REVIEW: White Privilege: The Myth of a Post-Racial Society, Kalwant Bhopal

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

One of the major features of politics in the past few years has been a renewed attention to race as a driving factor in both politics and everyday life. How, after decades of civil rights activism, do people from black and minority ethnic communities continue to be marginalized? In White Privilege, Kalwant Bhopal draws on social science research and political and economic analysis to show how people from black and minority backgrounds are continually positioned as outsiders in public discourse and interpersonal interaction. Neoliberal policies only increase that tendency, as their effects exacerbate long-standing patterns of minority disadvantage. Bhopal’s book is rooted in dispassionate analysis, but its message is unmistakable—the structural advantages of whiteness are widespread, and dismantling them will require both honesty about their power and determination to change them.
As a university student, my friends and I always heard rumours of the mythic 90% - that, if you managed to present a stellar essay, it would be published in some sort of academic journal. No one we knew ever managed it (the alcohol made sure of that) but White Privilege makes me wonder whether Kalwant Bhopal achieved the goal.
The book was comprehensive, I will give it that, featuring a wealth of information regarding racial inequality and marginalisation in both the United Kingdom and the United States, more extensive than any lecture I have ever sat through pertaining to the subject. But if only it didn’t read like an essay; like a mishmash of ideas that Kalwant Bhopal needed to dispel from his brain and get out onto the page as quickly as possible.
It presents a range of interesting facts and figures, but there’s no flow - absolutely none at all - and that is where White Privilege suffers. It could have been a perfect introduction for so many people who still remain oblivious to the information Bhopal presents, and yet the writing style acts as a barrier that I predict would prevent even the most willing student from pushing forward and learning more.
It is honestly such a shame, because this could have been so great. But writing in the area is new, I suppose, and I will most certainly keep an eye out for Bhopal’s successors.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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