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The International Writers Magazine: Rotherham and Us

The Effects of Social Conditioning
• Tom Kilcourse
When, on the BBC radio’s Today Programme, broadcaster John Humphrys introduced an item on the Rotherham rapes scandal by asking ‘How can this happen? How can it be?’ I felt the question had the ring of disingenuousness, or simply naivety.

sun headline

The report into the affair explained that police officers and social workers knew about the abuse, if not the scale of it, 1400 children involved over a number of years, but were afraid to take action because they could be called racist for doing so. The abusers were British Pakistanis.

I am not sure whether John Humphrys simply did not believe the reason offered, or his incredulity related to the lack of courage displayed by people with professional responsibility for preventing such behaviour. Since the report was published the word ‘cowardice’ has appeared in a number of newspapers. In some cases that label may be justified, but I can only wonder how many of the journalists using it would risk their careers in pursuit of truth. The people involved were not simply avoiding embarrassment by their inaction. In a left-wing council the racist label would not simply be embarrassing. It could lead to a quick dismissal from the job.

Many of these people are in a closed occupation for which they have studied and gained qualifications. They are on a career ladder. The occupation is closed in the sense that potential future employers are all local authorities. If fired by one authority, their chance of being taken on by another is pretty slim irrespective of the reason for their dismissal. So, it is not simply a job that is at stake, but their whole career. I am not excusing their lack of action, indeed I believe that some should be prosecuted for criminal neglect, but it is very easy to throw stones if one doesn’t live in a glass-house.

I worked for three years in the early eighties for Sheffield city council under the leadership of David Blunkett, so I, and probably anyone else who has worked for a Labour council, could tell Mr. Humphrys how it came about that hundreds of young girls could be raped, beaten and traded for sex by a gang of Pakistani men without action being taken by police and social workers who knew what was happening.

When the deputy leader of Rotherham Council was interviewed he told the BBC that he would be looking at structures to see what had gone wrong. The problem is not structural, but psychological.
For several decades the British have been indoctrinated on race, not least by the BBC, so that white people, particularly but not exclusively those working in the public sector, lived in a climate of fear. We have been obsessed with isms, particularly ill-defined racism. No, allow me to rephrase that, we have been obsessed with white racism. When I worked for Sheffield Council the only training programme at which attendance was compulsory was one called ‘Race Awareness’ during which white manual workers were lectured to by a young black ‘consultant’ from London on the evils of their ancestors. Sheffield was far from unique in promoting this kind of nonsense.

That is why what happened in Rotherham, and elsewhere in Britain, will probably continue until we confront the insidious dissemination of the belief that racism is a major problem in British society. I have not the slightest doubt that there are racially prejudiced idiots in our midst, just as there are psychopaths and paedophiles, but they are atypical in our culture. Nevertheless, one could be forgiven on occasions for believing that it is the greatest problem facing today’s Britain. At times the anti-racist propaganda has included images and words of Martin Luther King, the champion of anti-racism in America, so suggesting parallels between British and American attitudes. That is entirely misleading. The spark that ignited the rise of anti-racism in America has no parallels in Britain. There has never been segregation in law that reserved seats in buses or elsewhere for white people.

The anti-racist agenda in Britain is social conditioning of the kind used in authoritarian societies to achieve compliance of the masses with some objective, often one that is clear only to its promoters but opaque to the rest. It begins with a reasonable proposition, then slowly broadens in meaning. What I saw in Sheffield all those years ago was a supposition that all white, working-class males were racist, and sexist incidentally. It was stereotyping every bit as offensive and wrong as is prejudice on racial grounds. Other councils, some referred to as ‘loony left’, shared Sheffield’s obsession.

Occasionally, the situation became farcical. My wife, when in charge of management development in Nottinghamshire county council, was criticised by her boss for using the phrase black-listed in a discussion. The same man objected to the word ‘blackleg’, clearly unaware that the term related to strike breakers in the mining industry and had nothing whatsoever to do with race. Ironically, Nottinghamshire was a mining area. My wife’s experience demonstrates that those promoting the conditioning process haven’t a clue what ‘racism’ means.

Uncertainty as to meaning serves the agenda of those wishing to further the social conditioning process, making it difficult to confront such a nebulous concept. I once asked an enthusiast of anti-racism what the term ‘racism’ means and how it differed from ‘racial prejudice’. He defined it as P+P, prejudice plus power. He also advised me that it was strictly a “white problem”. The young man evidently lacked a sense of irony, being a Ugandan Asian whose family was kicked out by Idi Amin.

Since those days the virus has spread, so that practically the whole of British society is now infected. Fear of being labelled ‘racist’ not only inhibits people’s action when dealing with a member or members of an ethnic minority, it causes them to watch their language to the extent that the word ‘black’ is taboo. I have known people who were reluctant to use the term ‘black board’ and insisted on the alternative ‘chalk board’. That is irrational.

The situation in Rotherham is remarkable only for the number of victims involved. It is a symptom of a social cancer. It should come as no surprise to a BBC broadcaster or anyone else that decades of social conditioning inhibit behaviour and expression. That is what it is intended to do. Nothing will change until we make a conscious effort to abandon the generalised, unspecific indoctrination and take a more rational, targeted approach to race relations. I shall not hold my breath.

© Tom Kilcourse August 30th 2014
kilcoursetom at

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