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Labour backs idea of teaching children about white privilege

Labour has backed the idea of teaching children about white privilege with a shadow minister saying it is “a good idea”.

Shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire said children need “the opportunity to ask difficult questions sometimes of our nation’s history”, insisting it would not be “undermining” Britain.

She was asked about children’s charity Barnado’s, which was criticised for publishing a “guide for parents” about white privilege.

The term refers to inherent advantages possessed by white people over non-white people on the basis of their race, with examples including a lower likelihood of being stopped and searched by police.

The Barnado’s guide encouraged parents to “start the conversation with others who are interested and willing to learn” and to “teach your white friends, family and colleagues about their privilege”.

Ms Debbonaire said children need to be able to ‘ask difficult questions sometimes of our nation’s history’ (PA)
Ms Debbonaire said children need to be able to ‘ask difficult questions sometimes of our nation’s history’ (PA)

Ms Debonnaire was asked whether she supported the guide, and told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: “We need education that allows children the opportunity to question, to ask difficult questions sometimes of our nation’s history.

"That’s a strong country that’s able to look at itself and its history and say ‘are there things we could have done differently? Are there things we regret? Are there even things that we’re sorry about?

“But also are there things we can learn so that we make a stronger, better country for the future?”

Ms Debbonaire went on to say that “encouraging children to be questioning is a good idea” and is “part of any really good education”.

And she added: “Questioning our symbols thinking about what they mean doesn’t mean that you’re undermining them.

“It means that you’re looking at them and thinking, how can I appreciate these symbols and what their meaning is?”

Her comments stand in stark contrast with culture secretary Lucy Frazer, who has said the idea of white privilege is a “debate” and not a fact.

While education secretary, Ms Frazer told LBC radio: “We’ve basically said: ‘Look, here’s what we should be teaching, we should have balanced debate’.

“There is a lot of debate in the country, we should be able to have those debates. We should be able to have those open discussions, but you shouldn’t be teaching things as fact that are debates.”

Outspoken backbench Tory MP Jonathan Gullis went further, saying anyone using the term should be reported to the Home Office as an extremist.

The Independent in 2021 obtained a leaked recording in which Mr Gullis said anti-racism campaigners using the term should be referred to the government’s Prevent programme – which is meant to track down potential terrorists.

Ms Debbonaire’s embrace of the sometimes controversial term came as Labour attacked the Tories for engaging in constant culture wars in a bid to stoke division ahead of this year’s general election.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer used a speech to set out his opposition to years of the Conservatives “waging war” on institutions such as the National Trust and tjhe Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

He condemned the Tories’ “McCarthyite” anti-woke attacks on British institutions as he promised to end years of “divisive” culture wars should he win the next election.

Ms Debbonaire was asked whether it marked a change of footing for Labour, but insisted the party “has always wanted to defend our national institutions… whether that is the National Trust or the BBC”.