Positive discrimination is still discrimination

Discrimination is discrimination. End of.

You may have read the article published in the Independent yesterday headlined “White men should never hold positions in British universities again.”

If you didn’t, let me fill you in on its main sentiment: due to years of structural oppression of minorities and women under the rule of white men we should ban, literally ban, white men from elected student political positions.

“Nothing is ever going to change if we keep letting them run everything”

Yes, I understand that this article is probably satire, intentionally antagonistic, and designed to attract attention to a problem not solve it. If so, it is not only humourless in its attempt, but damaging. Like all satire, it has a message. And that message is that to combat years of oppression, we should legislate for oppression in the opposite direction.

“We need to ban white men from activism…” – yep, satire (please be satire). But this is not acceptable satire in any capacity. It’s not funny, it’s not intelligent.

It’s message is nasty and reductive. It proliferates the worryingly blunt sentiment that rather than educating white males about privilege and oppression, we should cut them off from social participation altogether. It contains the presupposition that ethnic minorities and women are by default more progressive than white males. And that’s not cool, bro.

Not ice cold

It’s not ice cold


Yes, we do live in a world that looks upon white men more favourably than other sects in society. It is bad, it does need to change and we should all be doing our bit to change it.

But what we shouldn’t be doing is implementing the same structures that caused this institutionalised oppression of certain groups in the first place, just in the opposite direction.

Structural oppression, like structural privilege, is conceptually the same, regardless of which group it’s affecting. And structural oppression is bad, right? Right.

Some among the far left have become so tyrannical that they are blatantly willing to disregard democracy in favour of their own agenda. We all know what happens when we do that: Stalin, and The One Show…

It seems that rather than allow for democratic representation, in the god-awful event that a white male may be elected to a SU position, we should just disallow representation if its not the exact representation that some people want.

I stress some people, because were it a lot of people, then the individual, by virtue of democracy, would not be elected in the first place. Isn’t democracy cool? It’s almost like we have a say. Sweet.

Obviously we want all groups in society to be represented. And if we don’t want white males being allowed to run for student based political positions, then surely it’s logical to disenfranchise them totally? That sounds right, let’s disenfranchise the men! It’ll be just like Athens, where the women couldn’t vote or participate in government, except the opposite. Anti-Athens! But with the same fundamental problem – inherent privilege of one gender over the other. Cool.

these guys had the right idea... sort of

these guys had the right idea… sort of


Student Union president should not be a place reserved for the white male. Nobody is claiming that it should be. It’s a place for a competent, intelligent and politically-minded person. Fucking news flash, white men can be just that. In fact, anybody can be that, regardless of their race or their gender or their sexuality or their political inclination or number of fucking eyebrows. Because that stuff doesn’t matter. That’s the message we want to send, right? Then why do that by suggesting the exact opposite?

“White men have had the last several millennia in charge, and it’s been a s***show from start to finish”. No it hasn’t. Humanity has done some cool things, like science things, and progressive social things, bad things too but #notallthings (hahah it’s a joke about #notallmen, funny).

Global warming is bad. Cows are a causal factor. Shit. WWII also happened while cows were a thing. Quick, Disenfranchise the cows. No platform for cows. No platform for bulls either (#equality)

Even jokingly suggesting the disenfranchisement of any group is just not productive.

no platform

no platform


Using positive discrimination to counter privilege is lazy. It puts a comfortable and concealing blanket over change that actually needs to occur; like improving social mobility, closing the wealth gap and improving access to education. If we can do that, negative discrimination won’t exist, and positive discrimination won’t need to.

Shutting out certain groups from politics might make everything look better, but it changes nothing about the fundamental and basic inequality in our society.

I want actual equality, not just the appearance of it. #notallcows

  • Anon

    And yet you yourself have benefitted from the Tab’s positive discrimination of encouraging the mentally deficient to write articles.

    • Tab fan

      Didn’t realise this was the Tab’s new policy, but I’m looking forward to your columns m9.

  • Unconvinced

    Thank you for your article, it was an interesting read. However, I must be honest – reading it as a person of colour, I couldn’t get on board with a lot of what you said. Most importantly, I don’t think ANYONE is seriously debating excluding all white males from the picture. I think the larger point was mainly to highlight white privilege, and I frankly think your argument saying it’s a place for a “competent, intelligent and politically-minded person” is missing the point entirely – the entire education and political system is skewed towards the white person, encouraging them to see themselves as the ONLY competent, intelligent and politically-minded person. The views of anyone else are immediately mitigated. You can see the privilege just by looking at admission statistics for cambridge… I happen to be one of the only 30 or so asian girls in the whole of my year at Cambridge across all colleges. It’s really not as simple as just saying “everyone should get a chance, we shouldn’t exclude white people just because of the past” when the whole system puts white people at least two or three paces ahead of a lot of others.

    I would never blame anyone for having this kind of privilege, I just think that pretending its ALL and ONLY about intelligence etc. is a naive position to hold.

    • pretty damn sure

      That there are far more than 30 asian girls in my college alone…

      • But

        She makes a good point regardless of the numbers

    • Umm…

      30 or so Asian girls? How are you defining Asian? Pretty sure my college has about 5-10 in my year alone. Even if you just mean British South Asian, your figure is slightly on the small side and Indian pupils are over-represented compared to national admissions figures. They also have success rates similar to white pupils.

      There are issues of race in university admissions. But I’m fed up of people coming from London or Bradford or wherever and thinking that Cambridge is massively white. Believe it or not, the home intake to Cambridge is pretty representative purely in terms of colour. However, it has disproportionately fewer black and (British) Pakistani/Bangladeshi pupils and disproportionately more Indian/Chinese pupils. Perhaps it’s less about colour and more about the fact that the certain ethnic groups are richer and more educationally successful than others. The issues of race pale in comparison to the issues of class and capital.

    • Idiot

      60% of the people on my course in my college are asian girls….

      • even so

        I think the point is the still valid even if you put aside any debate about specific numbers…

  • Finally

    Yes Finn. Well played.

  • Pretty sure

    the whole point of grades, CV points etc is not meant to be a sign of what a person is, but rather what a person could achieve in their degree, position or job, etc. If state school students who get similar A level grades to those in private schools consistently out-performs at University, then it’s in the admissions tutor’s interests to hire those who are from state schools.

    • hashtag


  • ?

    You seem to be confusing students with employees its odd

  • Leftie

    It’s like reading op eds in the telegraph. Good writing but you are just… wrong.