If you haven’t heard of the term ‘racism laundering’, fear not – you are not alone. But no doubt the term will become as widely spread as ‘white privilege’ or perhaps ‘global majority’ as it seems to fall into that category, one which is used to highlight the abomination of racism while, oddly enough, being racist itself.
It was first brought to my attention by a writer called Nels Abbey who wrote a piece about it in The Guardian, “We need to talk about racism laundering: what it is, who benefits – and how to be vigilant.”
Sound ominous? It is. Throughout his article, Abbey writes about the dangers of this sinister new term. Here is the definition of it in his own words:
“Racism laundering is a process in which the skin colour of an ethnic minority appears to facilitate policies, practices and narratives that would otherwise be condemned as bigoted. Those involved may indeed hold bigoted views themselves. They may be seeking advancement, or simply be reckless. They may be used as part of a wider agenda. But in any event, whatever the motivation, the effect is that they become a defence mechanism against clear instances or accusations of racism.”
In other words, racism laundering is where a black or brown person is used as a weapon by racist white people who want to promote bigoted views.
Not only that, but the black or brown person in question is either a) a bigot, or b) trying to climb up the career ladder, or c) simply reckless.
Therefore, according to Abbey, any ethnic minority who happens to hold right-wing views is not in control of their own mind (unless they are deviously attempting to advance their career) and is nothing more than a witless pawn of white bigots. Think Suella Braverman, Priti Patel, Ben Habib or Kwasi Kwarteng. None of them are in their positions of power due to their intelligence, values or desire to make a difference. They, along with any other black or brown person that has conservative views, are there purely because of their skin colour, handpicked as the ultimate tools of racism laundering.
It’s comedy gold, really. The kind of thing you would expect to see in a satire movie, except then you are hit with the horrifying realisation that racism laundering is a very real thing, promoted by people like Nels Abbey and The Guardian.
If this isn’t one of the most racist and patronising terms to come out of this political ideology then I don’t know what is. It is shocking that anyone could attempt to legitimise such an outrageous term but then again, when we think of ‘white privilege’ it produces a similarly shocking effect, especially as the majority of white people in Britain are far from privileged and throughout history have known very little privilege at all.
If we think back to the days of the British Empire, only a select group of elites benefitted from the wealth the empire accumulated. The majority of white British working classes were forced into their own form of slavery called bonding, sometimes with devastating consequences, but somehow this has completely bypassed those who go on and on about ‘white privilege’ or the Transatlantic Slave Trade where a good chunk of people are now demanding payment – often in the form of millions of pounds – in a bid to make amends for Britain’s role in slavery, not withstanding the fact that it was Britain that chose to end slavery in the first place and sacrificed much of its wealth, resources and lives in the Royal Navy to do so.
But I digress.
In regard to racism laundering, we could very easily turn it on its head. When the Black Lives Matter movement sprang up in 2020 and did everything in its power to highlight the evils of racism by tearing down our statues, demanding British history is bashed in the National Curriculum, and perpetuating the idea that to be white is a sin in itself, were there not an awful lot of white faces waving the BLM flag and championing this movement?
Could we not say that these white BLM supporters were also tools of racism laundering? There are many out there who view the BLM movement as racist itself considering that much of its activity has been racially divisive and inflammatory.
It would seem so, for Abbey makes no mention of this and instead highlights the detriment of ethnic minorities as he makes it very clear that if an ethnic minority does not subscribe to his own views, they are a villain or a pawn of a villain. In Abbey’s world, there is no such thing as a free-thinking, intelligent, right-wing ethnic minority.
Sadly, his views reflect the views of many out there who have swallowed the narrative that ethnic minorities are victims, that only white people can be racists, and that one ought to be given special treatment based on the colour of their skin.
In the rational, moral world, however, ethnic minorities are not victims. Not unless they want to be, and I imagine these are the only ones who perpetuate this agenda. Nor are right-wing ethnic minorities pawns or career opportunists. We simply have something that Abbey appears to lack – an ability to look beyond the colour of one’s skin and an understanding that it is character, not colour, that matters.
We know that it is what is inside that counts and that to make everything about skin colour is regressive and bigoted itself. We have, above all, a deep love and respect for our country. We are British and proudly so.
To weaponise the colour of one’s skin in order to promote a political ideology that harms, belittles or demonises an entire group of people or the country itself smacks of self-entitlement, inequality and sheer disrespect towards an entire nation and its history. This, to my mind, highlights the irony of racism laundering. It brackets and judges people based on skin colour and in doing so, it is the very thing that keeps racism alive.
Sarah Anntoinette is a social media influencer, writer and presenter focusing on social and political issues impacting the UK. Sarah says that she champions patriotism and pride in Britain, and objects to extremism from either political side.