I oppose positive discrimination because white men have run the most successful positive discrimination scheme of all time

11:29 am - November 29th 2014

by Sunny Hundal    

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I was invited this week to speak at Cambridge University, with the topic title: “Does Britain need more positive discrimination?“. We could interpret this however we liked.

Below is roughly what I said.

In the 1940s, When Vera Rubin told her school physics professor that she’d been accepted into Vassar, an arts college near New York City, he said, “That’s great. As long as you stay away from science, it should be okay.”

Predictably, she didn’t. Rubin went on prove there was vastly more dark matter in the universe than previously thought, and overturned some basic laws of Newtonian physics.

And yet, she was turned down from the astronomy program at Princeton because they didn’t allow women. For years the scientific community ignored her work, only accepting it later after her male colleagues validated it. She didn’t get a Nobel prize for her work.

* * * * * * * * * * *

a) Before you came to this talk, I suspect some of you thought to yourself: I bet someone from the talk is going to open with a sob story of a gifted black-disabled-lesbian woman, to illustrate why we need positive discrimination.

But you’re wrong – I oppose positive discrimination. I oppose positive discrimination with every breath because, like many of you, I believe it to be unfair. Why should someone get promoted just because they belong to a minority group, instead of their ability? It’s wrong!

b) Between 1 and 3% of the British population are white men who graduated from Oxford or Cambridge. Yet, they completely dominate the worlds of higher academia, politics and business. Just 0.5% of all university professors in Britain are black. Just two FTSE 100 companies have a female chair.

THAT, my friends, is the most successful positive discrimination scheme of all time. A group of white, middle-aged men have successfully discriminated against anyone who didn’t look like them for centuries. THIS is why I’m utterly opposed to positive discrimination!

c) Diversity isn’t about gender or skin colour – it’s about background, experience and mindset. But all of those are usually the by-product of having a different gender or skin colour. And studies consistently show that companies or groups with more diversity do better than those more homogenous. Why? Because people with different mindsets look to solve problems in different ways. If we want more innovation, we don’t need more positive discrimination, but we do need more diversity.

d) Look around you: there is rampant positive discrimination everywhere – albeit in favour of white middled-aged men. But worse, because of this positive discrimination, we all lose out. Yes, even you, the white Cambridge man at the back – you lose out too!

I bet you’re thinking: that doesn’t make sense, I’ve hit the jackpot. how do I lose out? But you do.

If our companies and government had been more diverse to begin with, hiring talent from any gender, race or sexual orientation they could find, we would have far more progress than we do now. We could be chilling on hoverboards and flying around the world at twice the speeds for half the environmental cost. We could have solved our energy or poverty crisis .

Put it another way. It’s a bit like me raising you all in prison and then saying, wouldn’t it be great if the prisoners could also enjoy as much freedom as the wardens?
. We aren’t fulfilling our potential as a civilisation because the vast majority of intelligent people out there don’t get the opportunity to use their talents. They are shunned in favour of a narrow minority.

A woman Mexican engineer may have thought of a brilliant way to extend battery life. But since Apple hired its first high-ranking female executive in 24 years only recently, you are still cursing them for the shit battery life on your phone. You lose out too!

This is why I oppose positive discrimination, because so far it has been used to help white men. I want to see an end to this regime of positive discrimination.


Postscript: I was asked in the debate afterwards, so I’ll make this clear: in order to redress the balance I think it’s fine to have quotas for women, but not racial minorities.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Equality

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Reader comments

And studies consistently show that companies or groups with more diversity do better than those more homogenous.

Name one

I think there is a case for favouring people on the basis of income although the result will never be egalitarian. Thats what Grammar schools did, they favored bright, but less well off pupils by providing a Pubic school education for free. It worked within limits but no social engineering can create equality, it did widen the elite but for Labour that was worse than nothing.

Look at outcomes in the under 30s. Women are out-performing men. It’s a non-issue for Gen Y.

Nice article thank you!


Unfortunately, the middle class were always able to manipulate the 11 plus system, which favoured those who were able to score highly on the examination, of which scores were improved by practice. Where the grammar system still exists, parents can send their children to private schools, who are able to coach children, whereas state schools are strictly forbidden to do so.

Social engineering is an overused and often meaningless term, the grammar school system was an example of attempts to manipulate the environment to favour the brightest children. In fact, because of the limited number of places it was possible for children who attained similar scores to fail in one geographical area and pass in another.

Inequality tends to be a problem created within the economic base although our particular cultural bias towards ‘status’ also hinders meritocracy.

Nice One!!!

“Positive discrimination”? I didn’t know that discrimination could be positive. Positive discrimination is a policy that the previous French president Nicholas Sarkhozy wanted to put in place, which was severely rejected by French people. So Sunny I perfectly agree with you, we shouldn’t allow that to happen here either.

I am finding it increasingly difficult to believe that since the 60’s, the universe has been run by a bunch of far right wing, conservative, Christian evangelist, Republican/ Tory , WASP, corporate ,old boy network aristocratic White people— for the economic , cultural , political, territorial and demographic benefit of the historical majority populations of White people in White countries.
This meme construct which bears no relationship to reality has to be maintained and entrenched into a state of self perpetuization at all cost by groping out desperately and selectively for any example that sustains it.
I must be forgiven for believing that for the White middle / upper class 60’s baby boomer New Left social justice warriors ,
the World consists of only two types of people .

1 ) A bunch of powerful and rich , Christian , conservative closet racists

2 ) And then everyone else on the planet

Can anyone please tell me how to get the comment edit function ?

Here is a good example of discrimination but in the Political arena and club : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2864176/MPs-family-hiring-relatives-taxpayer-Annual-bill-soars-50-four-years-3-8million.html

You should be more concerned with the Political Club feathering their own nest yet again, again, again and again.

This is discrimination because they are working really hard to keep it in their own gang, within the family and friends so they can continue with their dirty tricks without fear of exposure.

Discrimination against those outside of their social circle. Keeping the Plebs at Bay.

10. Dave Roberts.

Yet another silly article Sunny. The most discriminated against section of our society are white working class women. I personally don’t mind if the country is run by disabled black lesbians as ling as they can do the job. hat you are arguing for is tokenism. It’s interesting that once elected every ethnic minority politician is against positive discrimination as they all claim to have got where they are through their own efforts.

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