Boondoggle

One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

Institutions are institutions are institutions

I have very little familiarity with racism in British society or politics, but I have a difficult time believing the contention of the head of the UK’s “equality watchdog” that conditions in the Isles are so distinct that a “British Barack Obama” would be impossible.

“The parties and unions and think-tanks are all very happy to sign up to the general idea of advancing the cause of minorities but in practice they would like somebody else to do the business. It’s institutional racism,” he told the Times.

It seems that this is articulating precisely the problem that minority candidates face in the United States and, probably, every culture in the world.  Overt racism by individuals is simply not as great a barrier in organized politics as is a more subtle, but pervasive and at times structurally well-entrenched, sociological form of racism.  A party boss will not expressly reject a candidate because s/he is black, but, in numerous studies, managers looking at paper applications with equal qualifications tend to hire applicants with “white”-sounding names, rather than those more commonly associated with African-Americans or other minorities.

The relevant variable here is not the specific nature of different institutions, but the institutional nature of the phenomenon.  Therefore, it wouldn’t matter much that the internal dynamics of the British Labour Party differ from those of the American Democratic Party, for both are similar enough in their composition qua institutions that the same sociological tendency toward racism would apply.

Guardian readers seem to agree.

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November 8, 2008 - Posted by | Brittania, U.S. politics | ,

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