By Ben Kelly, blogger and editor of The Sceptic Isle.
The Operation Black Vote campaign is, in some ways, quite admirable. Sadly, their latest campaign sends out the wrong message entirely. It seems to me to be rather tasteless, divisive and pandering to the prevailing concept of identity politics.
A multi-racial Britain needs to be unified to be at ease with itself. It needs to be unified to facilitate the inclusion of minority groups. The dream must be that all who believe in our virtues as a nation and make up our diverse society are British, we are one nation and one people. Identity politics divides creates a victim mentality and weakens our social and political bonds. This latest “whiting up” campaign is good intentioned, but seems to create a divide between Black Britons and white Britons in a way that is counter productive.
“You’re taking the colour out of Britain”, next to the whitened face of a black man seems to put across a strange message that by not participating in the election you are allowing “the whites” all the power. Is it sensible or moral to divide us like this? It seems to create a sense of victim-hood, bitterness and resentment. It aggravates a sense of otherness rather than encouraging inclusivity in the British identity.
Once you enter the polling booth it does not matter if you are white, black, Asian, male, female, rich or poor. All these minority groups and all classes of people become indistinguishable. In that booth you are a British citizen voting in the democratic process to decide the government of your country. It is the great equaliser, one person, one vote. When we have the lamentable situation of rotten boroughs rife with electoral corruption, MPs that target racial groups for their own gain, government communicating with certain minority groups through “community leaders”, that is the ideal that we should be striving for.
Are we British? Or are we white British, black British, Asian British, female British, male British, gay British, trans British, etc. This is where identity politics leads and it is this inglorious tradition that the “taking the colour out of Britain” is perpetuating.
David Harewood has explained the campaign by saying that if black people do not vote then the “issues that matter to us” will not be heard, but what are these issues? How are the issues that concern black people generally different from white people? On the big issues such as education, crime, economy, health, employment, housing, immigration, why is it necessarily the case that black people have different concerns than white people? The campaign seems to suggest they should have different interests and that by not voting they are failing to pursue them.
What if the English Defence League or Britain First had issued a poster campaign with white people black and browned up reading, if you don’t vote, you’re taking the white out of Britain”. It would cause outrage, they would be banned, and those who issued it would be visited by the police. They very idea of it is ghastly, but the site of black celebrities in white make up is shocking and unpleasant also, and I believe it to be severely misguided. It is demanding that black people take their race with them into the ballot box. It is separating the “black” vote from the “white” vote. By encouraging black people to consider their own interest along racial lines, that means it is okay for Asians and white people to think this way also. It is the epitome of this repulsive sectionalism that is destroying national unity and undermining social cohesion.
It fails to understand that black people are not a block vote, they are not of one mind, personality and belief system. They are individuals and they do not even have the same priorities, principles, values and interests as each other, they are not a homogeneous group to be treated monolithically. It is as stupid as treating lesbians as if they all have the same political concerns, even more patronising than Labour’s battle bus for women that separates “women issues” from the male vote, whatever women issues are. I doubt a working class black man on a low wage has the same interests as rich former footballer Sol Campbell, in-fact they will relate far more closely to another working class white man. Racialising politics is creating barriers where there needn’t be any.
I’m sure this campaign will be embraced by the usual “do-gooder” liberal types who aggravate divisions with their identity politics, multiculturalism and class warfare. The ideal to strive for used to be seeing past race, you know all that “content of their character”dreaminess that would bring us all together? It seems to have been swept away for a culture of grievance, sectionalism and division. If we carry on like this we will only fatally weaken national unity to breaking point, and then multi-racial Britain will be forever ill at ease and marred by mutual resentment and suspicion.
Originally published on The Sceptic Isle.