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IIt is a sad aspect of public life that the quickest route to success and prominence for the UK’s minorities is to express the most reactionary views imaginable. Witness Kwasi Kwarteng randomly and unnecessarily blurting out slavery apologia on Piers Morgan’s show, or the careers so far of Priti Patel and Suella Braverman. They will have their own opinions as individuals, but at the same time powerful people and institutions are aware of the utility of having their own biases reflected, made acceptable, whitewashed perhaps by a minority voice, with the effect that this ostensibly protects them. of criticism.

This unfortunate effect is of particular concern when doubt is raised as to whether the opinions, as presented to the public, are an accurate reflection of honest opinion or a distortion intended perhaps to advance the culture wars toxic.

A few weeks ago, the young right-wing commentator Dominique Samuels, who is black, claimed the (formerly Twitter) that MailOnline asked him to be “the face of a ghostwritten, negative, bordering on racist article” about last year’s Notting Hill Carnival.

Samuels also claimed that a 2021 Daily Mail article with his byline, about Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’s accusations of racism against the royal family (“This royal family clash was about culture… NOT color” ), had actually been ghost-written for her. , although she says this largely reflects her views “at the time”.

I spoke to Samuels and we had a very informative conversation about his experience. According to her, after declining the opportunity to put her name on the draft written for her, she did not hear back from the Mail’s main comments desk.

She was under the impression that ghostwriting in this manner was “pretty much standard” practice. It’s not. Although she had the opportunity to discuss her views on the content of the articles, and of course to decline them, the episode caused considerable concern on social media and in the black press, with many fearing that the whole practice of using a Black person to be the face of deliberately controversial articles on race that she did not write and which may ultimately, through this unsatisfactory indirect process, not fully reflect her views, seems opaque and wrong.

When asked for comment, a representative for the Mail said that when they commission comment pieces, they “always discuss the points to be made with the authors and sometimes provide editorial assistance.” This applies to all contributors, including politicians and other public figures. Articles are not published without the cooperation and approval of the author. On this occasion, a year ago, after an exchange of projects, Dominique Samuels decided not to continue and nothing was published.

If all this raises some concern, it is partly fueled by context: concern that a practice known as racism whitewashing is widespread and extends well beyond the media..

A powerful cocktail of moral license, commerce and identity politics, the whitewashing of racism is a process in which the skin color of an ethnic minority appears to facilitate policies, practices and narratives that otherwise To be condemned like a bigot. Those involved can indeed, they themselves have sectarian opinions. They may be looking to get ahead or are just being reckless. They can be used as part of a broader program. But in any case, whatever the motivation, they become a defense mechanism against overt cases or accusations of racism.

It is probably no coincidence that – apart from Grant Shapps’ six-day episode – all of the interior ministers appointed in this series of reactionary governments since the Windrush scandal broke have been from a visible ethnic minority. They undoubtedly possessed administrative talent, but they also solved the problem that, after Windrush, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to have white secretaries of state. promote racist policies. Thanks in part to the whitewashing of racism, Britain has appeared to be taking steps forward while galloping backwards.

After the Windrush scandal (which is still going on), a white Interior Minister would have had difficulty getting the Rwandan plan, the barges or the idea of ​​attacking migrant boats with the Royal Navy to be accepted. Or jetskis. Worse still, a white interior minister would surely have been censored for saying things like “These sick asian pedophiles are finally facing justice”, as Sajid Javid did, or by refusing to condemn fans who booed the national football team while showing solidarity with anti-racist causes, as Patel did .

In 2021, the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities report was released. It was conceived as the independent work of 12 commissioners, 11 of whom were black and brown. However, it was alleged that Number 10 misrepresented its work to downplay institutional racism and that some commissioners were unable to view the full report before it was published, raising concerns about its independence. Whatever the hopes or intentions of those involved, the big winners were the ideologues who sowed discord within a reactionary government with illiberal views on race.

In a recent chat with LBC’s James O’Brien, Labor MP Dawn Butler gave her views on cynical politics. “At the end of the day, they get promoted because of the things they say,” she said. “So you can’t have a white Home Secretary saying the kinds of things that Suella says and get away with it that easily, I don’t think. It is therefore very strategic on the part of the government to place people in these kind of points of view and meaning to these positions. Dan Wootton of GB News called Butler “Labour’s racial harasser in chief”. Others might consider her lucid.

Samuels therefore has his views on his relationship with the Daily Mail. This challenges his account. But for those who worry about how narratives about us are created and communicated – and how policies that harm us are popularized and enforced – this episode provides plenty of reason for debate and food for thought . Samuels, commenting on social media, asks a relevant question: “Before you jump into outrage, ask yourself why some newspapers regularly run these kinds of stories and who they REALLY serve by keeping people divided. »

The fighters in the culture war are many and varied; that we know. But perhaps it is fought in ways we barely understand.

  • Nels Abbey is an author and broadcaster. His new book, The Hip-Hop MBA: Lessons in Cut-Throat Capitalism from the Moguls of Rap, will be released next year.

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