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  • Trevor Phillips: unable to take people with him


    by Sunny
    21st July, 2009 at 11:15 am    

    One of the most hilariously bad articles Trevor Phillips ever wrote was one for Prospect arguing that Barack Obama would be bad for the progression of race relations and bad for African-Americans. In response, Sunder did a good job of responding here.

    But hey, we all write bad articles. God knows I’ve written a fair bit. So that clearly isn’t the problem with Trevor Phillips. As Joseph Harker writes today - it isn’t about the money either.

    It is partly about his autocratic style which he carried over from the Commission for Racial Equality days. Most of the aggrieved commissioners who’ve left feel Phillips was never able to make the case for a more equal Britain that took into account disability, sexism, racism and homophobia in every-day decisions. The creation of the EHRC, combining several different bodies, was in theory a good on but in practice turned out to make everyone angry because they thought Phillips didn’t care for their issues.

    But the most controversial area was race and I think there’s a broader issue here. When talking about race - there are usually two conversations going on: one within the minority community that feels under attack, and another within the majority community who feel the minorities are just playing the victim card all the time. This is as much a fact in the US as it is in the UK. It is also a fact among British Muslims.
    Diane Abbott today points this out:

    Black people have watched with mounting dismay as he made a series of interventions on race which were at best silly and at worst revealed no grasp of the facts and figures. First came his attack on multiculturalism. This baffled and upset very many ordinary people, both black and white, who had spent a lifetime fighting racism in their communities. Then there was his claim that we were “sleepwalking to segregation”. Manchester University academics had to point out that there was no statistical evidence of “white flight” from inner-city areas with high numbers of minority ethnic residents.

    Next was his assertion that there was no institutional racism in the police. Even the police knew that was nonsense. And, most bizarrely of all, there was the claim that the election of Barack Obama would be a setback for black people. Trevor knew black people hated this stuff. But it was received rapturously by the media and by white people who told him breathlessly how “brave” he was. And that seemed to be enough for him.

    Now, to be honest I wasn’t too bothered by his attacks on multiculturalism. No one still knows how to define multiculturalism and to some extent the idea that everything minorities demanded had to be pandered to was finished. The era of parallel lives needed to be killed off.

    When talking about race (or religion) - both minorities and majorities are at different places. Which is you have to carry them together in an inspiring way when trying to take them forward. Obama knows how to do this and nails it every time. Phillips doesn’t even come close. He can’t articulate a vision of what he wants and thus ends up annoying everyone because they don’t know where he’s trying to get to.

    There is the annoyance that the Daily Mail types use Phillips to perpetuate their own racism: every time they write about minority officers being hounded out within the force (think Tarique Ghaffur) then they’ll simply refer to Phillips saying there is no problem within the police, and thus Ghaffur is just complaining unnecessarily. So when it does blow up - Phillips is left without any friends.


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    Filed in: British Identity,Race politics






    14 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. pickles

      New blog post: Trevor Phillips: unable to take people with him http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/5224




    1. munir — on 21st July, 2009 at 12:07 pm  

      “Next was his assertion that there was no institutional racism in the police. Even the police knew that was nonsense. And, most bizarrely of all, there was the claim that the election of Barack Obama would be a setback for black people. Trevor knew black people hated this stuff. But it was received rapturously by the media and by white people who told him breathlessly how “brave” he was. And that seemed to be enough for him.”

      Wll exactly. Its the same with Muslim groups like the Quisling foundation- they say what the media want to hear . Whats disappointing is PP promotes them while decrying Trevor Phillips

    2. soru — on 21st July, 2009 at 12:35 pm  

      If Philips was unable to persuade people like munir and Abbot, did the fault really lie in him, or them?

    3. MaidMarian — on 21st July, 2009 at 12:53 pm  

      ‘The creation of the EHRC, combining several different bodies, was in theory a good on but in practice turned out to make everyone angry because they thought Phillips didn’t care for their issues.’

      Have to say Sunny, sounds to me like these people were just spoiling for a fight. Granted, a body like the ECHR always ran the real risk of not hanging together well and of people feeling that they wanted a bit more equality than others.

      We can argue with Philips all we like, but this is not about a vision thing. Its more about a group of people who seem to feel that their ’cause’ is above equality and human rights. That, not a lack of vision is why the ECHR is less than the sum of its parts.

      They are a walking advert for less state activity in this area and for that they, not Philips, are at fault.

      Perhaps a more interesting question Sunny - who would you suggest to lead the ECHR?

    4. Cauldron — on 21st July, 2009 at 12:56 pm  

      I don’t agree with much of what Trevor says and does. But I find it refreshing that he doesn’t quite fit the traditional stereotypes of an equality bureaucrat. By acknowledging that there are many grey areas in the equality/diversity debate he has done more to promote rational discussion than absolutists who cry ‘racism’ at every opportunity (or their mirror images, who claim victimisation of the indigenous population at every turn).

      Like others who don’t fit Left-approved stereotypes for ethnic minorities (black Tories, gay muslims, brown people who reject the idiotic ‘Asian’ moniker etc.) Trevor should be praised for thinking as an individual and not playing along with those who would manipulate identity politics for their own ends.

    5. Sunny — on 21st July, 2009 at 2:38 pm  

      Well, to be honest I don’t know that many people political enough to lead the EHRC.

      Unfortunately the whole area has become very political - when it should be about thinking of mainstreaming equality without too much legislation, and dealing with some insitutional biases that remain. I’m a fan of Francesca Klug for example, but I doubt she’d want to take it on because she’d become a political football between the Tories and Labour. And that isn’t even including the poison that comes your way from the Daily Mail.

      As I said in my piece - I don’t necessarily agree with everything many of the race activists called for. I didn’t agree with ethnic shortlists, neither did I agree that we shouldn’t attack multiculturalism as it was then.

      I publicly disagreed with Lee Jasper on many things, even when we were on a panel debate together. I think many minorities are too afraid of having the debate out in the open. However, many of the things Phillips did say were undoubtedly daft. I remember an article he wrote and it got turned into something about “fire in the streets if we dont have integration” - which was mainly absurd.

      All the stats show this country is becoming more integrated as time goes on. Which is why the “sleepwalking into segregation” stuff didn’t match up either to the stats. It just gives more ammunition to the Daily Mail crowd.

    6. damon — on 21st July, 2009 at 8:22 pm  

      Even if some of what Phillips said in that Prospect article were a bit bizarre, I’d rather read somthing like that which at least seemed fluid and got you thinking about things, and then be able to compare it to criticism (like given by Sunder Katwala).

      And quoting Shelby Steele, which gets you wondering about the idea of their being two kinds of influential black figures in US public life.The “challengers” and the “bargainers.” You’re never gong to hear Diane Abbott talking in that kind of open minded way.

      No, to her it looks more like this:
      ”Black people have watched with mounting dismay as he made a series of interventions on race which were at best silly and at worst revealed no grasp of the facts and figures. First came his attack on multiculturalism. This baffled and upset very many ordinary people, both black and white, who had spent a lifetime fighting racism in their communities.”

      What I think she’s saying is that he has upset the people who have dominated race politics. Maybe people who could also be put in the ”challenger” camp?

      She doesnt like his ‘Sleepwalking toward segregation’ opinion (made publicly anyway), but I walked through Watney Market in Tower Hamlets this afternoon and it does feel somewhat like segregation (or parallel lives anyway). The pub with the older white afternoon drinkers inside, looks pitiful.
      http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1383/537193056_d4703e4156.jpg?v=0

      And white flight? I mentioed the other day, some BBC London news report where they were looking at the numbers of ‘white british’ school children in the primary schools in London boroughs. Across inner London (it said) the figure was 21.5%.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6FqM6lEf4A

      So I think that Diane Abbot has to expand more on what she means. (I do understand that more mixing of communities is happening at the same time, as the report that she talks about states).

      As for Joseph Harker? I’ve been reading this PP thread from 2006.
      http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/540

    7. Edna Welthorpe — on 21st July, 2009 at 8:43 pm  

      It will amuse and interest readers here to know that the vicissitudes of a white teacher in a Tower Hamlets school features on the AMERICAN RENAISSANCE site, although it is frowned on in goodthinkfulperson circles merely to mention that the AMERICAN RENAISSANCE site exists.

      How very fortunate and enriched we are to live in such vibrant and multicultural times.

      Just think! Forty years ago our MPs didn’t know what a stab vest even was; now they wear them to visit the rougher parts of their vibrant and enriched constituencies!

    8. billericaydicky — on 21st July, 2009 at 9:13 pm  

      Harker is best known for an article in the Guardian in which he alleged that all white people are racist. He is another sicko like Simon Wooley who is at least half white and as bad as Lee Jasper who has a white mother and denies her. These people are mentally ill.

      It always fascinates me that the whiter an African Caribbean is the blacker their politics. No wonder the real Africans call them slaves.

      Interesting article in the Voice yesterday about Obama and his trip to Africa. Not a mention of the fact that all of the rulers of the many West African mini kingdoms were actually dealing in their own people before the arrival of the Europeans and in some countries like Mauritania and the Sudan are actually still doing so.

      There was also a photo of a group of Aricans on a ship along with a couple of obvious Arabs. The photo is a well known one taken by the Royal Navy’s East African Squadron of a group of slaves that it had taken from an Arab slaving dhow of Dar Es Saalam in the 1890s.

      The Voice is one of the most racsist publications in this country, now that New Nation has gone bust.

    9. Leon — on 21st July, 2009 at 10:59 pm  

      You don’t half talk some shite, as for mentally ill I think that label applies more to you than anyone else.

    10. damon — on 22nd July, 2009 at 12:37 am  

      Having read the Trevor Phillips article in Prospect for a third time, there’s things about it that I quite like. He maybe not be able to ”take people with him” and maybe that’s not all his fault. (To me), in that article he’s trying to put some things across, and I can fully understand why someone like Diane Abbott wouldn’t get any of it.

      Whether you agree with this (below) or not, at least he says some things to shake things up a bit:
      ”Both challengers and bargainers offer a strategy that needs the racial divide to stay at the centre of US life. In truth, Obama may be helping to postpone the arrival of a post-racial America, and I think he knows it.”

      Of course Diane Abbott isn’t going to like to hear talk like that. He’s talking about her.
      She’d rather go along to seminars where black activist parents castigate white school teachers for their racism and their inability to understand the black boys they teach.

      And as for Tarique Ghaffur, I’m still waiting to hear what these charges of racism anainst the Met and Ian Blair actually are. So far I’ve only heard the most feeble accusations.
      Ken Livingstone and Jenny Jones of the Green Party (and who sits on the MPA board) also backed Blair and thought that Ghaffur’s claims were spurious.

    11. Chris Baldwin — on 23rd July, 2009 at 3:51 pm  

      “to some extent the idea that everything minorities demanded had to be pandered to was finished.”

      That’s a strawman.

    12. billaricaydickey — on 29th July, 2009 at 2:40 pm  

      Harker is a well known black racist. Look at his article in the Guardian in which he calls all white people racist.

    13. Edna Welthorpe — on 29th July, 2009 at 4:34 pm  

      Damon MUSR remember that Diane Abbott sent her own son to a private school on the quite reasonable grounds that she could afford it and that - as an at-risk black boy - he’d get a better education than in the nearest state school.

      Like a great many do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do bullying socialists who-know-what’s-good-for-the-lower-orders, she a … NO! NO! DON’T SAY IT!

      No, I’m so nice that I would never call ANYONE a two-faced liar and hypocrite. Never.

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