I remember when Old Man Rich prompted me into moving my focus from US poverty to UK poverty and just recently my attention has been drawn, once again, to poverty in Britain and the building of what could be a vengeful and dangerous white underclass.
Aside from acting, I have always worked with disadvantaged young people from a variety of troubled backgrounds but mostly they’ve been white; born and raised on council estates; straight out of school aged 16 with nothing next to their name apart from a small-time rep that carries little weight in the outside world. There is a current trend I have noticed that is worrying me greatly.
British governments, in all their wisdom, throw money at trouble, especially media friendly trouble, until it’s fixed (ish) and this has led to a public sector culture that is utterly skewed towards BME groups (Black Minority Ethnic), inclusively, diversity and what is tantamount to turning your back on angry, poverty-stricken, young white men.
Please don’t misunderstand me; in the UK we make a deserved focus on those that have been excluded on the basis of their culture, ethnicity or refugee status and this I applaud. I also accept that we still have a long way to go to rid ourselves of the curse that is institutional racism but we have forgotten that the majority of those living in poverty are white and of British origin and this is dangerous and unfair.
The number of very specific, targeted and excellent initiatives for BME/Refugee young people in the UK makes me proud; yet it is white children who are at the very bottom of the pile when it comes to GCSE results amongst other ethnicities who are in poverty. Remember that they are competing with people in this bracket who have English as a second or third language!
We now have a white underclass with poorer results than all other ethnicities, who are the least likely to stay on in education post-16 of any other ethnicity, who end up working in the most unskilled jobs (89% of factory staff are white, 93% of manufacturing staff are white) that in turn have a tenuous longevity in the current economic climate and who commit more crime than any other ethnicity and are more likely to misuse Class A drugs.
They are being outclassed in every single department, yet government funding and initiatives are consistently targeted towards every other ethnicity, apart from this white underclass.
Why does this matter? It matters because it breeds feelings of injustice, it breeds feelings of being left out, of your country no longer being your own, of it turning its back on you and embracing those not even from those shores; in short, it breeds a fervent and nasty brand of racism that in the right hands could be manipulated into a deeply destabilising force: a war of cultures.
The answer is to widen the focus to reduce poverty and things that cause poverty across the board, rather than making judgements and initiatives based on ethnicity. We need inclusively and diversity all right but it’s not one-way traffic; all communities need to be urged to engage and share so that ignorance and misinformation can be dispelled. Only then can we make steps to rid ourselves of the evil of poverty across the board.