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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, March 15, 2009
    Why white?
    That Runnymede Trust report, Who Cares About the White Working Class? has got me thinking about the title I’ve chosen for my research. It states that it will be based in a White Working-Class Community. Why did I need to include the term ‘white’? Perhaps because our area is predominantly white British - 98 per cent at the last census, though I suspect it may be slightly lower now, maybe 95, 96 per cent.

    But the Runnymede report makes me realise that by including the term ‘white’ I'm separating people on racial lines for no particular (and certainly no good) reason. The statistics also show that our area is predominantly working class, and it is really working class life and culture which I am most interested to explore, a working class, L11, theology I'd most like to try developing, ie, working class of whatever race.

    I think I must have included the term ‘white’ in my research title under the influence of current trends in reporting, for the term ‘White working class’ has become common currency in the media over the past couple of years. In the Runnymede report Wendy Bottero (University of Manchester) writes that
    when commentators argue over the neglected interests of the ‘white working class’, the comparison to other groups is always in terms of their ethnicity, with Bangladeshis in Tower Hamlets, or Pakistanis in Oldham. The distinctive social position of these groups is presented in terms of their ethnic identity, as cultural or religious difference, rather than by the very marked class inequalities that they also experience. This exaggerates the differences between ethnic groups and masks what they hold in common. By stressing the whiteness of the white working class, the class inequality of other ethnic groups also slips from view. This sidesteps the real issue of class inequality, focusing on how disadvantaged groups compete for scarce resources, rather than exploring how that scarcity is shaped in the first place. If we really want to understand disadvantage, we need to shift our attention from who fights over the scraps from the table, to think instead about how much the table holds, and who really gets to enjoy the feast.
    I'm off to Sheffield in the morning for another stint of supervision and interaction with my MPhil/PhD peers and so I hope that maybe we'll get in a conversation on these things.