A superficial focus on race ignores a more important element: class
As a teacher, it can often be difficult to explain irony to students, but this weekend I found a fitting example. Azadeh Moshiri, senior journalist for BBC World News, said her career would never have happened without the help of the John Schofield Trust, a charity mentoring scheme to improve access to journalism. The irony? Moshiri’s father is Farhad Moshiri, owner of Everton FC and worth an estimated £2.4billion, while her mother is Nazenin Ansari, a journalist who has worked for the BBC, Sky News and CNN.
The trust has made clear that, at the time of Azadeh Moshiri’s acceptance onto the scheme, its aim was to support all young journalists, regardless of social class, and that it only switched its focus to become a “social mobility charity” a year later in 2019. Still, as the Telegraph has pointed out, the organisation was publicly calling for social mobility in the industry before this supposed shift. The fact that Moshiri was considered a suitable candidate for consideration proves once again that discussions about diversity without class are effectively meaningless.
Journalism is one of the most socially exclusive industries in the UK: 80% of journalists come from parents with managerial or professional backgrounds, compared to 42% of all UK workers — an increase from 2016 (72%). Just 7% of the population is privately educated and yet this contingent makes up 44% of newspaper columnists and 43 of the top 100 most influential news editors and broadcasters.
Family links matter in journalism. Henry Deedes, a sketch writer and reviewer for the Daily Mail, is the son of Jeremy Deedes, the former Chief Executive of the Telegraph, who is the son of Lord Deedes, who edited the same paper. Henry’s cousin, Sophia Money-Coutts, is Features Director of Tatler, while his brother George was also Sales Manager for the Mail. Azadeh Moshiri is just one more person who benefited from her family’s connections, cash and social capital. Even though she may have had to overcome other obstacles, she never had to smash through the strongest barrier of them all: the class ceiling.
Education statistics prove that focusing on race alone when considering social mobility can be incredibly misleading. For example, not all black children have the same chance of success: only 5.4% of black Caribbean pupils go to top universities, compared to 13.2% of black African pupils. Indian and Bangladeshi students, on average, currently have higher attainment at GCSE level than white British students, and black Caribbean girls do better than white British boys, who do better than black Caribbean boys. At Harvard, 71% of black and Hispanic students come from incomes above the national median.
Yet time and time again companies equate diversity with race rather than class. According to research by Harvard Business Review, not one of the companies on DiversityInc’s “Top 50 Companies for Diversity” mentioned social class in their diversity and inclusion programmes.
In Why We Can’t Wait, Martin Luther King writes that, “It is a simple matter of justice that America, in dealing creatively with the task of raising the Negro from backwardness, should also be rescuing a large stratum of the forgotten white poor.” King also argued that society should not give “special consideration to the Negro […] and not take into sufficient account the plight of the white worker, whose economic condition is not far removed from his black brother.”
Moshiri’s ‘success story’ is a reminder that if we limit our conception of diversity, help does not always go where it is most needed. There are huge overlaps between race, class and income in the UK but, as King warns, we must not overlook the “economic conditions” that still hold back far too many people of all races.