We are still a long way away from sensible discussion about racism across the Labour Party. Racism in the modern sense as understood by those who take the most trouble to examine it as methodically as possible is not just the evolutionarily ingrained (and most probably adaptive before civilisation) distrust of people recognisable as “strangers” by appearance, and neither is it the bigotry of individuals (presumably acting from some nineteenth century notion of sinful free will). It is most certainly not an excuse for the categorization of individuals based on isolated statements or Facebook posts. It is trivial to demonstrate prejudice on such a basis in almost any adult, particularly public figures. Harvard University have tests that will show anyone at least some of the implicit prejudices that are prone to sway our opinions, often unconsciously: racist, sexist, and homophobic.

Racism word cloud
Image: http://www.kharmasworld.com

Modern racism has the distinguishing feature of virulence. That is, both in the sense of a hostility to ethic minorities unknown in the ancient world and in terms of pervasiveness and harmfulness. The isolation of left wing individuals does practically nothing to combat racism in The Labour Party, although it might make some of us feel better that ‘something is being done’ about racism. This is of course an illusion. You and I are far from immune from its influence. In fact, it is striking that the most high profile recent cases of suspensions involve long-time anti-racism campaigners, almost all women, and almost all from ethnic minorities. This should cause consternation and discomfort to anyone who wants to inoculate themselves from white supremacy.

Modern racism has its roots in, especially, Elizabethan England’s uneasy relationship with Spain, Spain’s own power battles, and the greed of Europeans who saw profit in free African labour. To make it all about individuals is  superficial analysis, conservative commentary, and plays into the hands of reactionary forces.