‘Racial Self-Interest’ is not Racism

Mar 3, 2017

This report presents new research by Eric Kaufmann, Professor of Politics at Birkbeck University, which examines attitudes towards racism amongst British and American voters of different races and political persuasions. The research shows that:

  • A majority of British and American people of all races believe that white majority desires to reduce immigration can be motivated by racial self interest rather than racism – and that there is a crucial distinction
  • White liberals are most likely to believe that whites who desire lower immigration to maintain their population share are racist – whilst white conservatives are most likely to believe that minorities who want more of ‘their own’ to immigrate are racist
  • Political views are more important than race in determining a voter’s perception of group-based immigration preferences – for example, the divide between Remain and Brexit voters, as well as Trump and Clinton voters, on whether it is racist for whites to want to restrict immigration stretches to 70 points

Commenting on the launch of the report, Professor Eric Kaufmann said:

“We need space for ideas around ethnic interests to be more openly aired without accusations of racism. We believe that pro-immigration groups should accept the importance of cultural concerns, and argue positively for immigration on humanitarian, national-interest or liberal grounds.”

“A better understanding of the relationships between view on immigration, race and racism could draw the toxic sting from the immigration issue, defusing a key source of white grievance and fuel for right-wing populism. It could also help restore the credibility and effectiveness of a narrower, more targeted, antiracist taboo.”

David Goodhart, Policy Exchange’s Head of Demography, Integration and Immigration, added:

“The challenge here is to distinguish between white racism and white identity politics. The latter may be clannish and insular, but it is not the same as irrational hatred, fear or contempt for another group — the normal definition of racism.”

“Majority rights are uncharted territory for liberal democracies and it is not always clear what distinguishes legitimate group interest from racism. The liberal reflex to tar legitimate majority grievances with the brush of racism risks deepening western societies’ cultural divides.”

Headline findings from the research include:

  • 73% of white Clinton voters say a White American who wants to reduce immigration to maintain her group’s share of the population is being racist, but just 11% of white Trump voters agree
  • 47% of White British Remain voters say a White Briton who wants to reduce immigration to maintain her group’s share of the population is being racist, but just 5% of White British Leave voters agree
  • 73% of white Clinton voters say a White American who wants to reduce immigration to maintain her group’s share of the population is being racist, but just 18% say a Latino or Asian American who wants to increase immigration from Latin America or Asia to boost her group’s share of the population is being racist
  • 66% of White British pro-immigration voters say a White Briton who wants to reduce immigration to maintain her group’s share of the population is being racist, but just 3% of White British anti-immigration voters agree

Author

Eric Kaufmann

Eric Kaufmann
Eric Kaufmann is Professor of Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London. Read Full Bio

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