Monday 5 April 2021

A Bigger Impact: Class Still Trumps Race - At least In The UK.

Worlds Apart: According to the report of the British Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: “family structure and social class had a bigger impact than race on how people’s lives turned out”. These are not the sort of findings that New Zealand fighters against "White Supremacy" and "Colonisation" are eager to receive.  

TELLING PEOPLE THINGS they don’t want to hear may be interpreted as either an act of bravery, or foolishness. In a world grown extraordinarily sensitive to charges of racism, a government report which states that “family structure and social class had a bigger impact than race on how people’s lives turned out” is bound to create controversy. But, this is exactly what the British Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) has done, and controversy is exactly what it has got.

In one of those ironies with which history abounds, the Report, commissioned by Boris Johnson’s Conservative Government in the aftermath of the world-wide “Black Lives Matter” protests of 2020, and which highlights the critical role played by social class in generating inequality, has “disappointed” Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the British Labour Party. Starmer’s namesake, Keir Hardie (1856-1915) a pioneer of working-class representation in the British parliament, would have found Starmer’s response ideologically incomprehensible.

According to a BBC news report (2/4/21), the CRED Report found evidence that “factors such as geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion had ‘more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism’.”

It is difficult to think of a statement more calculated to upset those for whom white racism – personal and institutional – constitutes the key explanation for the negative experiences and life outcomes of people living in Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. The only information likely to prove more “triggering” is the CRED Report’s finding that, in terms of raw numbers, there are more white families living in poverty in Britain than black families.

Since whites make up the overwhelming majority of UK citizens, this might seem like a trivial finding. The very important issue it raises, however, is the impact of life experiences completely unrelated to race upon the way people’s lives unfold. The closure of a factory, or a coal mine. Extended periods of unemployment. The impact of clinical depression on familial relationships. The consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. All of these are equal opportunity misfortunes: experiences related much more closely to one’s location in the socio-economic power structure than to the colour of one’s skin.

The same socio-economic dynamics are, of course, at work in New Zealand. Indeed, those with good memories will recall a very similar debate which erupted over the “Closing the Gaps” policy promoted, and then abandoned, by the Helen Clark-led coalition governments of 1999-2008. Exactly as has occurred in Britain, the research undertaken in what appeared to be a race issue came back with the unwelcome news that the “gaps” in New Zealand society were generated overwhelmingly by socio-economic factors.

The problem which then confronted Clark and her Finance Minister, Michael Cullen, was that any programme actually capable of closing the gap between working-class and middle-class New Zealanders would be prohibitively expensive. Limiting such a programme to lifting Maori alone out of poverty, however, would inevitably provoke an electorally fatal political backlash from the working-class whites left behind. Unsurprisingly, the controversial programme was quietly shelved.

Over the course of the nearly 20 years that separates “Closing the Gaps” from the promises of the present Labour Government, the power of class-based arguments to influence government policy has declined considerably. Excluding the overwhelmingly middle-class trade unions catering to the health and education sectors and the public service, the trade unions’ purchase on the New Zealand working-class has been reduced to almost nothing. (Today, less than 7 percent of private-sector workers belong to a union.) In the third decade of the twenty-first century, the most powerful ideological currents flowing through New Zealand society are those relating to race and gender. Among professional policy advisers and analysts “class” has become a dirty word.

Benefitting hugely from the rise and rise of “Identity Politics” in New Zealand society have been those Maori families sufficiently well-placed to have benefitted from the professional and managerial opportunities arising out of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process. The well-credentialed children of this rapidly expanding Maori middle-class are now preparing to have another crack at closing the gaps between Maori and Pakeha.

Before that can happen, however, it is vital that the sort of observations contained in the British CRED Report be rendered practically unsayable in New Zealand. In this regard, the research project entitled Whakatika is certain to prove immensely helpful. Based on more than 2,000 face-to-face interviews, the project details its respondents’ experience of Pakeha racism. Be it the racist “micro-aggressions” perpetrated by individuals; or the “unconscious bias” manifested across virtually all of this country’s “colonial” institutions; Whakatika reports a racism so pervasive that it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the maintenance of racial inequality is basic to the preservation of Pakeha identity.

Nearly 80 percent of respondents, for example, considered the portrayal of Maori by the non-Maori media to be negative all of the time or often. Nearly 90 percent reported either experiencing or witnessing discriminatory treatment of Maori in shops. The conclusions drawn by the study’s authors were unequivocal:

The results of Whakatika show the need for broad anti-racism activities that are based on mana motuhake and that strengthen Māori connections to te taiao, our lands, rivers, mountains and harbours. Similarly, the results indicate that racism and discrimination are so widespread that they will never be conquered through isolated activities, such as unconscious bias training, alone. Addressing racism requires a constant, consistent, Māori-focused multipronged approach.

Given that the authors’ definition of the problem: “Racism is an attack on our rangatiratanga. It maintains colonial power structures, systematically disadvantaging Maori.”; it is difficult to see the sort of arguments and observations advanced in the CRED Report being presented here without irresistible pressure being brought to bear upon the Labour Government to have them declared wrong, objectionable and unacceptable.

Leading the charge in this respect will be Labour’s Maori caucus. It is large enough now to prevent the party’s Pakeha leaders from replicating the Clark-Cullen duck-shove of twenty years ago. This time, a “Māori-focused multipronged approach”, based upon the rangatiratanga guaranteed by Te Tiriti, will be allowed to proceed – Pakeha working-class, or no Pakeha working-class.

The problem, of course, is that if a great many more factors are at work in the generation of social inequality than one’s ethnic origins, then the “Māori-focused multipronged approach” is doomed to fail. If “geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion” all have a role to play in shaping the lives we lead, then any uplift programme which fails to take these factors into account cannot possibly succeed.

If you were to ask a working-class Pakeha if she had ever been looked straight through by a snooty shop assistant falling all over herself to serve the obviously wealthy woman standing behind her, the chances are high that she would say yes. If you were to ask a Pakeha working-class bloke if any middle-class male had ever asked for his opinion on anything other than sport and/or cars, what do you think he would say?

We have spent the last 20 years being made acutely sensitive to the injuries inflicted by racism and sexism. This is a good thing – no question. Not so good, however, is the fact that, over the same 20 year period, the equally debilitating injuries of class have been ever more thoroughly hidden.

Those in a position to do something about it, don’t want to be told; and there are now far too few advisers who are either brave, or foolish, enough to tell them.

This essay was originally posted on the website on Monday, 5 April 2021.


Lindsay Mitchell said...

" is difficult to see the sort of arguments and observations advanced in the CRED Report being presented here without irresistible pressure being brought to bear upon the Labour Government to have them declared wrong, objectionable and unacceptable."

That shouldn't be too hard with a CRED observation like, "...children require both
time and resources, and that is more likely to be available when both parents play active roles in their upbringing."

The left in NZ has denied the role fatherlessness plays in all manner of child disadvantage for decades. It was Minister for Social Development Steve Maharey who famously said, "I know of no social science that says the nuclear family is more successful than other kinds."

John Hurley said...

If there's so much money In Maori hands & most of us don't have it

Nick J said...

The white working class worldwide are demonised, but they do respond. Trump, Brexit, Boris, en-masse they outvoted the preferences of the PMC.

There is a warning in that for Labour here, under MMP if just a half of the white working class voted for a populist cause they would be king makers.

sumsuch said...

Sanders, without care for Blacks especial, failed. He was right for the people. But would he have sold in America like nothingish Biden? The Right with their separate media sources talked up Biden as a Radical Lefty. Socialist, commies. When you leave reality you can go anywhere, for a time, and America is above all about sales. I do think confrontation was the right way, in 16 and 00. But Yankland wants to go down the the drain-hole in its own way, carrying us all with it.

swordfish said...

Needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

In many ways, we're witnessing a socially-reactionary Upper-Middle Class Cult posing as 'progressive' while transforming the Left into both an elitist Vanity Project & power-grabbing opportunity for the most financially privileged members of alleged "marginalised" identities … an authoritarian & utopian project that essentially maintains the Class status-quo while systematically scapegoating Poorer Whites for Colonisation & all manner of social ills. They will be second class citizens obliged to do all the suffering & sacrificing in silence (with all the vicious projection by Woke elites that such scapegoating inevitably involves).

So basically the Upper Middle Professional Class ruthlessly pursuing self-interest while at the same time aggressively advertising themselves as uniquely morally-good altruists ... it's a great way to provide moral cover while going out of your way to maintain your Class position ... in so many ways the absolute antithesis of the trad left.

A welcome dose of reality from the UK.

Nick J said...

This harping on in the negative about past misdeeds around slavery as a single national or race preserve gets tedious in the extreme. In allocating specific blame it ignores a historic fact: every nation, race and culture has both been slaves and slave masters. This was the de facto position before some British Christians decided that it was not OK.

Lets celebrate Wilberforce and those British abolitionists who were reflected by and inspired John Brown and American abolitionists to act.

I make this point to illustrate the folly of attributing past blame to a single race, class, gender, person in order to justify a cause de jour. To go Biblical we are all sinners, but sin again when we attribute the sins of the fathers to the sons.

greywarbler said...

Hey good comments to read. The usual suspects have gone to work perhaps Easter the time of love and rebirth is over for them! Ahem. Good to read The Barron sumsuch Nick J and Swordfish doesn't smell at all, very fresh, could use the pseudo Stingray. Also thanks for the reading material Barron - I myself point to recent Posh Boys.. which explains a lot about the way that the world is run (furriners send their boys to be pummelled by the British system, so the Empire rises again in a small way).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Nick. While your statement about slavery is technically true, there are/were huge differences in the systems of slavery at large in the world before the industrial scale slavery of the 19th century in the southern parts of the US. Not to mention that it was extant until the 1860s when they should have known better. Luckily it was at least partially responsible for their loss in the civil war.
The other thing you tend to avoid is the fact that the US was left with hundreds of thousands of people who had been extracted from their tribal areas and cultures, and left to try to establish their own. Not to mention that very soon after the end of the civil war they were relegated to the sidelines yet again, particularly in the south.
And let's not go overboard on the British Christian thing. While there were many Christians who opposed it, there were also were many perfectly good Christians who benefited from the slave trade and opposed ending it.
And let's celebrate those black abolitionists such as Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass who tend to be invisible today, while white people take all the credit.
So while harping on about it might be tedious for people like you, for the people whose ancestors were owned, and whose culture was destroyed, it's still relevant. And personally I think that they should be allowed to decide when to let it slide rather than you.

The Barron said...

Christianity has an uncomfortable history with British slavery. The Anglican (Tory) establishment used Biblical text to justify it, other protestant dissenters focused on the slave trade as sinful, rather than slavery.
Exodus 21:16 'He that stealeth a man, and selleth him . . .shall surely be put to death.' This confirmed in the New Testament in which Timothy in the listing of lawless and disobedient, ungodly and sinners - the 'man-stealers'.
As pointed out by Michael Taylor in his book 'The Interest'(2020) [which I draw on primarily in this contribution] this was seen as distinct from slave-holding. Further, Anglican theologians refused belief that 'man-stealers' equated to 'man-buyers'.
Wilberforce was a great figure in the counter argument and bravely headed the campaign for the abolition of the slave trade. He was personally racist, and did not believe those from Africa of Asia the equal of the European, and he took a long time after the abolition of the trade to be part of the campaign for emancipation. He was a great man and changed the world, but should be analyzed truthfully not given hagiography.
Biblical relationship with slave-holding was seen by the establishment in Britain as clear. Genesis 9 gave 'the curse of Ham', used to justify the enslavement of 'black' people (because Ham's son was Cush, they argued it could be translated as black).
The slave holders argued that if God had disapproved of slavery, it would have been stated, rather Exodus 21 and Leviticus 25 allowed for the regulation of slavery.
Son of a slave holder, William Gladstone in his maiden parliamentary speech used this argument, that if God had seen slavery as sinful, God would not have shown how to manage slaves, He would not have 'regulate[d] the matter'.
Abraham spoke of the 'souls that they had gotten in Haran', seen as slave purchased. God told Abe to convert them, He did not say to liberate them. When a 'bondswomen', Hagar escaped from Abraham's wife, Sarah, an Angel told her to 'return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.' The Old Testament continued to show Gideonites in 'perpetual bondage', those defeated by the 'Lord's Army' had a 'tribute to bondage', Midianite Wars gained virgin slaves, Solomon got 'negroes' from Ophir. Joseph sold his brothers into slavery, and advised Egyptians to sell themselves into slavery, and 'God was pleased'.

The Barron said...

While at least there is the New Testament, towards the end of the Georgian period, religious reformers gave precedence to this. It was largely argued, the New trumped the Old, 'Levitical las was completely annulled by Christ'. Unfortunately, Christ didn't have much to say about slavery. The slave-holders and their lobbyists, turned to a small book of the New Testament, Philemon. Onesimus, an escaped slave, went to Paul in Rome. Rather than endorse freedom, Paul sent him back. The importance of this was that the Slave-holders could turn to the Bible to show that converting to Christianity did not give liberty from slavery.
I am not sure where Nick J draws a line in when unacknowledged history becomes 'tedious'. When the Holocaust occurred, it was stated that humanity should never forget. Slavery was only abolished in the America's (Cuba 1886) within the lifetime of people who witnessed the Holocaust. Slavery in Mauritania was legal until 1981.
When Britain finally abolished slavery in the Empire, the equivalent of 380 billion pounds in todays money was given by the British government to the slave-holders for loss of property. Many of Britain's top industries, families and banks operating today were built on this money. The colonial enterprises in India often came from this being reinvested in mono-culture crops for investor profits, leading to many outbreaks of famine and millions of deaths.
Those that campaigned against slavery, both trade and emancipation, deserve all the praise history can bestow. The weight of the establishment was totally behind the slave holders, this included the Lords and the Royalty. Most notably, it included the mainstream Church.

greywarbler said...

I hope that GS and NJ can stop taking offence at each other here. I like to be able to red some sane holistic mind expansion from this blog. The black people were not really better off personally after the Civil War win, it was for a principle rather than the people, and so they could be on a level playing field when the states were trading with or against each other.
Slave-owners were like Gloriahaven wotsit with fewer wage costs compared to the north who had to fight the unions to keep wages down and profits up.

After the Civil War the blacks might have nowhere to live or jobs, and men were chased for looking at a white woman if someone chose to read something into his glance, and he might be killed. So free to starve and be picked on as lesser. We see that sort of attitude to the poor in NZ now. And the blacks felt they had lost the comfort of their close community when later on separation was wiped. It had to go but they had been mutually supportive and could make their own choices in schooling etc to a great extent!

I see in stuff - The Press film review by Alexander Bisley about James Baldwin's story 'I Am Not Your Negro' he said he liked living in Haarlem which was a relative sanctuary. '"I did not have to deal with the criminal state of Mississippi, day-by-day." he says.'

Understanding about slavery and racism is only partial understanding of the way that humans perform below par. I suggest we make ourselves aware of what has gone on in the past, and then point it out without getting bitter, and that applies to descendants of those who were mistreated. An anniversary of the Katyn massacre occurred the other day and we should know about the 22000 Polish officers killed there, the slaves that worked for the Nazis, apart from the gas chamber deaths; then the men who built the Burmese highway, what effect did it have on the country. Is that behind the military taking control again.

We can't cope with bringing up every past wrongdoing, acknowledgment must be made mostly in general, but it is impossible to build a positive future with recriminations abounding as seem to be coming to the fore. The vital point is to remember what I consider an absolute; 'Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely'. Also unquestioning obedience tends to kill your personal character, and can brutalise your soul.

Nick J said...

Yeah OK GS, abolitionists if they were white Christians were still not holy enough for you. Nice point. If they knew what you would say I doubt they would have bothered.

Nick J said...

Barron, your summary of Wilberforce meets todays rigours with regard to his opinions and prejudices. Thats good, but he belonged to a different age. The question that is more pertinent is would we have got to todays position without the incremental advances people like Wilberforce enabled? Would you have preferred that he just said "hey its wrong, but I cant be f**ked"?

Nick J said...

Grey, nice comments. Time for my break too.

greywarbler said...

The Barron - about looking at slavery as a British industry and the advantages that slaves were purported to have received from it. Perhaps hearing that and thinking about it would have resulted in sarcasm from Monty Python: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing
When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly, chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle - that's the thing...

For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow
Forget about your sin
Give the audience a grin
Enjoy it - it's your last chance anyhow

greywarbler said...

Thinking again. The Barron says that Christianity has an uncomfortable history with slavery. Then shows that the slavery references were mostly from the Old Testament - pre-Christ. Then goes on and finds that post-Christ Paul sent a converted slave back to his master which was not an endorsement of freedom.

But bearing in mind another statement that a Christian should pay taxes as part of being a good citizen, then a slave returning to a master is a similar expectation. The direction suggests that the slave should practice his Christianity in his own milieu. And there were occasions when slaves would be freed, so this slave might choose to ask for freedom keeping to the customary rules. That approach would fit with Christianity being a religion encouraging virtue and trustworthiness.

The Wikipedia information shows that there was a complexity to this interaction and the background should be learned before trying to use it as an example endorsing slavery.

Tom Hunter said...

but it is impossible to build a positive future with recriminations abounding as seem to be coming to the fore.

I think the main reason for the increasing focus of the Left on "racism" being always and everywhere the primary problem is that Left-wing solutions to the problems of Marxist-defined Class warfare and division have failed to achieve their societal aims of lifting up the poor and dispossessed to the degree hoped for, while at the same time the mainstream Left is unwilling to go where the Far Left want.

The result are the likes of Labour stuck in a No Man's land; unable to move forward on any further democratic socialist policy and instead thrashing around on non-solutions like "anti-racism" and "systemic racism", which will also fail.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"abolitionists if they were white Christians were still not holy enough for you."

And where did I say this Nick? You seem to be deliberately taking my statements and twisting them to make them offensive to you. Oh well, I guess there's no point in me even trying to be polite then?
I mean I could have mentioned the Chinese emperor, who banned slavery around four A.D. if my memory serves, there were a number of Christian states who banned slavery for Christians, Bologna banned slavery sometime in the 13th century I think, Lithuania in the 16th century. Haiti in the early 19th. The British East India company was active in banning slavery. And so on. So it's not all down to English nonconformists. Who I did in fact acknowledge. Christ, would it hurt you to at least acknowledge someone other than white Christians?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Grey – sorry if I am unintentionally causing you to suffer from Ringrichterscham. The Germans really do have a word for everything. And if you can't find one you can always invent one quite easily.

John Hurley said...

In 1947 An American on a world tour to see how countries were doing after the war found there was no discrimination against Maori

The whole episode is worth a listen to

sumsuch said...

Enjoy the large print in the letters section. Makes me read more -- who knew?

greywarbler said...

Swordfish 5/4 at 12.15?
You wrote an interesting piece summing up our direction. Perhaps you have seen Pablo's
lengthy piece on extremism right and left which seems strong like class,

GS With you there is always something to think about or learn. Thanks for the latest.