David Green is Director of Civitas.
The Government’s planned inquiry into inequalities is already being attacked because it looks as if it might be impartial. We all know that commissions can be set up to justify something the Government already wants to do, or to whitewash something it wants covered up.
Commissions can also be genuinely objective. Sir Richard Henriques’ inquiry into claims about a London sex-abuse ring and the subsequent police investigation is a prime example of an inquiry led by someone of integrity, who looked at the facts and reported without fear or favour.
People like David Lammy want to prejudge the issue and take it for granted that white people are racists and non-whites their victims. Boris Johnson wants a fearless investigation. He should not be railroaded into pre-judgement by planting stooges into a commission who make a show of holding hearings and go on to recommend with great solemnity some foregone conclusions.
The inquiry should have a wide brief. It should ask who is flourishing, who is not, and why. It should avoid jumping to conclusions about the causes of success or failure. It should ask if race is the cause of success or failure, or not. And it should ask whether class (defined as the socio-economic status of parents) is the cause. It should also consider whether personal effort expended explains life outcomes.
It should examine with an open mind whether there are any structural causes – that is, causes beyond individual control. For example, if there is mass structural unemployment many will remain unemployed regardless of how hard each individual tries to find work.
It should look at the causes of success as well as failure, not least by studying people who started in the same objective situation and yet succeeded in life. How many people from humble origins succeeded and why? A bad start in life is a disadvantage but many people manage to escape their origins.
There are already numerous studies comparing parents’ incomes and child outcomes. The commission should also look at parents’ race and the outcomes achieved by their children. There is already much evidence about the impact of good schools in poor localities, which the commission should take into account.
The commission should be aware that heightening race is a political strategy for gaining votes. Opposition parties think it will give them a new chance of winning power. But it is a strategy based on deepening social resentment and denying our common humanity.
It is also a personal strategy by elites within ethnic groups for self-advancement. There are many examples of ethnic elites gaining personally while the great mass of people in the same ethnic group remain as they were. This week Woman’s Hour ran an item in which non-white female authors complained that publishers did not spend enough on marketing their books because they were black. They felt that the murder of George Floyd in America had at last allowed them to draw attention to their plight.
Campaigners want us to believe that whites are privileged and that non-whites are victims of white discrimination. But if that were true, it would hold fast in all walks of life. Yet our most honoured and admired national institution, the NHS, is staffed by a disproportionate number of non-whites. Nearly 21 per cent of all NHS staff are non-white, and over 46 per cent of medical staff are non-white.
If white people systematically discriminate against non-whites why allow so many to work in the NHS, the institution said by many to be the nearest thing we have to a national religion? Campaigners who are determined to find victimhood around every corner often try to explain it away by digging into the figures to find an unfavourable disparity. Ethnic minorities are under-represented among senior managers. But is it the result of discrimination?
Asians are by far the largest ethnic minority in the NHS and 29.7 per cent of all medical staff are of Asian origin. A very similar proportion have attained the top rank of consultant, 28.6 per cent, which looks like the outcome you would expect in a system based on merit.
And why do so many ethnic minorities represent the country at the Olympics? At the London Olympics in 2012, 24 of 65 medical winners were born abroad, or had foreign parents or grandparents. A racist people would not want to be represented internationally by people they systematically discriminated against in other ways.
Of course, brute facts can always be dismissed by sleight of hand. When a similar question was asked in America a campaigner quipped that it was because whites were happy for blacks to work in cotton fields and football fields but nowhere else.
This is a defining moment for the Government. It faces people who claim to be anti-racists but who assert that our racial identity is the most important thing about us. The vast majority of us are anti-racists too but we hold that the most important thing about us is our common humanity. This should be the foundation on which the commission’s work is built.