On Thursday I made the horrible mistake of watching a bit of BBC Question Time, and I've been infuriated by what I saw ever since. I've been hesitant to write about it because I don't particularly want to do the old "white guy explains racism" thing, but some of this stuff needs to be said, and one of the saddest things about racism is that certain people will be far more likely to listen if it's being talked about by a white person just having a say, than a person of colour with far more experiences of witnessing and dealing with racism first hand, and even academic qualifications on race issues. I'm not entirely sure what qualified the actor Laurence Fox to appear on a high profile political panel, but for some reason he was invited onto the show, where he give an extraordinary performance of racism-denial and white victimhood posturing. He started off by claiming that Britain "is the most tolerant lovely country in Europe”, which is palpable nonsense given the fact that the UK government systematically deported scores of black British citizens, many of whom died in exile overseas, and that the party that introduced the unlawfully racist 'Hostile Environment" legislation that underpinned this deportation drive has been reelected three times since. When he was called out on this racism-denial Fox resorted to the ludicrous stance that white people are the actual victims of racism, which created a truly absurd conception of a kind of Schrödinger's racism that doesn't exist, yet persecutes white people. I have no academic qualifications on race studies, so feel free to explain where you feel I've gone wrong if you disagree, but I think three distinct types of racism are at play in contemporary Britain. The first is explicit racism. People who use racist slurs and generalisations, monkey chant at black footballers, discriminate against non-white people and deny the Britishness of non-white Brits, fetishise their own whiteness to the extent of claiming to be "pure English" or "pure British", talk about multicultural cities and areas as being "lost", add -istan to the end of British place names, and/or continually bang on about 'Asian grooming gangs' whilst completely ignoring the child sex crimes of white people, and especially the multitude of child sex abuse cases amongst members of Tommy Robinson's street thuggery operations ... These people are extremely easy to identify as racists. Then there's systemic racism, which manifests in a multitude of different ways. One of the clearest examples is the fact black and Asian Brits are far less likely to get to the interview stage using their real names, than if they use an assumed British name like James Smith, or Ann Carter. The most glaring manifestation of this kind of systemic racism was Theresa May's 2014 "Hostile Environment" legislation, that was used to deny employment, housing, social security, banking services, and even life-saving medical care to black Brits. As the legislation was being passed through parliament Theresa May openly stated that this legislation would be used to "deport now, hear appeals later", and only 18 MPs bothered to oppose this vile racist shite. Which brings us to the third type of racism: passive tolerance of racism. You don't have to be an outright racist to be tolerant of racism. If you're an MP who wilfully abstains on brazenly racist legislation out of fear that the right-wing propaganda rags will attack you as "soft on immigration" then you're a passive racist. If you sit there and say nothing when you hear someone in your social group using grotesque racist slurs or resorting to far-right white victimhood propaganda, then you're being passively racist too. And you're definitely passively racist if you vote in favour of a Tory party led by an overt racist, that pushed through the unlawfully racist Hostile Environment, because you're calculating that there's some other (probably imaginary) benefit to keeping the Tories in power that outweighs their proven racism. The problem of course is that a lot of people who benefit from systemic racism, and/or behave in passively racist ways get very upset indeed when you call out these forms of racism, because they don't self-identify as racist, and feel like they're being classified alongside the vile explicitly racist monkey chanting mob. People who don't really think about or understand the issues are easy to rile up. All you have to do is misrepresent a critique of systemic racism as an attack on white people like them, and suddenly they're churning out the extreme-right tropes, and railing against "political correctness" with no real conception that they've been emotionally manipulated into doing the ideological leg work for the extreme-right. Once the extreme-right have inflated people's senses of persecution and victimhood to the size of a hot air balloon, it only takes small puffs of wind to get them floating in the direction they want them to. Hence the term "white privilege" becoming such a lightning rod of resentment amongst people who don't have any real interest in understanding what it actually means. Just like other privileges such as class privilege and male privilege, this doesn't mean you've won some kind of prize in life that automatically makes you super-successful, it just means that you don't have other people around you, and the system itself, making your life shittier just because of the colour of your skin, the accent you talk with, or your gender. As a guy from a working class background who speaks with an unmistakably norther accent, who has lived, studied, and worked amongst the upper classes, I have a lot more first hand experience of witnessing classism than racism. To deny that classism exists would be as absurd as downplaying and minimising racism. From the fact that the 7% privately educated class are still massively over-represented in all the top professions, to the massive disparities in pay for the exact same job between upper, and non-upper class workers, it's undeniable that classism exists in modern Britain. But this doesn't mean that everyone born into the upper classes is a selfish, elitist, shitbag who thinks about the lower orders in the same way as Boris Johnson (that we're all "useless", "drunk", "criminal", "aimless", "feckless" and "hopeless"). An awful lot of people with class privilege are like this of course, but there are many others who have recognised the systemic privileges they've benefited from, and argued in favour of making things fairer for the rest of us, from Bertrand Russell, to George Orwell, to Tony Benn. But then class privilege extends beyond national borders too. I may be from a northern working class background, but compared to the working classes in Chinese sweatshops, or Indonesian paddy fields, or sub-Saharan Africa, I'm living on easy street. The least privileged demographics in the UK are still amongst the most privileged demographic worldwide. What I'm steering towards is the concept of intersectionality, which is the idea that there's no one primary defining issue when it comes to privilege and discrimination. In reality our lives are defined by all manner of factors like race, class, creed, sex, sexual orientation, disability, geographic location, and intelligence. I'm aware enough to understand that I've won the lottery in most of these factors. Not because being white, or heterosexual, or male, or able bodied, or 'Western' makes me inherently better than anyone else of course, but because I'm not going to be personally abused or systematically discriminated against over any of these things. And it makes me absolutely sick to hear people with even more privileges than me (like someone who was educated at Harrow or Eton for example) downplaying and minimising racism, and even making out that white wealthy males are 'the real victims' of persecution. But to certain people, who are used to the game being absolutely rigged in favour of people like them, any efforts to make the playing field ever so slightly fairer will come across as persecution against them and their kind. Back in 2009 there was a huge outcry when BBC Question Time invited the explicitly racist BNP leader Nick Griffin onto the show. But the extreme-right attitudes and tactics that were reviled then have become so absolutely commonplace today that they're not just espoused by right-wing propaganda hacks and the leaders of the ruling Tory party, but by C-list actors on Question Time like Laurence Fox. And just by trying to downplay and minimise racism, and playing the extreme-right 'white victimhood' card, Fox is clearly proving that Britain is in fact far more tolerant of racist attitudes and extreme-right propaganda than it was just a little over a decade ago, because back then it was mainly just the explicit racists coming out with this kind of extreme-right pish, but now it's so socially acceptable to push extreme-right propaganda that actors, TV hosts, musicians, and senior politicians are all doing it with impunity, and those who call them out are the ones who end up getting dogpiled and abused.