The concept of “white privilege” is “stoking divisions” and “marginalising the most disadvantaged” in society, the equalities minister warns today.
Writing for The Telegraph, Kemi Badenoch says schools must only teach the concept of “white privilege” if they explain that it is “highly contentious”.
Mrs Badenoch insists the phrase “reinforces the notion that everyone and everything around ethnic minorities is racist”, and makes the majority white population of the UK “more conscious about their race … creating a less cohesive society”.
Highlighting the use of the term in a BBC educational video designed for children, Mrs Badenoch says that “we should not carelessly use skin colour as a proxy for disadvantage”.
The minister’s intervention will reignite a row that erupted over a Commons education committee report which warned that white working-class pupils have been “neglected” by the education system for decades.
Members of the committee urged schools to stop using the term “white privilege”, saying that the term may have contributed to a “systemic neglect” of white working-class pupils.
The report prompted a backlash by unions and Labour MPs, with Diane Abbott, the former shadow home secretary, accusing Conservative MPs who signed off on the report of “playing culture wars with education”.
But Mrs Badenoch states: “White privilege, far from helping to combat racism, is actually stoking divisions and marginalising the most disadvantaged in our society.”
The minister claims that Labour are “blind … to the realities of life in their former heartlands”, as she highlights figures showing that, in 2019, just 17.7 per cent of white British pupils eligible for free school meals achieved at least a strong pass in English and maths at GCSE, compared with 28 per cent for black pupils eligible for free school meals.
She says: “The phrase ‘white privilege’ is unnecessarily antagonistic. Much as some theorists think it is essential for tackling racism, the fact is there is an active and fairly toxic political debate around it.
“All the more reason why the phrase should not be taught in schools unless it is explained that it is also highly contentious.”
Mrs Badenoch adds: “As someone who grew up in Nigeria, where there is only one skin colour but over 300 ethnic groups, the more ethnic identity is emphasised the weaker national identity becomes. This is a dangerous trend for a multi-racial society where we need to lean on what we have in common not emphasise our differences.”
Read: Kemi Badenoch on why teaching about ‘white privilege’ is wrong way to combat racism