Sainsbury’s tries segregation

A long time ago, I used to think that the Brits could never possibly be as woke as Americans. After all, Brits are supposed to be more sensible. But that was quickly dispelled by the actions of British universities in the last few years: banning speakers, issuing ridiculous statements (the London School of Economics, for example, tried to ban two students who wore tee-shirts depicting the images of Jesus and Mo to the Fresher’s Fair), to the increasing “hate speech” rules enforced by British law, and to the anti-Semitism, now thankfully stemmed, of the Labour Party.

And now the ubiquitous grocery store chain Sainsbury’s, where I often shopped while in the UK, has, caught up on the Black Lives Matter maelstrom of performative wokeness, begun a policy of in-store segregation for its employees of color. You can read about it at Stephen Knight’s latest post on his “Godless Spellchecker”website (click on screenshot below):

This doesn’t seem like a big deal, and perhaps it isn’t, but it’s part of the slippery slope down which both the U.S. and U.K. are sliding as both countries try to deal with racism. In this case, racial harmony is to be achieved via segregation. As part of Black History Month, Sainsbury’s published its “aims” on its website, reproduced here by Knight:

There are two issues here, both discussed by Knight. The first is the “safe space to gather in response to the Black Lives Matters movement.” A few people objected to his over-the-top analogy:

‘Recently we provided our black colleagues with a safe space to gather in response to The Black Lives Matters [sic] movement’. Of course, by ‘safe space’ for ‘black colleagues’ they simply mean no white people allowed. This is literal racial segregation taking place in a British workplace in 2020.

Sainsbury’s are so drunk on their virtue-signalling wokeness that they don’t seem to realise that their ‘solutions’ to race relations are indistinguishable from those of white supremacists. You have to wonder whether they considered separate water fountains at any point during this particular brainstorming session.

The decisions made by Sainsbury’s are deeply patronising and attempt to coddle black people in general. It borderline fetishizes them, seeing them as one voice, one mind—a homogenous group sharing all the same political thoughts—assuming their support for the Black Lives Matter organisation by default. It gets worse when you consider how infantilising it is to assume that black people require a ‘safe space’ from other people.

The other issue is the “reviewing and publishing our ethnicity pay gap,” which isn’t completely clear. Knight gives his interpretation:

Also, the admission to an ‘ethnicity pay gap’ raises a few eyebrows too. To pay people less based on their ethnicity is rightly illegal in the UK. I suspect what they intend to do is pull a fast one in the style of the ‘gender pay gap’. Instead of comparing like-for-like roles, they will contrast highest earners with the lowest, regardless of their duties, skillset and contracted hours. This indeed will reveal an ‘ethnicity pay gap’ given Sainsbury’s board is almost exclusively white. Which shouldn’t necessarily be a problem. Unless you are pretending to care about ‘inclusion’ and diversity’ that is. One would think that a sincere commitment to these principles would start at the top. Surely if the board were truly committed to redressing this inequality, the easiest thing to do would be for at least one of them to step aside and be replaced by an ethnic minority? But they won’t, because this is all theatre.

There are a couple of points that could be or have been raised against the critics of Sainsbury’s segregation policy. Here’s my take on three:

1.) It isn’t really segregation.  Yes, of course it is; black people have their own space and white people aren’t welcome. Imagine what would happen if the chain had “whites-only” spaces in which, in their anti-racist aim, Sainsbury’s put aside a space for white people to discuss racism, with no blacks allowed. I doubt people would be down with that.

Of course people of color can voluntarily gather wherever they want to discuss these issues (and I think they should), but a store chain setting aside a dedicated space where only people of color are allowed is segregation, pure and simple. And, as Stephen pointed out, it’s patronizing.

A related issue is the push in the U.S. to created create “affinity housing”—spaces where people of minority groups can live together without the intrusive and harming presence of white folks. This hasn’t gone down very well, and is probably illegal, though of course alternative arrangements, when friends can choose to live together on or off campus, can accomplish the same thing. It’s the forcible segregation that is objectionable.

2.) It’s not really segregation because segregation is “separatism plus privilege.” This is just an extension of the argument that black people can’t be racist because racism is defined as “power plus privilege.” The safe spaces argument doesn’t fly any better than that.

3.) It will improve racial harmony.  This I don’t get at all. How can separation of ethnic groups lead them to live together in harmony?  Rather, it would seem to be divisive, promoting resentment and suspicion on all sides. I’ve related before how my old friend Tim and his pal Tom (both white) voluntarily took off a semester from William and Mary to spend a semester at historically black Hampton Institute (now Hampton University). For both of them it was an eye-opening experience, and I attribute their work on racial equality since then at least in part to this experience. There’s no better way to understand someone’s point of view than to live with them.

I often wonder what Dr. King would think of these segregated spaces and affinity housing were he still alive. But of course Dr. King is passé, for now people are supposed to be judged and evaluated by the color of their skin. The rewriting of King’s message is already underway.


  1. GBJames
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Lester Maddox would be right on board.

    • Derek Freyberg
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Totally off-topic, but whenever I hear Lester Maddox mentioned I remember Robin Williams on “60 Minutes” many, many years ago – I forget who the interviewer was. Robin was talking about improv, and the need to be able to respond to cues from the audience, especially when the cue wasn’t funny. So the cue was “South Africa”, which Robin noted wasn’t funny, this still being the age of apartheid; and Robin did Lester Maddox advising John Voerster – “There are four million of you and twenty million of them. I have one word for you – Custer”.

      • GBJames
        Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        My mind goes to Randy Newman’s song, Rednecks.

    • Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      And now that they’re out of the closet in their desire to restore the Lester Maddox vision, I think we can start calling them “the woke regressives” as a mere descriptor, without taint of sarcasm.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    I think they are planning a name change from Sainsbury to Insainsbury.

  3. Kevin
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I was wondering what “increasing ‘hate speech’ rules enforced by British law” you are referring to. I am asking because I am not aware of such law changes here.

    I am aware that the word “insulting” was removed from section 57 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

    However this was effectively a liberalisation of the law, since being “insulting” is no longer part of the offence.

    • GBJames
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Perhaps this?

    • Posted October 4, 2020 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      I suppose I meant the hate speech laws on the books, not new ones. They’re far more extreme than in the U.S.:

      Like that guy in Scotland who was fined for teaching his girlfriend’s dog to make the “Sieg, Heil” salute when he said “Gas the Jews.”

      That’s free speech.

      • Posted October 4, 2020 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        The Scottish law is generally worse than that in the rest of the UK. And they’re in the process of making it worse.

        In a bout of virtue signalling, the SNP are pushing through a law making speech illegal of it might “stir up hatred” against various groups. The problem is that that’s very vague and subjective. Critics are trying to at least get “intent” added to the clause. (link)

      • Kevin
        Posted October 5, 2020 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        My general understanding of UK laws dealing with discrimination on one hand and freedom of speech on the other are actually quite well-balanced (the occasional anomaly excepted).

        Anti-discrimination law is expressed generically in a way as to be effective without having to specify the detail under law (which ethnic or religious groups need to be protected and how).

        I am concerned that “soft law” is becoming a means by which people may be censured according to non-legal guidelines: that is rules applied which have no legal authority or represented under some Act of Law
        The problem here is that these “rules” become generally perceived as “legal” or “ethical” and become used with “authority”, e.g. by Local Councils.

        The J.K.Rawlings episode about Transgender/Biological Sex seemed to be based on the concept that, even to question, debate or hold certain factual or scientific positions can be taken as discriminatory, even though materially true.

        The IHRA definition of antisemitism is “soft law”: anti-semitism is more robustly dealt with under generic UK law dealing with discrimination.
        The IHRA has no legal authority, though is perceived as “defining a moral highground.
        The definition, from a legal point of view, is atrociously written (even in its logic and syntax). It would likely be mangled by a defence lawyer in court.
        It has never been used in court, as far as I know, but HAS been used, to fire or remove people in political parties, for example.
        It was used in an Ofcom (UK communications regulator) enquiry, ironically to discount accusations of anti-semitism against an Aljezeera documentary.

        The Freedom of Information requests made to the Public Prosecutions Office, indicate that the definition is held by the office, but not used, since the Office bases its prosecutions on the legally binding Acts already in place.

        (My interpretation of this is that the Public Prosecutions has been forced to accept the definition (it was passed as a government motion), which was adopted more for political reasons, rather than being of any actual legal use)

        This is disturbing because the definition does not exist as an Act of Government, but just a definition adopted by the government (no legal authority in Court).

        It is proposed that a similar definition be adopted concerning Ant-Islamicism (and any other group potentially).

        Logically, similar definitions would follow for issues of gender etc. other racial or religious groups.

        These definitions often underpin popular opinion or political position rather than any genuine legal authority or intention.

        “Soft law” is the dream tool of Woke culture.

  4. Jon Gallant
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    As I have reported before, the School of Medicine at the University of Washington has sponsored a series of zoom affinity caucuses, one for whites, one for Blacks, and one for
    people of Color. [Inexplicably, the last one has not been subdivided (yet) into the four to seven sub-categories that come to mind.] I have no doubt that other temples of higher learning are doing the same thing, in the current frenzy of Inclusion by segregation.

  5. Diki
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I think there a different drivers at work with woke in education vs. commerce. The last time I looked I didn’t strike me that senior British managers were, viewed as a whole, a particularly PC bunch. So rather than an ideological stance it’s probably more to do with PR and especially the threat of being hammered for damages under the various equalities acts. Here’s a recent case where the application got over £180k. (I don’t approve of the conduct of the employer or employees here as their behaviour was a breach of common civility and decency, just saying that with lottery size payouts like this then there will be an incentive to being seen to do the right thing.)

  6. KD
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Higher Education is the midst of a process to erect professional guilds. A guild is distinct from a union in that a union gives voice to workers on the bottom of the hierarchy to attempt to force management on the top of the hierarchy to make changes. A guild on the other hand is about rent-seeking by guild-members accomplished by excluding non-members.

    White supremacy can be viewed as a guild, in which woman and minorities are excluded from fields allowing white males to earned excess wages as a result of exclusion. Obviously, attempting to construct a guild in higher education on the basis of white supremacy would run afoul of anti-discrimination laws.

    The only way to get away with operating an exclusionary guild in the face of anti-discrimination laws is to claim your guild excludes people in the name of anti-racism and inclusion. Given the legal ambiguities around positive discrimination, de jure illegal but de facto legal in practice, it is necessary to force the issue to allow the guild system to practice positive discrimination and exclusion legally.

    If you look at the economics of doctorates in the humanities or journalism, you can see the economic necessity driving the construction of professional guilds (else suffer the fate of adjunct faculty making sub-minimum wage teaching or a lifetime of unpaid internships).

    This kind of rent-seeking has always been part of Hollywood, and its emergence in Higher Education and journalism due to their terrible economics represents a perfect storm pushing the need for the construction of guilds. Further, the megaphone controlled by these industries, as well as their influence within the Democratic Party (and the GOP to a lesser extent), points to why wokeness is a thing, as it is essential to legitimating the guild system being erected.

    How can you have neofuedalism if you don’t bring back the trade guilds after all? Further, who can blame the woke? If they don’t succeed with the resurrection of the guilds, they will end up peasants like the rest of us.

    • KD
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      One means of testing the “wokeness as an ideological legitimation of the trade guild” would be to develop empirical makers of wokeness, and then measure the penetration of wokeness in academic specialties relative to the degree that those specialities have opportunities in the private sector. We would expect engineering and economics to be low woke, and things like sociology and anthropology to be high woke.

      • Jon Gallant
        Posted October 4, 2020 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        KD’s last sentence is more a postdiction than a prediction, because we already know it to be true. Nonetheless, I am inclined to agree with KD’s hypothesis, but I am still a little puzzled by one datum that doesn’t seem to fit. Just recently, medical schools have suddenly adopted programs that seem to be high woke. Of course, this might just be a PR move. ???

    • Mike
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      “The only way to get away with operating an exclusionary guild in the face of anti-discrimination laws is to claim your guild excludes people in the name of anti-racism and inclusion. Given the legal ambiguities around positive discrimination, de jure illegal but de facto legal in practice, it is necessary to force the issue to allow the guild system to practice positive discrimination and exclusion legally.”

      Totally agree, and this rent-seeking is happening now. The national grant-funding agency that supports basic science research in my country now requires grant applicants to demonstrate how trainees will be recruited in order to advance racial diversity (and other equity and inclusion goals). This training plan accounts for about one-third of the evaluation score on which competing grants are compared and chosen for funding. Failing to write a convincing diversity section of the training plan will result in zero grant funding.

      More specifically, an administrator at my university has encouraged researchers to actively recruit trainees from specific racial groups; this is called “equity” rather than affirmative action or positive discrimination, but it’s a rose by any other name (or a duck, or something, IDK what the right metaphor is).

      Because one cannot be a successful university researcher in this setting without research grant funding, one has to choose between joining the woke guild (and following these diversity imperatives) or failing to fulfill an important job criterion. My sense is that only those very close to retirement, or of such high status that their career success is assured, choose the latter option.

  7. Mike
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I read the part of the Sainsbury’s statement about “ethically diverse colleagues” and it broke my irony meter.

    • Posted October 4, 2020 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      Yip. We are all ethically diverse.

    • Posted October 5, 2020 at 4:37 am | Permalink

      Yes they need to embrace ethic diversity. For example, I should not be discriminated against just because I think it is ethical to remove goods from Sainsbury’s stores without paying for them.

  8. merilee
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 4:59 pm | Permalink


  9. merilee
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    WP is playing “silly buggers” with my email again😖 I haven’t rec’d a single post since Wed or Thurs.

  10. Dionigi
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Statistically speaking if there are 20 people on the board then there could be two people who are non white. if there were 10,000 on the board then there would be closer to 1,000 non whites but if 10 people were picked at random across the UK then probably all of them would be white but not necessarily UK citizens. Apartheid is the same same no matter which side you look at it.

  11. Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Wow. That’s so Republic of South Africa circa 1980.

    D.A., NYC

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