Following the Brexit vote, Allister Heath, writing in The Telegraph, found himself ‘very struck… by the way that liberal middle-class Remain voters tended to characterise working-class Leave voters as ignorant, stupid, bigoted and racist’. On the other side of the aisle, Dreda Say Mitchell, writing in The Guardian, reported that ‘the barrage of hatred and intolerance unleashed by sections of the remain vote against the working class has been horrifying’.
A popular narrative regarding working class white support for Brexit is that it was based on a nativist racism and a hatred of ‘diversity’. ‘Ignorant’ and ‘uneducated’ whites were seen as a bunch of knuckle-dragging bigots who irrationally hated their neighbours.
[W]hat really offends liberals—particularly in London—is the thought that Britain is bound to become less tolerant, less international, less diverse and as a result less interesting.
However, ‘if national diversity is the goal’, gushed the piece, ‘Britain’s capital has an enormous head start’.
Does it really?
The Financial Times notes:
So noisily have London’s political leaders been celebrating the diversity of their multiracial city that they have forgotten to see what is happening under their noses. If you walk around the city centre you see racially mixed pavements, shops, buses, tubes and even workplaces. But there is also a great deal of what the Americans call “sundown segregation”: if you followed people home you would find yourself in some of the most ethnically segregated places in Britain.
As Ed West puts it:
London liberals tend to be impeccably on-side when it comes to racial morality, but still want to be with people like them, some of whom are Asian or black or mixed, but not many, at least not proportionally to their boroughs. This doesn’t make them bad, just human, but the problem is that the whole diversity ideal is based on people having perfectible natures, the story culminating with a post-racial society where all segregation ends, a classic example of a utopian political belief.
The Times has termed the phenomenon ‘polite white flight‘:
Britain has become more sharply divided on ethnic lines, even as racial prejudice has declined, according to a new study.
More than 600,000 white Britons have moved from London to areas that are 90% or more white in the past decade — and liberals, leftwingers and rightwingers have done so at roughly the same rate.
Trevor Phillips, the former equalities chief, stated:
We are not seeing an increase in racial hostility but the outcome is a clear increase in racial division. People are moving apart even though today personal racial prejudice is on the wane.
In a major academic study, Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam conducted detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America. In 2007, he published his findings, which demonstrated:
[T]he greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.
Again, Putnam did not find racism to be the primary factor. He writes:
Diversity does not produce bad race relations or ethnically defined group hostility. Rather, inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbours regardless of the colour of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can make a difference.
The flip-side of these findings was that:
where “social capital” is greater, children grow up healthier, safer and better educated. People in more homogeneous communities also have longer, happier lives and democracy and the economy work better.
The New York Times reported:
His findings on the downsides of diversity have also posed a challenge for Putnam, a liberal academic whose own values put him squarely in the pro-diversity camp. Suddenly finding himself the bearer of bad news, Putnam has struggled with how to present his work.
This is hardly surprising, for, as John King states, ‘“Diversity” is the new fetish of the media and political class’. Indeed, a commitment to ‘diversity’ has taken on an almost religious air in age of increasing secularisation, with ‘“diversity” and “tolerance” as the qualities to which the new elite most reverently genuflects’.
The problem with all this praise for diversity is that many of its advocates do not in practice live the ‘diverse’ dream. This has been identified as the ‘diversity paradox‘: ‘people who value diversity surround themselves with like‐minded others’. The thing is, those like-minded others tend to be of a similar ethnic and cultural background.
But what of those who can’t afford to make such living choices? The much-discussed – and derided – white working class comes into the picture here. White liberals, the kinds of people who praise diversity and avoid it in practice, can often barely conceal their contempt for such people. For example, it has not been seen as unacceptable for a Times columnist to refer to working class whites as ‘the detritus of the Industrial Revolution’.
When you actually listen to the concerns of the kinds of white working class people who voted for Brexit, what emerges, however, is not a torrent of racism, but rather a deep sense of loss of community.
In May 2016, the BBC visited the East Ham Working Men’s Club, ‘which has become the last bastion of Cockney culture, and is just a few feet from West Ham’s Upton Park ground’. Comments from the patrons centred on culture, not race. This is an area that has seen massive demographic change in a relatively short space of time. Whites are a minority. The club’s manager states:
People who haven’t been for many years come out of Upton Park Station and say: “I can’t believe what’s happened here, it could be Baghdad.”
A club member says:
It’s hard to find somebody who speaks English in Newham. We’ve always been a country where immigration plays a part, but not on the scale you find now. You go from Aldgate to Barking and there is very few English people left.
The biggest change I think is the pubs shutting, there are so many pubs closing down. Muslims don’t drink, so that’s another major change.
The documentary also features bus driver Tony Cunningham, whose father was a Jamaican immigrant and whose mother is a Londoner whose family has lived in Newham for 150 years. Despite his mixed heritage, Cunningham considers himself a cockney through-and-through. He now feels isolated in his own community:
I feel alone. Most of the Muslims stick together, their children stick together. If you are an outsider, they don’t want no part of you whatsoever.
This feeling of being culturally and socially isolated, of feeling ‘alone’, fits with Putnam’s findings on diverse communities, although where Putnam stated that ‘inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life’, it seems more that some incomers have never even sought to become a part of that collective life (outside of their own communities).
Of the 8.17 million people in London, one million are Muslim, with the majority of them young families. That is not, in reality, a great number. But because so many Muslims increasingly insist on emphasising their separateness, it feels as if they have taken over; my female neighbours flap past in full niqab, some so heavily veiled that I can’t see their eyes. I’ve made an effort to communicate by smiling deliberately at the ones I thought I was seeing out and about regularly, but this didn’t lead to conversation because they never look me in the face…
I was brought up in a village in Staffordshire, and although I have been in London for a quarter of a century I have kept the habit of chatting to shopkeepers and neighbours, despite it not being the done thing in metropolitan life. Nowadays, though, most of the tills in my local shops are manned by young Muslim men who mutter into their mobiles as they are serving. They have no interest in talking to me and rarely meet my gaze. I find this situation dismal.
People feel ‘alone’ and ‘like strangers’ in communities that have ceased to be communities in any real sense. Is it any wonder that such areas have produced ‘leave’ voters, who desperately believed that in some way voting ‘out’ might do something to change things?
Middle class white liberals who are increasingly flocking together in culturally homogenous areas never utter the kind of impolite and ‘racist’ statements seen above. They don’t need to. They can afford to move to be around ‘people like us‘ without giving any controversial reasons. They can sit in their enclaves and make themselves feel morally superior by pontificating on the ‘racism’ of the retrograde uneducated lower classes, and champion the wonders of ‘diversity’ while living far away from it. As an article in The Independent puts it:
Classist innuendo about educated Remain voters and the ‘white van men’ of Leave has revealed something very distasteful about Britain. “Are you sophisticated, cultured and cosmopolitan, or an uneducated pleb?” is implicit in much of the discourse…
Middle class liberals are often actively involved in a “divide and conquer” strategy with recent immigrants and the established working class. They disingenuously praise immigrants not out of any sincere commitment to open borders, but rather as a way of distancing themselves from and expressing their disdain towards the working class.
Disdain towards the working class and their ‘prejudices’ masks a great hypocrisy: the biggest advocates of ‘diversity’ are often the least touched by it.