White working-class kids are casualties of the culture war

Our woke elites feel an overriding contempt for white working-class communities.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
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Topics Politics UK

Have you noticed that anyone who talks about the problems facing white working-class kids is instantly accused of starting a culture war? Talk about trans kids and the media will be knocking on your door to commission a documentary. Talk about the specific problems facing children of West Indian or Bangladeshi heritage and the chattering classes will be all ears. But so much as mutter the phrase ‘white working-class’ and you’ll be viewed as iffy. Here comes another culture warrior stirring up racial tensions, the right-on will cry. They might even call you racist.

The Guardian is at it again today with a front-page splash saying: ‘Tory MPs accused of adding fuel to “culture war” in education report.’ What is this fuel that the dastardly Tories are recklessly pouring on to the cultural clashes of the 21st century? It’s a new report that says ‘white working-class pupils have been let down by decades of neglect in the English education system’. That’s it. The report is ‘controversial’ and ‘divisive’, the Guardian warns its readers. Nothing highlights the bourgeois smugness of intersectionality better than the fact that a paper like the Guardian will publish article after article about every identity group in the land and then clutch its ethically sourced pearls the minute anyone mentions the words ‘working class’.

The education report is actually not shocking or controversial at all. Nor is it a hand grenade lobbed into the culture war. It’s quite sensible. Produced by the education select committee, the report says it’s a national scandal that white working-class kids have been allowed to fall behind in education. It points out that disadvantaged white pupils are doing badly ‘every step of the way’. For example, just 18 per cent of white pupils on free school meals achieved Grade 4 or higher in GCSE English and maths, whereas the average for pupils on free meals is 23 per cent. A paltry 16 per cent of white kids on free meals get places at university, compared with 59 per cent of black African kids on free meals, 59 per cent of Bangladeshi kids on free meals, and 32 per cent of black Caribbean kids on free meals.

These are striking disparities. And the report makes the very logical point that they cannot be explained by poverty alone. All of these children come from cash-strapped, difficult circumstances, and yet the white ones do significantly worse than the others. There must be cultural reasons for this, the report suggests. It argues that kids from ethnic-minority backgrounds are offered more assistance than white working-class kids. It also ridicules the teaching of ideas like ‘white privilege’. Quite right. Telling white working-class children, who are lagging so severely behind every other social group, that their skin colour bestows upon them some kind of lifelong privilege is just perverse. It’s cruel, in fact; almost a form of mockery.

I would add to the report’s observations that there is also a worrying culture of low expectations in some white working-class communities. Where the children of immigrant communities – Indians, Nigerians, Bangladeshis, Irish – are often driven and aspirational, the children of the native white working classes too often expect too little of themselves. Education is something to ‘get through’ rather than to be challenged and changed by. Decades of economic, political and cultural neglect in working-class towns has sadly deflated many people’s sense of self. Which makes the cynical jibe of ‘white privilege’ all the more obnoxious. The elites hollow out the futures of the white working classes and then have the termity to lecture the white working classes about their ‘privilege’.

The woke set really cannot tolerate any discussion of the problems facing white working-class children. They will accuse you of racialising class. Definitely one of my favourite experiences in the media in recent years was being told by a plummy columnist that ‘the working classes aren’t just white, you know’. Yes, as someone who comes from a socioeconomically challenged part of London made up of working-class Indians, Africans and Irish (the blacks of Europe!), I’m aware of that, thanks. It wasn’t those of us who prefer the unifying politics of class to the communalistic rabble-rousing of elite identitarianism who made ‘the white working classes’ a thing — it was you.

It was the establishment. These people problematised the white working classes over decades, coming to view them as a uniquely regressive, physically unfit, morally compromised section of society. This elitist hostility towards the white working class exacerbated the sense of isolation and culture of low expectations within that community, which in turn made it necessary to discuss the clearly specific problems that the white working class now faces. To demonise the white working class relentlessly and then brand as racist anyone who stands up for the white working class is one of the most disturbing and Kafkaesque achievements of the new tyranny of identity.

The truth is that the white working class is the major casualty of the culture war. It isn’t those who talk about the educational neglect of white working-class kids who are ‘stoking a culture war’ – it’s the culture war that aggravated the educational neglect of white working-class kids. That’s because the culture war is a class war in drag. The target of the new woke elites, of the hyper-educated middle-class in-group that oversees education, culture and opinion-forming in 21st-century Britain, is always the beliefs and practices of ‘problematic’ white communities.

Their flag-waving, their feeling of patriotism, their unflinching support for Brexit, their wariness of woke bollocks, their preference for community solidarity over the phoney internationalism of globalist institutions – all of these things have led to white working-class communities being demonised as dumb, narrow-minded and xenophobic by the culture warriors of the new establishment.

The culture war, with its self-conscious sniffiness about nationhood and its division of the populace into carefully monitored and policed identity groups, is essentially a war on the white working classes and on the politics of class more broadly. Challenging the woke stranglehold on the political life of this country is the first step towards creating a true and transformative culture of solidarity between working people of every background.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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