We always hear about how we need more black voices on television, so why is it that every time I appear on screen, I’m attacked for having the wrong opinions?
Earlier this week, I was asked to appear on breakfast television to comment on a performance on Britain’s Got Talent by the dance group Diversity that overtly promoted Black Lives Matter. I argued that it was inappropriately political for prime-time, pre-watershed family television. Talent shows are not the place to be tackling such matters, at least not without investing the time to address properly the issues or to provide some political balance.
I argued further that, while there is racism in the UK that needs to be stamped out, the narrative pushed by Black Lives Matter and its allies – that the whole country is afflicted by institutional racism – is both factually untrue and damaging to racial relations. I believe that it encourages people from backgrounds like mine to think they have no chance of succeeding in Britain, when in my experience the opposite is the case. Of course many people will disagree with me. But in a free society, it ought to be self-evident that people should be allowed to hold whatever opinion they wish.
In response, however, I received some of the worst abuse I’ve ever encountered on social media. I had countless messages on Twitter, calling me a race traitor and far worse. One professional athlete, part of Team GB no less, made a derogatory comment about my afro. Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, an activist lawyer, said: “Something is very wrong with you”. A journalist and comedian demanded my arrest, while a leading Left-wing blogger called me a “waterboy to fascism”. Other messages, often from people who claim to be on the Left, threatened physical violence.
I am not the first person from an ethnic-minority background to have faced abuse for the sin of holding conservative opinions. But since the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, the issue seems to have become even more serious and stark, since some of the abuse comes from self-styled anti-racism campaigners.
In large part, this is a consequence of the rise of a new and divisive ideology. So-called critical race theory (CRT) arose out of universities in the United States, but has since become influential here in the UK. Purporting to be anti-racist, it holds that white people are naturally privileged and black people are naturally oppressed. It’s a theory that encourages a victimhood mentality and assigns blame for many complex societal issues solely on the basis of race.
Proponents of this ideology will have you believe that the UK is a structurally racist country. It is no good to offer any evidence to the contrary. CRT includes a catch-all clause: if a white person doesn’t seem outwardly racist, they must be unconsciously so. Or they might be suffering from a “post-truth mentality” or be blind to their “privilege”. Or, in my case, I must either be a traitor to my skin colour or suffering from a false consciousness that has to be “called out”, and my opinions cancelled.
If you follow the logic of CRT, therefore, it is literally impossible to disagree. Never mind that, as a teacher, I saw evidence all the time that suggests black African kids outperform their white counterparts throughout their time in school and are twice as likely to go to university. Or that our issues are very different to those in the United States. None of this gets a look in.
I happen to believe that this is one of the most diverse, tolerant and inclusive nations in the world, if not the most. But I’m open to debate on the matter; I’m willing to learn why I might be wrong. However, my opponents seem to think it is enough to shout me down, and discount my opinions based on a warped ideology that judges me purely based on my immutable characteristics. That isn’t diversity. It certainly isn’t equality. Above all, it is inimical to the freedom of speech that is our best hope of resolving amicably the debates that otherwise threaten to tear our society apart.
Calvin Robinson is a school governor and former assistant principal