Steve Baker

The uncomfortable truth about white privilege

The uncomfortable truth about white privilege
Steve Baker on Politics Live
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When on BBC Politics Live this week Jo Coburn asked me about the Sussexes' comments on structural racism, I knew what I wanted to say and that it would be controversial. 

I represent a diverse constituency: Wycombe. When the Black Lives Matter protests were on, it became clear they were striking a chord with local people and especially the young.

I wrote at the time that:

‘Black lives matter. I cannot think of anyone who disagrees. And while it would be easy to reply, “all lives matter”, that would be a disservice to the thousands of people who have legitimate grievances about racism. That those grievances evidently continue today, after ten years of the Equality Act, is deeply troubling.’

I am clear many of my constituents have long-standing, legitimate grievances about racism. I am also clear that if we attempt to use the law to deliver ‘intersectional’ ideas about justice – treating people differently based on aspects of their identity – we will have injustice and chaos. Critical race theory presents real dangers.

So the path to success is narrow.

If, like me, you come from a white working-class background, it is extremely difficult to hear that you have ‘white privilege’. That has certainly been reflected in furious reaction to my comments.

But I stand by them. Division runs too deep in our society today. Civilised people should be seeking to shout less and listen more, as the commentator Iain Dale has put it in his new book. If we want to get along, we should be expanding our capacity to see things from other people's point of view, checking whether what we think should be challenged and revised so we can make progress.

Our goal should be true equality: moral, legal and political equality so that no one is held back from taking opportunities to fulfill their potential by best serving other people in a free society.

If that means listening to uncomfortable truths about how others in our society feel they are treated, if it means being condemned for speaking that truth, so be it.

I represent many wonderful people who clearly feel the rough end of a real problem. It would be crass to dismiss their concerns. Only by listening in a spirit of goodwill can we solve real problems while defeating bad ideology.

That is what we should all do: shout less, listen more.