@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 Apologies for a slow response – I’m still under the threat of deadlines. Apologies, too, for a twitter thread that’s more like a mini-essay. Twitter, unfortunately, is not best platform for discussing issues such as this. 1/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 Before starting, can I say that @JohnAmaechi’s argument is both cogent and illuminating. Some of the abuse he has received is unwarranted. However, I also disagree with him. 2/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi The real question to ask here is why talk of ‘white privilege’ rather than of ‘racism’? Or, from my perspective, why is it better to talk of, and challenge, racism rather than white privilege? Here’s why: 3/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi Racism refers to the fact that certain groups are denied equality, are discriminated against, face bigotry. @JohnAmaechi’s view of white privilege as ‘the absence of inconvenience, the absence of impediments’… 4/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi …and that for white people ‘your skin colour has not been the cause of your hardship or suffering’ shows in its negative framing the difficulties in defining white privilege. It’s also not how many (perhaps most) people who use the concept define it – 5/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi for instance, Robin DiAngello in White Fragility, the bestselling book about white privilege at the moment, defines it terms of a positive advantage that all white people possess… 6/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi …and that those who deny it are merely expressing their own ‘white fragility’, which is ‘born of superiority and entitlement’. 7/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi Despite what Amaechi suggests, it is right to view privilege as denoting something extra you possess, not just something negative you don’t have, and most people do so. For egalitarians, privilege is something you want to remove or reduce. 8/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi So, the question is: what privilege is possessed by someone poor and white that should be removed or reduced? Nothing. What you really want is to remove the discriminatory treatment accorded to many minority groups, not reduce the privilege of someone who doesn’t possess any. 9/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi Again, that’s why it’s better to frame the issue as one of racism rather than of white privilege. 10/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi What the argument about white privilege does is to establish a division between all white people and all non-white people. But such a division makes little sense in thinking of the reality of racism, or to work out ways of challenging it. 11/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi Take education in the UK. The question of who does poorly and who does well cannot be seen in terms of ‘white privilege’. Most non-white groups, for instance, disproportionately get into universities compared to whites: ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/education-skil… 12/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi That dos not mean that there is no racism in the education system. But it cannot be viewed simply in terms of 'white privilege'. 13/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi Or take school exclusions. Black pupils are disproportionately excluded from school. ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/education-skil… 14/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi But look more closely and you see that it’s those of Caribbean descent who face the problem. Pupils of black African descent are *less* likely to be excluded than their white peers, as are most ‘Asian’ groups. 15/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi Or take the question policing and incarceration in America. African Americans are disproportionately both incarcerated and killed by police. But more than half of those killed by US police are white. washingtonpost.com/graphics/inves… 16/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi Some analyses suggest that the best predictor of police killings is not race but income levels – the poorer you are, the more likely you are to be killed: alternet.org/2015/07/95-pol… 17/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi Other studies have shown that the startlingly high prison numbers in America are better explained by class than by race and that ‘mass incarceration is primarily about the systematic management of the lower classes, regardless of race’: peoplespolicyproject.org/wp-content/upl… 18/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi African Americans, disproportionately working class and poor, are also likely to be disproportionately imprisoned and killed. 19/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi Now, you might argue that the reason certain groups of white people are disadvantaged is not necessarily because of their skin colour. That is true. But, viewing the issue in terms of white privilege… 20/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi …and creating a division between white people and non-whites is unhelpful in understanding the causes of these problems. It obscures the complex relationship between race and class that is so important here. It also helps racialise such issues in troublesome ways. 21/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi Issues such as these also cut against the claim of white privilege as ‘the absence of inconvenience, the absence of impediments’. Being white may not be the *cause* of one’s problems, but neither does possessing a white skin necessarily provide any kind of immunity. 22/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi Unlike Amaechi, many, perhaps most, people who talk of ‘white privilege’ use it to mean, as Chicago Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton puts it, that ‘White people, you are the problem’: thedailyworld.com/opinion/dahlee… 23/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi They use it to insist that white people have to acknowledge their ‘guilt and complicity’: medium.com/@pennyred/amer… 24/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi The problem with such arguments is that in reframing racism as one of ‘white privilege’ they turn structural/social issues into personal, psychological ones: kenanmalik.com/2020/06/16/rac… 25/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi Finally, framing the problem of racism as one of ‘white privilege’ also makes it much more difficult to build the kinds of alliances necessary to challenge racism. As @arothmanhistory & Barbara J Fields write, (dissentmagazine.org/online_article…) 26/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi @arothmanhistory ‘those seeking genuine democracy must… convince white Americans that what is good for black people is also good for them… Attacking “white privilege” will never build such a coalition…’ 27/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi @arothmanhistory '...The rhetoric of white privilege mocks the problem, while alienating people who might be persuaded.' dissentmagazine.org/online_article… 28/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi @arothmanhistory The issue is not whether racism is a problem and should be combatted. It is and it should be. The issue is whether reframing racism as ‘white privilege’ is helpful in combating racism. In my view it is not. 29/
@RavinAnend @manick62 @rakibehsan @buffsoldier_96 @JohnAmaechi @arothmanhistory Finally, my apologies for such a long thread. I think I need to write a book about this :-) 30/

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More from @kenanmalik

1 Apr
Will probably write about Race Commission Report properly for Sunday, but a few thoughts. Having spent much of the last few years questioning arguments about racial disparities, insisting that we need to think about the complex interplay of race and class… 1/
…and suggesting that the racial categories we use are often not useful in understanding many social problems we face, I might have been expected to like the Commission approach. I don’t. It’s an odd report, marrying the polemical with the empirical to the detriment of both. 2/
Much of the controversy about the report has been about the question of “institutional racism”. That seems to me to miss the real problems with it. The report seems less interested in exposing and exploring the complexities… 3/
Read 18 tweets
30 Mar
On the complex relationship between race, class, culture and education: @TomChivers unpacks some of the data: unherd.com/2021/03/britai…
The point is not that there is not a problem of racism. It is that there is more to most of these issues than racism, that race and class intersect in complex ways, that the categories we should use must depend on the questions we want to ask, 3/
Read 4 tweets
26 Mar
A few thoughts on the Batley school Muhammed image controversy. Since the facts are unclear, these are as much about the general issues as the case itself.

1. There is no right not to be offended. This is as true in a classroom as anywhere else. Context matters.
2. The boundaries of speech are, of course, different in a classroom than in the world outside. One is dealing with minors, building a relationship with them, encouraging them to think, and to think about issues that they may not have, or may not have wanted to.
3. There are no blasphemy laws in Britain and – despite media reports – no prohibition in Islam against depicting Muhammed. It’s a modern taboo in many Sunni strands. In Iran, there are depictions of Muhammed even in a mosque. There are many manuscripts with such depictions.
Read 7 tweets
18 Jan
It will be interesting to see if “WEIRD” becomes the framework for defining certain sections of the population that supposedly reject “the ideals of individualism, moral consistency and the type of sequential logic used in alphabet-based writing systems”. 1/
There is, though, a long history of seeing the “lower classes” in the same terms as non-Westerners, as fundamentally, and anthropologically, distinct from the elite. It was a central theme of nineteenth century racial thinking. 2/
In his 1883 book "The Life of the Poor", English journalist George Sims wrote of “a region that lies at our own doors… a dark continent that is within easy walking distance of the General Post Office”, a continent “as interesting as any of those newly-explored lands… 3/
Read 12 tweets
14 Dec 20
Many people have seen those horrific photos of black labourers in the Belgian Congo having hands & feet (not just theirs but their children’s too) chopped off as punishment. What I hadn't realized was that 18th century American colonies had laws authorizing similar punishment. 1/
A 1707 Virginia law authorised courts in the case of runaway slaves “to order such punishment to the said slave, either by disbembring, or any other way, not touching his life, as they in their discretion shall think fit for… terrifying others from the like practices.” 2/
As for what this entailed, this is from the records of a Virginia court in March 1708, after a complaint about a runaway slave: “It is ordered… That the said Robert Carter Esq. shall have full power according to Law to dismember the said negroes… by cutting off their toes.” 3/
Read 10 tweets
6 Aug 20
‘Suppose Germany had developed two bombs before we had any bombs. And suppose Germany had dropped one bomb, say, on Rochester and the other on Buffalo, and then having run out of bombs she would have lost the war.’ 1/
‘…Can anyone doubt that we would then have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and that we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them?’ 2/
That was Leo Szilárd on the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 75 years ago. Szilárd was the Hungarian-American physicist, among the first to warn of Germany’s A bomb programme, and a central figure in the Manhattan Project. 3/
Read 8 tweets

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