Robert Henderson, England Calling, December 2, 2012
In 2003 radio and TV presenter Adrian Chiles self-indulgently allowed himself a gigantic wallow in liberal breast beating . In a long article for the Daily Telegraph entitled “Why are all my friends White?”, Chiles expressed his surprise that he, a white liberal bigot of impeccable anti-racist, multiculturalist credentials, had no non-white friends and precious little deep social interaction with blacks and Asians:
The thought struck me as I was looking through my wedding photos recently: why is it that I have no black or Asian friends? I work with some black people, I socialise with them, but when I looked at the pictures of the 131 guests at my wedding, I was shocked to find that there wasn’t a single non-white face among them. I consider myself a fairly liberal, open-minded chap, so the demographic of my circle of friends was quite troubling. I decided to investigate further, and scrolled down the 99 names in my mobile phone’s memory, to find that there is only one black person on the list — a television producer whom I work with.
It’s not that I haven’t come into contact with many black or Asian people during my life. I grew up in the West Midlands, which is home to the largest non-white communities outside the capital. And I now live in Hammersmith, a decidedly multi-racial area of west London. Yet, when Petal Felix, the aforementioned producer, came to visit me to discuss the possibility of making a documentary on the very subject that was causing me such concern, I was horrified to realise she was the first black person who’d ever been to my house.
Faced with this traumatic (for the politically correct) disjunction between the quasi-religious utterances about the enriching qualities of racial and ethnic diversity in a society and claims that “race is just a social construct” that people such as Chiles routinely make, he embarked on a series of exquisitely exciting (for a modern white liberal) exercises in masochism as he explored the very white, very English world he inhabited and in all probability still inhabits. (The absence of non-white faces in Chiles’ wedding photos is made all the more enjoyable for normal, that is, politically incorrect people, because his then wife Jane Garvey, who is currently employed by the BBC as the presenter of the feminist propaganda vehicle Woman’s Hour, is an especially devout disciple of political correctness).
We decided to make a film — The Colour of Friendship [for the BBC] — that would attempt to find out whether mine was an isolated case or not; and whether 21st-century Britain really is a multi-cultural melting pot, or — if we’re brave enough to admit it — still a largely segregated nation.
Chiles worked with an all black team whilst making his programme. He finds being in the racial minority disconcerting:
As a white, middle-class male, very rarely have I found myself working in a minority — until now. This time, the producer, executive producer, researcher and camera crew on this documentary were all black. I was surprised to find that I couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable with the situation and grew increasingly defensive about it, although I was unable to articulate exactly why…
Chiles takes the all black TV crew to a Pakistani — run pub in West Bromwich (the area in the English midlands where he grew up) which he still regularly frequents and fondly imagines is an example of unalloyed multiculturalism in action. Much to his horror when they arrive he finds “the punters in the Sportsman turned out to be 95 per cent white. The only Asians in there were staff, serving beer and curry to groups of white blokes.” His liberal fantasy world has overcome reality.
Throughout the programme Chiles is constantly putting his liberal foot in it. When he recounts a story about how his wife could not say the word black when giving a description of someone his black producer Petal tells him that it “is typical behaviour for white people who don’t mix with black people. For God’s sake, it’s perfectly all right to call black people black!” At one point he uses the term “half-caste” and is covered in liberal horror when he is told “mixed-race” is the polite word these days. Most traumatically for Chiles (and hilariously for the politically incorrect), he meets Simon Darby of the West Midlands branch of the British National Party. Unsurprisingly, Darby complains that whites cannot celebrate their whiteness. This leads to the ultimate horror for a white liberal of being suspected by Petal of wanting to celebrate his whiteness: “Petal and me into a furious argument when he asserted that it is no longer possible to celebrate “whiteness” in Britain.
I wondered aloud why it would be quite reasonable for Petal to say publicly that she was proud to be black, while for me to say that I was proud to be white would cast me, in some people’s eyes, as either a football hooligan or a Nazi.
“So are you proud to be white?” Petal asked me.
“Actually, no.” I shouted back, startling an elderly woman, who was struggling past with her shopping. “I just want to know what the difference is.”
In addition to these embarrassments Chiles constantly encounters the physical reality of racial and ethnic division. He visits Handsworth, and Hagley, towns stuck in the middle of the heavily black and Asian settled West Midlands and discovers Handsworth is almost entirely non-white and Hagley almost entirely white.
He also addresses racial separateness at the individual level when he meets Nigerian Didi Anolue who tell him she is “looking for a husband — specifically, a black Nigerian. She rules out marrying a white man, which sounds fine coming from her.
“But how would it sound if a white woman in Stourbridge declared she’d never marry a black bloke, I wondered. It would sound terrible. But what’s the difference?”
At the end of his Odyssey Chiles seeks answers to his questions:
If anyone would be able to answer my growing list of questions, it would be Dr Robert Beckford, who runs the Centre for Black Theology at the University of Birmingham. He told me the reason I am unable to assert that I’m proud to be white (not that I’d want to) is that “the language of whiteness has been appropriated by the far Right”, and it has to be taken back from them before people like me can understand what it means to be white and engage in a sensible debate about race. And another thing, he said: “Everyone’s always studying Afro-Caribbean culture or Asian culture. Why isn’t anyone studying white culture?’
Until that happens, I might never find out why I have no close black or Asian friends. But, whatever the reason, I don’t think it necessarily makes me a bad person.
The answers to Chiles’ questions
Chiles should not be surprised at what he finds because all he is displaying is normal human behaviour, namely, a selective preference for those who most resemble him. This is called assortative selection and is a trait widely found throughout the animal kingdom.
The strength of assortative selection in humans can be seen most easily in mating patterns. Even in such racially and culturally mixed areas as inner London, the number of mixed race relationships is remarkably small considering the apparent opportunities on offer. Indeed, the fact that there are shared external physical differences which cause human beings to classify people by race testifies to the general reluctance of humans to mate with those who radically differ from them in physical to mate with those who radically differ from them in physical appearance.
There are also differences in mating patterns where mixed race relationships occur. Women are more likely to take a mate of a different race than men and the higher the socio-economic class, the less likely that a mixed race relationship will exist.
These selective tendencies are very powerful. In Freakonomics Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner cite a study made of a US dating site (the full story is on pp 80-84). The site is one of the largest in the US and the data examined covered 30,000 people equally divided between San Diego and Boston. Most were white but there was a substantial minority of non-white subjects.
The questionnaire the would-be daters had to fill in included a question choice on race as “same as mine” and “doesn’t matter”. The study compared the responses by white would-be daters (those from non-white were not analysed) to these questions with the race of the emails actually sent soliciting a date. The result in Levitt and Dubner’s words was:
Roughly half of the white women on the site and 80 percent of the white men declared that race didn’t matter to them. But the response data tell a different story. The white men who said that race didn’t matter sent 90 percent of their e-mail queries to white women. The white women who said race didn’t matter sent about 97 percent of their e-mail queries to white men.
Is it possible that race really didn’t matter for these white women and men and that they simply never happened to browse a non-white date that interested them?
Or, more likely, did they say that race didn’t matter because they wanted to come across especially to potential mates of their own race as open-minded?
In short, around 99% of all the women and 94% of all men in the sample were not willing to seek a date of a different race. How much stronger will be the tendency to refuse to breed with a mate of a different race? Considerably greater one would imagine.
The effect of social and economic differences is that the higher up the social scale a white person is, the more likely they are to have meaningful social contact with non-whites. Moreover, the contact they do have is almost entirely with middle-class and very westernised blacks and Asians.
The truth which “white middle class liberals” like Mr Chiles find disconcerting is that they are much more likely to live in a very white world than the white working class whom they both despise and fear.
The Chiles Test
Chile provides the answer:
The only thing I know for sure is that, in this multi-racial society, many middle-class whites have much less meaningful contact with black or Asian people than they would like to think. If you don’t believe me, check your wedding photos and your address book.
If the Chiles test is based on non-white faces in wedding photos, arguably the most potent indicator of social interaction, it is a fair bet that most white liberals would score perilously close to zero.
What did Chiles learn from his experiences? That the liberal fantasy of multiculturalism and multiracialism is just that, a fantasy and a most dangerous one because of the fractured society it produces? Don’t be silly the man’s a white liberal. At the time the programme was broadcast Chiles announced to the Birmingham Evening Mail that he “hopes his three-year-old daughter Evie will marry a black or Asian man one day (Aug 18 2003 Graham Young).
Chiles’ ignorance of the realities of racial and ethnic difference or a refusal to acknowledge them, is summed up in that wish. He fails utterly to understand that the conflict in heterogeneous societies is not merely between white and non-white, but amongst non-whites of different types and those of the same race but different origins, for example, in Britain blacks with West Indian ancestry are often at daggers drawn with blacks from Africa. He makes the mistake, which itself is an unconscious form of racism as defined by modern liberals, of lumping all non-whites together.
If his daughter does marry a “black or Asian man” she will not be decreasing racial and ethnic tension in Britain but increasing it, because the greater the heterogeneity the greater the mistrust and tension between racial and ethnic groups occupying the same territory.