White supremacy is history and China is the future
Mark Logan says the premise for the debate about white privilege is both flawed and dated, given the rise of China and other non-white societies, and the challenges faced by disenfranchised white people
Not a day goes by without heated debate about race in the media, both sides of it based on an outdated premise: that whites are supreme or possess unchecked privilege. It’s time for the global narrative and local sentiment to recalibrate.
Firstly, for believers in white supremacy, the recalibration process needs to recognise that the world has moved on since the days of the “white man’s burden”. Any belief that the “white race” is supreme is wrong, there is evidence of relative strength across races and ethnicities, like the life expectancy “superiority” of the Japanese and Koreans.
At my recent graduation ceremony in the UK, the convenor spoke ashamedly about how most of the portraits hanging on the wall were “male, pale and stale” – visual confirmation of the historic hegemony of white people.
No doubt, white people wielded unfair influence in global politics and society. But this is changing. I am part of a Western diaspora that has experienced a burgeoning and confident China, and is screaming out to Western audiences. But few have started to listen and accept, including those obsessed with white supremacy and privilege.
We are saying recognise the re-emergence of China. Sixteen times as many Irish tourists visited the UK compared to Chinese in the first quarter of 2017, yet they spent only two-thirds of what the Chinese did. Education is another important indicator. Chinese parents invest heavily in the future of their children. When I worked for the British Foreign Office, ministers frequently visited China to understand how Britain could better perform on the PISA rankings, especially mathematics.
Some have awoken to the rise of China and non-white populations. But significantly more are stuck in a debate that was more relevant in the 1990s: that whites wield too much power, wealth and influence, or that non-whites are disenfranchised. Not everything should be judged in terms of a race binary. Rather, analyse the economic problems facing us all and the decline in institutions that once helped support the working class. Disenfranchised white people are experiencing huge increases in suicide, and opioid and alcohol abuse in the US: white people are not immune from socio-economic disadvantage.
Working in China, I was able to observe the many achievements of the Chinese, the unremitting work ethic, the accumulation of wealth and the increasing influence in world economic and political affairs. These tangible changes will slowly discredit the grounds for an obsession with white privilege.
Mark Logan was head of communications and spokesman at the British consulate general in Shanghai from 2012-16 and a global communications adviser to Chinese organisations