Poor Black People are Working Class: Why Have we Stopped Talking About Class? | Ewell Gregoor


If you have ever seen the film-cum-popular TV Programme, “This is England”, then you will know the area where I grew up, selected as the filming location due to its resemblance of Britain of 30 years previous. Brought up on a council estate in the industrial North, I am all too aware of the barriers that accompany low social mobility, which I have fought and continue to fight to overcome. And although I may masquerade as a middle class person nowadays, with my degree education, middle job prospects and the dilettante interests attributed with middle class life, the experiences of the working class boy still burn inside.

What I have found most concerning, especially about the most round of race riots, is that skin colour and social class have become disconnected. Poverty and low social-mobility impacts all who suffer it. Why those on the so called economic left chose to fight on the grounds of race and not class and inequality is damaging for the entire working class community, including people of black and minority ethnic background.

The liberal argument for separating class and colour is because, apparently, white people cannot suffer racism, but this is obviously not true. The grooming scandal in the UK, where tens of thousands of white girls were targeted and raped on the grounds of their ethnicity lays waste to that claim. The girls in the grooming scandal were not just subjected to racism once. They first experienced racism at the hands of the perpetrator, they then experienced and still experience racism by the authorities who are too afraid to ensure justice was served. The liberal commentators who have just this week sought to claim cheap virtue points by exclaiming that, ‘they are white so will never know what it is like to suffer racism’, disrespect those white children who are victims of targeted rape in working class Britain.

It has been widely documented over the past decade that white working class boys are at the bottom when it comes to academic attainment. Ben Bradley, the Conservative MP for Mansfield, raised the question in Parliament in February as to why white working class boys are disadvantaged, Mr Bradley quoted the follow stats:

“By age five, white boys from disadvantaged backgrounds are already 13% behind disadvantaged black boys and 23% behind disadvantaged Asian girls in their phonics, for example; only around a third of white working-class boys pass their maths and English GCSEs; disadvantaged white working-class boys are 40% less likely to go into higher education than disadvantaged black boys; and in fact, according to UCAS, only 9% of these boys will go to university, compared with around half of the general population. I could go on forever if I had more time, but as it stands these white working-class boys are being let down by an in-built and inherent disadvantage.”

The current political climate is a zero sum game, with middle class liberals and the media class pitting sections of society against each other with unrelenting identity politics. The narrative that white people, least of all working class white people, should be apologetic or repenting for crimes for which they played no part in is counterproductive. Telling a young white boy from a council estate in poverty-stricken Grimsby that he has privilege over all black people is not only racist, as it assumes that all black people and all white people are homogeneous, but it will only exacerbate the current racial tensions.

I stand, as should all working class people, in solidarity with my black and minority ethnic working class brothers and sisters on the injustices you face. There are of course some racist police officers who will target black people. What happened to George Floyd was tragic, and we are all happy to see the despicable, racist police officer charged with murder. However, It would appear that the narrative of a wider, institutional police brutality in the US has no statistical evidence. A Wall Street Journal article this week, in the wake of the protests, published stats of police shootings. A selection of the findings are below:

  • “Assuming a comparable number of victims last year, those nine unarmed black victims of police shootings represent 0.1% of all African-Americans killed in 2019”
  • There is “no significant evidence of antiblack disparity in the likelihood of being fatally shot by police,” they concluded.
  • “A 2015 Justice Department analysis of the Philadelphia Police Department found that white police officers were less likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot unarmed black suspects.”

It is difficult to watch the media and middle class revolutionaries create a race war. Which is nothing other than a ploy to create a collective thinking approach to fit their political narrative. The truth is, as I show below, those who stoke up racial tensions are often the ones who support the institutions that in part create the poverty and lack opportunities that impact the lower social classes and black people. The middle class left have sought to separate black people and minority ethnics from their social class in order to claim them in their class, but they know nothing of what is it like to be in poverty, or be black. Ironically, this is a very imperialist attitude.

Fighting a war on specifically race, will be a red herring for the deeper, structural issues that impact those from working class backgrounds moreover. Take the issue of single parent families (broken homes), which are more prevalent amongst the working class. Children from broken homes are much less likely to attend higher education, and according to an article in published in the Daily Telegraph, are a staggering nine times more likely to commit crime.

Drug usage is also intrinsically linked to poverty and disproportionately impacts the working classes. Drug-Wise, an information website for information on drug statistics states the following:

  • The chances of overcoming drug problems are less among people who are disadvantaged. They have fewer positive alternatives and less access to meaningful employment, housing etc.
  • Deprived areas often suffer from greater and more visible public nuisance from drug taking and supplying.
  • Poor areas with high unemployment levels can provide an environment where drug dealing becomes an established way of earning money. Deprived areas might, at community level, find it more difficult to deal with drug problems.

What is perverse, is that those who are so keen on inciting a race war, celebrate/promote liberal ideas, such as single parent families and the decline in marriage. The liberal mentality that single Mums `can do it alone` may be true for middle class Mums, who have better support networks and the ability to pay for additional support. However this isn’t the same in the lower classes. We need to be promoting the traditional ideas of marriage and family, not liberal revolution.

Liberals also participate in and promote, through talk of legalisation, drug taking. As we found out in the recent county lines scandal, children from deprived backgrounds are groomed into working for criminal drugs gangs up and down the country, supplying drugs out of the urban areas and into the suburbs were the middle class can get their weekend fix.

It is also true that punishing austerity implemented by the Cameron government and globalisation in general have increased relative inequality and destroyed the industries where the working class previously found employment. It is right for the middle class `left` to point out that the economic settlement of the past 30 years in this country has led to a permanent underclass, of which black people are included. Why then, when an opportunity presented to break free from the globalist shackles of deficit control, state aid restrictions and unfettered capitalism enforced by the European Union constitution, did they vote in favour of that neo-liberal, capitalist institution and still fight now, despite a mandate by plebiscite, for a continuation of that economic status quo?

It is difficult to fathom why, considering the proclaimed love of minorities and the working class, the middle class revolutionaries support the institutions and ways to life which are inimical to working class progression. I am, unlike the revolutionaries in question, prepared to give them the benefit of doubt. I do not think their actions are sinister and I believe, or more hope, that they mean well. But as George Orwell`s biographer, Robert Colls, who paraphrased Orwell`s theory on the middle class lefts insistence on speaking for other groups. “Orwell did not understand how those who have no idea of the struggles of the working class could attempt to speak for them. How can you be a firefighter when you have no idea where the fire started, or how hot the fire is”.

What I am sure of, is that poverty and deprivation do not discriminate, evidenced by the Indices of Deprivation Maps which show both black majority and white majority areas in the top 1% of most deprived areas in the UK. Ironically, some of the worst deprived areas in the U.K. are in the former Labour heartlands, such as Greater Grimsby and parts of the North East. If Labour would have fought the class battles over the past 10 years, as Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and James Callaghan did before, it is likely those seats would still be red.

Britain will be best placed to fight the social injustices if we stand together and fight for those in poverty, black or white. It’s time to stop the divisive rhetoric and come together.


Photo by Victoria Pickering on Flickr.

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