What really motivates the ‘new progressives’

5 October 2023. By Nigel Biggar for The Spectator.

Kemi Badenoch is right to say that Britain is not a racist country. The data simply does not support the claim that black and ethnic minority (BME) people in the UK are generally disadvantaged because of the racial prejudice of white Britons – that ‘systemic racism’ is the cause of the problem. It also suggests that some ethnic minorities tend to perform better than others because of internal cultural factors – not least, strong families and high educational aspirations. By the same token, the cause of relative disadvantage often lies in culture, not racism.

In Beyond Grievance: What the Left Gets Wrong About Ethnic Minorities, Rakib Ehsan writes: ‘Family dynamics and inter- nal cultural attitudes can have a very real impact on the life trajectory of people living in Britain’s competitive society.’

So why, in defiance of the empirical data, has the Labour party given itself over to the brainless importation of radical identity politics from the US? This holds, as a matter of political dogma, that we may speak of BME people as if they are a single homogenous body, united in their common disadvantage, which is simply attributable to a systemic racism rooted in every white person’s ‘privilege’. Why cling to this narrative, when the evidence says you shouldn’t?

People who really cared to correct unjust economic and social disadvantages would be eager to understand the causes correctly, since accurate diagnosis is requisite for effective remedy. So, when presented with data that their wonted diagnosis – say, systemic racism – simply doesn’t stand up empirically, they would react with keen curiosity, even if with scepticism. That’s because what matters above all else to them is solving the real problem.

Yet that is not how the new progressives react ….

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