The British government’s new Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report strikes a major blow against institutional wokeness. Repudiating the grievance-based meta-narrative that has defined this institutional space, it advocates a scientific, evidence-led, incrementalist approach to reducing racial and other inequalities. This marks a 180-degree turn from the Cameron and May years, where a key aim of race policy was to soften the Tories’ ostensible ‘nasty party’ image among opinion formers in the progressive media and anti-racism industry.
Wokeness, the sacralisation of historically disadvantaged racial, sexual and gender minorities, decrees that any discussion of racial inequality must dovetail with a master narrative of noble struggle by oppressed minorities and their virtuous white allies against a racist white society. It favours simplicity over complexity, ‘lived experience’ over the scientific method, and the binary ‘majority-minority’ paradigm over complex patterns of multi-ethnic interaction.
The current default narrative in elite institutions is that if there is a racial gap in any desired outcome, this is proof of institutional racism. Individual anecdotes from members of protected groups must be accepted as evidence even when it is unclear how generalisable they are. The Race Equalities report, meanwhile, argues for a more nuanced approach: accepting that discrimination exists only when confounding variables like income or region have been properly accounted for and competing explanations addressed.
Eric Kaufmann is professor of politics at Birkbeck College, University of London and a fellow of the Manhattan Institute. His most recent book is Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities.
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