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2020-08-09 b
Divide and Conquer

White privilege’: an elite ideology

Identity politics destroys class solidarity, and that suits the powerful just fine.

In the latest expression of its apparent death wish, the BBC put out a clip on social media this week of psychologist and former NBA player John Amaechi waxing lyrical on the subject of white privilege. In it, he gently explained why white privilege is real, and is even enjoyed by the underprivileged whites who generally resent the idea.

This is not the only time recently that the BBC – barracked by accusations of bias and campaigns to defund it – appeared to troll its critics. A podcast clip of two middle-class white women accusing other middle-class white women of being racist ‘Karens’ lit up the BBC complaints page a few weeks back.

But that Amaechi’s little video was put out on BBC Bitesize, the corporation’s homework and revision site, seemed particularly cheeky. That teenagers can now get woke on the same site as they revise for their French GCSE shows how orthodox ideas around identity politics and privilege have become at the BBC – and at elite institutions in general.

There was no debate set up here; the other side of this contentious issue was not given an airing. The theory of white privilege, it seems, is considered by the Beeb to be as uncontroversial as saying that we went to war in 1939 or that Henry VIII had six wives – just another plain fact to be relayed to the young folk.

Across the Atlantic, it fell to billionaire Oprah Winfrey to throw a hand grenade into this particularly tense arena of the culture war this week. On her Apple TV+ show, The Oprah Conversation, she said that even poor white people enjoy white privilege.
Simplistic notions like white privilege, then, obfuscate issues of economic privilege and dim the prospects of forging the coalitions necessary to make life better for all working people. What’s more, among the liberal middle classes, identity politics appears to have rehabilitated a form of class hatred,
Left-wing identity politics claims to sit in the anti-racist tradition. But today it plays much the same role that the racist right did in the past. It works to fracture class solidarity by insisting that different sections of the working class are fundamentally antagonistic to one another’s interests.

No wonder the elites love this ‘white privilege’ guff so much. A divided working class is no threat to them. (read more)


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