Like Chris Bertram, I'm worried about the BBC's "white" season of programmes about the white working class.
The problem's obvious. As Justin says, people aren't oppressed because they are white. But they are oppressed because they are working class - or if not oppressed then desperate, relatively poor, disempowered, exploited, stigmatized and marginalized.
Being white and being working class are wholly different things - one's about having advantage (on average), the other's about not having it.
There are millions of stories to be told about the condition of the working class. So why bring race into it?
The question gains force from the fact that immigration - at worst - is one of the smallest threats to the position of the working class.
Immigration is not to blame for the decline of trades unions, pit closures, bad schooling, an inefficient welfare state, high marginal taxes or deindustrialization. It might well be less to blame for low wages and poor job prospects than are capitalist institutions, greed, under-investment and incompetence. And insofar as immigration does depress wages, the problem could easily be corrected by more progressive taxation.
Why, then, does the BBC focus upon race? A conspiracy theorist would have an obvious answer. The state broadcaster, like other state agencies, is acting to promote capitalists' interests. And this requires that workers blame powerless foreigners for their problems, rather than powerful capitalists. It's good old "divide and conquer."
Truth is, though, the BBC's probably not that clever. I suspect instead that it's just committing two cognitive biases - ones that happen to make better TV too.
One is the salience heuristic. Immigration is obvious (and televisual). The mechanisms through which capitalists have impoverished workers - bad management and under-investment - are less obvious.
The other is simple habituation. People don't notice what they have become accustomed to, but they do notice change. We have become used to workers' lacking power because of institutional structure of capitalism, but many people are less accustomed to immigration, so they notice it more.
Through routes like these, an ideology emerges that deflects attention away from the structure of capitalism and helps stoke up racial tension. And the BBC, stupidly, runs along with this.