I spend an awful lot of time arguing about racism with people in my personal life, both on Facebook and face-to-face. I have had some unbelievable conversations with people very close to me that show that overt, explicit racism is alive and well thank you very much, and that an awful lot of people not only don’t understand what institutional and systemic racism is, but that they don’t want to understand.

One of my very close friends shared with me the Ben Shapiro video “debunking” an infographic video explaining systemic racism. I was so taken aback that this friend would even entertain Shapiro (he’s not that well known in the UK), but more taken aback that he didn’t recognise that each and every claim Shapiro made was demonstrably false, cherry-picked, misrepresentation or disingenuous.

Let me show you a conversation between another friend of mine (a right-wing Facebook nemesis whom I used to play rugby with) and myself.  Background – he is a well-educated, well-read, supposedly ex-leftist right-winger (the old classic “I used to be an atheist”!). This is a long piece, but what it should show you evolving through the interchange are examples of:

  • the lack of substantiating evidence for claims
  • ]as such, the preference of anecdote over empirical data and evidence
  • the very interesting debate between “colourblind” and “race-conscious”
  • how so much of [right-wing] thought is connected (views on race, education etc.)
  • repeated talking points appear as common with the intelligent and well-read as with others
  • how many right-wing people deny any possibility of them being implicitly racist with trite claims of being colourblind

I have not edited his or my quotes (bar a few typos) and I hope this accurately reflects the conversation. Well, it IS the conversation. It started with a status of mine:

Imagine your child dying, and you giving a eulogy saying how your child matters, and then someone else grabbing the microphone and saying, “Actually, all children matter.”

I’m trying to work out if this is a correct analogy.

To which he posted:

Imagine your child dying and you trying to save him when a mob bursts in, shouting that the problem is the Jews and that the solution is to set fire to the hospital.

I will summarise the beginning conversation, blockquoting him, but my stuff will not be blockquote (external quotes I used will here be italicised). He then linked an article suggesting that BLM are anti-Semitic. I pointed out that this was a sort of Tu Quoque fallacy or Red Herring or Whataboutery. He stated, “The problem is those in the BLM movement who are antisemitic and who support antisemitism.” Okay. How many? I asked. This is a movement. Not a political organisation. I challenged him to show if this is endemic. Shall we apply this same logic to “those in the conservative movement are…” racist, Islamaphobic, anti-Semitic and so on?

And here came the classic quote, snuck in a larger one:

Racism is wrong,” and “Yes, black lives matter… all lives matter,” and it isn’t a strain for them.

This is such a right-wing talking point that it is barely even worth dealing with anymore. You’re better and cleverer than this.

No doubt the world is heading that way and you’re just more on the pulse than I am, but heaven forbid I ever abandon my colourblind ways.

People claiming they are colourblind are, imho, being naive. This is the idealistic (normative) position that completely ignores the descriptive reality. For more info on this, this piece is very good:

Do We Really Need to Choose Between Being “Race Conscious” and Being “Colourblind”?

It references the excellent book by Akala that I have read, and he is race-conscious because he deals with the reality on the streets and in the endemic and systemic racial biases that exist as a result of race-conscious reality.

To be truly colourblind is to entirely change implicit behaviour, which is almost impossible (certainly in the context in which you are in). So I think colourblindness is nothing more than an idealistic soundbite that is unable to deal with the here and now. In reality, both positions are needed for different things.

My opinion is that anyone who feels the need to say “all lives matter” as a response is probably a dick.

And here is my go-to picture to explain, in simple terms, what black lives matter means.

He replied:

You know, I’d just hate to live in a world that saw all human interaction through a prism of race. Perhaps you don’t know many black people or you weren’t socialised to them when you were growing up, in the school you went to. I don’t know. But your views just seem so twisted and sad. You make race the centre of everything, when in fact it is nothing.

All I know is that BLM contributes to division and contributes to racism and that that will create more misery in the future. It produces hate on both sides of a line that doesn’t even exist. You’ve all been taken for a sucker and someone else stands to benefit.

I went to an all-boys boarding school where racism was overt. Where the few black boys were the “c**n platoon”. I have had conversations with a whole host of people close to me recently that make me realise more than ever that many, many people are still overtly racist.

That I am arguing vehemently with you about this is because it is relevant and affects our societies on a daily basis and I think it is fairly obvious, from a virtue ethics point of view. What sort of person do you want to be? Taking on my position will make the world a better place, imho. I have implicit biases that I have to rationally overcome. But many I know have explicit bias with no desire to overcome it. And here you project onto everyone your noble colourblindness.

I’ve always thought like this, which is why I was routinely called a Paki-lover at school for standing up for the minority in a psychologically brutal environment over many things, like having their one daily meal sabotaged every day during Ramadam by my peers etc., etc. Because you are supposedly colourblind, you don’t recognize any of this, which means you’re absolutely impotent as far as not only trying to do something about it, but actually seeing any causal relationship between any of these things. In other words, you are complicit in institutional racial discrimination and bias.

But now I see biases that are much more subtle. And I believe the data I read. And I believe the lived experiences of people of colour I know.

Point being, you may think this is me becoming more staunchly patterned but the reality is this has pretty much always been me stretching back a long time. A liberal in an overtly conservative milieu. Moreover, I don’t make race the centre of everything. I am reflecting what is going on in society at the moment by talking about race right now. However, a month or two ago, I was talking explicitly about COVID-19. And throughout this time and I have been talking a lot about Donald Trump and the Republican Party. And I also talk a lot about God. So, essentially, I think you’re full of shit.

I have not been taken for a sucker and I hope that the people who do actually benefit are the people of colour who have traditionally not benefited and have not had equality of opportunity which is what I ask for and what, on a whole range of metrics that are empirically incontestable, that they don’t have.

I think I understand. I come from a different place to you. Perhaps the people I grew up with were just nicer, or maybe I took what they said to be the truth.

You weren’t popular at school? But you were house captain. Were you aware of the a difference in class between you and the other boys: the ones who had money? If it made you an outsider, you can see where being the defender of the weak, the marginalised and the ostracised came from.

Still one is one is one in my book.

Meh. I did fine. It didn’t give me some kind of complex. That’s the cart before the horse.

But you see people through the prism of race. You said as much. Or you’re colourblind to race? Which is it? You’re a moving target. I suspect your experiences are central to who you are.

People see themselves through the prism of race and are treated by others through the prism of race. I take it you did not read that article, then. I can’t help you.

Racists see through the prism of race.

[I then link this Zach Stafford article:]

When you say you ‘don’t see race’, you’re ignoring racism, not helping to solve it

Read the [previously linked] Areo article or don’t bother discussing, tbh. I tried to lay it out for you but I am not writing massive amounts of my own words when it is readily made in those articles.

Here is a quote from the Stafford article:

This ideology is very popular – like a racial utopic version of the Golden Rule – but it’s actually quite racist. “Colorblindness” doesn’t acknowledge the very real ways in which racism has existed and continues to exist, both in individuals and systemically. By professing not to see race, you’re just ignoring racism, not solving it.

Still, the idea of “colorblindness” is incredibly popular, especially with young people who believe racism is a problem for the older generation and will soon die out. According to a 2014 study done in partnership with MTV and David Binder Research, almost three-fourths of millennials believe that we should not see the color of someone’s skin, as though it’s a choice. Nearly 70% believe they have achieved this and are now actually colorblind; and the same percentage shockingly believe that we make society better by not seeing race or ethnicity.

I read it. I don’t say that racism doesn’t exist. I say that I’m not a racist. Colour doesn’t interest me. This also seems to be the case with 3/4 of Milennials. Good. That’s as it should be. Perhaps it’s true. This should give us hope. However, there are agents who want to foment hatred and division. Constant revolution never wants things fixed.

It’s easy to say that you’re not racist. And I’m sure you believe you’re not. I don’t believe I am because I’m fairly sure I have a lot of implicit biases that will probably say otherwise, but I do my very best to try not to be. And we have a battle between rational and intuitive.

It’s almost as easy for you to say you don’t believe you’re racist as it is to say I am not racist. But this battle of yours, which is which? Are you intuitively predisposed to be racist but your rational mind keeps that in check or is it that racism comes through reason, but your instinct to defend the oppressed counteracts that?

[I link this:]

Let’s look at a really interesting area of institutional racism in education. We know from US research that white people are overwhelmingly more likely to be involved in gifted and talented enrolment and schemes than black children. This is equalised for test scores. In other words, when you have two identical children only differentiated by skin colour, the white child is over two times more likely to receive gifted and talented support. Over 2x!!

This will then affect educational attainment, job prospects and social mobility, and crime rates. It’s all connected. (Incidentally, the main solution is to get more black teachers because, research shows, they do not favour blacks over whites unconsciously as white teachers favour whites over blacks, unconsciously).

Now let’s translate this research into higher education stats in the UK:

On average in 2016, 8% of first-year undergraduates across the UK were black. In the same year, 1.5% of the University of Cambridge’s intake was black, falling to 1.2% at Oxford University, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Oxford says in 2017, 1.9% of students admitted were black….

The Russell Group is a collection of 24 prestigious “research-intensive” universities, often considered to be the most elite in the country.

They have on average much smaller proportions of black students than other universities – less than 4% compared with the UK average of 8%. [source]

This looks like a class issue rather than a race issue. What are the statistics for white students in E or BAME students in A? Any student in A and B is going to be more likely to exploit whatever social and cultural capital that is available. I’m not saying that race is never a factor, and perhaps it’s the old, unreconstructed socialist in me, but class is always going to be more crucial.

Of course, if you are elite, it might be in your interest to put division and strife between white and black people at the bottom of society. Get each to believe that the other is the cause of their unhappiness. Get some statues pulled down, have a couple of policemen shot, call it progress, cause some dolt to lose his job for saying something dumb on Twitter, have footballers and F1 drivers take the knee and wring their hands about all the injustice and everyone say that did everything they could.

Race issues are largely underwritten by class issues. But the narratives spun put it firmly at the door of race. I was talking to someone the other day who complained that a black person didn’t smile at them when they walked past them the other day. And yet they have never, ever in their lives attached someone’s whiteness to them when they did something bad as a white person. as if being black made them not smile.

Here’s another example: how much do you hear that stabbing and deaths in London are black on black violence etc?

Do you know that the stats include mixed-race people? So with one white and one black parent, all their crimes get included with black stats and push them up and excluded from white stats and push them down. That can include someone who is 3/4 white. Holy wow. That there is racism that bleeds into the narrative perpetuated by media on the right.

Let’s look at crime rates by region:

But these predominantly white murders aren’t happening because they are white. It is poverty. It’s about equality of opportunity. The connection between poverty and crime is well understood. So it becomes about SOCIAL MOBILITY.

But we are crap at social mobility because, for example, the present govt consistentlly institutes policies that are diametrically opposed to social mobility (it’ss at the heart of conservatism – to conserve traditions and not change the status quo – literally what the word means!): moving inheritance tax threshold up (to sustain privilege), endorsing free schools built in the wrong areas, endorsing grammar schools that we know empirically do not support social mobility, so on and so forth. Return back to my original point about G&T children and social mobility and it being over 2x harder for black children.

This also shows the power of affirmative action because, this year, data for the top universities show a massive change in the admissions for people from BAME backgrounds

And I haven’t even begun to start on the criminal justice system…

A study in 2011, based on an analysis of over one million court records found that black offenders were 44 per cent more likely than white offenders to be given a prison sentence for driving offences, 38 per cent more likely for public order offences or possession of a weapon and 27 per cent more likely for possession of drugs. Asian people were 19 per cent more likely than white people to be given a prison sentence for shoplifting and 41 per cent more likely for drugs offences.

This is a poverty problem both explicitly nefariously and also naively given the label of a black problem. As Akala excellently points out in Natives, it’s not just the media that perpetuates this incorrect narrative, but the police themselves:

Met Police Commissioner accused of calling for ‘more black boys to be locked up’ to combat knife crime epidemic

The problem with intersectionality is where to draw a particular line. Here you are writing about working class men for whom the crime and violent crime figures relative to geography are comparable. By cutting the cake into ever thinner slices you discover what you set out to discover. Social mobility was greater in the early 20th century than it is Now. Of course, they had grammar schools then.

Grammar schools have been proven to hinder social mobility. You should read the OECD report on social mobility, which pretty much centres on both education and healthcare access. I can link it to you if you can be bothered. The present government’s own social mobility commission has found that disability, ethnicity and gender are your major barriers to social mobility.

The commission highlighted the “double disadvantages” of class, disability, ethnicity and gender, with women from working-class backgrounds paid 35% less than their affluent male peers within professional occupations, while only one in five people with disabilities from working-class backgrounds were entering the highest occupations.

See the Sutton Trust report for the effect of geographical segregation.

Now I’m sure you were being tongue-in-cheek to just say that grammar schools correlate with an increased social mobility and therefore correlation as causation…

Of course, you would also be aware that social mobility has decreased since the conservatives have been in power and this correlates with more free schools, academies and grammar schools. What is good for the goose…

I’ve read so much anecdotal evidence about the effectiveness of grammar schools in encouraging social mobility that I’ll probably just snort and say something like “Marxist propaganda!” or something like that.

Social mobility began declining in the 1980s and continued through the Blair/Brown era and hasn’t stopped. In all that time no one has had to pay any interest to the working class. The distension of the middle class bloc has allowed that group of interests to become the only show in town. If black voices are unheard it is only because working class voices are unheard.

The Education Policy Institute found in their analysis in 2016, along with what the OECD found, that:

Overall, our analysis supports the conclusions reached by the OECD for school systems across the world – there is no evidence that an increase in selection would have any positive impact on social mobility.

FullFact: Grammar schools and social mobility: what’s the evidence?

Anecdotal evidence counts for precisely diddly squat.

That’s not true. Individuals have been raised out of poverty through grammar schools. The Michaela School, loathsome though it is to those who need to have a certain section of society in perpetual victim status, will raise individuals out of poverty.

Oh, so you can’t have an exception that bucks the trend? My anecdote: my nephew and my niece went to grammar school and had to have private tuition in order to get them to the standard to qualify. Which their middle-class parents could afford.

Dude, stop just asserting things and actually look at data and stats.

Yes. Middle class people tend to bustle their way into anything and the poor fall away. This pretty much confirms what I said about the problem not being race, but class. But a grammar school in every town will put a ladder down for poor people of whatever race to improve the lot of their children.

Jesus mate, you’re better than this. I shouldn’t need to explain things in this much detail to you. If poor people are disadvantaged by selective schools, or certainly not advantaged, then this means that this schooling is not advantageous to social mobility. If black people are more likely to be poor than white people, then black people are given a barrier to social mobility. The question then becomes, why is it that black people are more likely to be poor than white people? Is this because of institutional racism?

Nearly half of BAME UK households are living in poverty

Because you are supposedly colourblind, you don’t recognize any of this, which means you’re absolutely impotent as far as not only trying to do something about it, but actually seeing any causal relationship between any of these things. In other words, you are complicit in institutional racial discrimination and bias.


Well done for getting this far. Let me tell you that this sort of conversation is draining. And depressing. Here is a very erudite, educated teacher who is so often quick to make huge claims and very sow indeed to back them up with data. Is this why scientists end up being more liberal and liberals are more open to scientific facts? What this shows is that if people like this are in open denial, and vehemently so, then there is a huge uphill battle. Because there an awful lot of more overtly racist people who exist as well.

It strikes me as a very sort of willful ignorance.

Another thing, perhaps: I have to put an awful lot of effort into researching and defending my views. Perhaps intellectual laziness is also involved.

By athiest

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