Re: White Self-Interest Is Not The Same Thing As Racism: A Rejoinder
Professor Eric Kaufmann
Birkbeck, University of London
London, WC1E 7HX
Dear David Goodhart and Professor Kaufmann,
Re: White Self-Interest Is Not The Same Thing As Racism: A Rejoinder
I have read with interest your opinion piece titled, ‘White Self-Interest Is Not The Same Thing As Racism’ which was published in the Financial Times on 3 March 2017. I also read the 63 page research paper titled ‘Racial Self-Interest Is Not The Same Thing As Racism’ which was published on the Policy Exchange website on the same day. In your article/research report, you both argue that political partisanship is the key determinant of Conservatives and Liberals perception of whether the current clamour for immigration reforms in the West is racist or not and that White self-interest is not the same as racism.
With all due respect Sirs, your article/research is simplistic at best and dangerous at worst and in the next couple of pages, I will explain why I think so.
Eric Kaufmann analysed the responses of various conservative and liberal voters who participated in the British EU Referendum and the 2016 US Presidential Election to a number of immigration-related questions. For the purpose of the study, pro-Brexit and Donald Trump voters were classified as proxies for conservative voters while Remain and Hillary Clinton supporters were proxies for liberal voters.
Based on the responses of the respondents, Kaufmann developed the following syllogism:
Premise 1: More Hillary/Remain supporters than Trump/Brexit supporters felt that White people who want less non-White immigration are racist.
Premise 2: More Trump/Brexit supporters than Hillary/Remain supporters felt that non-White people who want more immigration for non-Whites are racist.
Premise 3: When presented with questions about both Whites and minorities wanting to adjust immigration policies in their favour, both Hillary/Remain and Trump/Brexit voters converged towards bipartisanship
Conclusion: It is political partisanship and not race that determines the perception of racism in relation to immigration issues. Therefore, White self-interest is not the same thing as racism.
The research methodology that underpins David Goodhart’s article is flawed on a number of grounds.
The sample size used for the study is too small. In the initial pilot survey, you used a sample of 200 Americans to map what you call the “contours of racism in America.” Based on this sample size, you developed a consensus of White and minority view of racism. The views of two hundred Americans responding to questions asked in this study is insufficient to develop a consensus on racism in America. Racism is America’s original sin and a polarising topic in a country with a population in excess of 300 million people. Furthermore, the YouGov/Birkbeck/Policy Exchange survey, which featured 2,600 Americans and 1,600 Britons, is insufficient to make conclusions about race in the two countries with a combined population of over 365 million.
You fail to specify the criteria used to select the sample for your survey. Without providing clarity on the selection criteria, it is difficult to determine whether author’s’ bias played a role in determining the sample.
Usually, an act of racism involves two parties: the perpetrator and a victim. From a Western perspective, acts of racism often involve Whites and non-Whites. To get a 360-degree view on issues of racism in the West, it is critical to consider the viewpoints of both Whites and non-Whites; your study fails in this respect as it suffers from representation bias.
Kaufmann writes, “This work shows that a majority of Americans and British people of all races believe that when the White majority seeks lower immigration to help maintain their population share, this is racially self- interested rather than racist behaviour.” For you to make such a claim, one would have expected you to include an adequate representation of members of different races in the study. However, this is not the case. Kaufmann notes early in the report, “MTurk’s sample (of 200 Americans) is skewed towards secular White liberals.” Rather than having a rainbow coalition of respondents, this study is whitewashed towards White opinion. Furthermore, the YouGov study of 2,600 respondents comprised predominately of White liberals and White conservatives. The key findings of the study dwell on the responses of the White respondents.
A review of the YouGov/Birkbeck/Policy Exchange survey respondent stratification revealed that the respondents were classified by 2016 voting pattern, age, education, marital status, income, employment, gender and state. However, you omitted one of the most important components i.e. race or ethnicity. Isn’t it strange that you fail to provide any information to enable an unbiased reader determine the racial composition of the respondents for such a ‘seminal’ study on race?
It also appears that in the few instances in which minorities were considered, they had a different viewpoint from the mainstream non-White perspective. According to the research, “Minority respondents tended to align along similar lines as Whites.” In addition, Kaufmann notes, “There was not a single example of a minority respondent citing ‘White privilege’ or structural racism to justify a view that White but not minority own group preferences are racist.” The over-representation of White and the underrepresentation of non-White viewpoints are likely to have biased the research findings in favour of the author’s conclusion.
You also beg the question by asking the respondents a question, which assumes the truth of the conclusion. The title of the research report is, “Racial Self-Interest is not the same as racism.” Before you arrived at this conclusion, respondents were presented with questions about both Whites and minorities wanting to adjust immigration policies in their favour and the responses were analysed. However, in exploring the motivation to increase/reduce immigration, the respondents were asked whether such motivation was a) Racist b) Unsure or c) Just acting in his/her racial self-interest, which is not racist. You have already assumed that racial self-interest is not the same as racism even before you concluded the research.
Another flaw with the research is the limited scope used to analyse the linkage between racism perception and the clamour for controlled immigration. The research is limited to two countries i.e. UK and USA, limited to conservative and liberal voters and limited to a single year i.e. 2016, which is the year that the US Presidential Election and EU Referendum took place. The reluctance to accept immigrants is a global phenomenon and is prevalent in other Western countries like Germany, France, Netherlands and Austria. The research would have been more relevant if you had factored other countries rather than make sweeping generalisations based on a case study of two countries. The research would have been more robust if you had demonstrated that you had considered and excluded different time frames. Moreover, there are other ways of determining conservatives and liberals besides 2016 voting pattern in two countries.
Since this research was done on behalf of Policy Exchange, I decided to check whether there was any potential bias that could have swayed the conclusion by examining the racial diversity of Policy Exchange. I took this approach because the topic under discussion is race related. I wanted to find out whether the racial composition of the esteemed think tank reflects the population that it is reporting about. According to the 2011 census, White Britons constitute 82% of the total population. In analysing the ethnic diversity of Policy Exchange, I relied on the information provided on the Policy Exchange website. On a departmental basis, I observed that the Board of Directors comprised of 5 Whites and no ethnic minority; the Research Department has 16 whites and 1 ethnic minority; the Development department has 3 Whites and no ethnic minority; the Operations and Communications department has 4 whites and no ethnic minority. The ethnic diversity of the Policy Exchange’s alumni was also revealing. Of the 121 alumni, only 9 were people of colour. To put these numbers into perspective, of the 150 people who have passed through the corridors of the Policy Exchange, 140 (93%) of them are White. In summary, the think tank that commissioned this research piece on race does not even reflect the diversity of the public it is supposed to serve. Is it any surprise that the findings of this paper reflect the ‘white tinted viewpoint’ of White America and White Britain?
Even though you may refuse to admit it, your White privilege has enabled you to carry out/rely on a flawed research and still have it read by a wide audience. In short, a concept initiated by a Muslim American working for a White American think tank has been researched by a White professor who surveyed White respondents and documented his analysis into a 63 page research report which was published by a White British think tank (set up by a White British conservative and chaired by a White neo-conservative American) and promoted by a White Etonian writing an opinion piece in a White financial newspaper that is widely read by a White audience.
Having addressed the flaws in the research methodology, I will now address other aspects of the research and opinion piece.
In the FT’s opinion piece you write, “Minorities often have real grievances requiring group-specific policy solutions. White grievances are more subtle. For instance, lower-income Whites sometimes lack the mutual support that minority communities often enjoy.” This line of thinking is in tune with the historical trend of White elites setting White working class against non-White working class in order to perpetuate White supremacy. W.E. Du Bois spoke about the psychological wage, which White labourers enjoyed relative to the Black working class in America. This psychological wage enabled them to ignore their White taskmaster’s injustice and instead turn their frustration and hatred to their Black counterparts. In describing this ‘psychological wage’, Martin Luther King said, “The southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor White man Jim Crow…. And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a White man, better than the Black man.”
In the 21st century, the White elites have continued the game by using the White working class as pawns to maintain their privileges. White elites ranging from Nigel Farage to David Cameron to Theresa May to Donald Trump to Marine Le Pen to Geert Wilders have told the White working class that the cause of their problems is not the financial institutions that decimated their pensions, crashed the economy and nearly made them homeless; instead, they turned their attention to the ‘bloody’ immigrants who had come to steal the working class jobs.
You strongly rely on the viewpoints of White liberals even though they aren’t a reliable proxy for understanding perceptions towards acts of racism. In communities of colour, the racial sincerity of White liberals is often taken with a pinch of salt because they pay lip service to racism. White liberals prefer to take the path of least resistance by stamping labels on people who they perceive to express outward manifestation of racism while ignoring structural expressions of racism. We see them come out for the causes they strongly believe in, but racism doesn’t rank as part of their top priority. Shortly after Trump won the US election, White liberals came out to the streets to protest the results, however when Black people came out to protest the unlawful killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the so-called White liberals were nowhere to be found. White feminist liberals shout loud when urging companies to put White middle class women into senior positions, but they lose their voices when women of colour like Serena Williams get body slammed and when Black women like Sarah Bland get killed by the police. White liberals are silent about the overrepresentation of people of colour in the criminal justice system, repealing of voting right laws, employment discrimination and other forms of racial inequality.
In analysing the White Liberal’s political game, Malcolm X said, “The White liberal differs from the White conservative only in one way; the liberal is more deceitful, more hypocritical than the conservative. Both want power, but the White liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor. And by winning the friendship and support of the Negro, the White liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or a weapon in this political football game that is constantly raging between the White liberals and the White conservatives.”
The White liberals have shown inconsistency in their perception of racism, so one shouldn’t be surprised they gave you three different answers when you phrased your questions to them in three different ways.
You focus on the immigration concerns of British and US citizens even though many of these citizens have no moral justification to open their mouth to complain about people coming to their country. Historical amnesia appears to set in whenever immigration is discussed in the West. At the height of the British Empire, British traders, administrators and colonists went uninvited to other countries to enslave the people, take their lands and plunder their resources. Stuart Laycock in his book, ‘All the Countries We’ve Ever Invaded: And the Few We Never Got Round To’ notes that imperial Britain has invaded 90% of the world’s nations. Moreover, the original inhabitants of America, the Native were virtually exterminated to make way for the White settlers (immigrants). There is no immigration crisis; the chickens are just coming home to roost.
Goodhart shifts the blame of the cause of racism from the perpetrators of racism to its victims claiming, “Many (Whites) feel a discomfort about their group no longer setting the tone in a neighbourhood. Labelling that feeling racist risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, driving White resentment.” Isn’t this like telling a woman who was mugged that she is at fault because she was wearing expensive jewellery?
At the beginning, I wrote that the research was simplistic at best and dangerous at worst. In this section, I will explain why I think your opinion piece and the underlying research are dangerous.
Your research and opinion piece is an exercise in diluting the meaning of racism. In his recent book, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon To White America, Michael Eric Dyson, the American public intellectual identified what he calls the five stages of White racial grief which White folks experience as they grapple with the presence of Black people and the history they create. According to Dyson, the fifth and final stage of White racial grief is, “Simply, when it comes to race, to dilute it.” The fear of being labelled ‘racist’ is often the beginning of wisdom for many bigots, so they have come up with phrases to downplay racism. Some of the dilution techniques include accusing the racism victim of ‘playing the race card’ (even though it was the White world that invented the race game). Sometimes when structures such as affirmative action are put in place to redress past injustice, non-Whites are accused of engaging in “reverse racism.” In the Age of Trump and Brexit, “Political Correctness” is the buzzword of choice. The agitation for the eradication of so-called PC is nothing more than an attempt to get a licence to be a bigot. What your study does is give legitimacy to racists to hide under the cloak of racial self-interest. This research is an evolution in the on-going dilution of racism and it provides the intellectual justification to split racism into — “Hard Racism” and “Soft Racism”.
Furthermore, despite the flaws in the research, a large global audience will read it. With its publication in the Financial Times, it has a potential reach of 2.2 million people. Moreover, it has been given the stamp of approval by Policy Exchange, the think-tank that has been described by the Daily Telegraph as “The largest, but also the most influential think tank on the right.” Policy Exchange mission is to promote new policy ideas which deliver better public services, a stronger society and a more dynamic economy. The UK government has implemented a number of ideas developed by Policy Exchange. If the conclusion of this research translates to government policy in the West, it could encourage governments to justify the implementation of racist policies under the guise of promoting racial self-interest.
The study indirectly justifies White Supremacy, which is a system set up to exploit and plunder regions and people of colour. White supremacy is based on the ideology that White people should be in a dominant position because White people, culture and regions are superior to other people of colour. White supremacy was used to justify the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, Jim Crow, Apartheid and scientific racism. A key driver in the plunder of the Black world by Western civilisation was racism, which you both ‘so eloquently’ explain is not the same as White self-interest.
Since the title of your piece is ‘White Self-Interest Is not The Same As Racism’, perhaps we should apply your logic to other historical and contemporary scenarios.
During the time of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, it was in the self-interest of the White world for the trade to exist. The survival of the British economy was predicated on slavery. The profits made from slave labour in the sugar and cotton plantations helped drive the Industrial Revolution. Slavery also helped make America the richest nation on earth. According to your logic, was Trans-Atlantic slavery due to racism, White self-interest or both?
In 1948, the National Party gained power in South Africa and introduced Apartheid because White South Africans were outnumbered by the non-White population and they wanted to ensure that the majority of the land and resources were kept by Whites. According to your logic, was Apartheid due to racism, White self-interest or both?
Post-Apartheid, immigrants from different parts of Africa relocated to South Africa. In recent years, some Black South Africans have been complaining that the immigrants are taking their jobs. As a consequence, there have been a series of xenophobic attacks in the country. According to your logic, are these attacks on immigrants due to xenophobia, racial self-interest or both?
In 1930 Germany, the people felt that the Jews were taking control of the country. When the Nazi government came to power, they introduced the Nuremberg Race Laws, which tried to bring control back to mainstream Germans. According to your logic, was Nazism due to racism, racial self-interest or both?
ISIS has caused havoc around the world. The organisation is driven by an ideology to establish a Caliphate and uses violence to achieve its aim. According to your logic, is ISIS activities predicated on terrorism, religious self-interest or both?
In conclusion, rather than devote 63 pages to justify why White self-interest is not the same thing as racism, it would be have been better use of your precious time if you sat down to think about why White self-interest often has to be at the expense of the humanity of the chocolate side of the colour line.
Ahmed Olayinka Sule, CFA