I’m about half way through watching this “interview” on YouTube, done by the two Triggernometry guys (don’t yet know their names) with Katharine Birbalsingh, the quotes being because it doesn’t take much in the way of questioning to get Katharine Birbalsingh onto her soapbox and orating with no further provocation or prompting.
Birbalsingh was explaining that, and exactly how and to what extent, David Starkey is a racist. She quite likes Starkey, agrees with him about a lot of things, agrees that of course he’s not nearly as bad as Hitler, but somewhat worse that then a little old lady walking along the street who is scared when a bunch of black kids comes towards her. That’s her attitude towards him.
I’m only about half way through the whole thing, which lasts a bit more than an hour. But already (around 22 minutes in), one of the Triggernometry guys has put the defence of Starkey which I have been thinking myself. Which is: That Starkey talked about “damn blacks” not because he really thinks blacks should be damned, but because of the vehemence with which he disagreed with the argument he was denouncing, which equates slavery with genocide. I too have been thinking that Starkey made a serious error in using this phrase, but that he wasn’t sounding racist on purpose, he was just getting a bit carried away. (There is often a strong overlap between slavery and genocide. In Hitler’s Germany many thousands of slaves were deliberately worked to death, and killed if they stopped working, for whatever reason. I am sure similar things could be said of the slave trade. Nevertheless, the two concepts are clearly distinguishable.)
Birbalsingh had already said that Starkey actually has a lot of previous in saying things in a decidedly racist manner, and of generally making “mistakes” of this sort. He’s a smart guy. Had he wanted to phrase things more politely, make certain distinctions subtly instead of crassly, he could easily have taken the trouble to acquire this habit. He hasn’t. And that’s because he hasn’t thought that he needed to. In short, he is racist. She doesn’t want Starkey “cancelled”, but she wants him knocked down in the world to the tune of a peg or two.
Birbalsingh was very clear that being rather racist, like Starkey, is not the same as being Hitler. There’s a continuum of racism, a spectrum, with that scared little old lady at one end and Hitler at the other. I strongly agree with that point. (I actually think she was being a little unfair to the little old lady. That kind of racism is, for all sorts of reasons, often very rational, even as it may often be experienced as very insulting to those on the receiving end of it.)
On the Starkey matter, I found Katharine Birbalsingh rather persuasive. She changed my mind about Starkey. I now entertain the possibility that Starkey is indeed, and has long been, somewhat racist, in just the way she described. Which is only appropriate, because Birbalsingh prides herself on her ability to persuade people to change their thinking.
She also put one of the strongest cases I have yet heard for the Nation State. I’m a libertarian of the sort for whom the state is typically the enemy. “The state is not your friend”, and so on. She said that by inculcating a sense of Britishness into all her pupils, of all colours, she makes it far less likely that they will divide into racial tribes, including some racial tribes who consequently feel deeply unwelcome in what ought to be their own country, and which geographically and legally is their own country. My thing is: state/liberty, choose one. Hers: nation state/racial tribalism, choose one. Hers is a good point, I think. I’ve surely heard this argument before, in various forms. For some reason, her way of putting it really hit home.
Now I’m going to go back and listen to the rest of it.