White Privilege for Dummies would perhaps have been a more appropriate title for Kalwant Bhopal’s study on white privilege. More fitting, at least, than The Myth of a Post-Racial Society, which makes it sound as though Bhopal’s work enlists a cutting edge and insightful angle on the issues of white privilege in the UK and USA – which it does not. The book acts as a kind of encyclopaedia of how white privilege affects different areas of society, from health, to education, to politics. Bhopal merely seems to affirm and reaffirm what is generally already accepted in liberal society.
In short, her work has a painful lack of edge. Her only supposedly new angle is that she sets out to challenge the pre-disposition of society to believe that we are living in a post-racial society, where we believe the issues surrounding race and white privilege to be issues of the past. However, this is not an insightful or new idea – indeed, it is almost as widely acknowledged a concept as racism itself.
The main flaw of her book is that it is too broad in its scope, meaning that some ideas are left undeveloped. For example, her explanation of the effect that racism had on Brexit, or vice versa, lasts barely more than a page, merely a tokenistic scratching at the surface of these issues. On the contrary, her examination of white privilege in education takes up at least half of the book. Considering that Bhopal’s background is in education – she is a lecturer at Birmingham University – her work would be much more convincing had she kept her discussion to examining this topic alone.
That being said, the book does have some merit. Bhopal’s traversing of the Atlantic on every other page makes for some interesting diversion in the mostly dry writing style, as does the occasional case study that Bhopal includes at the end of chapters.
However, the book is marked by a writing style that generally lacks eloquence, making it awkward to read and its points even more convoluted; this is particularly pertinent in the chapters in which Bhopal clearly has much less expertise.
The book would be useful if you are unsure of the background surrounding societal racism, introducing topics such as neoliberalism and intersectionality. Merit can be found in Bhopal’s exploration of societal racism and white privilege, but only in terms of giving a basic overview of these issues. Unfortunately, White Privilege falls short of being a cutting edge and insightful discussion of a society that is in denial of its own prejudice and privilege, as was promised by the title.
White Privilege: The Myth of a Post-Racial Society by Kalwant Bhopal.
(Policy Press, 2018)
Image: Policy Press.