BBC director of cultural diversity June Sarpong insists white privilege is a ‘fact of life’


BBC director of cultural diversity June Sarpong insists white privilege is a ‘fact of life’ – but backed reintroducing lyrics to Rule Britannia at this year’s Proms and insists ‘I’m NOT part of the “liberal elite”‘

  • June Sarpong said white privilege is rife as ‘unfairness is baked into our system’
  • She said that even white people from a low income background have an advantage because they are ‘never judged’ on their race
  • Sarpong, 43, said the white working class also have more power than those from black and Asian backgrounds

The BBC director of cultural diversity has insisted white privilege is a fact of life as ‘unfairness is baked into our system’.

June Sarpong said that whilst the ‘elite white male’ has the most privilege in society, the white working class also have more power than those from black and Asian backgrounds. 

She said that even white people from a low income background have an advantage because they are ‘never judged’ on their race.

June Sarpong said that whilst the ‘elite white male’ has the most privilege in society, the white working class also have more power than those from black and Asian backgrounds

The 43-year-old also revealed she backed the BBC’s decision to reintroduce the lyrics to Rule Britannia at this year’s Last Night of the Proms after the organisation made the controversial decision to only play an instrumental version. 

Speaking about white privilege, Sarpong, who was appointed to her senior role in 2019, told The Telegraph: ‘There is unfairness baked into our system.   

‘I don’t for a single second say that all white people are privileged. Of course not. 

‘But there are benefits even if you come from a low income and you’re white. You’re never judged on your race.’

The 43-year-old also revealed she backed the BBC's decision to reintroduce the lyrics to Rule Britannia at this year's Last Night of the Proms after the organisation made the controversial decision to only play an instrumental version. Pictured: Last Night of the Proms in 2012

The 43-year-old also revealed she backed the BBC’s decision to reintroduce the lyrics to Rule Britannia at this year’s Last Night of the Proms after the organisation made the controversial decision to only play an instrumental version. Pictured: Last Night of the Proms in 2012

Sarpong, who earns £75,000 a year for working three days a week at the BBC, continued: ‘You may be discriminated against because of class, you may be discriminated against because of your age, you may be discriminated against because of gender, size, but you will never be discriminated against because of your race and that in itself feeds into the concept of white privilege.’

She added that she is working hard to increase white working class representation on the BBC.  

Meanwhile, Sarpong said BBC director-general Tim Davie’s reversal of the decision not to sing Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory at this year’s Proms was the correct one.

The BBC had initially decided to play only instrumental versions of the songs amid controversy about their alleged historical links with colonialism and slavery. 

Sarpong, who started her new director role at the BBC in 2019 said that even white people from a low income background have an advantage because they are 'never judged' on their race (file photo)

Sarpong, who started her new director role at the BBC in 2019 said that even white people from a low income background have an advantage because they are ‘never judged’ on their race (file photo)

Speaking about the BBC’s U-turn, she said: ‘That was about ensuring that communities that have felt somewhat disconnected from the BBC feel they’re being listened to.’ 

Sarpong has just released her released third book, The Power of Privilege: How White People Can Challenge Racism.

Speaking about power imbalances in society, she said: ‘The thing about modern privilege is that if you’re the beneficiary, often you’re unaware that you’re the beneficiary, and that’s the whole point, isn’t it? 

‘Because the default is white and everything that isn’t is other.

‘And I think, actually, the minute many white people understand that, they stand up and say, “My God, I never knew. I want to be part of the solution”.’   

‘I grew up in a white working class area, and actually it’s that community that has lived Britain’s multiculturalism,’ she added.

‘And I would say, by and large, if you look at how people live, we kind of get on with it.’        

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