First off the blocks criticising Dr Tony Sewell’s report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities was Professor Kalwant Bhopal from the University of Birmingham. Writing in the Guardian and focusing on her specialism of education (she is director of the Centre for Research in Race and Education), she took exception to the statistics that showed the majority of ethnic minority groups ‘perform better than White British pupils’. If this were true, of course, it would put to bed the whole idea of institutional racism in education and ‘white privilege’, for it wouldn’t be a racism worth its salt if whites systematically came bottom or near-bottom.
In her tweets about the report she guides us back to her latest book, White Privilege: The myth of a post-racial society, for evidence of the reality of how white privilege works. Amongst other evils, it leads to ‘low educational attainment’.
The extraordinary thing is, however, that the data she presents in her book lead precisely to the same conclusion as that of Dr Sewell’s report. The difference is, whereas Dr Sewell and his team followed the evidence where it led, Professor Bhopal appears to ignore it.
The educational attainment data she uses is from the Department for Education, one of the same sources used by Dr Sewell. Of the 18 ethnic categories that have been included, ‘White British’ comes in at 11th. There are even two other white groups (Traveller of Irish Heritage, and Gypsy/Roma) that come in even lower, at 17th and 18th. However, Bhopal suggests that these two white groups have ‘unacceptable or illegitimate forms of whiteness’, so she excludes them from consideration. Taking her lead and excluding these two severely underachieving groups, White British come in at 11th out of 16.