After growing up in a diverse, multi-ethnic society and struggling to understand his place in the world, a prominent MP recently took a DNA test and located the people and land of his origins. On visiting them, he was struck by a revelation of how much at home he felt to be among people who looked like him, whose ancestry he shared, and whose culture resonated so deeply within him. He was filled, he said, with an ‘immense sense of belonging’.
It won’t surprise you to learn (if you haven’t already guessed) that this is not the story of a white man tracing his roots. The MP in question is David Lammy, who is black and who has written up his journey of self-discovery in a book, Tribes.
Eric Kaufmann, author of Whiteshift, reviewed the book for UnHerd and was struck by the double standards of Lammy’s treatment of his own ethnic group and the ethnic English. While his own ethnic origins are a source of identity, strength and pride, Lammy derides ‘ethnic Englishness’ as ‘tied to toxic assumptions about group supremacy’ and shows no interest in protecting for the English the same kind of communal belonging he was so grateful to have discovered for himself in Guyana.
Lammy is an unapologetic supporter of open-borders immigration into Britain, because businesses need workers, and in spite of his own experience in Guyana and in defiance of the cries of the working class, he calls for the emergence of a global identity, multiculturalism and re-educating people to celebrate immigration.
This smacks of hypocrisy. The idea that white ethnic identity is dangerous and inherently imperialistic, whereas black identity is part of a recovery from oppression is a common claim on the cultural Left, but a two-track value system like this is plainly morally bankrupt. Apart from the obvious point that it denies to one racial group the privileges of communal solidarity afforded to another on the grounds of what is essentially a racial libel against them, it also fails to contend with the fact that black people are often no less guilty of the sins attributed to whites. Slavery and conquest, for instance, were a historic feature of African societies as much as European (or any other), and, as Kaufmann notes, Lammy’s own Bantu ancestors enslaved pygmies and conquered the San.
Racial awareness cuts both ways, and those like Lammy who stoke its fires should know that it can quickly bite back. Lammy claims that when it comes to race there is no place for ‘cool, dispassionate and objective politics’ because it is about ‘who you are, where you come from and where you belong’. But if whites start living by these rules too, what then? Endless racial division and conflict?
As Kaufmann makes clear, there is no need for this. Western societies are generally very open to people of different backgrounds and happy to include all as equals: ‘It is possible for people – including minorities – to be attached to the distinctive ethnic composition of England without this implying that non-whites are less English. Seeking to conserve a critical mass of distinctive characteristics, or slow their erosion, is not the same as excluding from membership.’
There are of course challenges for people of other backgrounds when integrating with a new culture, and that can be experienced as disadvantage or, conversely, ‘privilege’. But that is not peculiar to so-called ‘white’ societies: it is just a feature of crossing cultures, and does not denote any kind of racism or injustice. Western countries – as they are normally designated – have proved to be equally if not more energetic than others at helping newcomers bridge the divide.
The Left seem intent at the moment on fanning the flames of racial grievance, drawing on the fast demographic shift of the past 20 years to challenge traditional Judaeo-Christian culture in Britain (a culture which of course crosses racial and ethnic boundaries). The BBC, as ever, are chief cheerleaders, most recently with their controversial production Noughts + Crosses, in casting this in purely black and white terms, that Douglas Murray has described as an ‘ugly piece of work. A social lesson stuck in the past about an imaginary society that is an insult to a real one’.
This does not end well. Countries pull together based on a shared culture and respect for a common heritage, or they fall apart. Bashing the English for being English or ‘white’ is not the route to social harmony. Rather than baiting the English with groundless cries of racism, Lammy would do better to listen to Trevor Phillips, the founding chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, who worries that Britain risks ‘flames’ of racial and religious conflict because of a ‘liberal self-delusion’ about mass immigration (a hundred times higher than in the Fifties and mostly to England) and a failure of ‘complacent’ leaders unwilling to acknowledge the ‘dark side of the diverse society’.
The sadness is not just that this high profile Labour MP is blind to the need to reform immigration policy and cut numbers. He seems also to have swapped any higher aspiration for social integration and nationality based on British values that transcends ethnic lines, for antipathy and accusation.
(Image: David Lammy MP. Credit: Policy Exchange/Wikimedia Commons.)