White Privilege – The Myth of a Post-Racial Society, written by Kalwant Bhopal, is a deeply researched and excellent study on how pervasive whiteness is and how white privilege operates at all levels of society in the UK (and the US). The book is chock full of relevant arguments and examples, as well as figures and studies to illustrate the arguments. Divided into 10 chapters, Bhopal leads us through main areas such as education, employment, and social environments where white privilege and (unconscious) bias continue to marginalize black and minority ethnic groups.
Tied into this discussion on white privilege, Bhopal brings up the very important point on how Neoliberalism has somewhat erased the need to focus on racial inequality and creates this false sense of a “post-racial” society, which is basically another way to whitewash the work we have to do to actually dismantle systemic racism and prejudice.
First off I really appreciate the insight into how deeply entrenched and ignored white privilege is in the UK. While it is my country of birth and citizenship I have now lived in the US longer than I lived in the UK and the perspective was very enlightening. I am recommending it to my friends and family in the UK as a must-read.
Bhopal is an academic, and White Privilege reads like a thesis rather than a story or a lot of non-fiction. The style is very dry and full of data, so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I personally don’t mind this, but I do find it easier if I break it up into several sittings rather than reading it in one go.
The focus on white privilege in education in the UK, and the importance of teaching so-called “British values” is poignant and important: it would behoove us all to look at our educational systems with a critical eye to see what we can do to effectively reverse bias and prejudice and make it really equal for everyone. The marginalization of black and minority groups rather than integration of diversity is an acute effect of this so-called “post-racial” society that pushes us to believe that racism is a thing of the past.
The chapter on bullying is also extremely important to read - especially for white people so they can understand how they (unconsciously) promote bias and prejudice in education at all levels. I also appreciate the chapter on Gypsy and Traveller units in the UK and how they fall outside the “acceptable white” group - I think this is a very important distinction to make as they have been notoriously marked as outcasts from society in general. (FYI the term Gypsy is not considered a slur in the UK, and “Gypsy and Traveller” is the official term used – this may shock the US reader if they are not aware of this).
To be honest I’m not so sure why there is a study of the US in the book. I think the research and study on the UK alone would have been absolutely perfect. The US part seems a little “tacked on at the end”, just because it isn’t a direct comparison (the US parts are much shorter and nowhere near as detailed as the UK parts, and not every UK discussion has a US counterpart).
All in all, White Privilege is an excellent study of why we cannot let ourselves believe that post-racism exists. In fact, believing that creates a larger void that we cannot ignore.
White Privilege will be published by Policy Press on April 6th, 2018. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance read!