Beyond Race and Multiculturalism?

 

In October 2010, Prospect magazine published a high profile intervention that sought to make common front on the argument that ‘race is no longer the significant disadvantage it is often portrayed to be’; indeed, that failure to accept the reality of our post-racial ‘human’ times turns race into a distorting lens, anachronistically paternalist at best, divisive and neo-racialising at worst.

With ‘Beyond Race and Multiculturalism?’ Soundings offers a number of considered responses, issuing from and informed by a range of disciplinary positions that answer to no agenda other than to the call to critical engagement with the issues rather than the clichés.

Against Lazy Thinking

Beyond Race and Multiculturalism? offers a series of critical comments and reflections contributed to the MCB’s ReDoc online Soundings platform between October and December 2010.   The contributions were invited in response to the publication of Prospect Magazine’s October 2010 feature dossier Rethinking Race.  Compiled by Munira Mirza, the Mayor of London’s advisor on arts and culture, the Prospect articles by Tony Sewell, Saran Singh, Sonia Dyer and Mirza herself span the areas of Education, Mental Health, the Arts, and social cohesion, respectively.

In conjunction, they make common front on the argument that ‘race is no longer the significant disadvantage it is often portrayed to be’; indeed, that failure to accept the reality of our post-racial ‘human’ times turns race into a distorting lens, anachronistically paternalist at best, divisive and neo-racialising at worst. In characteristically Prospect easing  terms the feature dossier is accompanied by claims that ‘the ideology of multiculturalism has over-racialised human relations, stressed separate rather than common needs and encouraged a sense of victimhood among minorities’.  As the same editorial evidences, both the ethnically marked presentation of the contributors (‘a group of British Black and Asian writers’, reprised by Mirza in the reminder that ‘none of them is White’), and the exemplary focus on ‘Bradford’, as empirical laboratory of the failures of official multiculturalist Britain, is key to the credibility and legitimation of the personal, anecdotal and native informant narratives which frame the discussion.

As so often, the claim of speaking against the grain and daring to break with political correctness, of courage and honesty to ask awkward and difficult questions in the face of complicitous silence (‘we are afraid to discuss race in an honest way’), and to independent thinking (multiculturalism gone mad is “official anti-racism”) proves little more than self-validation for lazy re-affirmation of hegemonic ‘common sense’ tabloid prejudice.  Confused, ignorant and misinformed discussion remaps historical terrain with lazy and deeply ideological culturalist commonsense:  Institutional racism is reduced to a phantom construct ‘where no one and everyone is guilty of racism’; the Northern riots of 2001 voided of social and historical depth and context; and relations of power are framed out of muscular get-off-your-knees repudiations of victimism and in appeals to embrace a broader, universal, abstract and unmarked common human identity.

The responses collected here, issuing from and informed by a range of disciplinary positions answer to no agenda other than to the call to critical engagement with the issues rather than the clichés. Mirza hopes that the Prospect dossier will ‘embolden’ the government to rethink the funding of anti-racist projects.  We trust these interventions will caution to the need to really think through the complexities of contemporary racialised social relations.

AbdoolKarim Vakil

 

 

Contents

 

Very Sad
by Robin Richardson

Out from Under the Shadow of the USA?
by Alastair Bonnett

Beyond Racism and Ethnicity?
by Tariq Modood

The Real Rethinking Required
by Chris Allen

Rhetoric In Spite of Evidence
by Nasar Meer

Racial Crisis and Antiracist Futures
by Ian Law

Faulty By Design
by Yunis Alam

The Wrong Question
by Nissa Finney

Both Class And Race
by Jenny Bourne

Social Injustices and Ethnic Status: The Questions That Matter
by Gargi Bhattacharyya

Rethinking Race of Denying Racism?
by Claire Alexander

Meanwhile, back in the Real World of Prevent
by Shamim Miah

Through the Prospect Reading Glass
by Amir Saeed

Don’t Believe the Hype
by D Tyrer

Zombies, again
by Alana Lentin and Gavan Titley

Tony Sewell’s Views on Education are Dangerous and Lack Evidence
by David Gillborn and Chris Vieler-Porter

A Dose of Stanley Fish
by Lucinda Platt

From Common Sense to Good Sense
by Karim Murji