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Bronwen Saunders
Bronwen Saunders
8 months ago

The author laments the “tissue of generalities and buzzphrases” in the two books under discussion and notes that both rest on “received ideas and received vocabulary” that the authors see no need to interrogate.
That, in a nutshell, Mr. Leith, is exactly the problem with your article. It is fairly bursting with generalities and evidence-free assertions and it fails utterly to properly interrogate any of them:
The “scare stories” in the “right-wing media” about BLM were based on BLM’s own guiding principles as listed on the BLM website. Why were these neither challenged nor even mentioned in the “left-wing media”?
“We can agree that people from historically marginalized communities continue to be disadvantaged…” – No, we can’t. Stop assuming there is a consensus when there is none.
The casual equation of “privileged people” with “white, cis-male, straight, able-bodied etc.” is preposterous, as is the assertion of “their complicity in such a system.” 
“Foregone conclusions … isn’t what debates are traditionally about” – and yet this piece is full of them.
“Difficult Conversations”, FYI, are difficult because they are premised on the idea that one interlocutor has moral authority over the other, that one person’s “lived experience” is valid and important while that of the other person (who in many cases will be significantly older and hence have far more “lived experience” to draw on) is not. They are not conversations at all, but rather just a chance for entitled, self-righteous young people to give their elders a dressing down.
“Most of the practical advice is not unobvious.” – That is because it is blindingly obvious. Well-brought-up people have no more need of it than they have of lectures about table manners.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
8 months ago

Thanks for taking the time to write what I was thinking

Jill Corel
Jill Corel
8 months ago

Well said. Thank you.

Richard Turpin
Richard Turpin
8 months ago

On the nail.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
8 months ago

And in a similar vein…
You can agree that the elimination of structural racism and all the other structural-isms is an urgent necessity, …
No, I can’t agree. This is a DiAngelo-ism. A facile assertion – made without any evidence whatsoever – that I should accept a course of action for something that is assumed to exist.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
8 months ago

Thanks for dealing with the woke racist Sam Leith.

Ben M
Ben M
8 months ago

“ It’s also true to say, as both these books do, that privileged people – white, cis-male, straight, able-bodied etc – can get a bit defensive when confronted with their complicity in such a system.” hard to keep reading after this.

Andrea X
Andrea X
8 months ago
Reply to  Ben M

Same reaction here to that very same sentence.

Last edited 8 months ago by Andrea X
Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
8 months ago
Reply to  Ben M

I don’t understand how any individual, other than one with a huge amount of economic and political power, could be “complicit” in any “system”. Most people – of every race, gender, ability, etc – are simply trying to survive in a system they were born into.

Christine Thomas
Christine Thomas
8 months ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

What I want to know is whether anybody has applied the same concepts to other societies or can they only refer to so-called ‘white’ societies and people. Even to raise this kind of question an mark one out as a beyond redemption racist, nevertheless I’m still feeling underpriveledged in my understanding of what I would dearly like to know and understand. Why are some people defined by a supposed colour and others by a geographical expression neither of which have any real meaning even on their own terms: eg why no colour applied to ‘Asian’ ? Is one to believe no racism exists on this continent thereby making colour is superfluous descriptor throughout all levels in its multiple societies? Not wishing to justify undeniable racism by and still within societies dominated. Not seeking to diminish the latter by ‘what aboutery’, just that comparative studies have traditionally opened up new insights of universal relevance and value.

Last edited 8 months ago by Christine Thomas
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Ben M

Absolutely.
What did we do to put ourselves in this situation an what can we do to correct it.

Richard Turpin
Richard Turpin
8 months ago
Reply to  Ben M

I actually stopped and yawned.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
8 months ago
Reply to  Ben M

I immediately stopped. Zero tolerance for woke nonsense.

Peter LR
Peter LR
8 months ago

“A Judgement-Free Guide To Diversity and Inclusion for Straight White Men by Felicity Hassan and Suki Sandhu” – how can these authors possibly know what it’s like to be a white man?

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter LR

It won’t be a ‘Judgement-Free Guide’, that’s for certain. More like a femsplaining lecture.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
8 months ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Both femsplaining and richsplaining.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
8 months ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Ahh… a quote from that little known philosopher Testiclese…

R Wright
R Wright
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter LR

They believe whiteness is a construct, and therefore that there is no such thing as a white man. To them whiteness is just a form of bodily pollution that has to be expelled like bad humours.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
8 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

I agree that whiteness – like Blackness – is a construct. So why do they insist on constantly reinforcing this construct as an innate quality when it is situational – and when the situation of “whiteness” is far from fixed or universal among those labelled “white”?

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
8 months ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

I hope you capitalised Blackness and not whiteness ironically, otherwise I’ll have to set Drachir on you :-p

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
8 months ago
Reply to  Philip Stott

Hear hear!

D Ward
D Ward
8 months ago
Reply to  Philip Stott

Don’t bother, I’ll do it.

Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
8 months ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

James Lindsay explains this illogical construct this way: Critical Racial theorists concede that race is at its root a social construct. As post-modernists, they also believe that everything can be deconstructed and that there is no fixed definition of anything, even concrete physical objects. BUT, after deconstructing our world down to the base concept that all definitions are only power-plays, they stop at deconstructing race. Blackness, they say, IS an immutable characteristic, a Reality, because it is inescapably imposed on unwilling people that the white power-structure deems to be Black. Only Blacks have an essential identity, but it comes from whites.
Volumes can be written about the fallacies underpinning this viewpoint (and religion), but the foremost is the fact that proponents have gone ahead and imposed the racial category of whiteness on others who are also unwilling to be so identified–when their entire moral claim rests on the idea that it’s wrong to impose an unwanted identity on others.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Agreed. They have no lived experience and therefore they “don’t just have an inferior standing to consider the issues, but no standing at all

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
8 months ago

Empathy is a zero sum game among the “woke” and must not be wasted on those deemed “unclean”.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter LR

I was thinking of writing a book “Guide To Diversity and Inclusion for Non White people”
I am sure it would be well received in the right circles?

Richard Turpin
Richard Turpin
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter LR

A judgement free guide to understanding women, lesbians and the menopause by Peter Straight and Hunter Hetro….. thought not.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
8 months ago

“That doesn’t mean, I should say, that the ideas they’re selling are in broad strokes wrong.”

They most certainly are.

There’s way too much sympathy in this article for the fundamental wokist principles. Criticism of this garbage on the basis it’s just poor writing is insufficient.

Equity, as opposed to equality, is a totalitarian concept. Grouping of people into “identities” at the cost of their personal agency, opens the door to kind of people Tanya Gold talks about in her article- the power hungry who see moral arbitration as their route to control.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Sam is merely signaling to the woke metropolitans that he’s still on-message, even if he has to criticise this stuff.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
8 months ago

DEI has become nothing but a jobs program for the uber-educated but second-rate students with absolutely no useful skills or knowledge which our universities keep churning out. I don’t fault the universities; they’re just responding to financial incentives. I fault the state legislatures who keep funding this crap.

Here’s a suggestion for a GOP controlled state. Eliminate all degree programs and classes in all “grievance studies”. Or tie your university system funding to the intellectual diversity of its faculty (based on publishing history or voter registration.) Or end the requirement for K-12 teachers to go to teacher college. Each of these would be a great start at pushing back on wokeness. Any takers?

Last edited 8 months ago by Brian Villanueva
Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
8 months ago

I saw the coming over-supply of college-educated graduates about 20 years ago. I’m an attorney and so mostly interact with other professionals. As we discussed what our kids were doing over the years, it became obvious that their kids were all going to college and usually grad school, with a high percentage majoring in various “studies” with the goal of “working for a non-profit,” and I couldn’t imagine how all these graduates were going to find high-paying, status jobs like their parents had—let alone the millions of other young people all going to college with high expectations and lightweight majors.
When I was their age, graduating college was an achievement in and of itself, and graduating law school pretty much a guarantee of getting a job with potential. Now everyone is expected to go to college if not also grad/professional school—and growth has exploded in fields such as DEI to accommodate. College tuitions are also now obscene as a result of the bottomless demand for the prestige of a degree and the flow of government-backed student loans (and of course a lot of these superfluous college grads get jobs within the Uni in ever-expanding admin and DEI-type positions).

Gunner Myrtle
Gunner Myrtle
8 months ago

I believe Florida is doing just that with their student loans.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
8 months ago

Thanks Sam – for reading these books so we don’t have to.

Last edited 8 months ago by Derek Smith
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Best comment!

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
8 months ago

Could it be that one of the unspoken aims of the woke brigade is to hold back Asian Americans? The inconvenient truth is, they’re smart, they work hard, they have stable families and all too often they outperform African Americans.

J Bryant
J Bryant
8 months ago

If you’re interested in how big business approaches these issues with an eye to making a buck I would recommend “Woke Capital” by Vivek Ramaswamy. He’s a successful venture capitalist who appears to be positioning himself for a political career. His book doesn’t reveal anything fundamentally new: we all know corporations try to make money from being visibly progressive, but he provides many illuminating examples of exactly how large corporations operate in this area. He’s also one of the few authors I’ve encountered who proposes legal strategies for challenging corporate wokeism.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
8 months ago

“To take one of the most obvious examples, racial disadvantage in the US is generationally baked in in all sorts of ways, and prejudice survives and adapts to legal remedies.”
This is not an ‘example’ (the phrase “in all sorts of ways” is the clue here). It is an unsupported ‘truism’, a vague, unfalsifiable claim thrown around casually.
Do better.

Last edited 8 months ago by Graham Stull
michael stanwick
michael stanwick
8 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Nice. Great response. I couldn’t believe the plethora of unsupported assertions in this piece. And using the manipulative linguistic tactic of the “we can all agree…”. Just terrible.

John Barclay
John Barclay
8 months ago

Oh dear. What is it about the woke and woke adjacent that they seem oblivious to factors pertinent in any analysis of the “disproportionate under-representation” and they just short circuit to “structural racism”, for which the remedy is quotas and other top down measures?
No mention of general social mobility problems, education, mindset, culture, personal responsibility. Doesn’t factor at all. No possibility that there could be (not must be) other factors that contribute to disproportionate outcomes.
This is why this article is basically rubbish, and the entire “anti” racism industry is rubbish. It’s just inverted racism, administered by hustlers, race baiters and virtue signallers.
The remedy to racism is the absence of racism. Period.

Paul Scannell
Paul Scannell
8 months ago

I’m more of a John McWhorter/Glen Loury/Wilfred Reilly/Thomas Sowell/Thomas Chatterton Williams/Roland Friar sort of guy. The Ibrahm X Kendi types seem hellbent on grievance.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Scannell

Not only “hellbent on grievance”, but they also seem to want to ensure that black people (especially black men) remain under-educated and trapped in disfunctional familial settings.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
8 months ago

In other words, the so-called “right-wing media” was correct.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
8 months ago

Having been forced to attend more than one of these unconscious bias training courses, I can attest that they do more harm than good.
There have been several Harvard peer reviewed publications that arrive at the same conclusion.

R Wright
R Wright
8 months ago

I have no intention of reading any of these books, beyond skimming them them in Waterstones for a laugh. I love being white precisely because ‘whiteness’ apparently involves not being neurotic about race. It sounds exhausting to be anything else.

Claire D
Claire D
8 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Surely one of the aims of these books is to encourage more neurosis amongst white people about race. The more neurotic you can make your enemy, the weaker they become. The writers are racists.

R Wright
R Wright
8 months ago
Reply to  Claire D

I’d agree with this assessment, but if one is reading this type of book hoping for spiritual absolution and a racial awakening they’re probably already completely demoralised and weak anyway. It’s like kicking them while they’re down.

Richard Riheed
Richard Riheed
8 months ago

The author states that some D&I initiatives are compliance driven. It is all about compliance. Originally these initiatives were put in place to try and get corporates off the hook when someone complained or brought a law suit against them for discrimination/victimisation, etc. The corporates could turn to the Employment tribunal and say, ‘it’s the individual’s fault, not us, we’ve done D&I training…’ Nowadays most people get the legal side but the D&I industry has to keep going so it’s all about so called moral compliance – with the ‘morality’ cooked up by consultants/authors like the ones quoted I this piece. I agree with other posts: the author gives far too much credence to some basic ideas around D&I. Frankly, it is all bollocks and should be written off with all the contempt these D&I ‘specialists’ hold for all humanity. The article was disappointing as previously the author has written very well on various topics.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
8 months ago

You feel on stronger ground, I suppose, resisting a movement that you’ve decided wants to tear capitalist society and its institutions to bits than one that asks us to give people of colour a fair shake in the economy.

Sam, mate, it’s not a question of your readers ‘deciding’ that the movement wants to do that – the objective was expressly set out in a UK BLM fundraising website (created 2 June 2020):

We’re guided by a commitment to dismantle imperialism, capitalism, white-supremacy, patriarchy …

Benjamin Jones
Benjamin Jones
8 months ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

It was amazing how many people called me a liar for repeating what was actually written on the BLM UK website. But as one young sappy girl informed me ‘feelings are more important than facts.’ Yeah, ok love.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
8 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Jones

Yes, I have had the same reaction from educated people high intelligence and otherwise sound judgement.

Coming across the occasional ‘Miss Feelings’ is one thing, but being vilified for telling the truth – with documentary evidence – by intelligent (and influential) people, one fears that there has been a mass defection from reason.

Jim R
Jim R
8 months ago

Success in the world comes from a singular focus on competence. As we get swept up in the ideological fervour of trying to ‘perfect’ outcomes to suit our simplistic notions of equality, organizations are taking their eye off the ball. Quite simply when we start ignoring competence, our organizations will get worse at what they do. The result will be less innovation, less productivity and less wealth. But for the ideologically driven, it’s always been their preference to worry about who gets the best seat in the car rather than worry about whether the car is going over the cliff or to acknowledge that everyone in the car benefits by having the most competent person drive. That may be a reflection of their natural ambition trying to overcome their fundamental lack of competence – if you can’t get ahead by being good at what you do, try to change the rules that determine who gets ahead.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
8 months ago

The western world appears to be abandoning reason and logic, while endorsing fallacies and fabrication.

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

Err, homo sapiens does rather form on that front, no need to single out ‘The West’.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
8 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Well, “The West” for all its faults had been doing a reasonable job when it came to reason and logic but a range of factors over the last 30 years or so had led us to reject them for “fashionable nonsense” instead.

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

Fair enough – the auto censor in my comment demonstrates your point: I actually wrote the full name of our species, but it was **d, I assume because it looked like an out-dated sexuality slur.

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago

Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
8 months ago

Robin di Angelo is nothing but an arms dealer in the culture wars.
She’d be the first to denounce any who’d think to pigeonhole someone whilst, almost in the same breath, constructing a fairly sturdy pigeonhole herself and stuffing it with a well-fed pigeon.
She is essentially a troll – the sooner the left disavow this divisive, bigoted women, the better off as a whole society we shall be.

Alan Groff
Alan Groff
8 months ago

If you wish to retain power and position, adapt your faith and religion to the changing external requirements, like the Vicar of Bray.

In good King Charles’ golden time, when loyalty no harm meant,
A zealous high churchman was I, and so I gained preferment.
To teach my flock, I never missed: Kings are by God appointed
And damned are those who dare resist or touch the Lord’s anointed!

(Chorus)
And this be law, that I’ll maintain until my dying day, sir
That whatsoever king may reign, Still I’ll be the Vicar of Bray, sir.

When royal James possessed the crown, and popery came in fashion,
The penal laws I hooted down, and read the Declaration.
The Church of Rome, I found, did fit full well my constitution
And I had been a Jesuit, but for the Revolution.

When William was our King declared, to ease the nation’s grievance,
With this new wind about I steered, and swore to him allegiance.
Old principles I did revoke; Set conscience at a distance,
Passive obedience was a joke, a jest was non-resistance.

When Royal Anne became our queen, the Church of England’s glory,
Another face of things was seen, and I became a Tory.
Occasional conformists base; I blamed their moderation;
And thought the Church in danger was from such prevarication.

When George in pudding time came o’er, and moderate men looked big, sir
My principles I changed once more, and I became a Whig, sir.
And thus preferment I procured From our new Faith’s Defender,
And almost every day abjured the Pope and the Pretender.

The illustrious House of Hanover and Protestant succession
To these I do allegiance swear – while they can hold possession.
For in my faith and loyalty I never more will falter,
And George my lawful king shall be – until the times do alter.

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
8 months ago

Pity he didn’t make more of the irony that these authors have a huge investment in the reality of racism since it’s earning them tidy sums.No way do they want it to disappear!

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
8 months ago

You described Black Lives Matter as “this loose and decentralised racial justice movement”. Seriously? Where have you been?
I marched in early BLM protests mainly because Trayvon Martin’s killer went free, rather than spending his life in prison where he belongs.
In the beginning, BLM was a “loose and decentralized racial justice movement.” Not anymore. The “trained Marxists” you mentioned have gotten rich off the backs of black people killed by the police, while completely ignoring the economic issues that plague the poor (most of whom, in the USA, are white).

R Wright
R Wright
8 months ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

I followed the Martin case from the other side, and couldn’t imagine anyone viewing that from the other perspective. The myth of the young kid with skittles destined for great things was blown apart, portraying instead a hulking 6ft man and wannabe career criminal. It still shocks me that that case was the spark for all this madness. His killer wasn’t even ‘white’. That was the hill you people were going to fall on?

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
8 months ago

… my fragility is perhaps causing me to indulge in what Hutchinson identifies as the racist-in-denial tactic of “sealioning”: “focusing on details and small points of argumentation rather than the larger themes of the discussion”.
Good grief. Can’t he see this is the classic manipulative tactic of the kafkatrap?

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
8 months ago

Is there a country in the world, anywhere, against which America need not be ashamed? Need not learn from? On these diversity/race/equality issues? Why is America always made out to be the one that needs special remedial treatment? As if America is a chump. You’d think the world was waiting along for America to get with the programme before everybody could move on and make progress. As if America was assumed to have the privilege of always having the lucky hand. It is actually a terrible conceit to scorn America’s can-do spirit and great go-getters, achievers and inventors. They are infinitely more interesting and gifted than any of these writers pontificating about this or that today.

Benjamin Greco
Benjamin Greco
8 months ago

Wow, talk about having your cake and eating it too. The author at once disagrees with corporate DEI initiatives but completely agrees with the rationalizations for them and the intellectual bullshit behind them. It isn’t that he doesn’t like woke ideology he just doesn’t like corporations using it to keep their bourgeois liberal employees happy.
The new woke ideology isn’t really all that new. Guilt tripping white people to get things you haven’t earned has been around for more than 50 years.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
8 months ago

‘Both books proceed from a position of epistemic confidence.’

Lost me after the above. This guy writes books about writing!

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
8 months ago

Grifters gonna grift ..

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
8 months ago

The second paragraph of this article brings me very close to cancelling my subscription.

Jp Merzetti
Jp Merzetti
4 months ago

Hucksterism is a good old American tradition. It was not exactly new when Frank L. Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz.
Bullshit for money still makes money that is easy to launder into epic examples of wealth and success. And bullshit is so very easy to sell.
For example, being referred to as cisgender invites me to regard the referral as thug-muggish growls common to assholes and other idiot savants. Or just people whose love affair with whatever power they think they have transcends actual critical thought. Cisgender betrays more about the user of that term than anything about whomever they hurl it at.
I recall discovering that back in the 1920s, the British humorist PG Wodehouse derived great fun from inventing characters (especially in New York City of that era) who launched campaigns masquerading as faux world-changers, experts in some sort of life-betterment, much to the agonies of people, and especially men, who liked to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. The so-called experts were mirthless, joyless, juiceless, merciless twits who loved to squeeze every last bit of happiness out of life and replace it with absolute delusional tripe.
I think good old PG would have a rich and hearty laugh at the expense of these 21st Century reprise artists. Quite a full century on, actually.
And what the f**k. Whiteness, blackness, brownness, redness, and any other color-ness, are not “constructs.” A construct is a physical thing you build. These are simply skin colors. Nothing more, nothing less. They do not define, capture, express or impress, compartmentalize, construct or deconstruct, analyze, build up, tear down, renovate, reconstruct, reconstitute or in any way create an absolute foundation of knowledge about a human being or a set of or group of human beings. As if we’re discussing the social structures of ants. People aren’t insects. They are beings capable of being incredibly unique and unusual, outside of and apart from a very many of the things that idiots who think they know them would invent stupid boxes to shove them into and then try to keep them there.
I am constantly amazed these days at how many times I encounter someone muttering on about “constructs” who actually never constructed anything. What a cute word to pull out of the air – like a silver dollar from behind the ear of a wondering child. Or a rabbit out of a hat. Magic to some. Tricks to most.