The official blog of The Social Democratic Party.

We need to talk about toleration

As the revolutionary BLM agenda sweeps across our society, it’s time to defend an old idea

By: William Clouston

A single atrocity in Minneapolis started a causal chain which has led to mass demonstrations, an orgy of rioting and looting across US cities and the vandalism of civic monuments across the world.

As the revolutionary agenda of Black Lives Matter (BLM) sweeps uncritically across our institutions it’s time to defend a vital, old-fashioned and neglected idea – civilised toleration.

Equality is a noble aim but it remains a profound and stubborn truth that no diverse society will ever secure total parity among all groups and still remain free.  All multiracial societies exhibit differences.  Some of these differences should be challenged, some should be tolerated and some might even be celebrated.  If a plurality of races and cultures are to coexist harmoniously in the same hosted space – while retaining their identities – an acceptance of some differences is essential. A civilised toleration of differences.

Alas, the diversity enforcers disagree.  They will find a disparity, quickly attribute it to racism or oppression and campaign for its immediate correction.  Even better if the racism in question is considered ‘systemic’ or ‘institutional’.  Much of their analysis is unthoughtful and infantile.  Stuck in a victim versus oppressor mindset it doesn’t occur to them, for instance, that disparities in educational performance might reflect group differences, for instance, in the stability of family life or the tendency of parents to read to their children.  An adult reaction to this reality might be to understand that variations in outcome could only be eliminated if the state could magically eradicate all these differences.  This is not going to happen.  Where disparities are to the advantage of favoured minorities however – Premier League footballers and jazz musicians come to my mind – there appears to be no problem.

A programme of diversity training, racial quotas, Maoist ‘re-education’ programmes and pulling down statues is the opposite of toleration. A society which goes in for these things has lost the art of getting along with itself.  It’s a place in which the useful ambiguity which is necessary for citizens to rub along together has evaporated.

Historically we know where this leads. Pogroms and racial violence have been the norm in many multi-ethnic states.  Across history conspicuously successful minorities such as the Chinese in Malaysia, Asians in Uganda and, most tragically and persistently, Jews in Europe, have been persecuted.  It’s unnerving to hear BLM activists openly advise people to make ordinary purchases based on race, a practice promoted by the Nazis in the 1930s.

Being a good citizen entails toleration and being a serious political party involves producing positive policy.  This is an unhappy time and Social Democrats need to offer some solutions.  Here are three.

First, stop racialising everything.  We aim for a more equal society but we accept that some differences are inevitable in a free society because practices and customs vary.  A ‘colour-blind’ attitude is far better, wiser and more unifying than Labour and the far-right’s poisonous and divisive identity politics which, in reality, are gateways to actual racism.  State-sanctioned racial favouritism is dangerous.

Secondly, be truthful.  Sensationalising things through simplistic slogans and depicting rare occurrences as typical of policing is highly irresponsible. It is harmful and anti-social.  Tackling racial disparities in crime, education and employment requires honesty about the reasons for them as well as acceptance of the importance of social class.  What happened in Minneapolis was terrible.  However, it is inexcusable to exploit the incident to inflame and polarise here.  Turn down the anger, turn up the facts.

Thirdly, deal with causes not symptoms.  Many of the real reasons for group disparities concern culture, everyday practices, beliefs and social class. Working in grassroots sport will do more to help children become good citizens than political agitation.  Good housing, education and sensible family policy will also do so.

Britain had the good fortune of avoiding the European totalitarian scourges of the last century and there is no good reason for us to import racial conflict from the United States now.  Whether we’ll enjoy a social future together or find ourselves locked behind gates is in the balance.

Political wisdom will not be found in hyper-racialisation.  It resides in recognising that we live in a sea of similarities and that, fundamentally, we want the same things.  Getting them depends not on perpetual conflict but on the exact opposite – on achieving peace.  Civilised toleration of differences isn’t, therefore, merely a social democratic ambition for a peaceful society, it is a pre-condition.  It must prevail.

Hold onto toleration.


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All Comments (13)

  • I agree. The many privileges we enjoy in modern nations are due to our unique human capacity for specialisation in skills, teamwork for mutual benefit and fair free trade. And those good things can only happen where there is mutual regard, trust and toleration. Resentment, friction and disunity destroy peace and productivity. We seem to have lost sight of these basics. Yes, there is some largely class-based social injustice in the UK, itself a consequence of globalisation. But this ‘kill the bogeyman’ attitude is quite the wrong way to fix it.

  • Thank you for writing down so eloquently what I have been trying to convey in numerous conversations I have had recently.
    Well done SDP 🙂

  • I’m sorry to admit I’d not really heard of the SDP prior to the last week.

    But your articles came up in Google searches and were a wonderful breath of fresh air.

    Well written, thoughtful, rational and logical. Rather than the extreme emotion – mostly anger and hatred – I’ve seen in the press in general and especially the Woke left wing press.

    I hope the SDP can survive in the current climate of extreme intolerance.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Brilliant

    This narrative needs to be heard more loudly and clearly but the BBC and such like will do their damndest to suppress it

  • This is a great piece. Unfortunately, we live in a society where personal and communal responsibility for any group disparity is exported onto government. “Systemic” and “institutional” racism are purposefully vague, unsubstantiated terms to allow for the permanent perpetuation of racial grievances. Sadly, the culture war we find ourselves in offers few rewards to the honest and nuanced – characteristics sorely needed if inequalities are to be addressed.

  • Good piece William. What I find the most disagreeable about BLM is that the narrative they use may have been more appropriate for the UK during the 1950’s rather than the 2020’s. The degree of institutional racism has been reduced to where it matters less than it did in the past. After all look at the Conservative cabinet and there is a good representation of BAME members. The same is true for all the professions ethnic diversity exists and to pretend it does not only perpetuates a false sense of victimhood.

  • Love this – it’s exactly what I believe to be the way forward.
    I will join the SDP with enthusiastic optimism.
    I am a former Labour Party member.

  • Firstly: Break the myth of White Privilege (indigenous child slavery, workhouses, average age for poor was 30 in 1800, working-class got the vote earlier based on WW1 – and even today the indigenous working-class are near the bottom for being accepted at elite universities.

    Secondly: Break the myths of SLAVERY – Several European ethnic groups enslaved the UK indigenous – Bristol was known for indigenous and Irish slavery. In Europe, the Arabs, Amazighs, Mongols, Persians, and Turks all enslaved Europeans (Slave markets even in the early twentieth century in Ottoman Turkey).

    THEN take the ISLAMIST ANGLE OUT and UTILIZE… ARAB Muslims enslaved black Africans from the 7th century (800 years before Europeans) until 1962 when Saudi finally abolished slavery… THEN express how ISIS enslave the Yazidis today and Arabs are enslaving black Africans including branding in 2020.

  • Continued: Marxism, communism, and racism – In Cuba the Afro-Cubans face enormous discrimination because from Castro onwards the leading figures are European descendants – Afro-Cubans suffer via economics and lack of political representation.

    China and CCP: Racist ideology aimed at Tibetan Buddhists and Xinjiang Muslims – also the CCP is using Han nationalism to crush the minorities based on power concentration …

    Highlight how other communist societies including North Korea and Vietnam are nationalist….

  • Continued: Highlight how black on black violence is responsible for untold numbers of deaths. In the UK, 85 percent of killings by the police are white (highlight their names)…Equally, show the irony that virtually no pogroms of black Africans exist in modern Europe – BUT ethnic massacres in Burkina Faso, DRC, Mali, Nigeria, South Sudan, and others are common – same applies to indigenous attacks in South Africa against immigrants … While in Uganda this country under Idi Amin kicked our all Asians and the UK took in…

    Equally, highlight how black African countries aren’t intent on Asian immigration – while most Asian nations don’t give citizenship to black Africans …. THEN highlight the mistreatment of black Africans in the Gulf and compare this with the openness of the UK.

  • Lastly: you need a committed group to utilize social media and show the enslavement of black Africans in Libya and the Gulf via video links – to utilize links from the media. Express indigenous poverty … and other areas mentioned. At all times RACIST COMMENTS must never happen and networking needs A BASE – but members also should remain hidden … Equally, focus on ALL PEOPLE who are proud of the civilization we support and this will bring in a cross section of ethnic groups and people from different classes – and ages.

  • Thank you for this interesting informative article William.

    We don’t need Critical Race Theory in UK.

    I think I’m already a SDP member.

Family, Community, Nation.