‘The vast majority in this country are not racist’

Julia Hartley-Brewer talks to Brendan O’Neill about the explosion of woke idiocy.


Topics Politics UK

For the past few months, Black Lives Matter has taken over the world, even pushing aside the Covid-19 pandemic. Protests against police brutality have mutated into what feels like a full-blown cultural revolution. Julia Hartley-Brewer, host of talkRADIO’s breakfast show, joined spiked’s editor for the latest episode of The Brendan O’Neill Show to discuss this explosion of woke fervour. What follows is an edited extract. Listen to the full conversation here.

Brendan O’Neill: I want to ask you about one of the clearest manifestations of the woke agenda that we have seen over the past few weeks. Following the killing of George Floyd, there were huge protests. Most of those were understandable – many people were incredibly angry about the horrific killing. But that seems to have given way very quickly to a form of mass psychosis, where we have people tearing down or vandalising public monuments. There seems to be an effort to edit the public square, to make it more agreeable to woke protesters and politically correct people. I just wonder what you think of what is almost a war on history – the attempt to redecorate public space?

Julia Hartley-Brewer: It is a level of hysteria. It is the idea that you can wipe away our history. First of all, you start from the argument that because of a horrible, brutal killing by a police officer in another country thousands of miles away, we must erase all of our culture. That is a big jump. Of course, there is police brutality in our country, and of course there has been systemic racism in the police in the past. But we should not pretend that it has not massively changed, and that the problem we have here in the UK is anything other than tiny compared to the issues in America.

The idea we must rewrite our history, question every aspect of our past and the morality of all white people, is idiocy. It does not make any sense. God knows what they are teaching in universities these days if genuinely intelligent people think we should be totally ashamed of our British history and culture, because of something that has happened recently in another country. Yes, we have a national history that was almost entirely white until the 1950s. We were an empire. But the same was true for virtually every other country. Until only a couple of hundred years ago, slaves were considered the spoils of war. That was the norm. If we are going to get rid of British culture and ransack our past, it is hard to see how we should not do the same to other countries. If we do that, there is not going to be much left of Russia, Italy, or pretty much any country in the world.

And you know why we all have difficult pasts? Because the past was not a very nice place. The difference between the past and today is that the world today is a better place. Women do have equal rights. Gay people have equal rights. Trans people have equal rights. Black and white are equal before the law. Sure – not always in every scenario. We have still got work to do in all of those areas. But the world has never been a better place than it is today. And it is going to be even better tomorrow. The whole raft of human history over the last few hundred years has been things getting better.

I just find it quite bizarre that people do not understand that the reason we are where we are now – where people can protest, we can have prominent people in the highest government offices who are from ethnic minorities – is because of our past. We are the sum of every good thing and every bad thing we have ever done. We are human beings, and we have learned from everything. People who want to pretend the past did not happen or to rewrite it – to whitewash it – are failing to learn from the past and failing to give the past credit for teaching us the lessons that got us here today. That is a really big mistake. The idea that taking down a statue of someone who did something bad in the past changes anything now, or will make a single black or Asian kid’s life better today, is frankly insulting.

O’Neill: It is indicative of a very negative, fatalistic outlook among some of those people who call themselves progressive. Instead of doing what people in history did, which was to think about how to improve the future or to change the world, they obsess over the past. One of the things I wanted to ask you about was the historic fatalism that seems to infect lots of these groups and a lot of this outlook. Black people are seen as still feeling the wounds of history, which strikes me as a deeply patronising view of black people, who I think have equal agency to everyone else and can decide for themselves how they feel about the world and about history. And white people are depicted as the beneficiaries of slavery and colonialism, and as complicit in racism. One of the most disturbing things I have seen is white people on their knees, begging for forgiveness. It has almost become the fashion to flagellate yourself for the crimes of history. What do you make of this bizarre spectacle?

Hartley-Brewer: It is like watching a cult. Why do they not just whip themselves in public and have done with it? They have this idea that punishment for the sins of the father and the mother should be constantly visited upon the children. You and I are no more beneficiaries of the privilege of white slave-owners than anyone else. I am pretty darn sure that my family, given their background and their working-class heritage, did not benefit from slavery. Indeed, probably 99.9 per cent of the population of this country did not benefit.

It is different in the UK to America – the black population in America largely arrived on slave ships. It was one of the greatest crimes ever done by humanity. But the idea that the people living right now in America and Britain are eternal victims, and that anyone who is white is the eternal oppressor, basically means that we have no responsibility for any of our actions. If we cannot be responsible for anything good from the past, then we surely cannot be responsible for anything bad from the past?

I am under no illusion that some people will reject CVs or housing applications with foreign-sounding names on them. Of course there are people like that. But we know the vast majority of people in this country are not racist. Attitudinal surveys over the last few decades have shown a massive change. Questions like whether you would be happy for black people to move in next door, or for a black person to marry your daughter – these are very good indicators of whether people are racist. And the answers to these questions have shown such a marked change in recent years. You cannot deny that this is a better, kinder and more tolerant country than in previous years. The idea that we should now be telling everybody who is black that they are a victim, and telling everyone who is white that they are an oppressor, rips off all of the good work that has been done in previous decades to strip away racism and the obsession with colour. I was raised to be colourblind. In my life and personal relations, colour has not been significant. Now people are trying to make it more significant. That is a reversal of the ideas of Martin Luther King.

O’Neill: It is now racist to say that you are colourblind. In fact, there are some campuses in America where it is now considered a racial microaggression, because apparently you are denying someone’s life experiences. But of course, for decades, the progressive idea was a refusal to judge people by the colour of their skin and a preference to judge them by their character and by what they believed.

The thing this brings to my mind is the question of whether groups like Black Lives Matter can legitimately be referred to as anti-racist. I always understood anti-racist movements to be about bringing society to a situation where race was not a factor – a place where it did not impact on what kind of job you were able to get, and did not lead to any form of discrimination, insult or abuse. Now, we have these new movements that are constantly cajoling people to think racially, to think of themselves as nothing more than their skin colour. It is almost as if the trap of racial thinking has been rehabilitated in pseudo-progressive language. And I think that is quite dangerous, especially for younger people, who will now have a very different view of what British society is like for them.

Hartley-Brewer: Indeed. And it is doing the work of the racists for them. This idea that the races should not mix, that this is a white country – this is exactly the message that is coming from the social-justice warriors in America on their campuses. And we are seeing it a lot in the universities in the UK as well. There is this idea that you should have black-only spaces. I absolutely understand things like minority police organisations when you only have a few police officers who are from ethnic-minority backgrounds. When I was in the House of Commons as a political journalist we started up a women’s lobby group because there were so few of us. But there comes a point where that is no longer necessary.

There is a sense in which people are being othered. They are being seen and judged purely on the basis of things they have no control over. It is assumed that people can only think or behave a certain way because of the pigmentation of their skin, their gender or their sexuality. But this time, instead of it being skinheads and other bigots making these arguments, it is supposedly highly educated people. We have got lecturers from Oxford and Cambridge making these arguments. I cannot be the only person in this country who is despairing at this stuff. It is almost like dealing with small children – you can keep explaining it, but they are just going to put their fingers in their ears and say no.

There are only two explanations. They either are just too stupid to realise what they are doing, or it is deliberate. It occurs to me that, actually, if you are a social-justice warrior, you do not want there to be racial harmony. You do not want there to be harmony between the sexes. You want to tell black people they are victims, you want to tell white people they are horrible abusers, you want to tell men they are rapists and women they are going to be sexually assaulted at any moment. And if they do not have that dichotomy of victim and perpetrator, they have got nothing left. It is almost like they are trying to create a race war, create a sex war, create a gender war, just so they have got the excuse to grab their trusty swords and shields.

Julia Hartley-Brewer was talking to Brendan O’Neill in the latest episode of The Brendan O’Neill Show. Listen to the full conversation here:

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Marvin Jones

14th July 2020 at 12:32 pm

I enjoy and respect both of you Julia and Brendan, but extremely shocked at your naivety about this country being a racist country. Among the white race, one will find types of people who differ so much, and I could only see that the cause is genetic. There are some who truly adore the black race and must settle in life with them, some genuinely have not a racist bone in their body, but not that many, some tolerate the differences of culture and behaviour a lot more than others and live their lives apart from the madding crowd. AND! then we get the 70% that extremely naive folks like you seemed to have missed. I could write a book on this as an Anglo-Indian born in India
of a Welsh father and Goanese mother, stood on Victoria Station on the 24th Dec 1965, believing that I have arrived in the best land on the planet.

Ness Immersion

9th July 2020 at 11:34 pm

Often allegations of racism are a misinterpretation of intellectual laziness or lack of imagination.
If there is a dispute of any sort between two people, often one of the argues will reach for a characteristic of their opponent such as English, Welsh Irish etc etc, this is because they have little else in their intellectual toolbox, not because they are racist, just too lazy to look for more imaginative insults.

Dominic Straiton

9th July 2020 at 9:54 pm

I dont know what the difference is between racist and racialist. Id guess they are pretty much the same and we are far worse off with woke than we have been for 40 years. They are all systemic racialists. I remember when no one gave a crap. I hope all my “black” grandchildren, i have loads , dont give a crap also. Im going to give it my best.

Dominic Straiton

9th July 2020 at 10:00 pm

Im going to teach them all about their incredible privilege of being all part of the greatest, most tolerant civilisation in all of human history. Il explain they are free, healthy and alive due to stale pale males.How revolutionary!

Mor Vir

9th July 2020 at 8:50 pm

The Archbishop of Canterbury reckons that Christians in the C of E need to ‘repent’ for the sins of slavers in the C of E centuries ago. The idea that you can ‘repent’ for what someone else did is complete bonkers. He reckons that C of E needs to ‘reform’ – why, does C of E still get money off the slavers? Do tell. Complete rubbish from Welby.

Only 1% of under-25s today identify with Anglicanism, even loosely, so presumably none of this the least bit concerns the masses in this society. It is an opportunistic psychodrama on the part of the church establishment, in pursuit of contemporary ‘relevance’ and publicity. It is a publicity stunt, virtue-signalling by a practically defunct church.

No one cares. It would be far better to just disestablish the state religion. It is about time that UK became a genuinely secular society. The really ‘insightful’ thing for Welby to do would be to shut his mouth and shut his church.

> Being a Christian in the Church of England means living with the ‘baggage’ of ‘saints and slave-traders’, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said.

Speaking to worshippers via Zoom he proclaimed that they are ‘our inheritance… to be reformed, to be repented of, to be imitated’. – DM

Marvin Jones

14th July 2020 at 5:21 pm

There possibly isn’t a more ignorant group in the human race than the spreaders of “god’s ” work. They really need the basic lessons in life that leprechauns, pixies, goblins and fairies and gods are man made mythical creatures.

a watson

9th July 2020 at 5:30 pm

I worked with many people from the West Indies and Asia on London’s buses in the 70s and 80s. I resent being lectured about racism by girls and boys from the Labour Party who have never done any manual work in an industrial environment. Of course I’m white, hetero and working class so I must be an ignorant racist.

Rosie Maxima

9th July 2020 at 4:51 pm

Who is Julia Hartley-Brewer and what are her credentials? I recognise her only as someone now frequently touted by Spiked or that young Conservative guy Darren Grimes as being someone with a ‘voice of reason’, yet I have seen some of her tweets and she seems to be someone of a similar make-up to Katie Hopkins…whose name I just struggled to remember; I guess now that she has been banned from Twitter her name is no longer in the headlines, and you begin to recognize these people for the nonentities they really are. This is what saddens me about our times – we have no better candidates on either side to inspire or lead a truly insightful or intelligent debate, most of them are just mouthy talking heads. Everything seems to have been dumbed down and the UK’s ‘national sweethearts’ that are pushed onto us by the media appear to be Holly Willoughby, Philip Schofield and Kate Middleton aka Duchess of C, none of them representing anything of any kind of substance.

Marvin Jones

14th July 2020 at 12:14 pm

You definitely want be a fan of hers if you are a lefty. She is a patriot who loves her country, and sees that it won’t be her country for very long.

Linda Payne

9th July 2020 at 2:02 pm

I’m not a racist but I am beginning to wish I had been born black; I’d still have a career in the NHS if that was the case and if they did try anything they suceeded in doing to me there would have been more support from the union, the media and just about anyone else

Marvin Jones

14th July 2020 at 12:12 pm

I know exactly where you are coming from Linda. I am not a white person, mixed due to being born just before the demise of the British Raj in India. These Bame and ethnic (used to be a minority) just cannot grasp how much the law, judiciary and ruling establishment is stacked in their favour. Mostly frightened of the consequences for violence and anarchy if not given into. BUT! it is and never be enough. Give them a mile and they inherit someone else’s land.

Andrew Levens

9th July 2020 at 1:33 pm

The police need to review their policy for stopping and searching cars. I think there is room for improvement. I was stopped a couple of years ago for having a dirty number plate. It took me quite a while to realise the police car was flashing etc at me. We were in traffic. I just assumed they wanted to get past on their way to somewhere else, so I drove on to get out of their way. It was my wife who said she thought they were after us, so i pulled over. The police were very pleasant and polite, but if they had been looking for car thieves or drug dealers they could well have assumed i was trying to evade them. If I had been stopped several times a year I would have known the score about pulling over, but I would have been pretty fed up about it and said so. My point is, the police have a difficult job to do, but they do need to avoid putting people’s backs up. There must be ways of avoiding stopping the same people repeatedly who are obviously not criminals. Also when a stop and search finds nothing, it does not hurt to be pleasant and apologise on the spot for the inconvenience and maybe explain the reason for the stop and use of handcuffs etc.

Marvin Jones

14th July 2020 at 5:29 pm

During the IRA terror of England, I don’t recall any black people being targeted by the police. Because of the volume of gangs, knife crime, drugs smuggling and distribution and the no go areas due to the vast number of places law abiding people dare not go to, black people will be stopped disproportionately due to them being a massive majority in these areas. But they do not seem capable of digesting and accepting this.

James Knight

9th July 2020 at 12:56 pm

The UK is not a racist country on the whole. But there is still racism. Some of it may be subtle. The Windrush scandal might well be described as “institutional racism”.

Here’s the thing: woke idiocy is reducing our bandwidth to deal with racism when it is real. At best it is obfuscating the issue at worst it is creating racism.

Andrew Levens

9th July 2020 at 1:16 pm

Absolutely! How on earth did the government let Windrush happen? A major PR disaster fuelled by civil service incompetence.

Matt Ryan

9th July 2020 at 4:51 pm

And yet it’s the intelligentsia in the establishment (civil service, at least in the higher grades) that are supposedly the most anti-racist (Woke).

Jerry Owen

9th July 2020 at 5:06 pm

The ‘Windrush scandal’ was a scandal in that many that came here disappeared into the community whilst others behaved correctly in getting documentation. It is a little known fact that white Canadians were amongst the Windrush generation. There is no racism involved.

Jerry Owen

9th July 2020 at 12:30 pm

In the modern era of ‘racism’ we have to look back to the days of the NF. At the height of their popularity they garnered nearly a million votes, a drop in the ocean and largely confined to london… So I would suggest that Britain has never been especially racist and not in recent memory, not to forget that we were once a homogeneously populated little island in the Atlantic.
We should be proud of our ourselves.
However immigration is now way to high, we were never consulted and people are rightly resenting it. But it is being done via the ballot box and nowhere else, especially not on the streets.
We are in fact too tolerant in that we are allowing it to destroy the fabric of our society.

Martin Luerssen

9th July 2020 at 11:32 am

My immediate association was:
“The vast majority in this country are not racist.” – The rest are black lives matter activist.

Mor Vir

9th July 2020 at 10:42 am

All things bright and bootiful the lord god maaaade them aaaaall.

John Reic

9th July 2020 at 5:34 am

labour actually did worse in London in 1987 than 1983 ( losing Battersea And Thurrock) seats kept in 1983 i remember the reason being given was the So called loony left if the GLC , new candidates standing Like Bernie grant
ken Livingstone and Diane Abbott had swings against them yet neighbouring mp moderate Paul Boateng didn’t have a swing against him Also the biggest swing against labour was the 1979 election when it was more than 20% followed by another 17% swing in 1883 as in 1974 Dagenham was the second most safe seat in the country 

When the boundary change happened after 2005 Jon Cruddas would be the first to admit
He relied on the Vote in the 2006 & 2010 which come election 2010 he thought he’d lost the seat The fact his majority went up to 5,000 in 2015 was mainly due to people from other constituencies

David Watford

9th July 2020 at 4:23 am

What do you mean “almost like”. They have been working towards this since the late 60s when their last attempt to overthrow God, religion, morality, culture, government, The Rule of Law, law enforcement, freedom of speech and expression etc failed. Practicing and planning and learning. By now they have educated several generations of graduates in education, politics, the social sciences, the media, lexicography, law, medicine, IT, engineering, business and even religion to prepare the way. If you’ve been on a university campus in the last 30 years it’s been abundantly what has been coming they have been just picking their moment.

A pandemic, aided by those who think that sacrificing the vulnerable to Mammon to boost profits and stock prices, is the solution, and tragic death of one suspect provided the moment. It’s a bit late to umming and erring and guessing what they up to. They are several moves ahead of you.

They have managed to make facts irrelevant, so that they can use Critical Theory directed at a small target and convince people that everything is like that. Tryy to use fact and rational argument will only prove their claims that you are White Supremacist/ Islamophobe/TERF/Cis-hetero-trans-homophobic or whatever and have no right to speak or campaign.

They haven’t quite got complete control of the public debate, but since most of it has moved to the internet where companies, worried about their profits host it, they are close. You can’t even post flyers or where a sandwich board anymore. Secret ballots still exists but they are increasingly proving irrelevant as few will dare defy the opinion polls.

Brandy Cluster

9th July 2020 at 1:35 am

But it’s far worse than “idiocy”.

Gordon Te Gopher

9th July 2020 at 1:26 am

If someone paid me millions of pounds to kick a leather ball around a park I’d probably be alright getting on my knee for someone else’s protest. I’d be happy to play along with their symbolics as long as there’s 6 figures after the £ symbol on my weekly wage slip.

James Knight

9th July 2020 at 1:01 pm

Many players might want to wear a poppy for remembrance. But they were forbidden and would have faced disciplinary action if they did so.

There is a reason to keep politics out of sport. It turns sport into – erm – a political football.

Marvin Jones

14th July 2020 at 5:39 pm

Thereby lies the power of the asinine human rights sewage which has stacked every the law, judiciary and the liberal vermin in favour of the intruders of the uncivilised world. Positive discrimination and stuffing the HO, NHS and other government departments to employ this incessant tsunami of eternally dependent incomers has turned GB into a third world bazaar.

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