I have not yet read White Fragility, but, according to K Biswas (The Critics, 29 March) the book seems short on advice for us white progressives who, writes author, Robin DiAngelo, cause “most daily damage” to people of colour.
Of course we must not dismiss identity politics, given its role in securing some measure of equality for minority groups. But a little humility and courtesy would do no harm; it might silence critics. DiAngelo, a former (white) diversity trainer, tells us that her classes triggered “predictable” responses such as “anger, withdrawal and argumentation”. “Predictable” suggests blanket prejudice on DiAngelo’s part. As for “argumentation”, since when has teaching been about accepting the teacher’s words in meek silence?
My beef with identity politics is that not only is it at times divisive, but it also excludes people whose “intersectionality” is not so clear-cut, and who are voiceless: those who are raised in abject poverty, or in abusive homes, or in care, all of which can limit life chances. The cadaverous white woman I see outside a London station is far less privileged than Afua Hirsch, say, or Diane Abbott.
Calls for change
The UK desperately needs a new constitutional settlement as Anthony Seldon asserts (“J’Accuse!”, 29 March). Indeed, the “judicial and executive branches need to be better representations of British society today”, but so does the City and the media. First-past-the-post election systems since the war have largely kept the privately educated and the privileged running the country for the benefit of themselves. Brexiteers from Farage to the ERG are of the same ilk: wealthy people supported by wealthy and secretive hard-right think tanks.
Brexit is a project of the right, for the right. It is an opportunity to create a society that reinforces and extends their riches and privileges by getting out of Europe and replacing what is left of social democracy with a buccaneering alt-right agenda based on laissez-faire economics.
We do need to unify around a common set of values, as Seldon claims. However, not the sectional values of Churchill and Macmillan, but values more in tune with the spirit of 1945 led by someone of the stature of Clement Attlee.
Dr Robin C Richmond
In his very thoughtful article Anthony Seldon writes that: “Parliament… needs root and branch reform, above all to the upper house, if it is to serve the country properly.” Though the composition of the House of Lords is an anachronism and unrepresentative, with its 92 hereditary peers, 26 bishops of the Church of England, and far too many former MPs, it is the House of Commons that more urgently needs reform.
Our political democracy has failed to modernise and evolve over the past century and, alone among member states of the EU, we still elect our MPs through first past the post.
The result of clinging to this franchise is that the will of the people, to coin a phrase, is hugely distorted and governments can form and rule with 40 per cent or less of the popular vote. Brexit has dramatically exposed the shortcomings of our current electoral system.
In addition to the cast of rogues identified by Anthony Seldon, I would like to add one more: namely, the British public. In recent decades we have ignorantly and meekly accepted levels of inequality and poverty not seen since the interwar period and voted for parties that either fail to tackle them or make them worse. We have been complicit in laying the crumbling material foundations for the chaos and division we now experience. We want a Scandinavian or European social settlement but only want to pay US levels of tax, and so we are…