Power lies in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.George Orwell
In recent times unconscious bias training has become compulsory in most private and public sector companies. This is in addition to their roll-out in the Civil Service, the Metropolitan Police, local government departments, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Justice. Diversity officers and ‘diversity Tsars’ (on huge salaries) also abound, including in the allegedly ‘underfunded’ NHS.
This industry has not suddenly popped into existence from nowhere. Although its remit has been widened to include ‘bias’ against LGBT and other supposedly ‘oppressed’ minority groups, its primary line of fire is against ‘racism’ (inverted commas explained in due course). In this respect it has grown from the politically-motivated ‘racism awareness’ courses administered to teachers and to administrative and ancillary workers by a number of fanatical local education authorities during the 1980s.
This was in the context during that decade in which the incursion of so-called ‘anti-racist’ policies were designed to transform schools, with their ‘outmoded’ and ‘monocultural’ academic education, into ideological power-stations. (For some of the effects upon schools, see my article “How the ‘anti-racist’ bandwagon captured the classroom” in TCW Defending Freedom).
During the mid-1980s I was a member of a think tank of academics formed by Roger Scruton, and we published a book, of which I was the editor (with 14 contributors), entitled Anti-Racism – an Assault on Education and Value, which was a critical expose of the corrupted race-relations industry and their activists, and we warned (in vain) of the social and educational dangers of ramming politicised notions of ‘racism’ down people’s throats.
Among other things, we pointed out how the original non-politicised concept of ‘racialism’, which seemed to be implied in the 1976 Race Relations Act, legitimately took the word to mean the injustice and moral failure of the advantaging or disadvantaging of individuals for no other or better reason than that they happen to be members of this racial group rather than that. Thus conceived, any racial discrimination or hostility takes place in a context which involves the free and conscious interchange between individuals.
The subsequent neologism ‘racism’, however, deployed by hard Left activists who infiltrated some major educational institutions, changed the meaning (with many ordinary citizens not noticing). ‘Racism’ was defined thence as ‘prejudice plus discrimination plus power’ and its adherents located such ‘racism’ not in the free and conscious interplay of human behaviour but in the ‘structures’ of this ‘racist’ country. This neo-Marxist structuralist definition, which held that ‘all whites are racist’, also ruled out ab initio even the possibility of racism on the part of non-whites (which were lumped together as ‘black’) because they are presumed not to have ‘power’. This simulacrum of logical reasoning (which is actually circular) was clearly demonstrated by 12 signatories of the Sheffield Anti-Racist Group NATFHE in a letter to the TES: “The statement that ‘racism works both ways’ and that ‘racism is one form of prejudice’ ignores the power dynamic inherent in racism… Black people do not have that power – they are not therefore racist.”
This crafty change of meaning enabled the activists (some ensconced in positions of power, especially in the radicalised Inner London Education Authority) to portray Britain as ‘endemically racist’. Anyone doubting this would be guilty of ‘unintentional’ or ‘unconscious’ racism and would be in need of the enlightenment of re-education. That is a sanitised version of course. In practice, there was some incitement to violence, one example of which was to be found in a booklet for schools entitled How Racism Came to Britain, of anonymous authorship but produced under the auspices of the Institute of Race Relations under its then Marxist Director Ambalvaner Sivanandan. The booklet with its mendacious distortions of British history was racially hostile in its stereotyping of British whites. Writing about that booklet in the Times in 1985, Ronald Butt pointed out that those who take the law into their own hands (“in the light of police indifference”) are praised and that “this torrent of hate and provocation ends with an invitation – ‘It’s your move next, what’s it to be?’”
The conceptual chicanery of locating racism, not always necessarily in the overt behaviour of human beings but sometimes ‘unintentional’ or ‘unconscious’, enabled ‘racism awareness’ courses to induct participants into the idea that Britain is a racist society because, for example, it contains ‘negative uses’ of the word black (as in ‘blackleg’ ‘blackmail’, ‘black ice’ and ‘black spot’). One of my contributors, Dr. Linda Hall, provided a scholarly rebuttal of the idea that such uses express attitudes to black people (and she cited a number of ‘negative’ uses of the word white, as in ‘whitewash’. ‘whited sepulchre’, ‘white elephant’, and so on, which equally do not denigrate white people).
But scholarly argument is not much of a weapon against the language-police (whose powers grow by the day). “In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it” – in the memorable words of Orwell. These days, of course, rational argument can be brushed aside with the ludicrous ‘hate speech’ mantra that something is offensive if someone finds it offensive (though no doubt the ‘injured’ party has to be of the politically correct denomination). And ‘critical race theory’ outlaws rational argument on the grounds that it is a residue of ‘white privilege’.
The recent increased traction of the woke industry should be seen against the background I have given. The target is Western civilisation with its culture and traditions. The most telling opposition to this destructive fanaticism has come from decent and outspoken non-white commentators such as Suella Braverman, Kemi Badenoch, and the journalist and GB News presenter Inaya Folarin Iman (see her article “The collapse of the diversity industry cannot come to soon” in the Daily Telegraph). They, and others, have seen the divisive tactics of portraying ethnic minorities as oppressed victims, which is racially demeaning in insisting that such minorities can only achieve success through ‘positive discrimination’.
The pseudo-science behind this training is lucidly brought out by Lewis Feilder in a Spectator article “The dangers of unconscious bias training”. This training took as its model the Implicit Association Test (IAT) intended to detect “the strength of a person’s subconscious association between objects in memory”. And, as he says, this was never intended to mean “biases towards racial groups, genders sexuality, age and religion”. In practice, the so-called bias test involves a series of tasks in which you are asked to respond quickly (with no time for critical reflection) to a series of photos to be associated with the words black’ or ‘white’ or ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Feilder argues that these tasks are ineffective. My philosophical objection lies deeper. Genuine racial discrimination or hostility is a moral failing, and a moral reaction to it should be concerned with what a person does or says in his outward behaviour rather than what is supposedly ‘hidden’ in the recesses of the mind.
And who are the training operatives to tell people what is in their unconscious mind? They are hardly qualified neo-Freudian psychiatrists who lie people down on the couch for months on end to explore their hidden labyrinths. In fact, those who operate the sessions are not qualified clinicians at all, just robotic jobsworths. The idea is not to find what ‘unconscious biases’ people have, since it has already been decided in advance that the participants must have the racial or other ‘incorrect’ biases, and the association tests, and the atmosphere in which they are conducted, are rigged for jiggery-Wokery. No matter how honourable or compassionate their actual behaviour, all whites are racist deep down, in addition to their other un-Woke deficiencies. It is a form of gaslighting. It amounts to ‘grooming’ the participants into a cult. Employers go along with forcing their employees to subject themselves to this for fear of being branded racist, which might impact their profits.
Besides the promotion of positive discrimination, the aim (and probably not unconscious aim) of the political forces behind these mental dentistry sessions is to induce feelings of guilt and foster social division, which is a necessary device for the ultra-Woke left to bring about their revolutionary dystopia.
It is essentially dehumanising. We are all members of the human race’ but are being reduced to box-ticked labels that define’people in terms of their racial, sexual, or other categories that are said to constitute their ‘identity’.
Dr. Frank Palmer is a philosopher and author. His last book was Literature and Moral Understanding.