody loses out in multiple ways. Don’t our children deserve better?

      • James,

        I’d point you to my counterpart post to this one.

        Specifically, I explained that, if studies don’t factor in the impact of the disproportionately higher concentration of BAME people in urban areas (where, regardless of racial composition, the crime rate is higher), then the data is being misinterpreted.

        In the US, Harvard Professors Anthony A. Braga and Rod K. Brunson addressed this unban factor in their peer-reviewed sturdy, The Police and Public Discourse on “Black-on-Black” Violence. New Perspectives in Policing) by clarifying that the black crime rate does not correlate to a greater propensity for crime among African-Americans. Instead, it is more related to the fact that they predominantly live in cities which, regardless of race, account for far higher levels of violent crime than suburban and rural locations:
        “ Urban environments experience the largest proportion of homicides, and black Americans tend to make up larger shares of urban populations relative to suburban and rural areas. Between 1980 and 2008, nearly 58 percent of homicides occurred in U.S. cities with a population of 100,000 or more (Cooper and Smith, 2011). More than one-third of all homicides in the U.S. during that same time period occurred in cities with one million or more residents.”

        https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/248588.pdf

        It would be useful for you to clarify how the authors of these UK studies have similarly accounted for the greater impact on BAME statistics of predominantly living in urban environments.

        Reply
  9. Further reading:

    Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

    Inglorious Empire by Shashi Tharoor

    The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla

    Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad

    Reply
  10. I have just finished reading ‘Why I’m No Longed Talking to White People about Race’ and have just started J Kameron Carter’s ‘Race: a Theological Account’.
    I was not really aware of systemic racism or white privilege until I began to explore these ideas a few years ago. Many people still believe that white privilege means that all white people are privileged and that systemic racism means that black people cannot be racist.
    I would be interested to know what Will Jones means by describing white privilege and white supremacy as ‘faddish’ terms. What does ‘faddish’ mean. If we are talking of passing trends, white supremacy has existed for centuries and the concept of white privilege is almost a century old.
    Western culture and society is based on rules and processes that expressly favour and disfavour ethnic groups. Most (all?) Western societies are systemically racist. We may pass laws which prohibit racial discrimination, but in the UK the pay gap between black and white males widen, the more educated the black males are. That is an example of systemic racism.

    For anyone here who believes the BLM manifesto is ‘horrific’ I have posted the statement from their website under David Shepherd’s blog.

    Reply
      • That we’ve only just finished paying reparations to slave owners.

        Stephen Lawrence and Cherry Groce.

        Section 60 powers affecting black men.

        94% of MPs are white.

        Pay gaps between blacks and whites increase the more educated the black people are.

        Augustine Ihm.

        Black women being turned away from Anglican churches,

        A white Academy.

        Just a few examples.

        Reply
  11. “The faddish terms ‘white privilege’ and ‘white supremacy’ are obviously inaccurate and unhelpful, since what we are really talking about is minority disadvantage.”

    Beginning your article with a presupposition that not all readers will agree with and then compounding that presumption with modifiers (faddish, obviously, really)leads me to assume that the writer is closeted in their thinking and oblivious to their mixed audience. Why even continue reading?

    Reply
    • Matt, the word ‘faddish’ means ‘intensely fashionable for a short time’. We’re all aware that the terms ‘white privilege’ and ‘white supremacy’ have only become part of everyday discourse in the UK since the George Floyd killing a few weeks ago.

      Will Jones’s article is not offered as a discussion of every conceivable aspect of the relationships between different ethnic groups; that would require a very long book indeed to do the subject justice. Instead he is presenting, in a necessarily short article, his own viewpoint on the specific and contentious idea that there is systemic racism here in the UK. David Shepherd is doing the same thing from a different point of view. To engage with the debate fairly you have at least to be ready to read through both articles!

      Reply
      • Hi Don,

        If you have the question, “Is there systemic racism in Britain,” as your title, then I would assume that you would actually be considering it, but instead the author immediately dismisses the question without any look at all. Already I’m being “click-baited”–now there’s a faddish term for you, and quite relevant as well.

        My point in that first post was to draw attention to the way that the author is relying on sophist-type rhetoric instead of critical engagement to make his case–heavy use of modifiers–of which faddish was only one of three in a single sentence– shows lazy thinking, IMO, and I have no time for lazy thinking.

        If the idea is to “prove/illustrate” or “disprove” systemic racism, then you first should explain how you define that term, show the other side’s position and then carve out your own trajectory.

        Reply
  12. I am intrigued by the assertion that Black pupils make better progress than white.
    Please would Will Jones provide the evidence. The evidence have seen shows entirely the opposite.
    If he is equating all ethnic minorities with “black” then that might be so. However the two lowest attaining groups for two decades have been Black and Poor White. Gypsy/Roma/Traveller also features very low, but there are many extra reasons for that, including movement from school to school and frequent absences.

    Reply
  13. The change in ethnic minority attainment is noted by Dr Jones. His analysis lacks depth however. It is worth looking at the latest figures for more robust analysis. http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/featured/2015/05/still-disadvantaged-the-educational-attainment-of-ethnic-minority-groups/

    The same document says the following “ Despite significant progress, it is clear there remain significant disparities in education between people from different ethnic groups. Although members of ethnic minority communities are better educated than White British people, they remain subject to inequalities in employment. As demonstrated by CoDE research examining ethnic inequalities in the labour market, unemployment remains higher amongst most ethnic minority groups than for the White British. The unemployment rate of the Black African group – one of the most qualified groups in 2011 – was around three times higher than that of the White British group. This suggests that the priorities for policy should not just be about raising the attainment of ethnic groups that are underperforming. Policymakers will need to ensure that better education leads to better jobs. It is clear that ethnic minorities continue to face barriers to upward social mobility. Unless these barriers are removed, ethnic social and economic inequalities will continue to persist.”

    Reply

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