Does St George embarrass Oxford ?

[750 words]    Prime Minister Boris Johnson wished everyone a Happy St George’s Day yesterday. He felt, however, the need to reassure people that it was alright to celebrate St George’s Day and raise a glass, “without embarrassment and without shame”.

Most people will understand why he felt the need to issue such a reassurance. People know that the thinking called ‘political correctness’ now enjoys the status of religious Orthodoxy among western intellectuals.

You will therefore look in vain to find any endorsement of St George’s Day on the University of Oxford website. In fact St George’s Day does not figure, even though the University of Oxford is set in the heart of England, with a distinctly English and Christian heritage – Dominus Illuminatio Mea is the university motto, a citation from the first line of Psalm 27 in the Bible.

English heritage, however, appears to be a source of embarrassment and shame.

Why ?

English identity is evidently heresy at a University of Oxford dedicated to today’s religious Orthodoxy. In fact, Oxford is a centre of evangelism for this Orthodoxy, with cutting edge apostolic credentials and intentions.

On St George’s day, the University website home page carried the headline announcement about a new bursary scheme for Welsh students. Earlier in the week, it carried the announcement of new studentships for BAME students.

One week ago today, an online conference was due to be held titled, “Dismantling Whiteness: Critical White Theology”. The explanatory notice opened with the words:

‘Whiteness is a claim to power, it’s a claim to rightness, it’s a racialized claim and there is no such thing as being white and being a Christian, you have to resist that identity.’ 

I wonder how that statement accords with the provisions of the Equality Act 2010.

I also wonder

  1. how such a statement accords with logic and
  2. how it accords with reality.

For the logic, my research led me to this at Inside Higher Ed titled Dismantling Whiteness in Academe. Salvador Vidal-Ortiz explains:

It bears repeating that the dismantling of whiteness (as structure) is different from white (as race). When we talk about race in the classroom, I always make sure to distinguish between a race, a group of people, and the system that races encode. Here, I talk about whiteness as a discourse that enables a set of practices, which activates, with its own set of codes, certain responses and actions. But I am not speaking of white people… 

I still did not understand why there should be a reference to the colour “white” when this does not concern white people, as such. Then I realised that the clue to the logic being applied here lies in the words,

the system that races encode

I see. The objection is to white ways of looking at the world, ie the way in which white people think and behave – a mindset which contrasts with the way in which non-white people think and behave.

But they have already determined that whiteness is bad. Seeing themselves as anti-racist, Inside Higher Ed cannot be guilty of being seen as racist themselves. So they contrive an academic looking justification to advance and justify their predisposition. 

Once you understand that the logic applied is psychological rather than rational, then the meaning becomes clear.

Of course, such logic is false, indeed disingenuous. But then my response is prima facie evidence that I am applying the mentality of whiteness. Mea culpa !

Well, that’s the logic. How does the assertion about ‘whiteness’ compare with reality ?

We know that there is a great deal to regret and to be ashamed of in the history of White European colonialism. A great deal indeed. Applying the normal, accepted standards of morality which every human being recognises, that history is indeed littered with White European abuse – shocking abuse. Much academic research is now assiduously devoted to exposing and recording all this abuse.

Quite rightly.

But there appears to be a distinct dearth of research concerning any possible benign effects of European colonial rule.

Evidence for the benign ?

Which system do young Hong Kong democracy activists prefer ? The one inherited from British colonial rule – the one with the rule of law which guaranteed individual liberty and property, and so enabled Hong Kong’s astounding success ? Or the one the Chinese government has recently imposed ?

Presumably the new Chinese system reflects the mindset of “yellowness”, while the system Hong Kongers patently prefer reflects  the “whiteness” which accompanied British imperialism.

Or is this really about human beings, ideas and power – not racial stereotypes.

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