Permanent Racism: Critical Race Theory and Britain's Long Culture War

Until 2020 Critical Race Theory was little known in Britain beyond academic spheres but by the end of that year CRT was being derided in Parliament, with one minister declaring that the government stood ‘unequivocally against Critical Race Theory.’ The deployment of CRT in Britain’s culture wars was unlikely but not accidental. By autumn of 2020 the brief window of institutional sympathy that opened up in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter had decisively closed. However, these culture wars were not merely of the moment; they were rooted in Britain’s long held wish to erase the politics of race that have complicated British life since the second half of the 20th century. In current policy and public debate the ‘unseeing’ of racism depends upon a symbiosis between a ‘state postracialism’ that declares race is no longer socially salient and a parallel discourse that is aggressively opposed to antiracist movements. The paper suggests that while the novelty of Britain’s culture wars is often exaggerated, the political seriousness of the project to erase black and antiracist voices is often underestimated.

Paul Warmington is a Visiting Professor at the Research Centre for Global Learning (GLEA), Coventry University and a Visiting Researcher at the Centre for Identities and Social Justice, Goldsmiths, University of London. Paul is an internationally recognised scholar, whose work is rooted in Black Atlantic thought and focuses on education and social justice, and on Black intellectual movements. He began his career in further education in the late 1980s and has worked in higher education at the Universities of Nottingham, Birmingham and Warwick. His work has been covered in The Guardian, Times Education Supplement and The Voice. He recently contributed to BBC1’s landmark documentary Subnormal, on the placing of Black children in ESN schools during the 1960s and 70s. His book Permanent Racism: Race, Class and the Myth of Postracial Britain is published by Policy Press in January 2024.

Permanent Racism: Race, Class and the Myth of Postracial Britain:

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