Patrick West

Barnardo’s should know better about ‘white privilege’

Barnardo’s should know better about 'white privilege'
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Corporations and charities virtue signalling has become a familiar spectacle in everyday life. Sainsbury's, Virgin West Coast, HSBC, Ben & Jerry's, Gillette and Nike have all pronounced their various anti-racist, anti-sexist and pro-gay, pro-trans principles. The latest to join in this festival of conspicuous compassion is Barnardo’s, which yesterday pronounced on the matter of 'white privilege'. Unveiling its new guide on this hot topic for parents, the children's charity said: 

'Talking about white privilege means looking at how our own actions maintain and support racist systems and structures.'

Unsurprisingly, this has generated some angry responses. 'As a former Barnardo’s Boy, I find your stance as disappointing as it is nonsensical,' was one reply. 'Where was my white privilege when I was left in Hull Maternity Hospital at 2 days old? Where was my white privilege when I was in several short-term foster homes prior to going into care in?' 

Another added: 'Been on the breadline for most of my life, been homeless too, is it too late to apply for my white privilege?'

This furious backlash is no surprise – and Barnardo’s should have known better. People are growing tired of smug institutions parroting ill-defined, contentious topics like 'white privilege'. As many of those replying to Barnardo's message have pointed out, poor people come in all colours. Being white doesn't automatically confer privilege. White working class people increasingly hate being demonised on account of their skin pigmentation, especially by affluent white liberals, who compensate by disdaining whites who are poorer and less sophisticated than them.

Walk into any bookshop and witness how the issue of race both consumes and narrows our thinking on culture and society. This monomania has made us blind to the issue of class, a category of people who don't exist in woke thought. According to Ibram X Kendi, the author of 'How to be an Antiracist', 'the original sin is racism', a statement which reflects how racism has become the ultimate transgression today, a heresy that has terrible consequences.

You would have thought that 'progressive' doctrine, with its emphasis on 'intersectionality' – the idea that people can face multiple forms of discrimination owing to their race, sex, sexuality and so on – would recognise that the categories of privileged and underprivileged are not a black and white matter, literally. But the public manifestation of Critical Theory, which has ravaged the academy in recent years, and which has now been adopted by big business and charities, has nothing to say about class (unlike the Marxist doctrine that preceded it, which was contrarily obsessed with it).

As Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay wrote in their recent book Cynical Theories, How Universities Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity: 'Privilege-consciousness has...nearly completely replaced class-consciousness as the primary concern of those on the academic, activist, and political left. ' They continue: 'This shift away from class and towards gender identity, race, and sexuality troubles traditional economic leftists, who fear that the left is being taken away from the working class and hijacked by the bourgeoisie.'

The desperate plight of white working class boys and men – who, on account of their sex and skin pigmentation, place them at the apex of privilege, according to woke doctrine – has been much-publicised. Not only are they among the poorest performers in schools, they are frequently outshone by their co-patriots professionally. As Trevor Philips wrote recently: 

'The notion of white privilege would be baffling to the families of white boys who have fallen to the bottom of the education attainment league tables, and who are staring at a lifetime of sweeping the streets occupied by their affluent Indian-heritage classmates.'

We can just about tolerate the insincerity of corporations flaunting their political correct credentials. This is usually done to ingratiate themselves with customers, and sometimes to distract from the fact that they have very few black or Asian people in their upper echelons. We can also understand white, middle-class undergraduates attending Black Lives Matter rallies, too. Boasting a compassionate, left-wing outlook on life is intrinsic to being a young student, after all. And what footballer would dare refuse to 'take the knee' on the grounds of disagreeing with BLM, knowing the public opprobrium that would result in such an action?

What is unforgivable is a charity like Barnardo’s joining in this charade. Unlike mere hawkers of consumer goods, it has first-hand experience of dealing with poverty, deprivation and suffering. Unlike those responsible for issuing such declarations as the one we saw yesterday, its front-line workers will surely understand that poverty and a lack of privilege affects children and carers of all colours.

Patrick West is a columnist for Spiked and author of Conspicuous Compassion (Civitas, 2004) and Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche For Our Times (Societas, 2017)