In his op-ed for the Telegraph, “Sorry to break the bad news, but ‘anti-racism’ is actually racist,” Ed West wrote about how anti-racism is the new racism. He used clinical definitions of “anti-racism” taken from textbooks for most of his argument, but failed to dispel them in a thoughtful way – instead, making sarcastically cryptic remarks like “… if different groups have different outcomes in terms of education or crime levels, it is all the fault of British racism, not of individuals.” With all the scholarly jargon that West uses to describe “anti-racism” and why it’s bad, one was left wondering what his actual point was. Instead, it seems to be the rambling of a secretly racist, frustrated man who doesn’t want to seem outwardly racist.
As the recent riots over racial violence have only been getting frustratingly more frequent, we look back on this article, US and British history and those around the world who agree with West to reflect a resounding, “huh?”
West thinks that because anti-racism was influenced by Marx, and that’s reason enough to oppose it, stating:
“This is ‘anti-racism,’ and it is heavily influenced by a Marxist interpretation of race. Oliver Cox’s 1948 work Class, Caste and Race presents the idea that race originates in ‘a practical exploitative relationship’ used to justify the exploitation of one group by another as part of capitalism. Racism is created to justify imperialism, exploitation, and scapegoating when things go wrong, and to divide the population to prevent class consciousness from forming.”
Any scholarly textbook exhibits that racism was definitely at play when the first colonists enslaved Africans. Racism was responsible for the numerous land grabs by the British Empire because they didn’t consider people of color to be human. Racism was also responsible for the apartheid that still affects South Africa and other nations that were colonized by Europeans. By regurgitating someone else’s definition of racism, West just reaffirmed why anti-racism is actually needed.
According to West, “Racism, therefore, is a product of western, European society, which is why those schooled in British academia are so bad at seeing racism when it is committed by non-Whites, because only Whites can really be racist.” Although he condemned racism against Whites, he provides no examples of it. If West is going to speak out against racism at the hands of non-Whites, why not provide a story or statistic? His hypothesis would have been much more convincing had he looked beyond textbook definitions of “anti-racism” whilst making broad, general statements against them. He also cannot grasp the fact that non-Whites fought hard to attain civil rights – Western society didn’t suddenly decide to throw them a bone by enacting “anti-racism”.
Perhaps the reason why he doesn’t understand anti-racism is because his perception of racism is very black and white (almost literally) by suggesting that all forms of bigotry are the same or equal:
“This [anti-racism], itself, is a racist idea, because it views only whites as being fully sentient actors capable of committing right and wrong, when of course racism, like all human feelings and failings, is universal.”
He then goes on to compare anti-racism to suppression of free speech:
“All ‘racist materials’ had to be withdrawn from the syllabus and CCETSW would decide what was racist. In the rules there would be no freedom of speech for opinions that can be constructed as ‘racist’ or favourable to ‘racism,’ and ‘anti-racist’ practice requires the adoption of explicit values.”
To be fair, he brings up a valid point about free speech. Some anti-racist laws in Europe do infringe on civil liberties, but he fails to differentiate between “hate speech” and freedom of expression. It’s one thing to complain about an individual, but when you go on a tirade against a specific group of people, things get nasty – i.e. World War II. It seems like West just wants to say xenophobic things without repercussions – which is why he keeps tip-toeing around the point, and avoids overtly blaming non-Whites.
Although the commentators had no problem voicing their opinions; one commentator even went on a bizarre tirade about how Hindus are superior to Muslims. Here was the top comment:
“Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, anti-racism is just a code word for anti-white. Nobody is flooding non-blacks into black nations and only into black nations and calling blacks evil racists for opposing their dispossession. Nobody is flooding non-Asians into Asian nations and only into Asian nations and calling Asians evil racists for opposing their dispossession. This is happening in white nations and ONLY in white nations. It is genocide.”
Genocide may be a bit over the top. Did Blacks, Asians, Native Americans, and Aborigines have a choice when they were victims of genocide? Is non-White immigration into the UK really equivalent to mass murder, rape, and land theft? According to The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, Polish people top the list of foreign citizens in the UK. But aren’t Polish people White? Despite the logical fallacies, this comment perfectly sums up what West was trying to convey without beating around the bush – frustration with immigration and the perceived oppression of White people in the UK.
With that said, the comments about the article were a lot more lucid and compelling than West’s Op-Ed. It’s hard to disprove West’s case when he had none in the first place, and lacked actual examples of anti-racism being racist. He ended his piece with the following statement, “So if you consider yourself an ‘anti-racist,’ you are, in fact, a racist.” Using circular reasoning and dismissing anti-racism as absurd without providing proof for its absurdity was the main problem with West’s piece – and it has nothing to do with his race.
Do you think West’s argument is legitimate or not? Who else is genuinely curious about what sort of racism West experienced from non-Whites? How do race relations differ in Europe compared to the U.S.?