To be told that, simply because of an immutable characteristic, your skin colour, you are actively complicit in the deaths of black people, is psychologically very dangerous. I would question whether it is in fact against equality legislation to make such claims. I have been particularly concerned with an article in the student magazine addressed to “white” members of College, which made sweeping accusations of racism against all white people. We have a number of students with mental health concerns, and a number of students on the autism spectrum, who are liable to take such material rather literally. If we have any real racists in College, they won’t care. It’s the people who are most concerned, and most emotionally and psychologically vulnerable, who will be most impacted and possibly very distressed by this article and other such material.
Teaching schoolchildren about these politically-charged issues in a balanced, fair-minded way is hard, not least because if you depart from the orthodoxies of the BLM movement you risk losing your job. To cite just one example, a headteacher at a school in Vermont called Tiffany Riley was removed from her job after she questioned some of the tactics of BLM activists on Facebook. Yet it is important to try and be balanced nonetheless.
By that, we don’t mean presenting schoolchildren with the case for and against racism, obviously. Rather, presenting them a range of views about the prevalence of racism in contemporary Britain and America, about how racist those countries are compared to their past, about how racist they are compared to other countries, and the extent to which racism is responsible for racial outcome discrepancies. Children should be encouraged to think critically about these complicated issues and not succumb to group-think or, worse, publicly shame those who refuse to go along with the crowd.
Nick Buckley wrote a blog post criticising Black Lives Matter, and found himself targeted by an online petition to have him removed as CEO of the youth charity he founded. Here’s his account of what happened and how he fought back.
I wrote the blog not to express a personal opinion, but because I have dedicated the last two decades to improving the lives of working class young people. I set up a charity using my own redundancy money and savings. I could not stand by and watch the next generation of young people be brainwashed into thinking that their country is inherently racist, that systems are constructed to make them fail, and that the police are out to kill them. This goes against everything the charity stands for, and more importantly, goes against everything that we know to be true. A positive attitude, hard work and personal responsibility is the key to success in the UK today. Guaranteed. I see it every day while supporting young people to succeed.
Contemporary politics is often driven by “cultural or psychological anxieties”, argues Kenan Malik. We need to consider social and structural material factors too:
More than half of those killed by US police are white; and while, proportionately, police killings of African Americans have fallen in recent years, that of white people has sharply risen. Some analyses suggest that the best predictor of police killings is not race but income levels – the poorer you are, the more likely you are to be killed. Other studies have shown that the startlingly high prison numbers in America are better explained by class than by race and that ‘mass incarceration is primarily about the systematic management of the lower classes, regardless of race’. African Americans, disproportionately working class and poor, are also likely to be disproportionately imprisoned and killed. There are, as one report observes, ‘two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people and another for poor people and people of color’.
We should be able to discuss Black Lives Matter critically, argues Andrew Doyle, and not simply assume that its objectives are straightforwardly encapsulated by its name.
How many people know, for instance, that part of the Black Lives Matter manifesto is a commitment to ‘dismantle cisgender privilege’ and ‘disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another’? The movement, in other words, is not solely about standing up to racism, a goal that anyone with an intact moral compass would share. Look carefully at the messages of the graffiti and the placards on many of these protests. Yes, we all agree that black lives matter, but can we really say the same for ‘all cops are bastards’ or ‘fuck Madeleine McCann’?