Saturday, 20 August 2011

David Starkey, riots and chromatic relativism

Historian David Starkey is the latest victim of attempts to erase debate on race from enquiries into why the recent riots erupted in London and other parts of England. His main offence appears to have been saying that "the whites have become black".

But hasn’t this idea been with us for some time in the concept of being "politically black"? There were no complaints when left-wing academic George Yancy [right] summarised the concept (appearing on some 1980s ethnicity questionnaires) in 2005:
The political use is one in which blackness is subversive of the status quo, viz. whiteness. Given this use, there is no incongruity in the idea of a person being pigmentationally white and politically black…All it means to say that a person is politically black is that the person is anti-status quo…that she or he is oppositional or counterhegemonic.
Starkey took pains to say that "It’s not skin colour, it’s cultural", which resonates with political blackness. It also fits in that black politicians like David Lammy and Diane Abbott "have merged effortlessly into what continues to be a largely white elite; they have studied at Oxbridge and gone on to Oxbridge-style careers, such as that of MP".

click to read more about Joel Kibazo
Yancy would call Lammy and Abbot "pigmentationally black and politically white". His chromatic relativism underpins a new apartheid where a white person who critiques black culture is racist. Take Ugandan journalist Joel Kibazo’s [left] clear-eyed and unsparing dispatch from Tanzania on BBC Radio 3: had a white person delivered exactly the same words, would there not have been cries for his head?

Where Yancy’s apartheid differs from the South African model is that it seeks to keep black people down from the inside, obviating the need for homelands and secret police. I know it’s multiculturally counterhegemonic to say so…does that make me politically black?

Joe Daniels
300 words

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