I have thought about writing this post for a long time. It is something that I feel very passionately about. However, I fear that by releasing it, I’ll be called racist, sexist, homophobic etc. I know, and those around me know, that I am not someone to judge or discriminate someone based on their race, sexuality or gender. Society has become so sensitive in modern years which has meant that I have had to discuss issues like positive discrimination with people that know me, so that I do not get labelled any of the things above. It has become a taboo to talk about race and sexuality. Even when I have tried discussing race with people of different backgrounds to me, I have been instantly shut down or called ignorant to the discrimination that goes on in society. As a British, straight female, I cannot consider myself to be a minority or underprivileged unless I bring gender into the picture. So, on with the post…
Racism does exist. I’m not saying that it doesn’t. I watch the news and I can see these white supremacist groups that still exist. I only had to watch American History X to understand some of the far right groups in America (very shocking and informative film, by the way- would highly recommend). I have also watched Louis Theroux’s documentary on the ‘Nazis’ of the US. I have read ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge and I have had many discussions with minority groups about their experiences with racism. I have also seen the looks that some older white people gave me when I would be walking around with a black male that I was friends with. I understand that it still exists.
However, what I am saying is that the racism card is pulled out a lot more than it should be. The definition of racism is ‘prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race.’ It is the ‘unfair treatment of someone because of their race.’ So, does this mean that only white people can be racist? I ask this question because in sixth form, a girl in my class made the statement ‘black people cannot be racist.’ It was interesting to see that a Chinese girl argued back saying that the girl does not understand the definition of racism if this is what she believes. Racism is prejudice based on the ethnicity of someone. This definition does not specify what ethnicity can be racist and what ethnicity can’t be. Yes, in history and across the world, it was directed more at African people but this does not mean that racism is limited to this direction. It can occur both ways.
In addition to this incident in class, I experienced a group of white, straight boys in my school being called racist for holding the English flag up during the world cup. This was when England made the semi-finals. Now, it’s not every year that England are so successful in the World Cup. They last won in 1966. So, these boys had a right to get excited. As 17 year olds, they were watching their national team, on the international stage, get so far in the World Cup. But, they were called racist for this action. For holding a flag up! Any other person, who supported another team, would have done the same- be proud in supporting their national football team- yet they wouldn’t have been called racist for it. There is almost an assumption nowadays that all white people are racist. But why does the racism card have to be thrown around so easily?
Linking on from this assumption, Reni-Eddo Lodge’s book draws upon the same thing. This book was very interesting but also controversial. Some of the points she makes in it opened my eyes towards some of the experiences that black people have gone through in the UK just because of their race which I was utterly shocked about. I’m not disagreeing with her about this. However, I do not agree with how she titled her book. By titling it ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race,’ she creates a simplistic view of white people- as ignorant towards the struggles of other ethnicities. This, immediately, creates an image in people’s minds, especially those part of a minority, that they should not even bother with white people and race- because they are all the same. That is, in itself, ignorant. If she titled the book this in order to get more views, due to the controversy of the topic, then she has been very smart with her pick. However, if she truly believes that all white people are ignorant to the struggles of ethnic minorities, then I would have to disagree.
One of her chapters dedicates itself to white privilege which she describes as being ‘an absence of the negative consequences of racism.’ She goes onto say that white people receive a lot because of their race and they do not realise that. Now, I’m going to focus on this in terms of getting a job. Does me being white give me a higher chance of getting a job? Or, do I have a higher chance of getting a job if I have higher grades? Now, we can never prove this unless an employer admits why they employed someone. We all know that no institution or employer would admit that it was down to the ethnicity of the individual. In fact, institutions are constantly being criticised if they do not show enough diversity within the work force. Many have to fulfil racial quotas- meaning that they have to accept a certain amount of people who are considered minorities. This is not just in terms of race, but also sexuality and gender. In fact, if you just type in ‘companies criticised for lack of diversity,’ all of these articles come up:
“Brit Awards: Lack of female nominations is ‘absolute disgrace'”
“Accountancy firms criticised for letting white men dominate”
“Investor lobby identifies 94 companies with lack of women on boards”
“Bafta 2020: Do awards exclude women and black actors?”
“Conservatives are criticised over lack of ethnic minority faces in picture of Tory HQ staffers celebrating Boris Johnson’s victory on election night”
In addition to this, I recently watched a video on Good Morning Britain where Toy Story 4 was criticised for not including ethnic minorities. How can this be when one of the characters is a potato and one is a dog?! How can a film about toys be criticised for not being diverse in the characters chosen for it? Society uses every opportunity they get to bring in the racist or sexist or homophobic card when it is not always necessary. Look at it as a correlation rather than a causation. Rather than looking at it as A affects B, where A is a minority and B is an opportunity, look at all of the factors that surround it. You cannot prove that racism or sexism was the reason that someone hasn’t been employed or been nominated for an award etc.
In order to go into more depth about these two examples, I should first start by giving a definition of positive discrimination. Positive discrimination is the practice or policy of favouring individuals belonging to groups known to have been discriminated against previously. It is picking someone because of their personal details rather than if they are fit for the job- in terms of the workforce. This has been proved by someone I know. This person is a white, straight male who applied for a large institution. He applied one year using his proper details- the fact he was a white, straight male. Unfortunately, he did not get past the application stage. However, the second year, he said that he was bisexual rather than straight, and he progressed to getting the job. Now, I can’t say for certain, that his sexuality got him the job but there is a high chance. All factors were controlled. The only thing that changed from one year to the next was his sexuality. His achievements and work experience stayed the same. I’ll leave you to think about this. Do employers choose people from all different backgrounds just so that they have diversity in the work force, or do they choose them based on their skills?
Moving on from this, as a first year politics student, I have recently been looking for work experience or internships for over summer. I found a role that looked suited me in the Civil Service. However, when I looked at the requirements, it said that I had to be Black, Asian or an Ethnic Minority in order to apply. If a role said that only British people could apply, the backlash would be rocket high. There would be large amounts of news coverage on the topic and that institution would be described as racist. However, just because white people are described as being the superior race in the past because of the history of the slave trade, it is now acceptable to discriminate against them without backlash. This is allowed to go on as well because white people will not speak out with fear of being called racist themselves.
If I look at my second example, award ceremonies are constantly being criticised for not having nominees that are diverse enough. People have started to say that a proportion of all nominations in these award ceremonies should be women or of an ethnic minority. But, by doing this, we are no longer celebrating the talent of these individuals. People will then be chosen so that a group in society does not feel underrepresented within society, not because they deserve it. If I was up for an award, just because I am a woman, rather than for the talent that I have brought (whatever that could be), I wouldn’t feel like I truly deserve that award. I’m just there to represent women in society. That is not what these awards are about.
The notion of positive discrimination can also be seen within the top universities. In fact, Oxford University announced a target for a quarter of its UK students to come from disadvantaged background by 2023. In addition to this, their latest admissions figures showed that 18% of places were ethnic minority students. Again, students should get into these universities based on their work ethic and dedication. Not because they are of a minority group. These institutions should not feel pressurised to accept students just so that they do not receive backlash. It is just not fair for those who may be more dedicated but are British and heterosexual.
So, how can this be changed? There is a need for anonymity in applications. Whether this is for a university of job or whatever. Applications, nowadays, ask too many personal questions. Why do they need to know your sexuality in order to employ you? It is not relevant information. They ask for it so that they can ensure a diverse work place. In addition to this, they ask for your religion and ethnicity. This information is not relevant- unless you’re applying for a role in a film as a black person maybe. Instead, applications should be completely anonymous. No name, religion, gender, sexuality or ethnicity. Rather, the work experience and achievements of the individual. That way, employers can choose someone based on suitability rather than perusing diversity. In that way, institutions cannot be criticised for being racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic- you name it. This is because the personal details of individuals will not be revealed until a much later date. This is a fair way to judge people and I hope that this is the future in order to stop positive discrimination.
So, I would like to finalise this blog, with hopes that people are still reading it, by saying that not everything that happens within society is because of sexism, racism etc. Just because you may be a woman who got rejected from a job, it doesn’t mean that that institution is sexist. Maybe, consider that other applicants had more work experience or achievements than you. People are so quick to use the sexist and racist card before even thinking, maybe there was another reason. Now, by no means, am I saying sexism and racism does not exist. I’m just saying that it does not exist to the extent that people use it. I hope that people agree with me. If I want you to take anything from this blog, I want you take the definition of racism (something that is not my opinion) and use that word correctly because when it is used in the wrong sense, it can really affect some people and their reputations. Additionally, when it is used so lightly, to describe situations that are not racist, it takes away the seriousness of the word. This will continue until people start to understand the true definition and use of ‘racism.’
As a final note, I’d just like to recognise how society has become very sensitive in discussing racism, sexism or sexual orientation. It’s sad that in showing this blog to my mum, she wasn’t sure whether I should post it. I haven’t said anything within it that is racist but there is always a risk that someone will take it to offence just because with every opportunity nowadays, people are labelled as being racist or sexist or homophobic. These terms are thrown around too easily and it really does affect people. So please, think about the definition of these terms before using them to criticise someone.