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The Stephen Lawrence plaque

The Stephen Lawrence plaque

Doreen Lawrence states in today’s Times that in her opinion Britain is no less a racist society than it was 21 years ago when her son Stephen was murdered in southeast London. And she’s probably right.

A ranking officer in the Metropolitan Police told me less than a few years ago how police officers always anticipate overly aggressive reaction to any and every kind of challenge made to young blacks in Greater London – predominantly men younger than 30. It raises tension and enmity enormously.

Meanwhile, I have heard several black parents (including professional or white-collar types) explain their children’s and their own anxieties about young black people feeling somehow vulnerable and targeted when socializing out in public. This too raises tension and enmity, and so the cycle perpetuates itself.

It’s disheartening, therefore, but not exactly surprising that little indeed has changed since 1993. That it is likely true points to a major dysfunction in those parts of the world where political correctness (PC) has been allowed to replace intellectual vigour. It also puts into a glaring spotlight the fundamental dishonesty of political correctness; how it has done nothing to help the cause of racial equality, but has actively de-railed it and denied it forward momentum.

It has done this in four ways.

Firstly, the PC lobby set out to bring down the fortress of institutionalized racism and the reason it has failed to do anything other than annoy reasonable people is because there never was institutionalized racism and ergo the lobby attacked a phantom. At the same time, by refusing to acknowledge how obviously personal a phenomenon racism was (and is) that very PC lobby has allowed racism in Britain to flourish.

Secondly, the PC lobby’s most infuriating and puerile insistence on semantic contortions to de-gender written and verbal communication has alienated any credible support. Examples might include using the term ‘personkind’ instead of ‘mankind’. And this leads to the third great disservice PC has done to ending racism…

The very opaqueness of such contrived nonsense has convinced too many people of fair to middling intelligence (however good their intentions) that this brutalizing of language is somehow sufficient and even remedial, thereby letting them off the hook of doing or supporting anything that is actually constructive.
Fourth, the enforcement of PC writ is so brutally pursued in many environments that individuals who feel inclined to challenge ill-conceived diktats are often intimidated into silence, for fear of being isolated, pilloried or even suddenly unemployed. Once again, it can be off-putting to say the least.

While almost anywhere in the world has a better record on race relations than the apartheid-era South Africa where I was born, there is no country on earth whose approach to anti-black racial matters is as honest. It begins with the necessity to introduce the integer of ‘which polarity-racism’ into the conversation, because racism has become nothing if not even-handed in its aim. Now, anybody can hate anybody. (One need look no further than Southern Africa today to see just how the empowered black establishment loathes whites and would love to see them generally out of the picture.)

Expat Yaapies like me often become very upset at the misuse of the term ‘institutionalized racism’ by anybody who has no first-hand experience of South Africa during the latter half of the 20th century before the ascendancy of Nelson Mandela. This is where the manual on institutionalized racism was written and perfected. Those of us who have actually seen it up close and can recognize it, are rightly contemptuous of those who use the term too liberally (excuse the pun) without truly understanding it.

Apartheid is an outstanding example of racism but not the only one. Owing to the fact that Stephen Lawrence was black it’s the example that most people think of first. It’s worth noting, however, that the Verwoerdian construct of apartheid (an Afrikaans word meaning separateness) originally had much more to do with anomie, intellectual laziness and lack of political imagination than it did with racial hatred; that came later.

While we’re being honest, the resolution of black / white antipathy has a better chance of success than other kinds of bigotry and xenophobia because the differences are clear cut. With the kind of racism row sparked by the Stephen Lawrence affair the question is unequivocal: you’re either black or white, it’s a matter of skin colour so the issue to be resolved is clear. By contrast, whites that are fearful of Asians, for example, might be somewhat befuddled because they’re not sure precisely what it is they’re anti: is it colour, is it Islamic terrorism, is it class/caste-driven, is it cultural? Similarly, those fearful of Jews are not always sure why because they don’t understand the difference between Jews, Zionists, Israelis or anti-Palestinians.

SOME white men murdered Stephen, SOME policemen were indifferent; SOME policemen were guilty of poor standards, SOME people fail to understand why Doreen Lawrence is repelled by overbearing liberal good intentions… none of this logically leads to a proposition that the few are representative of the many.

I fear it is once again anomie, intellectual laziness and lack of political imagination that are the flaws in political correctness. Just as they are what prevents racism from being consigned to history.

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