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Diamond Versi’s tribunal triumph symbolises the supposed struggle between an oppressed lone minority and a white establishment ogre, such as an Oxford University college.
The law, quite rightly, has been interpreted to support the underdog in such cases for the last fifty-odd years in an effort to redress the balance. And, indeed, it is not as though racism has suddenly disappeared from the shores of the new multicultural Britain, just as other forms of discrimination also linger.
Our generation is perhaps free from the age-old belief in British, and Caucausian, superiority – thank God – but that of our parents can, often unconsciously, slip into what would be termed a racist attitude. For the most part this manifests itself in an unfailing instinct to categorise everyone by labels approximating to ‘British’ or ‘foreign’, or perhaps even ‘white’ or ‘non-white’. But then, all of us pigeonhole people – it’s just that the pigeonholes we put them in vary according to our social conditioning.
But the tables are in danger of turning – indeed some believe they have already turned. The white middle class male, while a majority figure in this country and especially in this particular establishment, is increasingly finding himself to be an easy target.
Had Diamond Versi been an old Etonian from Wiltshire, and Roger Boden an Indian from Birmingham, I very much doubt that there would have been any case for “unfair dismissal”. Maybe there would have been no cause for it, but why do we assume that racism only works one way?
Nor is racism the only area in which it is useful to belong to any subsection of society which could be classified as “a minority”.
I, as a woman, could very easily bring an unfounded sexual harassment charge against my boss for pinching my bottom. But how successful would I be if I wanted to file a genuine complaint against a potential employer who I believed had not hired me simply because they had already filled their middle class ‘quota’?
An ideology such as that used to uphold Diamond Versi’s claims is absolutely necessary to protect those who need protecting, and often it has been, and still is, used for exactly that purpose. But it also lends itself to potential abuse, especially when you consider the bias it gives to those groups which are traditionally discriminated against.
I am not suggesting that we, as a society, need to worry excessively about protecting the white middle class male – he’s hardly an endangered species, yet.
But are we brave enough to acknowledge that not all cases brought by someone of ethnic origin against an establishment figure need necessarily be ruled in favour of the prosecutor? And when will we see a true precedent for cases in which a middle class man successfully files a charge against a minority defendant for positive discrimination?ARCHIVE: 0th week TT 2005

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