by Tomiwa Owolade
Tuesday, 9
March 2021
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10:43

Why Naga Munchetty’s racism documentary falls short

It covers too much ground in too little time
by Tomiwa Owolade
The documentary highlights vital issues but there is no such thing as a singular ‘black community’. Credit: BBC

Naga Munchetty’s recent BBC Panorama documentary on racism is interesting, but it tries to cover too much ground in so little time. She talks about white privilege, institutional racism, police injustice, overt and covert racism; and interviews people ranging from a young black basketball player, to a British-Pakistani doctor, to a couple of white residents in the northern town of Blyth. Which is all well and good: the problem is such an approach is teasing rather than genuinely exploratory.

Race and racism in Britain are complex topics that require more granular analysis than this approach permits. Take the topic of white privilege. To be fair to the documentary, it doesn’t approach this through a tendentious perspective, but tries to get a few points of view.

However, an interview with Andrea Thompson, the editor-in-chief of the lifestyle magazine Marie Claire, really stood out in encapsulating the problems with many contemporary conversations on race. Thompson acknowledges that white privilege does not mean that all white people are privileged and all black people lack privilege — in fact, she says the opportunities of a black Etonian would be different from that of a white person in a council estate. Nevertheless, she posits, black people are still judged on the basis of their race; their blackness is still a fundamental factor in their life outcomes. This may sound intuitively true, but it skirts over a multilayered picture.

Which black people? The son of Somali refugees or the daughter of a Nigerian doctor? The British-Ghanaian pupil barrister or an unemployed black person of West Indian heritage? Around two-thirds of Somali pupils are on Free School meals compared to about 20% of British-Nigerian pupils; British West Indian pupils are twice as likely to be excluded from school as British West African pupils.

Of course, there are many British-Somalis and British-Caribbean people who have done extremely well in education and employment: two contemporary names that spring to mind are Hashi Mohammed and Alexandra Wilson. But people from these particular backgrounds have worse outcomes — in terms of educational and employment, two key markers of “privilege” — than people from west African backgrounds.

However, they are all lumped under the label “black British”, with the implication that there is such a thing as a singular “black community”, as opposed to a conglomerate of communities with different customs, languages, histories, and experiences. This is understandable — racial prejudice still exists in our society, and this documentary does well to highlight the particular grief of being ostracised on something over which you have no control.

But it’s possible to highlight and try to root out these prejudices without invoking concepts that obscure the complex realities of black people and other ethnic minority communities. Munchetty’s documentary is an interesting starter of the conversation; in order to get to the main course, we need sharper analysis.

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Philip Buscombe
Philip Buscombe
1 year ago

All points of view now seem to be about the presence of Racism, Bias or Privilege: there really is very little real analysis of the why’s including why do children of middle-class Asian descent do better than their white colleagues and much, much better than the rest of the BAME community ? Little to do with Racism, Bias or Privilege I suspect.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
1 year ago

Disparities between different communities and racial groups are fully explainable by well establish metrics of the wealth and educational level of the parents, which have an extremely strong correlation with an individual’s outcomes, with other geographical and cultural aspects also contributing.

We know this and yet we continue to perpetual nebulous myths about, “systematic” or “unconscious” racism; which appear to mean little more than, no evidence of racism exists, so it must exist in some imperceptible, unmeasurable way, as it can be the only cause of any disparity between racial groups.

Perhaps expecting to find that the amount of pigmentation in someone’s skin is a determinate factor in their life chances, is not only profoundly stupid but essentially racist at heart, and the fact that we see multiple differences in distributions within racial groups, is evidence that there is not a causal relationship at work here?

I don’t believe that racism does not exist, only that it is far from the principle factor in determining the life chances of anyone who is born or emigrates to this country and it’s prominent status in contemporary debate is fuelled by the political and financial advantage bestowed upon those perpetuating the idea that it is.

The entire race relations and equality industry is stark naked and but no one in the public sphere dares say it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matthew Powell
Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

The key word is “industry.” That’s precisely what it is. There are livelihoods invested in the perpetuation of the myths you cited and more, and like any other activist cause, it has no goal or end game. This is not going to stop. A new cohort of racial warlords will be making the same tired arguments 50 years hence.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
1 year ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Matthew very well put.
I watched a football match on Sky Sports the other day…. (Sky Sports with its BLM subliminal messages flashing up all the time, just one reason why I am ditching the channel). Commentator takes opportunity before kick-off, to lecture us viewers on racism in football, lack of opportunity in football for Black players etc. All i wanted to do was watch a football match after a long day. I then counted the black/ethnic minority players and they made up approx 70% of the players.
I dont know what my point is really other than it all just seems to lose meaning when there is so much herd behaviour, the top down/cooperate driven be on message perception changing circus, and as you say the entire race relations and equality industry stands exposed. But it is never challenged while it merrily makes some folk rich and while it also impoverishes the country in so many ways by missing the actual points .
A country like the UK that has gone through half a century of major demographic change driven primarily by immigration, (much of it not thought out or planned, much of it never put to the electorate to achieve a democratic mandate, like Blair
s total liberalisation of the immigration system for some odd political ideology), is bound to go through a considerable period of social adjustment and angst.
But instead of continually harping on about white privilege and pretending we have a racial history like the USA etc, the BBC should widen the horizon and ask some really awkward questions …like looking at how many ethnic groups in the UK do not want to fully integrate and have no real intention to, like asking why working class white boys are the bottom of most piles, like asking why tens of thousands of women from minority ethnic groups have their lives controlled by men who hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and yes control…. where is the pathway to equality and opportunity for these women and girls?

Last edited 1 year ago by hugh bennett
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

The BBC should indeed ask those questions. But they won’t. And they never will. Nor will any of the other TV companies. So throw out your TV and have nothing to do with them.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Makes no difference as they ask them and then provide the answers: because of racism is the answer to all issues. The Liberal Left has a self hate pathology, everything is always because they are loaded with original sin of privilege.

We have a nasty, hate filled, anti American guy on TV in USA (I have never seen his show as I just do not watch TV, it has been years since I did) called Lemon, and to him everything is race. He recently said the British Monarchy is racist to the core as they are completely built on racism. Well what about the greatness they led as a Nation in Science, Political innovation, justice and rule of law, industry, arts, philosophy, medicine, universal education, freedom and opening the world, and Wealth, intellectualism, and the betterment of the human condition? Those were what they were involved in creating – this fool acts like the British stole these, rather than creating them. So why does he not show us what the different contributions historically and practically have been made by different peoples? Why can none of the race baiters say positives about the vast, and exceedingly uneven, creation of utility, as they all thrive on the benefits. Britain is the Greatest Nation to ever exist in the world, but his summation of it is it is racist.

David Smith
David Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

perfectly said Hugh .

David Waring
David Waring
1 year ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

Please can we have less of the holy naga mouthing off and a little more thought on why when scouser sought work on the S.Coast as suggested by Lord Tebbit the local Police ran them out of town?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

“Disparities between different communities and racial groups are fully explainable by well establish metrics of the wealth and educational level of the parents,”

A BS comment. The real explanation lacking is the WHY? One dare not go there. If one were to be crazy enough to admit googling ‘IQ by Nation’ you would not be fit to hold this discussion, but if you would not you would not be equipped to hold it.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

Munchetty is just another race grifter. And she uses her BBC profile to get lucrative corporate gigs etc.
The article contains much truth but tells us nothing that we didn’t already know.

Last edited 1 year ago by Fraser Bailey
Mud Hopper
Mud Hopper
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Close your eyes and listen to her (if you can bear it) She sounds like a petulant twelve year old who has been told she can’t go out to play until she’s done her homework. I can’t stand the sight or sound her her, nor her acolytes and reach immediately for the ‘off’ button as soon as she appears.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
1 year ago

When the problem is described in extremely vague terms, such as ‘unconscious bias’, ‘white privilege’ or ‘institutional racism’, it becomes impossible to cure other than by commandeering all sources of training, education or broadcasting (tangible and intangible) by the self-appointed pure of heart. Perhaps that’s the objective.

Mud Hopper
Mud Hopper
1 year ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

‘When the problem is described in extremely vague terms….’? You have there summed up our ‘much loved Naga’ whose whining tones, allusions to ‘nothing in particular’, and general ‘what aboutery’ are reminiscent of the often overheard and confused conversation of a group of adolescent girls. Such is the standard of BBC journalism these days.

David Smith
David Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Mud Hopper

yep , AND they expect us to pay for it

David Waring
David Waring
1 year ago
Reply to  Mud Hopper

The BBC doesn’t do journalism these days?

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
1 year ago

Let’s take lessons on racism from a privileged, upper middle class, BBC presenter who has had multiple advantages and has been held back by the never ending racism of Britain to the point that poor working class people of all colours have to pay so she can live a life of luxury that we will never have.
Must be hard being that we’ll to do.
You would laugh at this if it was not so tragic that the division being caused by this crusade to demonize all white people as racist is in itself deeply racist.
I am white therefore I must be a racist? So I am now judged on the colour of my skin?
That’s racism BBC but I am a poor working class white Englishman so I don’t count

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Best
Vóreios Paratiritís
Vóreios Paratiritís
1 year ago

The longer this racism inquiry occurs in the West the more I think this is a case of an elite in search of a following. Wealthy educated individuals of colour seem to be perusing the racism narrative to help create a “black community” that will legitimate their lofty position in the social hierarchy. And, they are being met by powerful supporters at the top of our corporations and institutions who see them as an asset to use against any political force that would challenge the status quo, by labeling the challengers “racist” and painting a target; the activist class will do the rest.
The utter cynicism of our ruling oligarchy on full display.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
1 year ago

I work in Higher Education and I can confirm this is 100% so. Antiracism is a fascist ideology masquerading as a civil rights movement. In my experience most antiracist sentiment is born out of a desire to hurt white people rather than help poor black people.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

And, they are being met by powerful supporters at the top of our corporations and institutions who see them as an asset to use against any political force that would challenge the status quo, by labeling the challengers “racist” and painting a target; the activist class will do the rest
Very insightful observation.

JP Martin
JP Martin
1 year ago

Absolutely. And as long as the demand for racism exceeds the supply, we can expect the fabricated incidents of racism to keep coming.

Derek M
Derek M
1 year ago

It falls short because it’s a one sided piece of agitprop by a opinionated presenter who has been told that she’s above criticism, even when the BBC’s woeful complaints system goes against her it’s overridden by the head of the BBC.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

If these people want to get rid of (non-existent) structural racism etc they need to believe in, and commit to, the complete overhaul of our education and welfare systems.
In particular, disparities in outcome will only be achieved if everyone goes through an education system characterised by a high degree of reason, rigour and discipline. The teaching unions and woke lefties etc will never tolerate such an education system, so the disparities in outcomes will persist.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Ironically, the people who run the educational and welfare systems are mostly white, and mostly of the left. Their business model relies on perpetuating grievance. The same discussion will still be happening in 50 years. As now, there will be no talk of the internal dysfunction – the massive single birth rate, how school achievement is treated as “acting white,” and a culture that celebrates the worst in the bunch. Mentioning those things will leave one branded as racist, just as it does now, to include the black voices echoing this sentiment.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Their business model relies on perpetuating grievance.’

Yes. An inexhaustibly renewable energy source. For ever and ever.

Last edited 1 year ago by Wilfred Davis
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

If you’re the Witchfinder-General, you’re going to see a lot of witches , and you will never accept that witchcraft is not a problem.

Christopher Wheatley
Christopher Wheatley
1 year ago

I was thinking about this earlier when I went for a run. A while ago, just after apartheid, cricket had been for white people only. It was realised that non-whites needed time to build up in practice and musculature. So, as a stopgap, there had to be one non-white in every South African team – and he was usually not very good. After about 20 years, as with all sports, non-white people turned out to be better. But it took a time to develop.
If you see mental issues in the same way, you can make things equal but you then need a transition time for the willpower and drive to develop. Perhaps this is where we are now. Not only do black people need equal opportunity but they need time to develop the requisite skills.
I actually see this now when I see football pundits on TV. There is now always one black pundit but usually he/she is not as eloquent as the old stagers who have been doing it for years. But he, or someone else, will get there in the end.
You could say the same about opportunities for women.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago

A while ago, just after apartheid, cricket had been for white people only. It was realised that non-whites needed time to build up in practice and musculature.

This isn’t a very good argument. Any individual beginner at a sport needs time to learn, develop, practise, and so on. That is equally true for a white beginner and a non-white beginner.

… as with all sports, non-white people turned out to be better.‘ Problem with that statement, is that it risks determining an individual’s success by race, doesn’t it?

If it’s true (according to your argument, at least) that non-white people are better at all sports, then your argument turns on its head. If that’s true, white players are now the ones who need preferential treatment … to allow them to compete on equal terms with the non-white players.

This itchy obsession with dividing us all up by skin colour just goes round and round without any logic and without any hope of resolution.

Last edited 1 year ago by Wilfred Davis
Christopher Wheatley
Christopher Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Good point. I suppose I am trying to get away from the (uncomfortable to me) idea that physical and mental attributes are controlled by genes. That conclusion would be uncomfortable for everybody, I think.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago

Thank you for your courteous reply.

If I might suggest gently, possibly some of the discomfort you experience is in a tendency to categorise matters into all-or-nothing oppositions?

For example from your posts: ‘as with all sports non-white people turned out to be better’ and ‘physical and mental attributes are controlled by genes’ and ‘That conclusion would be uncomfortable for everybody, I think’.

How about: not all sports, perhaps influenced rather than completely controlled, and perhaps not everybody is uncomfortable about recognising the part that genetic influence surely plays in all life (human, animal, vegetable).

Just a thought.

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
1 year ago

I am a little confused Christopher. Physical and mental attributes are controlled by our genes, and as science advances we are discovering more and more about that control.
That doesn’t make me at all uncomfortable. The old Nature vs Nurture conundrum.
Surely the important thing is for people to be able to achieve the maximum that their genes have given them – and that is the crux of the problem. How do you achieve that?

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
1 year ago

Individual physical and mental potentials are largely controlled by genes, e.g. physique, aptitude, IQ, personality, civilising potential. If cultivated these potentials can be converted into successful attributes.

David Fitzsimons
David Fitzsimons
1 year ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

What is ‘civilising potential’? Which genes have been linked to it? Assuming this is something normally done or measured as part of a society, and as an adult, how could you discern the genetic effect from the cultural?

George Bruce
George Bruce
1 year ago

I am the father of mixed race children. We dont live in the UK, we live in their mothers country, and for their sakes and mine I am so glad of that. UK societys obsession with race makes me think more of Nazi Germany than anything else.
It all reminds me of a quote regarding the battle of Ben Tre in the Vietnam war, where a war correspondent quoted an unnamed US  Major as saying "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it."
So we have....
"In order to create a society where race does not matter, we have to create a society which is continuously obsessed by racial matters."
I suppose the racial scientists will get here too one day in larger numbers than at present. But at least my children brought home only tiny quantities of race nonsense in their childhood, and they
re adults now.

Last edited 1 year ago by George Bruce
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
11 months ago

Over my lifetime I’ve made many observations about human behaviour and why people do what they do. It’s fascinating. Racism never seems to fully go away and I think ultimately it comes down to the fact that to the white British a black person can be welcome and culturally British but they’re not 100% ‘one of us’, they came here from somewhere else so they’re not *really* British. We can like them, love them as individuals but there’s a difference in their story that marks them out. So if a white British person is nasty we kinda have to put up with it and lament the individual family or local culture that produced them. If someone black or non white British (Eastern European for example) does wrong there’s a sense that the problem has been *imported* and didn’t need to happen. I think this is primal tribalism at work and is replicated everywhere not just in Britain. In Japan there is Japanese ‘privilege’ and in Nigeria Nigerian ‘privilege’, the govt is black, soap actors black, police are black – not much diversity – and why should there be, it’s Nigeria ffs!! White people stick out like a sore thumb. America ostensibly is a land of immigrants BUT its culture is based on white British/European so immigrants are expected to integrate into the dominant culture and to a degree renounce their old identity. The melting pot, not the salad bowl. And it largely worked for decades. American culture seems so over the top to Brits but it had to be to ensure assimilation. The flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, the anthem. All ways of saying to immigrants, you must be loyal to us, you’re American now. The salad bowl of multiculturalism in recent years has diluted that, subverted it even and now they are falling apart leading to division, unrest and rancour where there didn’t need to be if the fundamentals of human nature had not been allowed to resurface. Trump supporters are a surprisingly eclectic mix of people all bonded by the same vision of what it means to be American. Democrat obsession with identity politics is bearing poisonous fruit within its own party. Race is nothing more than a visible marker of difference, which is why it’s so insidious but it is possible to overcome that and be accepted *if one proves themselves a valuable and loyal member of the tribe* and that can go for whites being accepted within black culture too. The Cricket Test as Norman Tebbitt once put it. Ultimately I don’t think it’s about race I think it’s more about culture and loyalty. No-one wants enemies within. People who know you will accept you as family, new people may question your loyalty to the tribe and you may have to prove it all over again. It’s exhausting and horrible. Racists can be very selective (‘blacks are always committing crime, I’m sick of it – oh not you though, you’re sound mate’). It’s unfortunate but, I think, deeply rooted into human psyche because it’s about assessment of threat. It’s primal. We may think we’ve become civilised, and on a day to day basis in our pampered lives we are able to overcome those base impulses because we genuinely want to judge by character. And we largely do. That is a testament to our culture and our ability to think in ways that contradict our lizard brains. But never forget that the human lizard brain is always at work. Threat assessment is always on and you can’t rid yourself of it entirely, just have a word with it. The current obsession with race will, unfortunately, exacerbate this not solve it because it’s bringing difference back to the fore instead of MLK JR’S admirable philosophy.

Hugh R
Hugh R
1 year ago

I regard this woman’s ‘rise’ as a demonstration of tint over talent. I also believe she would never be as mouthy, or prone to put-down towards fellow presenters, if she possessed the dreaded ‘white privilege’.

Last edited 1 year ago by Hugh R
connieperkins9999
connieperkins9999
1 year ago

Odious woman.