The obsession with “White Privilege” seems to have been exported from the United States, via the internet. Jon Sopel, The BBC’s North America Editor, says “race is America’s original sin” (UnPresidented, 2021, London: BBC Books, p59. ), and later, “Race has been the great – and scarring – dividing line in America since slavery” (p94). Robin DiAngelo, a Californian, claims that “racism is unavoidable”, (White Fragility, 2019, London: Penguin, p4); “race as a social construct has profound significance and shapes every aspect of our lives.” (p5) and that the relationship between racial groups is “arguably the most complex and enduring social dynamic of the last several hundred years.” (p8) These quotations are from the British edition of her book. She has clearly seen no need to alter her statements when addressing a British audience. She assumes the issues are identical. Yet Kate Werran, in her An American Uprising in Second World War England (2020, Barnsley: Pen and Sword History) points out how shocked British people were, as far back as the 1940s, at the treatment of black Americans by their white American comrades.
The World Wide Web, pioneered and developed, if not invented, in America, is saturated with the values and assumptions of its coders, and much of the information and discourse on the web is generated by that most communicative of nations, and then made available to the whole world. This has massively accelerated American cultural Imperialism, already well underway due to its affluence, political power and media output.
Domineering Imperial cultures impose their values on their colonies, and their colonial enforcers assume all other societies dance to that same tune. What’s more unusual, I think, about internet cultural imperialism is the lack of resistance to it from colonised peoples. My children eagerly adopt every American trend and craze, and their vocabulary and spelling has been thoroughly Americanised. I think this is because the internet, especially social media, sells itself as a tool of agency and empowerment, and, at the same time a way of bringing people together, forming movements of international solidarity, very like the Ummah in Islam. Perhaps minority groups hope to find their majority, and the mythical sense of existential security it promises, online.
And social media is perfect for international rebellions and channelling the power of mass outrage. Trotsky would have loved it.
Glorying in that power, though, these freedom fighters don’t notice how they have been coerced and enculturated into an American way of seeing and understanding their world. In Britain this has meant that far greater racial tension has been imported from the USA. Racialised assumptions seem to have increased among the very people who suffer most from them.