Daniel Finkelstein has written an article full of empathy, good will and compassionate understanding. It made me want to throw up.
Under the influence of the American feminist Peggy McIntosh, Lord Finkelstein looked at the world and experienced a Buddha-like moment. One day young prince Gautama walked out of his palace, looked around and realised that disease, old age and death were inevitable. He was so shocked that he became Buddha.
Lord Finkelstein must have started from less auspicious beginnings, and the shock he experienced must have been less earth-shattering. But a shock it was nonetheless.
His eyes descaled by Peggy, he looked at the world through the eyes of a black man and realised that “minorities experience multicultural societies very differently to majorities. And there are lots of ways in which this is a burden, some less easy to see than others.”
While acknowledging that “Britain was never a hotbed of racism”, Lord Finkelstein still feels “grateful… to McIntosh for helping me see the world more clearly.”
At least he didn’t have to go to extreme lengths to clarify his eyesight. His colleague John Griffin did.
In 1959 he had his skin temporarily darkened to pass as a black man. Griffin then travelled for six weeks through the racially segregated states of the American Deep South.
He was shocked by the hostility he encountered as a black man, and the humiliations he suffered. In 1961 he published a book about his experience, Black Like Me, which became an instant bestseller.
But the book also attracted a hostile reaction from certain quarters. Eventually Griffin had to flee his home in Texas because he no longer felt safe. Considering that he was treated to the spectacle of his figure hanged in effigy, I’m not surprised.
In 1975 the Ku Klux Klan finally caught up with Griffin. He was severely beaten and left for dead, but survived. Jim Crow was by then extinct legally, but the legacy still survived in many underdeveloped souls.
The situation in America has changed greatly since 1975, and unrecognisably since 1959. Today Griffin might catch a few unkind glances here and there, but he certainly wouldn’t experience overt aggression and discrimination. He’d be more likely to suffer abuse at the hands of other blacks than white racists.
Move from Alabama, circa 1960, to Britain, circa 2020, and examples of racism would be well-nigh impossible to find this side of heavily tattooed, plankton-brained yahoos. There are, however, many examples of white privilege that is seen as such by the likes of Lord Finkelstein, but in fact isn’t.
This is one such example he dredged up: “Anybody who looks out for whose cars the police are more likely to stop, for example, can see that in theory we’re all equal before the law but in practice we aren’t.”
The police have neither sufficient resources nor indeed a mandate to stop every suspicious car (or pedestrian) they see. Hence they have to narrow their targets on the balance of probability, by deciding which vehicle is more likely to be transporting a law-breaker.
Alas, the balance of probability tips heavily towards the black population. For example, even though blacks make up only about 10 per cent of London’s population, in one typical year they accounted for 54 per cent of street crime, 58 per cent of robbery and 67 per cent of gun crime.
Hence cars driven by whites proceed unmolested not because of ‘white privilege’ but because whites commit fewer crimes. If this is privilege, it’s certainly not unearned.
However, Lord Finkelstein thinks it is, even though he finds the term ‘white privilege’ unhelpful: “[Talking about white privilege] makes you reflect on the advantages you have and where they come from. It prevents you being carried away with the idea that all you achieve is on merit.”
Well, I feel I deserve the ‘white privilege’ of not being stopped by cops. I’ve earned it by having lived a life free of crime – and deporting myself as someone who can legitimately make this claim.
Then we come to the heart of the matter, the reason Lord Finkelstein took pen to paper in the first place: “The great power of the assertion that black lives matter is that it correctly argues that they haven’t mattered enough: to the police, to the justice system, to businesses. It demands that this be changed. White privilege instead makes white people the centre of attention.”
Over the past week, I (and many others) have cited reams of evidence showing that even in America black lives matter much more to policemen than to other blacks. American policemen still kill 20 per cent more whites than blacks, which, considering that blacks account for 85 per cent of violent crime, suggests not white privilege but black.
Finkelstein is in default of his remit for not pointing this out, choosing instead to pick old liberal chestnuts. And then he adds a new one of his own: “Britain’s experience of racism is different from America’s. I think, however, that the reaction to George Floyd’s death has been appropriate.”
Which part exactly? Burning the Union Jack? Looting and vandalising shops? Defacing and destroying statues that are the landmarks of our history? Attacking policemen? Putting some of them in hospital? Arson? Or are they all an appropriate reaction to the unlawful killing of a black criminal 4,000 miles away from Britain?
The problem is that our pundits don’t feel they have to hold up their output to any test of reason or veracity when enunciating wokish claptrap. One expects better from a peer of the realm.