Pandaemonium

WHITE IDENTITY AND WORKING CLASS POLITICS

White Hexagons

This essay  was published in the Swedish newspaper Göteborgs-Posten on 21 July 2019.


The shift has been dramatic. Even a decade ago, discussion of ‘white rights’ and ‘white identity’ belonged to the fringes of politics. It was Nazi-speak. Today it has become a major political issue on both sides of the Atlantic. Not just the far-right but many mainstream commentators now argue that whites should be able to assert what the political scientist Eric Kaufmann calls their ‘racial self-interest’.

Why has white identity become so significant? And how should we respond?

To understand the new salience of white identity, we need to look at how its meaning has changed over time. Modern notions white identity developed from the late eighteenth century onwards in parallel with the modern concept of race. ‘Race’ was defined as a group of human beings linked by a set of fundamental characteristics unique to it. Every human being belonged to a specific race, and every individual’s character and abilities were defined primarily by that race.

During the nineteenth century, whiteness was rarely an explicit expression of identity but was rather implicit in the assertion of racial superiority. Racists asserted not so much their whiteness as the inferiority of other groups; and these often included ‘white’ groups, such as the Irish, southern Europeans, Catholics, Jews, the working class and the rural poor.

Only in the twentieth century did white identity come to play a more important role in politics. The coming of political democracy, and the growth of working class struggles, helped transform the language of race, and make whiteness an increasingly important category. From the ‘White Australia’ policy, which banned non-whites from emigrating to the country, to the apartheid society imposed by Jim Crow laws in the American South, politics was shaped by whiteness. The nadir of white supremacist politics came in the Nazis’ Aryan policies, which lead eventually to the Holocaust.

In the postwar world, the social meaning of whiteness changed again. In the wake of Nazism and the Holocaust, overt racism became far less acceptable.  Notions of white identity did not disappear in the postwar period, any more than racism did. Much policy in European nations, especially immigration policy, continued to be shaped by the idea that national identity was synonymous with white identity. But it was rarely explicitly expressed, and when it was, it was usually condemned as racist by mainstream commentators.

Only on the far-right fringes was white identity a politically significant idea. But within sections of the far right, white identity was getting a makeover. Rather than rooting the concept in ideas of biological superiority and inferiority, some far-right thinkers began appropriating arguments about cultural difference to embed racist notions of identity.

Alain de Benoist, one of the founders of the French Nouvelle Droite, used the concept of droit à la difference to defend French national culture against the impact of immigration, to protect it from being ‘swamped’. The mixing of cultures, he argued, would damage the cultural identity of both host and minority communities. The only solution was an apartheid-style separation, justifying the exclusion and repatriation of non-whites. ‘Will the earth be reduced to something homogenous because of the deculturalizing and depersonalizing trends for which American imperialism is now the most arrogant rector?’, he asked. ‘Or will people find the means for the necessary resistance in their beliefs, traditions, and ways of seeing the world? This is really the decisive question that has been raised at the beginning of the next millennium.’

If the far-right appropriated the language of pluralism and of anti-imperialism to rebrand racist ideas, the left, paradoxically, drew upon ideas underlying racial concepts as a means of combating bigotry. Previously, radicals challenging inequality and oppression did so in the name of universal rights. They insisted that equal rights belonged to all and that there existed a set of values and institutions, under which all humans best flourished. It was a universalism that fuelled great radical movements from anti-colonial struggles to the campaigns for women’s suffrage and the battles for gay rights.

Radicals had, however, become increasingly disenchanted with universalism. Many saw it as a Eurocentric, even racist, outlook. Partly this was the product of the way of that racists and imperialists had appropriated, and warped, the language of universalism as an argument for Empire and for the denial of rights and freedom to peoples across the world. Partly, it was because universalism had come to be seen as a peculiarly European idea, the product of the European Enlightenment.  But, many asked, if Europe had been responsible for the enslavement of more than half the world, what worth could there be in its political and moral ideas, which at best had had failed to prevent that enslavement, at worst had provided its intellectual grounding? Critics such as Frantz Fanon argued that non-Europeans, and oppressed groups in Europe,  had to develop their own ideas, beliefs and values that grew out of their own distinct cultures, traditions, histories, psychological needs and dispositions. And partly it was the consequence of growing disenchantment, from the 1970s onwards, with the very possibilities of social transformation and the disintegration of organisations and ideologies that aimed to bring out such transformation.

The result of all this was that in the postwar years, radicals came to embrace not universalism but the ‘politics of difference’, the idea that different groups, whether African Americans, Muslims or gays, possessed distinct identities, cultures and ways of thinking. Confronting injustice, they argued, required a defence of each group’s distinct identities.

The irony was that far from distancing themselves from European ideas, radical came to adopt notion of race and culture grounded in European Romanticism and the counter-Enlightenment. The belief that humanity could be divided into discrete groups each of which possessed a set of unique characteristics that shaped an individual’s identity had always been a central assumption of racial thinking. Now it became also a key feature of radical politics.

And eventually the language of identity came to dominate much of politics. Today, the political landscape is intimately shaped by the politics of identity. The lens through which we look upon social problems is primarily that of culture and identity rather of politics and class. And it is in this context that white identity has been resurrected.

Many sections of the working class have in recent years come to feel both economically and politically marginalized. Economic, social and political developments, from the imposition of austerity and the rise of the gig economy to the erosion of trade union power and the move of social democratic parties away from their traditional constituencies, have coalesced to make working-class lives more precarious.

The very decline of the economic and political power of the working class has helped obscure the economic and political roots of social problems. The language of class has become deprecated, while that of culture and identity has taken centre stage. As a result, many in the working class have redefined their interests, and their problems, in ethnic rather than in class terms. They, too, have turned to the language of identity to express their discontent. Not the identity politics of the left but that of the right, the politics of nationalism and xenophobia.

Once class identity comes to be seen as a cultural attribute, then those regarded as culturally different are often viewed as threats. Hence the growing hostility to immigration and to Muslims. Racism has become rebranded as white identity politics. And, in this process, the far right has been allowed to shape political discourse.

Many mainstream academics and commentators argue that if we don’t take seriously the desire for white people to assert their identity seriously, then we will open the door to the racists and the Nazis. The opposite is true. By suggesting that the white population should have the right to reduce the inflow of non-whites into a country (as Eric Kaufmann does) or that it is a social problem if in a city like London whites become a minority, mainstream commentators echo the arguments of de Benoist and legitimise harder racist arguments such as ‘the Great Replacement’ theory, the belief that whites are being systematically driven out of their ‘homelands’, a belief central to the worldview of Brenton Tarrant, the Christchurch mosque mass killer.

We need to take working class grievances seriously. But those grievances have nothing to do with being white.  There is no singular set of interests shared by all whites. Those responsible for the marginalisation of the working class are also largely white – politicians, bureaucrats, bankers, company bosses. The notion of ‘white identity’ obscures the real problems facing the working class and so makes it more difficult to confront them. If we are honest about tackling both racism and the problems facing the working class we need to challenge, not promote, ideas of white identity.

.

 

(As I am away, I cannot add links at the moment, but will do so later.)

37 comments

  1. My apologies if comments and responses to this post are delayed – I am on holiday, without regular access to wifi, so you have to wait longer than normal both for your comment to be published and for any response to it.

  2. I am white, but I never thought of myself in racial categories, until others came up blaming me for being white and responsible for everything evil in the world. it is quite a normal reaction to start thinking about oneself in the same categories and defend ones identity. Blame the ones who started it.

    • Andrew

      You obviously missed the meeting with your Mum aged five where she pointed out two wrongs don’t make a right.

  3. In general I find your rhetoric both enlightening and confusing which is because you try to superimpose economics on to culture and then on to identity. In the end, as normal, you end up with an anti-white hubris upon which you justify your cultural racism.

    By your logic, you should be condemning black identities, black culture and any rhetoric that makes a distinction between people on the basis of race, but you don’t because you fall prey to left identity politics.

    In our contemporary society, multiculturalism is the norm in order to avoid the assimilationist perspective which in turn encourages different groups of ethnic minorities to celebrate their traditions and cultural practices including religious events. In Birmingham for example, the Pakistani community will use the local park to celebrate their culture which often includes invocations of Pakistani nationalism from the stage. The same applies to the Afro-Caribbean community in Birmingham who will invariably use a different park. Of course British whites are welcome at these events and since I enjoy the music, then I usually do as the single white person, but in the main they are attended by the ethnics that these events are intended for.

    In Birmingham, as in London, ethnic minorities are not the minority but the majority, but British whites are not allowed to hold similar events themselves lest they be seen as a form of contemporary racism, as you seem to qualify by your rhetoric, despite the fact that we live in a multicultural society. What you appear to be arguing is that multiculturalism only exists for non-whites as a form of cultural apartheid.

    It therefore seems illogical that you denounce the defence of British white culture but are perfectly happy with the defence of Pakistani brown culture or Afro-Caribbean brown culture. Is this an odd fusion of far left identitarian politics mixed with a brown version of far rightism.

    Admittedly, the real issues underlying multiculturalism are far more complex but overall you seem to disqualify whites from participating in multiculturalism, which is clearly racist, whilst largely remaining silent about black identity politics.

    Your particularism regarding multiculturalism is clearly not universalism since it does not allow different ethnicities equal rights to express their cultural preferences. This you do by associating the equal right of cultural expression with the right generally, hence you seek to polarise society, and with the far right specifically, hence you seek to homogenise white cultural preferences.

    For example, my mother is aghast that your type of cultural apartheid politics has led to the active silencing of the celebration of Christmas as a festive period lest it offends ethnic minorities. No longer are British public authorities allowed to wish British people Happy Christmas. Now it is Happy holidays or enjoy the festive period. This is the sort of political correctness that Kaufman is alluding to, but you turn it into far rightism in order to justify your own cultural racism.

    Your racialised politics of identity and your cultural apartheid is not an economic issue, it is a cultural issue and your efforts to polarise society between whites and non-whites is part of the problem, not the solution. If whites are a minority or a majority they have just as much right as other cultural groupings to celebrate their culture and just like the Pakistani Mela last weekend, they have the equal right to announce from the stage their ethnic nationalism.

    If you oppose these pronouncements, then apply your universalism to all ethnic pronouncements rather than maliciously target specific ethnicities which is clearly racist.

    • ’In the end, as normal, you end up with an anti-white hubris upon which you justify your cultural racism… you fall prey to left identity politics… It therefore seems illogical that you denounce the defence of British white culture but are perfectly happy with the defence of Pakistani brown culture or Afro-Caribbean brown culture. Is this an odd fusion of far left identitarian politics mixed with a brown version of far rightism… you seem to disqualify whites from participating in multiculturalism, which is clearly racist, whilst largely remaining silent about black identity politics… If you oppose these pronouncements, then apply your universalism to all ethnic pronouncements rather than maliciously target specific ethnicities which is clearly racist. ‘

      If you are going to post a long comment criticising what I believe, it might help actually to know what I believe. Otherwise you just make yourself look foolish. You seem not to have a clue about my views on identity politics and multiculturalism, and simply make things up as you go along. Given that you’ve been commenting regularly on Pandaemonium for a long time, and often making the same point, it’s strange, to say the least, that you should make such absurd claims about my views on radical identity politics. Or perhaps not so strange, since you’ve often invented what other people believe in order to criticise them. So, to help you, here’s some light reading on identity politics and multiculturalism:

      .
      ‘All politics is identity politics.’ And ‘Without identity politics there can be no defence of women’s rights or the rights of minority groups.’ So run the two most common contemporary defences of identity politics. As criticism of the politics of identity has become more developed and fierce, so has the defence. So, I want here to begin a critique of the critique, as it were, and in so doing reassert the necessity for challenging identity politics…. In practice, contemporary identity politics does little to challenge the roots of oppression. What it does do is empower certain people within those putative identities to police the borders of ‘their’ communities or peoples by establishing themselves as gatekeepers. It has allowed self-nominated authentic voices or community leaders to consolidate and protect their power.
      Not all politics is identity politics

      .
      There is, though, in Australia as elsewhere, a strange disjuncture in such discussions. There is a heated debate about identity politics, which focuses primarily on the left, and on whether it makes sense to adopt such politics. There is an equally heated, but separate, debate about white identity and white nationalism. Rarely, though, have the two debates been linked or the relationship between the identity politics of the left and that of the right been explored at any great depth. Which is why when you do place the two debates within the same frame, it can feel to some as if the issue has been turned on its head.
      The politics of identity, left and right

      .
      The reactionary politics of white identity can no more defend the interests of the working class – white or not – than the supposedly radical politics of identity can defend the interests of minorities. Both transform solidarity from a sense of commonality with those sharing my values and aspirations, though not necessarily my skin colour or culture, to an identity with those who do not share my political hopes, and may undermine my interests, but whose skin colour or cultural background is similar.
      The history and politics of white identity

      .
      Today, the struggle against racism is defined as much by a desire for identity and recognition as by a demand for equality. The very meaning of equality has changed. Where once it meant the right to be treated equally despite differences of race or ethnicity or culture, now equality means the right to be treated differently because of them… But challenging racism requires us to confront, not embrace, claims about racial categories that are the province of racists.
      From equal rights to staying in your lane

      .
      Multicultural policies accept as a given that societies are diverse, yet they implicitly assume that such diversity ends at the edges of minority communities. They seek to institutionalize diversity by putting people into ethnic and cultural boxes – into a singular, homogeneous Muslim community, for example – and defining their needs and rights accordingly. Such policies, in other words, have helped create the very divisions they were meant to manage.
      The failure of multiculturalism

      .
      On the one hand, there is a section of the left that has embraced relativism and multiculturalism, that argues that the very notion of universal values is in some sense racist. On the other there are those, exemplified by a figure like Bernard-Henry Lévy, who insist that they still uphold traditional Enlightenment values, but do so in a tribal fashion; the Enlightenment, in their hands, has become a weapon in a supposed clash of civilizations rather than in the battle to define the values and attitudes necessary to advance political rights and social justice. Challenging both is a necessary first step in taking us beyond both multiculturalism and assimilationism.
      Assimilationism vs multiculturalism

      .
      The argument against diversity is usually seen as a conservative project. But as figures such as Reed (or, in a British context, the late A Sivanandan) demonstrate, there is also a radical tradition that is sceptical of the diversity approach because it comes to stand in place of a meaningful struggle for equality.
      What don’t we talk about in talking of diversity?

      .
      The council’s policies not only bound people more closely bound to particular identities, but also led them to fear and resent those of different identities, because they had become competitors for power and influence. An individual’s identity had to be affirmed as distinctive and different from the identities of other groups. Being Bangladeshi in Birmingham also meant being not-Irish, not-Sikh and not-African Caribbean. The consequence was the creation of what Amartya Sen has termed ‘plural monoculturalism’ – policy driven by the myth that society is made up of distinct, uniform cultures that dance around each other. The result in Birmingham was to entrench divisions between black and Asian communities to such an extent that it sparked inter-communal rioting…

      Identities are not natural categories. They are created through social interaction. But as multicultural categories received official sanction, so certain identities came to appear in a sense fixed. In channelling financial resources and political power through ethnically-based organizations, the state has came to provide a new reality to certain ethnic identities that were denied to others, to fix the boundaries of certain communities, to deem certain ways of being ‘authentic’.
      On fences and fractures

      .
      Multicultural policies, in other words, have not responded to the needs of communities, but have helped create those communities by imposing identities on people. And they have created communities by ignoring internal conflicts – conflicts that arise out of class, gender and intra-religious and other differences. What multicultural policies do is empower not minority communities, but so-called ‘community leaders’, who achieve power not because they represent their community but because they have a relationship with the state.
      What’s wrong with multiculturalism?

      .
      The debate we are having is not about whether communities need representation, but about what kind of representation they need. Representation, for you, appears to mean the right to be represented by your own kind, whether that kind happens to be the same race, ethnicity, faith, culture, gender or sexuality. But you still have not answered the question I have raised several times in our exchange: is it better to be represented by someone who shares a common experience or racism or sexism but with whom you politically disagree or by someone who has never experienced racism or sexism but who shares your political vision of how to combat it? I keep returning to this question because it lies at the heart of our disagreements.

      I reject such representation by identity not only because the idea that one should be represented only by one’s own kind is, and always has been, at the heart of the racist agenda, but also because such representation acts as an obstacle to what you call ‘a genuinely participatory democracy’. Why? Because it encourages the pursuit of sectional interests, rather than of common goals.
      Who speaks for me?

      • To be honest with you Kenan, I did not identify with a word you said. Infact, in simple, easy to understand terms, what are you saying. Neither do I identify whatsoever with identity politics, racism, whiteness or whatever ism you think I am.

        For me, democracy is enough. If people have issues then lobby and take it to the politicians. As I said, binary oppositions have no validity for me. Black, white, brown, are simply different levels of melanin and different facial characteristics are simply the result of evolution and environmental adaptions.

        I am a policy based person and policy is something that is generally absent from your writing other than building up social movements but on the basis of what policies.

        I personally critique mass immigration in the UK because mass immigration destroys our national ecological security by expanding grey infrastructure and the built environment into green infrastructure. As a result, you assert, “representation, for you, appears to mean the right to be represented by your own kind, whether that kind happens to be the same race, ethnicity, faith, culture, gender or sexuality”. Hence you associate my concerns about ecological security with identity politics.

        Your imposition of identity politics is part of the problem, not the solution. Your writing solely consists of asserting identity politics on to everyone else but at the same time wish to assert you are above identity politics.

        Your imposition of identity politics is then repeated in your question to me,

        “is it better to be represented by someone who shares a common experience or racism or sexism but with whom you politically disagree or by someone who has never experienced racism or sexism but who shares your political vision of how to combat it?

        It appears, that on the one hand you denounce identity politics but then on the other, you continually frame questions and critique others on the basis of identity politics, which is perhaps why people find you confusing.

        Lastly, if you reject multiculturalism and universalism because it entrenches group identities and you reject assimilationism and universalism because it entrenches majoritarian viewpoints, including the cultural and ethnic characteristics of the majority, what on earth do you believe in.

        What overarching policy framework do you believe will bring lasting social cohesion that can at the same time absorb differences and viewpoint diversity but at the same provide a platform for solidarity beyond the usual left right binary oppositions that you seem to so often rely upon, which in itself is a form of identity politics?

        • ‘Your imposition of identity politics is part of the problem, not the solution. Your writing solely consists of asserting identity politics on to everyone else but at the same time wish to assert you are above identity politics.’

          Your first comment was a long rant about my failure to criticise the identity politics of non-whites. When I pointed out the inanity of that claim you’ve suddenly switched, without taking pause, or acknowledging that you were mistaken in your original claim, to a new argument – that the problem is that I accuse others of promoting identity politics. Do make up your mind. And provide some evidence rather than simply making up contradictory claims whenever it suits your needs. There doesn’t seem much point in having a ‘debate’ when you constantly switch from one argument to another simply to enable you to criticise for the sake of it.

          ‘Your imposition of identity politics is then repeated in your question to me,
          “is it better to be represented by someone who shares a common experience or racism or sexism but with whom you politically disagree or by someone who has never experienced racism or sexism but who shares your political vision of how to combat it?
          It appears, that on the one hand you denounce identity politics but then on the other, you continually frame questions and critique others on the basis of identity politics, which is perhaps why people find you confusing.’

          That was not a question to you. That was a quote from an article (as were all the other quotes) to demonstrate the falsity of your claim that I critique identity politics only when it is white identity politics. Anyone who has even a cursory knowledge of my writing would know that I’ve been a critic of radical identity politics for more than 25 years.

          This particular quote came from a debate about whether political representation should be rooted in political values or ethnic or racial identity. If someone claims that representation should be rooted in ethnic identity, I don’t know how to frame it except as an expression of identity politics or how to criticise it except as a critique of identity politics. Perhaps you do?

          ‘Lastly, if you reject multiculturalism and universalism because it entrenches group identities and you reject assimilationism and universalism because it entrenches majoritarian viewpoints, including the cultural and ethnic characteristics of the majority, what on earth do you believe in.’

          If you want to show me where I have argued against assimilationism or universalism, as opposed to specific policies that claim to be assimilationist and universalist but are not, please do so. Or perhaps you are unable to distinguish between a critique of an idea and a critique of a specific policy that claims to be based on that idea?

        • The fact of the matter Kenan is that your writings revolves around racism, a social construct that utilises scientific invalid notions of race. In order to critique racism, you need to employ the social and imaginary construct of race.

          I was simply pointing out, if you choose to deploy social, imaginary, scientifically invalid racial constructs in your battle against racism, then do so with equality, which includes the equal rights of whites alongside Asian blacks and afro blacks. All of which seek an equal and legitimate political expression of their interests and all of which tend towards identity politics.

          The alternative to the hubris of racism as a social, imagined and scientifically invalid construct, a construct which simply reinforces scientifically invalid notions of race is to take a legalistic turn.

          This means utilising legal rights in the form of civic and civil rights. Therefore, under civic rights, citizens are protected against abuse, harassment, bullying, alarm, distress, threats and intimidation.

          There is no need to defer to race or racism.

          On a civil rights level, we can deal with discrimination by protecting against harm, loss or damage. Again the hubris of racism need not be mentioned and reinforced.

          If a person feels they have suffered harm, loss or damage due to the quantity of melanin in their skin or due to their ‘private’ cultural or ethnic affiliations, then this can be dealt with under the legal protections afforded without deferring to the hubris of racism.

          This revised way of dealing with prejudism and the violence associated with prejudism allows citizens to escape the hubris of racism which simply reinforces and sustains divisive and scientifically invalid notions of race.

          In the public and private sphere this can be represented by a platform of respect for one another which as stated, can be underpinned and protected by civic and civil rights.

        • Andrew

          Steve,

          Tbh i’m having a hard time working out whether you implying that Kenyan is using a form of identity politics is you simply not understanding his arguments (which are consistent and coherent, and don’t really differ from most people of the left who believe in a universalist secular humanism as the root of their etnics and politics) or being deliberately disingenuous. It’s one of two, but having read your comments more than once am still at a loss as to which.

        • Fair point. The fact of the matter is that Kenan and his leftie, universalist and humanist mission to combat racism requires utilising a social constructed concept that utilises scientifically invalid notions of race. In other words, in order to critique and combat racism, you need to employ the social and imaginary construct of race, which is not universalist, humanist or coherent unless you ‘believe’ in the scientifically invalid constructs of race.

          The alternative to the hubris of racism as a socially imagined and scientifically invalid construct, a construct which simply reinforces imaginary racial divisions and scientifically invalid notions of race is to take a legalistic turn.

          This means utilising legal rights in the form of civic and civil rights. Therefore, under civic rights, citizens are protected against abuse, harassment, bullying, alarm, distress, threats and intimidation.

          There is no need to defer to imagined notions of race or racism.

          On a civil rights level, we can deal with discrimination by protecting against harm, loss or damage. Again the hubris of racism need not be mentioned and reinforced.

          If a person feels they have suffered harm, loss or damage due to the quantity of melanin in their skin or due to their ‘private’ cultural or ethnic affiliations, then this can be dealt with under the legal protections afforded without deferring to the hubris of racism.

          This revised way of dealing with prejudism and the violence associated with prejudism allows citizens to escape the hubris of racism which simply reinforces and sustains divisive and scientifically invalid notions of race.

        • Steve Gwynne:

          ‘The fact of the matter is that Kenan and his leftie, universalist and humanist mission to combat racism requires utilising a social constructed concept that utilises scientifically invalid notions of race.’

          You are, as I keep pointing out, very good at making grand accusations, but very bad at providing any evidence to back up your accusations. So, where have I ‘utilised scientifically invalid notions of race’ apart from in debunking them?

          ‘In other words, in order to critique and combat racism, you need to employ the social and imaginary construct of race, which is not universalist, humanist or coherent unless you ‘believe’ in the scientifically invalid constructs of race.’

          Again, evidence please?

          ‘Therefore, under civic rights, citizens are protected against abuse, harassment, bullying, alarm, distress, threats and intimidation.
          There is no need to defer to imagined notions of race or racism. ‘

          All very true and, insofar as it goes, my view too. But, once more, what evidence is there that I use ‘imagined notions of race or racism’ as distinct from critiquing them?

      • Who Speaks for me.
        “Take Birmingham again. The problem here is not simply a few bad community leaders or a colonial model of leadership. It is rather the very system of ethnic representation that encourages people to see their problems in narrow, sectional terms. For many African Caribbeans, the problem, and indeed the enemy, are Asians. That is why so many were willing to believe an unsubstantiated rumour that a Jamaican teenager had been gang raped by Asians. On the other side, Asians view most African Caribbeans with barely concealed contempt, blaming their culture and attitudes for their lack of social advancement. If we are honest, we will acknowledge that such sectional conflicts have become all too common in Britain today, the products not of colonial, but of multicultural, policies enacted with the best of intentions but whose consequences have been highly divisive.”

        This dialogue is interesting but together you ramp up one another’s expectations about how best to politically represent identity politics of which racism and anti-racusm.

        The example above highlights this. Your claim is that multiculturalism is the problem and then proceed to couch your concerns in terms of racism and how best to combat it, which for you is best done by someone who isn’t of the same race or ethnicity as this contrives to reinforce the damaging impacts of multiculturalism.

        However, what the above example simply illustrates is racism. Asians being racist towards blacks and blacks being racist towards Asians. If “whites” were bashing blacks or Asians, the last thing the identitarian left would be blaming is multiculturalism, they would of course be crying out racism.

        What I find rather more disturbing, and something that underlies this whole discussion, is the notion that race and for that matter, ethnicity is actually a thing. The conversation appeals to both race and ethnicity and your heartfelt question also specifically alludes to notions of race and ethnicity in relation to racism. Whilst Tanuka wishes to identify with her race and ethnicity, and you don’t, you still want someone to represent your racial and ethnic interests in terms of combating racism.

        As such, you both deliberately couch your political interests in terms of race and ethnicity. What is the problem with that you might ask, especially if the goal is to combat racism. Simple, you are both reinforcing race and ethnicity as distinct categories by which to identify oneself (Tanuka) and others (you). This is then further reinforced by notions of diversity. In other words, you are both deliberately creating multiculturalism, a policy framework that she accepts but one you reject, even though you wholeheartedly believe that diversity (multiculturalism) is of great benefit to everyone, especially Britain.

        So whilst you denounce multiculturalism as a policy framework, you are more than happy with multiculturalism since the ethnic and racial diversity that underpins multiculturalism is of great benefit to everyone despite the fact that multiculturalism leads to riots and racism.

        Then we have the all important question of whether white British people are a race or an ethnicity like Asian British people and Afro British people and if so are they entitled to be a part of the diversity (multiculturalism) that brings such huge benefits to Britain. Well according to your writings and many others on the Left, if white British people claim to be an ethnicity, or a race for that matter, then they are automatically on the right and are more than likely racists and as such should be deplatformed and expunged from diversity and multiculturalism. All very contradictory.

        Whilst I appreciate you seek to avoid identity politics and that we should instead be solely focused on equality (another social construct), your special interest in equality is on the basis of diversity, which exists through diverse ethnicities and diverse racial groupings which invariably leads to identity politics in order to promote diversity and equality, both of which rely, according to you on the social constructs of race and ethnicity.

        Since diversity relies on the social constructs of race and ethnicities, the question of political representation shouldn’t in your mind be based on these social constructs but should be based on an equality between these social constructs but is it equality if some social constructs are considered valid whilst others are not. Clearly not.

        However the deeper question you are asking, is it possible for white British ethnics to be at the receiving end of racism in the same way that black British ethnics or Asian British ethnics are. Well if black British ethnics are allowed to be black British ethnics and Asian British ethnics are allowed to be Asian British ethnics (which need to exist as social constructs in order to be on the receiving end of racism), then why can’t white British ethnics be white British ethnics. Surely that is both equality and diversity.

        However, your position seems to be, that it is perfectly legitimate for minority ethnics to exist as social constructs whilst it is not legitimate for majority ethnics to exist as a social construct which clearly is not equality and nor is it the promotion of diversity.

        This leads to the demagraphics of political representation and participatory democracy and the mass immigration of legitimate social constructs. Your view is that mass immigration leads to diversity which is an inherent good, despite it leading to riots, racism and more recently, a spike in knife violence (and the slow but sure deterioration of UK’s ecological security)

        Your solution, more mass immigration, delegitimise the social construct of white British ethnicity, more housing, more jobs, more public services, all of which further deteriorates UK green infrastructure and hence the UK’s ecological means of survival as the UK’s national ecological debt increases.

        • ‘However, what the above example simply illustrates is racism. Asians being racist towards blacks and blacks being racist towards Asians. If “whites” were bashing blacks or Asians, the last thing the identitarian left would be blaming is multiculturalism, they would of course be crying out racism.’

          Once again you make grand claims about what I believe without seemingly having read anything I’ve written on the subject. (Given that you’ve been commenting non-stop on Pandaemonium for well over a year, that’s quite a feat). Yes, such attitudes expressed by Asians or blacks are racist. If you want to show me where I’ve suggested otherwise please do so. As for white attitudes, my article is about white identity politics – and about the commonalities of attitudes shaped by the politics of identity among whites and non-whites

          ‘What I find rather more disturbing, and something that underlies this whole discussion, is the notion that race and for that matter, ethnicity is actually a thing.’

          Yes, I do understand that race is not a biological category. I have written two books on the subject. Here’s a long essay on that very question, taken partly from my book Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides Are Wrong in the Race Debate. But the fact that race is not a biological category does not mean that racism is not real. You appear to be confusing the two claims.

          ‘Whilst Tanuka wishes to identify with her race and ethnicity, and you don’t, you still want someone to represent your racial and ethnic interests in terms of combating racism. ‘

          I don’t know whether you’re being deliberately disingenuous or whether you’re simply confused. It is in the interests of those who suffer from racism to combat racism. But there are no ‘racial or ethnic interests’ that I support as such. The whole point of my argument in that debate was to challenge the very idea of such interests. As wrote ‘I oppose any notion of solidarity or representation defined in narrow particularist terms and stress the importance of political affiliations over ethnic ties.’ For you to read into that I ‘still want someone to represent your racial and ethnic interests’ is perverse – though not unexpected, since your whole approach seems to be to ignore what I actually write and simply to assert what you would have liked me to have written so that you can criticise it.

          ‘So whilst you denounce multiculturalism as a policy framework, you are more than happy with multiculturalism since the ethnic and racial diversity that underpins multiculturalism is of great benefit to everyone despite the fact that multiculturalism leads to riots and racism.’

          If I was able to understand what this means, I might be able to respond.

          ‘Then we have the all important question of whether white British people are a race or an ethnicity like Asian British people and Afro British people and if so are they entitled to be a part of the diversity (multiculturalism) that brings such huge benefits to Britain. Well according to your writings and many others on the Left, if white British people claim to be an ethnicity, or a race for that matter, then they are automatically on the right and are more than likely racists and as such should be deplatformed and expunged from diversity and multiculturalism. All very contradictory. ‘

          All very contradictory if I were to argue anything like this, but I don’t. Once again you invent spurious beliefs on my part simply for the sake of criticising them. It doesn’t make for a useful discussion.

          ‘ your special interest in equality is on the basis of diversity’

          Yet again you’re inventing beliefs on my part for the sole purpose of criticising it. I actually argue the opposite.

          ‘However, your position seems to be, that it is perfectly legitimate for minority ethnics to exist as social constructs whilst it is not legitimate for majority ethnics to exist as a social construct which clearly is not equality and nor is it the promotion of diversity.’

          This, I’m afraid, is just meaningless babble. Everyone has identities, and everyone lives as part of communities or groups. The fact that identities and communities and social groups are humanly constructed does not mean that people ‘exist as social constructs’. (You don’t have to keep using the phrase ‘social construct’ to appear deep and meaningful.) The debate isn’t whether people have identities or identify with certain groups, or whether only some people are ‘allowed’ to have identities or to identify with particular groups. The debate over identity politics is about the forms of solidarity that make political sense. My point, to use again the quote above, is that ‘I oppose any notion of solidarity or representation defined in narrow particularist terms and stress the importance of political affiliations over ethnic ties.’ That applies not to blacks, to Asians, to whites or to any another ethnic or identity-based political grouping.

        • The hubris of racism requires solidarity or representation defined in narrow particularist terms which in turn stresses the importance of ethnic ties over and above political affiliations.

          In other words, by reinforcing the hubris of racism, you are not only acknowledging and reinforcing racially and ethnically based cultural identities but you are also, unwittingly, generating solidarity and representation based on these narrow cultural ties. Hence diversity becomes a matter of equality between these narrow ethnic ties in order to avoid racism.

          Clearly the alternative is to not define people by their racial and ethnic cultural identities and simply default to the rule of law that makes unlawful interpersonal expressions of harassment, abuse and aggression. However, you consistently refer to people by their racial and ethnic characteristics and then wonder why you find it so difficult to transcend these entrenched culturally constructed identities.

          Clearly, forms of solidarity that are both rational and make political sense and ones that don’t rely on representing and forever reinforcing racial and ethnic cultural identities is national ecology.

          National populations need land, air and water to survive and if a country exceeds its biocapacity, whether through overconsumption or overpopulation, then the national population will be rightfully concerned about immigration, borders, trade and population levels whatever their racial or ethnic identities.

          However, your irrational writings refer to very different forms of reactionary solidarity which seeks to avoid commonalities altogether by trying to create resistance movements against racial and ethnic cultural identities that oppose ecological deficit causing immigration and open borders. As such you default to notions of solidarity or representation which clearly are defined in narrow particularist terms, that being the immigrants and potential immigrants that you seek to defend.

          In such instances of particularism, you defend immigrants on the basis of (the hubris of) racism which explicitly refers to racial and ethnic cultural identities even if he you don’t specifically mention the racial and ethnic identities that you are referring to.

          However, the reality, which fits the rational and political sense you are aiming for, is that immigration is not primarily rejected on the basis of racial and ethnic cultural identities but on the basis that continued immigration is destroying the ecological basis of survival for the current population and as such creating deeper levels of ecological deficit which makes the country more unsustainable, more insufficient and less resilient to shocks.

          It is the irrational identitarian left that turns what is a rational and politically significant debate into the hubris of racism, noone else and much of your previous writings seem to align with this irrational culturally disengenious perspective.

        • ‘by reinforcing the hubris of racism, you are not only acknowledging and reinforcing racially and ethnically based cultural identities but you are also, unwittingly, generating solidarity and representation based on these narrow cultural ties.’

          This is getting ludicrous. You keep repeating the same point endlessly, without providing any evidence for it, and without ever responding to the fact that I explicitly argue the opposite. As I have already pointed out, what I wrote in the debate from which you quote is ‘I oppose any notion of solidarity or representation defined in narrow particularist terms and stress the importance of political affiliations over ethnic ties.’ Once again you insist on ignoring what I actually write, and pretend that I hold views the opposite to that which I hold because it is convenient for your bizarre thesis.

          ‘Hence diversity becomes a matter of equality between these narrow ethnic ties in order to avoid racism.’

          Can you provide a shred of evidence that I have ever argued this?

          ‘However, you consistently refer to people by their racial and ethnic characteristics and then wonder why you find it so difficult to transcend these entrenched culturally constructed identities.’

          Since you keep repeating the same inane point, let me repeat what I’ve already written further down in response to you. People refer to themselves, and are described, as collectives in all manner of ways – by geography, origin, culture, religion, etc. In many kinds of conversations, whether about migration patterns or political interests, whether telling a history or challenging racism, it is inevitable that one uses such descriptions. You yourself in this very thread have talked of ‘whites’ and ‘blacks’. It’s only a problem if such descriptions of groups or communities are essentialised – if they seen as static, homogenous, indelibly shaped by history. The problem isn’t that people use a phrase such as ‘south Asian community’. It is, rather, your inability distinguish between simple descriptions and essentialised categories.

          ‘In such instances of particularism, you defend immigrants on the basis of (the hubris of) racism which explicitly refers to racial and ethnic cultural identities even if he you don’t specifically mention the racial and ethnic identities that you are referring to.’

          Even by your standards that’s particularly meaningless gibberish. I might respond if it made any sense, but it doesn’t. And since you refuse to engage with what I’ve actually written and argued for, but instead keep conjuring up invented positions on my part, there’s no discussion to be had, so I’m bringing this to an end.

    • damon

      Just a couple of points Steve. On local cultural events, one thing I have noticed is that black people of Afro-Caribbean heritage will hold their events, and Asian people will hold theirs …… and white people will turn up to both, but there isn’t much mixing across those two BME communities at their respective events.
      Go to Brixton’s “Splash” festival, which is meant to be primarily an Afro-Caribbean day, and yet its heaving with whites – but very few Asians. Then go to something like the West London Asian “Mela” and you’ll hardly see a black person. There’s not as many whites as at the Brixton event maybe, but still plenty to be seen around.

      One thing that confuses me a bit about Kenan’s writing on this subject is that it gets a bit academic and complicated.
      And starts going back to the 18th century to explain more contemporary history. I often find the connections a bit tenuous. I read his book “The meaning of Race” once and found it quite hard going.
      But maybe that’s just an issue with my (low) IQ level.

      Lastly all that stuff about Christmas being “banned” or downplayed. It’s not true and people have been rightly taking the mickey out of allegations that it has been for years. Really, it’s just one of those conspiracy myths.
      And if something did happen with one council once (or twice) it hasn’t been continued.
      It’s the sort of thing that the more ridiculous of the right wing insist on.
      It’s Katie Hopkins kind of level. Really.

      • It is definitely the case that Birmingham City Council have a multicultural (diversity) policy of avoiding the use of the word Christmas. I get their regular e-bulletins and the word Christmas is never to be seen. Last year and the year before, they stopped erecting a ‘Christmas’ tree.

        They blamed it on cutbacks. Everyone I know thought it was just more of the same non-Christmas policy in case it makes non-Christian British citizens feel uncomfortable and excluded.

        I’m not particularly opposed to multiculturalism/diversity but if this is going to be the policy framework, then it should be fair and equal and allow all social constructs to be represented.

        My concern is not diversity but ecological sustainability and in particular I believe that national ecological sustainability, sufficiency, resilience and security should be maintained by the citizens of that nation. I say this because I believe the solution to all our climatic, environmental and ecological woes is a global system of cooperating national sufficiency economies. If we all, as nations took responsibility for our nation’s ecological means of survival then we would all build up our ecological awareness and consciousness rather than deferring that responsibility to a centralised technocratic institution which leads in my experience and opinion, to national citizens generally not taking responsibility, other than large elements of the white working class, who bemoan the fact that mass immigration is resulting in a gradual and irretrievable loss of green land and our national ecological means of survival.

        For me, this is the deep intuitive reason why people object to mass immigration which is then projected and to some extent reinforced by economic, social and cultural concerns.

        • damon

          “Everyone I know thought it was just more of the same non-Christmas policy in case it makes non-Christian British citizens feel uncomfortable and excluded.”

          I don’t think there are too many people who live in the U.K. who would feel uncomfortable and excluded by Christmas. Even the most devout people of other faiths probably think it’s fair enough that the majority population celebrate their religious festivals just as they do theirs.
          But I do find that British Christmas gets on my nerves a bit, when you start seeing signs of it by the end of September and you can’t escape the Christmas music in shops etc.

          As for the ecological sustainability, that is something I’d agree with to a degree.
          I’d prefer to live in a Britain that had a population of under 40 million. I think it would be a nicer place, and I prefer to spend time in the less populated parts of it. The roads are quieter and the air not so polluted. But we are where we are. It’s just unfortunate in my opinion. They say that air pollution from traffic fumes is killing us and harming our children.
          The new building we do to incorporate the increasing population is generally quite horrible and ugly. I don’t know why we can’t just build new towns and suburbs that look like Barcelona instead of Basildon, but that’s just how they turn out.

  4. damon

    “We need to take working class grievances seriously. But those grievances have nothing to do with being white.”

    That’s probably true. But at local level it doesn’t always look like that. Other (non-white) communities in Britain can take their cultural identities extremely seriously and can be very interconnected as a community.
    Immigration patterns have shown this to be so.

    To be brief, just compare tight knit Asian and Muslim communities in East London with the community that was still thriving there just after World War Two. The white working class Cockney community.
    There’s been lots of talk about it, so this link to a documentary about “The last whites of the East End” should be sufficient to make that point. If you walk the streets of Newham today, there is little evidence of this white working class culture. YouTube videos of London markets in the 1960s and 70s will show the great change.
    http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/projects/last-whites-cockney-london/index.html

    Just listening to BBC Radio London on Sunday evening highlighted a far more vibrant identity culture.
    On Dotun Adebayo’s show, he had three black women in the studio discussing Boris Johnson and the new government and what this meant to them as black people. They were quite radical, from the left mostly and very much looking at things from a BME perspective. That’s just how it is. I do like Dotun Adebayo, but he’s been doing this very black identity based show for about fifteen years and he’s had some really separatist and Afrocentric guests on his programme over the years.
    This is the show from the other night.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07gbm0m

    Finally, this twitter exchange shows the futility of trying to discuss race across ideological lines.
    It’s three people from the left arguing with Eric Kaufmann and Rakib Ehsan.
    The three are Sunny Hundal, Omar Khan and Jonathan Portes.
    It just doesn’t go anywhere. These discussions can’t.
    https://mobile.twitter.com/sunny_hundal/status/1038896325729951750

    • Cultural politics is swamped with binary oppositions, the main ones being left and right and white and black. These vague amorphous terms are used to justify blatant prejudism and bigotry.

      The same applies to open and closed and pro and anti. However, as soon as one reverses the terms of reference, the illogicality of the arguments are soon revealed for the prejudism and bigotry that they seek to hide.

      In a more nuanced way, these terms of reference have added impact if they decontextualised from the broader frames of reference of multiculturalism, integrationism and assimilationism.

      Universalist notions of multiculturalism tend to be avoided by the identitarian left since they disqualify whites from equal rights and allow prejudism and bigotry to flow unimpeded with accusations of Far Rightism.

      Universalist notions of integrationism tend to be avoided by the identitarian left since this will invariably lead to eurocentrism or whatever the prevailing ideological norms in whatever society.

      Universalist notions of assimilationism tend to be avoided by the identitarian left since this will render the identitarian left redundant.

      The identitarian left prevails by obscuring the frame of reference and instead solely emphasising binary oppositions. Some turn it into a historical construct, to add greater validity.

    • Andrew

      But that just goes to Kenan’s we’ll documented objections to the effects of ‘multiculturalism’ as opposed to diversity. A point Kenyan has repeatedly made is that these communities haven’t always seen themselves in purely ethnic or religious terms. It’s obviously true that many/most activists see themselves through that lens, but it’s not always been the case. An organisation like Southall Black Sisters is a case in point. They’ve obviously worked with and on behalf of the south Asian community, but it’s never been on an identinarian basis. To the contrary they’re as likely to have taken those pushing a form of identity politics as they have the state, or white racists. You seem to be suggesting viewing things through a lens of identity is ‘natural’ just the ways things are. But that’s clearly not true, it’s partly due to the effects of state policy and partly ideological changes on the radical left.

      • To clarify my earlier point. By identifying and distinguishing a ‘South Asian community’, you are deploying socially imagined scientifically invalid constructions of race. To evoke the hubris of racism demands believing in these socially imagined and scientifically invalid constructions of race.

        This deployment of socially imagined scientifically invalid racial identities is identity politics even if you seek to obscure the use of racial identity politics within the frame of universalist, secular and humanist arguments.

        If racial identities are not deployed, what is the basis of multiculturalism and what is the basis of diversity.

        What is a ‘diverse’ Britain if racial and ethnic identities are not deployed???

        • T’o clarify my earlier point. By identifying and distinguishing a ‘South Asian community’, you are deploying socially imagined scientifically invalid constructions of race.’

          This, I’m afraid is nonsense. If calling someone a South Asian is ‘ deploying an imagined scientifically invalid construction of race’, so is calling someone a South American or a south Londoner. I’m not sure that even you believe that. People refer to themselves, and are described, as collectives in all manner of ways – by geography, origin, culture, religion, etc. In many kinds of conversations, whether about migration patterns or political interests, whether telling a history or challenging racism, it is inevitable that one uses such descriptions. You yourself in this very thread have talked of ‘whites’ and ‘blacks’. It’s only a problem if such descriptions of groups or communities are essentialised – if they seen as static, homogenous, indelibly shaped by history. The problem isn’t that people use a phrase such as ‘south Asian community’. It is, rather, your inability distinguish between simple descriptions and essentialised categories.

          ‘This deployment of socially imagined scientifically invalid racial identities is identity politics even if you seek to obscure the use of racial identity politics within the frame of universalist, secular and humanist arguments.’

          First, as I’ve already pointed out, what you consider ‘socially imagined scientifically invalid racial identities’ are nothing of the sort. Second, your argument amounts to ‘If you want criticise racial thinking don’t mention race’. That’s both a nonsensical notion – in almost any sphere of life if we want to criticise x, we have to talk about x – and a form of magical thinking – the belief that even mentioning race somehow makes it real.

          ‘What is a ‘diverse’ Britain if racial and ethnic identities are not deployed???’

          Britain was diverse long before racial and ethnic categories were invented and will be even is such categories disappear.

  5. Andrew

    The key question then becomes how do we go about challenging the politics of identity. It’s not going to be easy as on the left you regularly here the argument that identity politics is just a pejorative name for the expression of minority voices, and any opposition to it must therefore be about maintaining an unjust status quo.
    Whilst there’s an obvious irony to it, I don’t think you can escape the fact it’s going to take the voices of non white, non western defenders of universal values and rights based thinking to change things. I could make the identical argument but it would just be shut down as ‘shut up white man, you’re just protecting your privilege’.
    There’s plenty of people like you making the arguments, but there needs to be more, they need to be louder and they need to be more mainstream. It’s going to take a direct challenge to those on the left peddling the politics of identity, and specifically the implications of the group identify + power ideologies that seem to be more accepted as mainstream ideas by the day (often by people who I suspect haven’t really taken the time to understand what sits behind all the talk of ‘privilege’, ‘structural oppression’ and ‘power’ that’s emerged from academia.

    • Again here, “it’s going to take the voices of non white, non western defenders of universal values and rights based thinking to change things“, you deploy racial and ethnic identities to be the defenders of universal values and rights. Are you suggesting we need yet more racial and ethnic identities to fight the hubris of racial and ethnic identities in order to defend universal values and rights.

      If so is the defence of universal values and rights to defend racial and ethnic identities against inequality and prejudism which surely must include all types of socially constructed forms of racial and ethnic identities including so called white racial and ethnic identities or is the defence of universal values and rights to defend against all forms of racial and ethnic identities which is the basis of diversity and multiculturalism.

      What is diversity without racial and ethnic identities???

  6. I have been a supporter of a project, based at the University of Edinburgh, the aims of which were to bring into the mainstream of study in literature such voices as are currently marginalised. We have not always seen eye-to-eye, however, and once when they turned down a contribution I offered to their web site, the subject of which was a writer from a language minority, they turned it down because that writer was “white, male, and straight.” My answer to that was that the only criterion for being considered marginalised was the fact of marginalisation, and I offered to introduce them to a friend of mine who was white, male, and straight, and defy them to say he wasn’t marginalised. He was homeless and begged on the street. Two Christmases ago he died on the street. You can’t get much more marginalised than that.

    Recently, however, rather than looking at the legitimising of “white” “identity” (two sets of quotation marks deliberate), I have been looking at the idea of “Post-Identity.” I figure we need it; I’m with Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr, in that colour is a biological nonsense and no proper basis for taxonomy. Our having made it so is the problem.

    Paul Thompson
    Perth, Scotland
    whatthehellisart[dot]wordpress[dot]com

    • It is indeed the case. Do we build a post identity world in which we reject the hubris of racism as a concept or do we retain the hubris of racism and deal with the ramifications of socially constructed, imagined and scientifically invalid racial and ethnic identities.

      • It may not be an either/or. We can’t pretend that the hubris does not exist. We continue to build ‘imagine communities’* around our identities and to suffer the effects. If we are to reject the hubris or racism as a concept we have to show the falsity of its basis, that it is a construct not a reality, i.e. to deal with it. Also of course we have to recognise that other ‘identities’ may be on a less firm ground than we consider them to be, not excluding those identities that have been forged in response to hatred and exclusion. I don’t think we can tackle the former without being prepared to sacrifice our own imagined community. This won’t be easy.

        *See Benedict Anderson, ‘Imagined Communities’, 1983.

  7. Sisyphus

    [1/2]

    I have been carefully following your work since “Man, Beast, and Zombie.” I’ve always regarded you as a careful and nuanced voice of reason amidst the noise. For whatever it is worth, I’ve always considered myself ‘a leftist’ – I live in Canada and have always voted Liberal or NDP. I agree with you on *so* much … from your rough interpretation of the human animal, to the societal ideals we might reasonably strive for and defend. But I worry that you are missing some important context to what’s going on [as an aside, I’ve noticed that you can sometimes come off as a bit ‘chippy’ with people who disagree with you lately, so please try hear me out].

    “… many in the working class have redefined their interests, and their problems, in ethnic rather than in class terms. They, too, have turned to the language of identity to express their discontent. Not the identity politics of the left but that of the right, the politics of nationalism and xenophobia.”
    I don’t doubt that some are going in that direction, but I think it’s far more complicated than the mainstream would suggest. I’ll give you my take. I am a white man. My ‘whiteness’ was never anything of any importance to me as I grew up in the 80’s; my identity (at least as I understood it) was largely defined by my activities, interests, values, choices, and so on; I assumed others operated under similar assumptions and so I treated them first and foremost as individuals, rather than representatives of their apparent race. I also assumed that we had much in common, since we were all Canadians, roughly sharing the same core values.

    Much has changed, as you are aware. With the rise of identity politics and intersectionality, discussions about race, gender, and sexuality are now everywhere. The Canadian government encourages us to be hyper-focused on ‘diversity’ (mostly racial) and ‘systemic’ or ‘institutionalized’ forms of oppression (racism, misogyny, transphobia, etc.), though they seldom point to specific systems, institutions, or policies – it’s all mostly vague, based on differences in group outcomes (presumed to be caused by systemic social injustices) or based on instances where a single individual appears to have acted of their own free will, holding prejudices that are *not* widely supported in mainstream culture (i.e., not socially systemic or institutionalized). Just to be clear: I don’t deny that racism exists, and I agree it’s horrible, but so long as people have free will and will look for a social scapegoat for their problems, you won’t ever eradicate it entirely. The intersectional left sometimes speaks as if that were an attainable goal – which I think says a lot about their presumptions about human nature and the relationship between people and culture.

    White men appear to be the social boogeymen and the presumed oppressors of today. The universities nearly all lean toward the far left, which means it endorses intersectional identitarianism; they stoke this sentiment through the teaching of ‘whiteness studies’ (all negative) and the idea that whites cannot avoid being racist; apparently, they lack genuine agency and are mere cogs in a ‘white supremacist’ society that exists to benefit them, at the expense of people of different races/identities; it is often presumed that ‘white privilege,’ as opposed to hard work, got them to where they are, and they are sometimes told to ‘check’ their privilege, which typically means, sit-down and refrain from expressing oneself. For a white person to question any of this, is to invite accusations of ‘white fragility.’ Hiring practices are increasingly discriminatory against whites, in order to meet diversity quotas; it is presumed racist to do otherwise. I’ve also seen increasing instances of anti-white sentiment in wider society, such that if the races were reversed in these stories, it would spark far more outrage than it does (e.g., concerts where whites are asked to go to the back of the venue; charging whites more to go to the same concert; advertising to blacks that they can take vacations away from whites; claiming that one cannot be racist toward white people; etc.). Then there is the hair-trigger tendency to accuse white people of being racist and to presume guilt, unless one renounces independent thought while virtue-signaling allegiance to the religion of intersectionality; even then, one is unlikely to be forgiven, and one’s reputation may be ruined in the process. I could go on. Years ago, I would have guessed that things were getting better, but we seem to be hell-bent on playing the same old game, only changing the target of the racism. I’d imagine that at least *some* of the urge to play white identity politics and/or turn toward nationalism has to do with the above – I think it’s largely a defensive reaction, as opposed to wanting a white ethnostate or believing that other races are inferior and so on.

    “We need to take working class grievances seriously. But those grievances have nothing to do with being white. There is no singular set of interests shared by all whites.”

    Again, I would suggest that white people are interested in not being discriminated against; not being scapegoated as the societal villain. Whites are interested in being treated just like everyone else.

  8. Sisyphus

    [2/2]

    What does it mean that whites are reportedly turning toward nationalism and xenophobia? I assume that we’d both agree that hyper-nationalism, of the sort that exalts national identity (especially via authoritarianism) over the sovereignty of the individual (and ultimately at their expense), would be a nightmare, demonstrated repeatedly through history. But why be so negative or dismissing toward what could be a benign soft nationalism, if we mean people identifying with national values (e.g., peace-loving, equality between the sexes, valuing freedom of speech, etc.) that have the potential to unify people of otherwise different cultures?

    The Prime Minister of Canada has suggested that Canada is the first ‘postnational’ country, that it has *no* identity – implying that there are no principles, ideals, or values, that unify an otherwise diverse group of people; and yet, he endlessly proclaims that ‘diversity is our strength.’ In my mind, diversity (of races, cultures, ways of life, ideas, etc.) can only be a strength when we are all able to benefit from the cross-pollination of ideas or a kind of fluid cultural integration (i.e., ‘cultural appropriation’) and if we simultaneously acknowledge and re-affirm other important ways that we are unified in solidarity. So, while I think I agree with your ideal societal vision, in the present context, where a nation outright denies or fails to assert or speak positively about unifying values of solidarity among citizens, why shouldn’t people be weary of mass immigration of people who may hold contradictory values? In the absence of a national identity or proclamation of national values, isn’t a bit of xenophobia understandable? Has Sweden’s ‘diversity’ policy worked for them? Few in the mainstream media seems to acknowledge the problems; we’re just supposed to guiltily denounce our own nation and any unifying values, while parroting: ‘diversity is our strength.’

    Maxime Bernier, a PM candidate running in our October federal election, is basing his ‘People’s Party of Canada’ around core principles of freedom, responsibility, and fairness/respect. He is against censorship, critical of identity politics, and he asserts that Canada does indeed have an identity and national values (largely based on Enlightenment principles) that immigrants should be willing to accept before entering the country; and for this, the mainstream media (including the taxpayer-funded and pro liberal government CBC) continually slanders him – suggesting that his party is a haven for racists (despite the fact that many of his members are themselves minorities). People are tired of being called racists or nazi’s or whatever, for no reason … can we talk about that? This is what’s going to get Trump re-elected in the US.

    On that note, I remember reading something you had written about Donald Trump’s ‘fake news’ rhetoric; you unironically cited someone from the BBC expressing concern about people being misled and misinformed, though the BBC (like our CBC) is terribly biased (check out Triggernometry’s YouTube interview with Robin Aitken on this topic). Can you not see that bias? I think you may be trusting the wrong sources and are at risk of losing part of the sociocultural narrative. Take the Tommy Robinson situation. I’m not a fan of his tactics (or his checkered past – but people are redeemable, right?), but I’ve done hours of research on this (avoiding the BBC hot takes) and from what I can tell, he’s been terribly mischaracterized in the mainstream media and was shamefully mistreated by the legal system. My understanding was that he was drawing attention to an issue that no one in the mainstream media was covering, and he was sent to prison (‘contempt of court’) for supposedly disrupting a trial (they were subsequently found guilty) by asking questions of the accused (“how do you feel about your verdict?”), when other journalists had done far worse to him, at *his* trial, apparently without consequence. Why does public hatred of this man seem to forgive or overlook the hypocrisy and injustice?

    You’ve questioned some of the statistics about the grooming gang phenomena, which was good if only to see how complicated it all is. But I figured you’d also see the nuance in this case. Instead, you label him as ‘alt-right’ (which has no meaning at this point) and you write “Tommy Robinson of the English Defense League (EDL),” even though, as I understand it, he left the EDL *years* ago, denouncing them quite publicly, precisely *because* he saw how it had been taken over by racists. I assume it would be a mischaracterization for me to write: “Kenan Malik of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP)” based on your past affiliations.

    I want to close this diatribe (my apologies) by re-stating that I have a huge amount of respect for you; I hope you can understand where I am coming from and what my concerns are. I hope you can humbly entertain the possibility that you might be missing an important piece of the overarching narrative. Also, if you think that I am wrong about the necessity of a soft nationalism, what white people might be reacting against, or the details of the Tommy Robinson situation (please don’t cite the BBC), I would be happy to have them pointed out.

    Best,
    Sisyphus

    • Andrew

      ,” if we mean people identifying with national values (e.g., peace-loving, equality between the sexes, valuing freedom of speech, etc.) that have the potential to unify people of otherwise different cultures?”

      Why are those ‘national values’ as opposed to universal ones?

      Rejection of that is actually where left & right identinarians agree, albeit for differing reasons.

      Left: These are merely western values imposed on other cultures as a kind of neo-imperialism.

      Right: These are our values, which are alien to ‘them’ them hence why ‘they’ are a threat.

      Both perspectives need to be rejected.

      • Sisyphus

        “Why are those ‘national values’ as opposed to universal ones?”

        Because: 1) nations and borders exist; 2) nations do not always share the same values
        You seem to characterize the position of the ‘left’ as involving moral relativism or skepticism of universal values; those on the left do sometimes fit that characterization and I agree it can/should be rejected.

        You then seem to characterize the ‘right’ as stating that people of different nations may have different values, and that these values may be in conflict, such that it could represent a threat to a nation’s solidarity; you say that this position ‘needs’ to be rejected as well. Why? There are clearly nations in existence today, that put religion and sexist ideology above the values that you *hope* will one day be universal (a hope that we share) and not just the values of a particular nation. I don’t think you can reject the above based on how the world presently exists, but I’d be happy to hear your argument.

        If you don’t want to reject the above characterization based on what is, but rather on an ideal of what the world ‘should’ look like … how do you propose we get there? Do you think that once we dissolve nations and borders, it will naturally give way to a utopian post-national civilization, embracing the universal values you espouse? Who or what will enforce those values as universal, if people refuse to do so willingly? What do you have in mind?

    • Lucas Picador

      Hi Sisyphus,

      As a fellow leftist Canadian — and in my case, an American expat — I understand much of what you’ve said and appreciate your anxiety around this issue but ultimately I think your anxiety is a bit misdirected. I also understand why this particular post of Kenan’s might have rubbed you the wrong way, but I think he has more than earned the benefit of the doubt given his extensive, sensible, subtle, and lucid writings on this and related subjects. He can’t be expected to qualify his opinions in every post with a summary of everything he’s ever said before; one has to take his statements on good faith and appreciate that there may be subtleties to the issue that can’t be addressed every time one posts a 300-word observation.

      One important thing to keep in mind: Canada and the UK are different. There’s much more political polarization around ethnic issues in the UK than in Canada, for several reasons: the UK has a much stronger national identity than Canada, the UK is much closer to large sources of immigration than Canada, people in the UK are forced to live crammed together in tiny council flats next to strangers as opposed to living in igloos fifty miles from their nearest neighbour as we do in Canada, etc. Perhaps most importantly, Canada’s immigration policy, while relatively open in terms of numbers (we have to fill up those big empty spaces on the map!), is actually quite selective in terms of cherry-picking candidates with money, education, English literacy, job skills, and so on. In Canada, immigrants tend to completely assimilate within a generation regardless of their national or cultural origin. Not so in the UK. Also, the English working class has experienced a decline in its fortunes that started long before the relatively mild malaise Canada’s working class has seen in the last few decades. Regardless of the reasons, London (UK not ON) is a very different city from Toronto in its ethnic politics. Toronto may be the most cosmopolitan city in the world as measured by percentage of foreign-born residents (you’re welcome), but different ethnic and cultural groups here tend to live next to each other in fairly close quarters (not as close as London!) while getting along remarkably well relative to London. This gives us the luxury of waxing philosophical about long-term cultural shifts and the erosion of some already-anemic “Canadian” culture instead of being thrown into a brawl between white skinheads and non-white ethnic separatists and being forced to pick sides on short notice. Kenan is confronting a crisis and has taken the bravest possible position: adherence to liberal universalist principles even in the face of imminent danger from potentially both sides of the political divide.

      This comment is getting long. I think my point is: Canadians reflecting on this question have the luxury of treating it largely (albeit not entirely) as an academic exercise, and imagining that the stakes are relatively low in the short term. That is not true elsewhere — not in the US, where I come from, and not in the UK. I would be hesitant to project my own intuitions about this subject onto someone living in one of those countries. Furthermore, I think you’ve uncharitably read Kenan as criticizing the deployment of the rhetoric of “white identity” politics while remaining silent on the use of non-white ethnic identity politics, when his past writings show a long history of warning against exactly this turn of events and discouraging the use of racial or cultural identity politics in any form. In the long run, as painful or unfair as that may seem from a historical perspective, that’s the only viable policy for a free, multicultural, pluralistic society (which we will all become, if we don’t lapse into fascism or some other form of barbarism).

      • The specific difference between the UK and Canada is that the UK is in deep levels of ecological deficit whilst Canada is one of the few countries that is actually an ecological creditor nation.

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_ecological_footprint

        Whether a country is in deficit or in credit impacts enormously on immigration, border, trade and population policy. At least from a rational perspective. An irrational perspective will largely ignore the ramifications of national ecological footprinting metrics and national biocapacity.

  9. damon

    Having been involved with the group “Workers Against Racism” in the 1980’s Kenan, it would be interesting to hear your assessment of those same East London streets that you once thought were violent and dangerous places for Asian people, because of the amount of white racism around at the time.
    http://powerbase.info/index.php/Workers_Against_Racism

    The streets of Newham, which once had lots of far-right activists and just general white racist thugs walking around, have changed quite a lot and those sentiments must have either changed or those kinds of white racists must have moved out of the area. The demographics have changed considerably, as that Telegraph article on “The last whites of the East End” I linked to above shows.
    There was one paragraph in it which I found particularly telling. It’s a quote from the former Labour mayor of Newham (Sir) Robin Wales. He could be regularly heard on the radio, saying what a wonderfully vibrant place Newham had become and this is a quote from him in the Telegraph:

    “One of the things we have to grasp is London is the great international city with people all over the world coming,” Sir Robin says. “If you want to live in London you have to understand that things change.”

    To me, that statement seems to move “multiculturalism” and change forward into a new phase.
    The “fast lane” of transforming demographic change.
    And that if you don’t like it, then maybe you should think of living somewhere else.
    It’s all about change and the future. Everything from the past can be forgotten.
    I’ve just started one of Peter Ackroyd’s books on the history of England in the 18th century, and I’d guess that new modern diverse east London doesn’t really have any “need” for knowing about that history.
    It might even be considered culturally insensitive to be teaching children that kind of English history, as they are so far removed from it. I have certainly heard people saying that the “Kings and Queens of England” type history means nothing to them, because their roots are elsewhere.

Comments are closed.