Thursday, 12 July 2018

Brexit Racism: Britain's most deadly of addictions.

What the current toxic debate around Brexit tells us- is that Britain is hooked on racism. 

Like some old colonial junkie, British political culture weaned on the fallacies of white supremacism, British exceptionalism and the innate supremacy of Western culture, has become addicted to the perceived political benefits of expressing racist sentiment. 

Today wholly objectionable views and sentiments can be conveniently hidden behind the rhetoric of Brexit patriotism and love for one's country.

Time and time again throughout modern British political history, we see the reality that when Britain faces economic stress, then racism inevitably rises. 

Why ? This is a result of generations of Britons that has been historically groomed over the last 100 years, to be sympathetic to ideas of British exceptionalism and white supremacist thought. 

After the 2008 financial crash British politicians were quick to use the colonial political strategies of scapegoating, divide and rule and the promotion of racism/xenophobia, as a means of deflecting anger and criticism away from those responsible for the country's economic crash, i.e. bankers, politicians and the wealthy elites.

British politicians can be regularly heard describing old Blighty, as one of the most "tolerant nations" in the world. 

This term is usually deployed in defence against some allegation of racism or bigotry and as counter prevailing point, seeking to demonstrate that isolated incidents of prejudice do not translate into Britain being a racist nation. Usually deployed with both pride and vigour and sometimes with a sense of outrage. 

How can it be that a country like Britain, with such a proud history of anti-facism/racism and a commitment to equality can be so grievously accused, particularly when compared with the lack of access to justice and gross human rights abuses of other less civilised countries. 

Personally, I despise the term "tolerance" and have written about why… extensively here.

In short you don't tolerate your fellow citizen, you tolerate an alien virus. 

It's a deeply revealing and accurate choice of words, describing feelings of annoyance, sufferance, bearing up under great duress and indicating a toxic perspective that pathologies black communities as being an "alien" presence; living on England’s pleasant, pastures green. 

This is the fundamental problem with the notion of an inclusive British citizenship and it's a problem that slows all progress in defeating racism and tackling racial inequality, whose negative effects can be seen everywhere, from school exclusions to British immigration policy and beyond.

We all know that Britain’s historical imperial legacy is one dominated by the politics of global white supremacy. A wretched politics, fuelled by scientific racism, armed conquest and colonial theft and all done in the glorious name of King and Empire. 

The persistent refusal of Great Britannia alongside other European colonial powers, to formally acknowledge and pay reparations for the brutal and long-lasting, legacies of colonialism and slavery has been an enduring and stubborn resistance, to demands for justice. 

That unrepentant attitude and sense of British arrogance and entitlement I believe is now set to destroy the very country itself and possibly Europe too

Today we see a Europe refusing to acknowledge the sins of the past and its own history of racism and prejudice and appears condemned to repeat its past bloodied and tragic history.

Dramatic statements huh…bear with me and I’ll try to explain…

The sense of innate British superiority and exceptionalism, that so drove and informed the project of colonial conquest, today lingers like a toxic, bad smell that emanates from an unattended collapsed and antiquated, sewage dump.

It’s my humble opinion that the very dysfunctional, but profitable in the context of white supremacy, attitudes, beliefs and sentiments, that made Britain so greatin the past, i.e. racism, oppression and exploitation, are now making a dramatic and repulsive return. It's my contention that these irrational attitudes, covered with the cloak of modern day Brexit patriotism, provide the psychological backdrop to a nation that is violently tearing itself apart.

As we saw recently, Prime Minister May’s attempt to fashion a Tory consensus over Brexit, failed dramatically. The so-called Chequers Agreement had failed before the ink had dried. 'The whole Europe issue provides a existential crisis to a Tory party that has seen itself, torn apart in violent contortion as it attempts to reconcile its historical deep schism on the issue of Europe.

The whole debacle reminds me of one of the world's greatest and most profound historical truths, 

And its simply this, when one considers the rise and fall of many a great empire, their ultimate demise can usually be traced, not always to some external or existential threat, these empires often fell because they contained within them the seeds of their own destruction. 

Any student of history will observe that the universal lesson world history, that emerges for all to see is that what made these empires "great" - can be the very thing that ultimately destroys them. 

Britain’s constant and dogged refusal to acknowledge its colonial crimes, the political and economic advantages it provides, has led to the political establishment and media addictions to racism. It’s this, now widespread ignorance in the form of the nations, popular social addiction, to bigotry, racism and xenophobia, that that has now brought the country to the brink of this catastrophic Brexit abyss. 

And let's remember how we got here. The hard line racism and xenophobia of the now defunct UKIP party of Nigel Farage, terrified the Tories in 2010. Then PM David Cameron, sought to harvest the UKIP vote by conceding to racism, proposing Draconian immigration policies, in addition to offering an in/out referendum, he no doubt thought he’d win, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Harried by a racist UKIP then, Cameron’s Tories caved in to racism and instead of challenging UKIPS wretched politics, they cut and run to a referendum. 

The brutal truth is that the Tories conceded to racism. And that needless and unnecessary concession has now plunged the county into talking chaos. What’s indisputable is the fact that popular British racism and xenophobia triggered this disastrous series of political events.  

Today the unwanted legacies of colonialism are haunting its present day beneficiaries. 

Don’t believe me? Then look to the extent to which the Northern Ireland border question, yet another unresolved and profound legacy of colonialism, appears to a straw that will ultimately break Brexit Britain’s back. 

I know, when it comes to colonialism, slavery and contemporary racism, we've all been told repeatedly to "move on" and get over it. Despite this, you and I know that when it comes to world history, deep historical unacknowledged wrongs, never really go away. Time after time, we see unresolved historical issues burst onto the contemporary world scene with an energy and vigour that would have you believe such injustice only occurred yesterday.

Such fundamental historical issues don't fade away as time passes, they remain raw in the consciousness of its present day victims, a history passed on from one generation to the next. They fester and become cancerous, eating away at the moral consciousness of the nation, morally corrupting both the present day beneficiaries and those irresponsible politicians and media continue to feed on its toxic legacy. Whilst all the time inflicting further injustice and oppression on the living victims of the descendants of the oppressed. 

British Black people today continue to suffer from the legacy of both historical and contemporary injustices. 

The universal truth is simple and profound; those that doggedly refuse to learn the lessons and acknowledge their mistakes of their past, are tragically destined to repeat them in the future. 

The popular notions of British exceptionalism and white superiority informed, justified and underpinned the British Imperial project. This reinforcing ideology, often articulated being nothing more than patriotic, has been faithfully maintained and maintain for decades. 

Modern-day contemporary British racism, the modern-day legacy of colonialism, has been a constant feature of modern British political life. 

Throughout the post war period, the constant popular demonisation of migrants, Black’s and Asians has today created a social and economic environment that is most definitely hostile, but also  reflects a national attitude, and long held unspoken sentiment, that if only all these bloody foreigners would all go home, Britain could be great again.

Since the Brexit referendum, British skies have become dark with colonial chickens, coming home to roost.

Former colonial subjects, now British citizens (allegedly), are now subjected to increasing institutional racism, racial inequality, rancid immigration rhetoric and illegal deportations.  

Hate crimes, violent racism and religious bigotry have all risen since the EU referendum, having been given a green light by irresponsible politicians, who along with sections of the media who together have fanned the flames of racism for short term electoral gain.  

We all know that racism and discriminatory sentiment, by there very nature are both illogical and irrational. Facts and objective reasoning cannot convince those who are addicted to bigotry to change their views.

Immersed in a popular British culture of xenophobia and racism, large sections of British public are largely immune to the rational and economic appeals of civil society and big business about the dangers of Brexit.  

Racism siren call is almost irresistible to a groomed, inducted, largely uneducated and badly informed nation. Many Brits believe that immigration is a tolerated social evil, and not as can be objectively evidenced, a hugely positive force for social and economic good. 

Brexit has challenged the idea that racism, long seen as purely a function of capitalist exploitation, is ultimately designed to ensure profit. However what this bout of racist sentiment demonstrates is that unrestrained and extreme racism, will even over power the profit margin. In some senses British people knowingly voted to become a poorer, less diverse nation. 

This is a populace infected and groomed by the elite, who now regularly need their perennial fix of racism, a social fever agitated to extreme as we saw with the brutal murder of Joe Cox MP and resulting in a bout of Brexit insanity, with Britain, despite the profound negative economic consequences seeking to cut of its own nose, simply to spite it’s face. 

What recent elections in Britain, Europe and North America are showing us is that in the worlds political economy, bigotry and racism are the political equivalent of crack Cocaine and twice as addictive.  

The country has been brought to its knees I believe as a direct result of the unresolved legacy of British colonialism and the ever popular notions of tolerance, exceptionalism, xenophobia and racism. 

We all know, and despite the fervent denials of Brexiteers, that issues of racism and immigration were, for many, the deciding factors, the key issues, that convinced then to vote to leave the European Union. That results have been that the type of racism long thought dead in the UK, has been resuscitated and given a new lease of life by Brexit debate. 

The British populace, fed historically on a constant diet of xenophobic and racist propaganda, has been perfectly groomed by the elite right-wing media, into concluding that ethnic, cultural, religious difference and plurality are the reasons for Britain’s slow economic decline and not the flagrant irresponsibility of casino Banks, high rolling, asset stripping, hedge fund managers, that caused the economic crash 2008. 

Many Brits have been convinced their non-English neighbours are the reason for their economic misfortune. In that sense, (given the consistent thread of racism that runs through the contemporary history of modern Britain), is it any wonder that the many of the public came to the conclusion, that the "others" were primarily to blame for all the ills they face? 

 Scapegoating is an enduring British colonial tradition, used by those in power to distract ordinary people from the real authors of their misery. Divide and rule was a classic colonial strategy and hooked on the racism, colonialism left behind, sections of the British view the “other” with a growing sense of division, separation and enmity.

So, after two years of utter chaos within the Conservative Party Prime Minister, Teresa May faces her toughest test yet, as she desperately seeks to maintain her dwindling and deeply divided Cabinet. 

It’s the single most important political discussion Britain has had since the war, and both the implications and consequences of whatever’s decided will be profound. 

And to think that, in part, Britain's dogged refusal to acknowledge racism, colonialism and ultimately their failure to apologise and pay reparations for these historic crimes, has now brought the UK to this point in history, is ironic and demonstrates  the extraordinary resilience and
 contagious nature of British racism.

Played with like a political football, stoking racist sentiment can have explosive, tragic and sometimes devastating results. 

Britain needs urgent treatment to detoxify its addiction to racism and xenophobia and that process starts with acknowledgment, apology and reparation. Either that or it must learn to live with the universal reality that what goes around, comes around… baby.

Lee Jasper

Is Britain the most racially tolerant country in the world ?

First published in January 2013. Republished July 2018 

Is Britain the most racially tolerant country in the world? 

The Governments view is that for the most part institutional racism and covert racism are relics of history. Britain, they are fond of saying is ‘the most tolerant country in the world. This hackneyed and much overused term is usually offered up in response to accusations that British society remains a racist society.

The dictionary definition of tolerant is to permit or to endure something or alternatively the acceptance of the existence of different views.

The loaded implication of this statement is that British Black people and other ethnic minorities are only here on sufferance. We are endured, not celebrated, as if we are some alien or foreign virus capable of somehow infecting British society.

Whilst Britain is a plural society I don’t believe, the usage of this term refers to the ‘acceptance of different views’ as that would mean that Black people or ethnic minorities would be considered to hold widely divergent views from the majority of white Britons.

I despise that phrase. British citizenship is not a gift for which we should be grateful. My citizenship has been secured by the struggle and self sacrifice of our ancestors from Africa and Asia whose forced labour under slavery and colonialism and the expropriation of those nations’ precious resources made this country what it is today. 

We’ve more than paid our dues.

Born here in Britain, born of a family now grown to include the fifth generation of Black Briton’s, why the hell should my children and I be ‘tolerated’?

My citizenship is not a legal fiction. I don’t want to be ‘tolerated’ in my own country. The term reflects a colonial mindset that is deeply patronising and relegates black people to the status of unwanted and unwelcome guests.

The use of this phrase is a form of paternalistic racism that tells us we are only here on sufferance and moreover we should be very grateful to Britain for allowing us to live here.

This phraseology is indicative of a broader view on racism held by almost all in Government and the majority of the British press. That view concludes that the back of racism in Britain has been broken and that the worst aspects of racism have been largely eradicated.
All that remains, they say, are the infrequent examples of individual prejudice that represent the last dying embers of a once powerful and ancient hatred.

Black people’s claims of institutional racism are defined as nothing more than political propaganda in pursuit of personal gain. They consider all such claims as overblown racial posturing and their claims are usually dismissed as a case of ‘playing the race card’ by ‘race activists’.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the reality of widespread institutional racism and its deleterious affects on the life chance and human rights of Black and Muslim people in the UK, the evidence is simply ignored. 

Of course, there is nothing new here; claims of historical and contemporary racism in Britain are always met with outright denial;

   Stephen Lawrence killed by racists? Initial claim denied.
   Racism in policing? ‘Black people commit more crime’. Strenuously denied.
   Racism in council housing allocations? – ‘Don’t be stupid’. Denied.
   Racist immigration laws targeting Black people? Denied.
   Black men dying in police custody due to racism?  ‘He had superhuman strength’ - denied.
   Racism in schools?  ‘Educational failure is a result of parental failure and a dysfunctional black culture’ - denied.

This powerful culture of denial of institutional racism results in no serious action being taken to protect Black people from unfair discrimination. Far from being a post racist society, Britain is a nation in denial about the powerful social reality of institutional racism.

2013 is the 50th anniversary of one of the most famous speeches in the world. In August 1963, Dr Martin Luther King led the US civil rights movement in a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, they gathered in their hundreds of thousands, united in confronting the Jim Crow segregation of apartheid era America.

Dr King delivered his ‘I have a dream’ speech that would resonate around the world. He set out his vision of a post racist America in prophetic fashion encapsulating the essence of common humanity in declaring the God given equality of all men and women.

The dream of a world where racism is no more still resonates with many throughout the world.  You see I still hold to the goal of achieving greater level of equality in our lifetime. I don’t want my children to repeat our history fighting the same battles we fought. It is our duty as parents to move things on and secure the future for our children.

So is Britain a post racist society?

Take two healthy British babies, one white, and one Black, their new lives stretched out before them comforted in the bosoms of their grateful parents.

Both are British citizens, yet their life chances differ dramatically as a consequence of the colour of their skin and the polite, yet devastating overt institutional racism so perfected by the British.

Contemporary British racism has culturally transformed itself into a very ‘genteel overt racism’ that presents no obvious offence. It has none of the social embarrassment of times gone by and yet despite that, racial discrimination still manages to enforce deep economic and social exclusion.

These two British babies start their lives on an uneven playing field with the black newborn being twice as likely to die in next 24 months. In the first years of their lives, the black child and family are much more likely to suffer child poverty and live in low standard overcrowded houses.

Once at primary school, the black child will be more likely to be excluded, once in secondary school the black child will be more likely to fail their exams. They will be much more likely to be unemployed once they leave school. On the streets they are much more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, more likely to be arrested and if convicted they will receive a heavier sentence for a comparable crime committed by a white Briton. These are just a few of the most obvious areas of discrimination; there are many more examples in areas such as health, regeneration, and politics.

This is not solely a matter of classdifference. Research has shown that even middle class black people can suffer the debilitating effects of racism. 

Middle class school children, wealthy black footballers, black politicians, prominent religious figures, celebrities; all suffer from racism despite their economic status. Black people and Muslims suffer higher levels of economic and social exclusion than their white working class counterparts.

Austerity and budget cuts have magnified racial disadvantage. Yes we are all on the same boat but some of are forced to inhabit the stinking bowl of the ship, some are working on the mid decks and some stroll in the sunshine on the top deck. Yes, we are all on the good ship Britannia but some sail in acute distress and some in relative comfort. 

One Nation: Divided by race.

Whilst we are ‘One Nation’ geographically when it comes to the equality of British citizenship, many Black and Muslin people are relegated to the status of third class citizens in a supposed first class democracy.
Today, politicians and the press mediate your citizenship, contingent on adherence to a nonsensical set of “British values”. The reality of British equality is that it is based on your race or religion, on whether you’re Black or Muslim, and whether you live in an area considered a ‘ ghetto’ having made a ‘deliberate choice’ to ‘separate yourself ’ from white society.

Whether you wear a hijab or a hoodie will affect the extent to which you can enjoy real equality of citizenship in equal measure to white Britons.

The Coalition Governments record on tackling racism.

David Cameron’s Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister and his Deputy PM and leader of the Lib Dem Nick Clegg don’t ‘get’ racism or discrimination or understand the profound consequences of Britain’s changing make up.

This island is no longer the bland monocultural place of the past.

Britain is undergoing dramatic demographic changes; these changes are seeping into the cultural fabric of the nation, enriching our daily lives and changing the culture, personality and character of Britain irrevocably.

The recent publication of the 2011 Census demonstrated just how much has changed in the big metropolitan areas of Britain. Research done at Leeds Universitysuggests that the growth of ethnic diversity will reach 20% by 2051

Having been brought up in a life of spectacular privilege renders Cameron devoid of any real experience or understanding of either the reality of race discrimination or how best to tackle it.

As with most high profile politicians, Cameron talks a good talk when it comes to race equality. Take these comments made by Cameron in a video broadcast to the 2010 OBV ‘Black Britain Decides’ general election hustings;

‘We must tackle the deep and structural inequalities that all too often hold Black people back especially the young… We know something is extremely wrong when the colour of your skin dictates how likely you are to succeed at school, starting a business, employment, or ending up in prison.’

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Lib Dems who was equally forthright in expressing his commitment to race equality.

Addressing the same OBV event Nick said;

“ I don’t want to live in a society where a child’s life fortunes are still determined by the circumstances of their birth, where if you’re from an ethnic minority you’re still more likely to be out of work, more likely to be on low pay, more likely to be hassled by the police when you haven’t done anything wrong.”

Powerful words that ring absolutely true today and still provide an accurate and informed description of the reality of racism in Britain. However as the sun set on and the Coalition Government was formed, these fine words and political commitment were jettisoned as election rhetoric, cynically designed to appeal to black voters in a tightly fought election. It didn’t work. 

We’ve been had, conned and bamboozled.

In the two years since the 2010 OBV hustings we have endured the most systematic political attack on the general and progressive concept of multiculturalism and an almost scorched earth approach to anti racist policies within local and central Government.

Both, bizarrely, are now designated divisive by this Government and have been wrongly identified as encouraging separatism and extremism. 

This political about turn by Cameron and Clegg simply illuminates the extent to which both parties have a thin veneer commitment to delivering race equality.

Looking back it is now clear that the OBV audience and the wider British black community were conned by two slick snake oil salesmen.

The Coalition has made a small number of symbolic gestures to tackling racism, but has collectively determined that structural racial inequality will remain untouched. Current economic policy is in fact exacerbating racism.

As a result virtually nothing is being done to eradicate structural racism, the consequence of which will see yet another generation of Black and Muslim citizens and their children sentenced to a lifetime of struggle against racism, discrimination and bigotry.

Let us examine the Governments efforts to tackle racism. 

The extent that this government is committed to race equality can be judged by the quality of their policies designed to respond to known areas of race discrimination.

The Governments has no specific race equality strategy preferring a ‘mainstream’ equality approach to tackling any areas of discrimination. The problem is that in terms of reducing racism without the adoption of a laser like specific focus on race, results in the bone achingly slow pace of incremental change.

There is no historical or contemporary example in Government of the huge scale of race discrimination faced by Black Britons being reduced in the absence of a clear and robust policy focus.

All evidence demonstrates that the most effective way to tackle racism is to adopt a specific policy focus with timescales, stated outcomes, targets, sanctions and a budget.

The Tory Lib Dem “colour blind” approach to achieving race equality, implemented in the broader context of a right wing political climate, ensures that this Government pays lip service to achieving the goal of race equality whilst remaining ideologically blind to structural racism.

Leadership comes from the top.

Other than some vague commitment to increase diversity in public appointments, I can see no real race equality strategy for one of the most important Offices in Government the Cabinet Office.

‘Public appointments of 50% women by end of this Parliament’ is the only policy commitment. 

Unfortunately, there is no base line information, no BME targets and no implementation strategy.

Civic engagement is mentioned; however this Government has failed to maintain a race equality policy consultation forum and subsequently dismissed national black group members from a legacy forum established by the previous Government.

Minster Eric Pickles has made his view clear that he sees no reason to convene such a group. As a result there is no national statutory policy consultation forum on the issue of race equality currently in the UK. Government has simply dismissed the Black Voluntary sector as irrelevant.

The PM talks about racism in football and Deputy Prime MinisterClegg about the racism of British banks and the inability of black business to access credit, loans, and investment funds. Both are saying the right things but only in those areas where Government does not bear primary responsibility. 

The FA in terms of football and banks are easy targets for Government to target for tough talk: seeking to create the false impression of zero tolerance in relation to racism.

In November 2011 Clegg highlighted the difficulties that ethnic minority businesses and would-be entrepreneurs were reporting in accessing business loans. Clegg established a review to look at this issue and 15 months later the Government has failed to publish the findings of Clegg’s review. 

Meanwhile the fundamental problem of the strong economic character of institutional racism in the financial services sector cements black communities into a prison of poverty and disadvantage as banks exercise racial profiling and post code racism in determining creditworthiness and assessing loan and investment opportunities.  

Government inaction on race and our response.

Meanwhile Black Britons are expected to suffer racism with a smile, thankful that we are not living in Europe.

Black people have helped to build this country through slavery, then colonialism immigration and then settlement. Our legal citizenship rights were fought for and secured by preceding generations paying a heavy blood price for the privilege.

In the modern Britain of 2013 black people are still unable to achieve full-unfettered equality of opportunity.

Racism is on the rise and many of the gains made over the last 30 years have been squandered by a Government whose ideological attack on the poor will result in future generations facing a level of racism worse that that endured by their parents.

Can we achieve equality in our lifetime? Only through commitment to a dedicated, protracted, disciplined struggle focused on legislative change and democratic reform.

This Government is committed to conducting a largely symbolic campaign against racism. What initiatives do exist are well meaning, piecemeal, short term, lack consistency and are incapable of delivering the goal of securing race equality in our lifetime.

The result will be to condemn yet another generation of Black people to suffer increased rates of structural inequality and injustice. Is this the legacy we want to bequeath our children?

Since the first enslaved African decided to leave the plantation each successive generation of the African Diaspora has fought, struggle and died to ensure that the future generations did not face the brutal racism they endured. We may be the first generation to fail in this regard.
I say that we cannot afford to allow the future of our children to be destroyed by racism.

We cannot allow their futures to be dominated by a lifetime of struggle against increased rates of racism that should have and could have been more effectively dealt with by their parents.
I believe that the future of our children requires that any price be paid whatever the cost. It is our genetic and historic destiny to strive to secure a better future for our children.

In terms of tactics I believe that having tried appealing to the better angels of the Government and failed, the Black voluntary sector having sought to work in partnership and having been shown the door , having appealed for understanding and received none, bearing witness to the increased evils of unemployment injustice and poverty magnified through the lens of austerity, facing the stark reality that our children will inherit a society where racism is worse than that faced by their parents, 

I say we must now urgently step up our fight against the evils of racism that strips our children of their God given innate human potential reducing them to a crude racial stereotype. We must engage in heightened campaigning, we must organize, agitate, and educate. We must never give up our struggle for equality and justice. 

That’s one lesson our parent taught us, they never gave up and neither should we.

Lee Jasper