#ThingsThatAreNotRacist

Today is Black Friday – so named, apparently, because it is a day of unrelenting consumerism, when bargain hunters storm the shops in search of the instant deal. For me, though, it will go down as a dark day in the political calendar for other reasons. Because today, a British Prime Minister has finally dropped all pretence of buying into the liberal consensus on race – and advocated a policy that is racist in both form and origin.

Yes. David Cameron finally gave that speech: the one advocating that migrants (aka foreigners, or people of different race/nationality) be treated differently from the indigenous workforce on the basis of one simple fact: where they are from.

If you work in the UK and are born here, are a citizen of here or have some other close connection to here, he would like you to have one set of benefit entitlements. If you were not born here, have citizenship, or whatever, he would rather your entitlements were different. Irrespective of how much you actually pay into the UK tax system.

That is – or for pedants who argue that nationality is not quite the same as race, that includes – racism. But don’t expect a clever, sophisticated politician like Cameron to admit that. Not yet, at least. Though intriguingly, a paper that one might otherwise expect to be in the Cameroony camp – the Telegraph – has today made a very telling comparison between this speech and the “Rivers of Blood” tirade by arch-racist Enoch Powell.

The slippery slope

Over the last few months, i have noticed, courtesy of UKIP and various far-right organisations, a budding sophistry that seems designed to provide a cloak of respectability to racism. Those familiar with the instant Twitter spat (I resist the temptation to shorten that expression) will recognise the line instantly.

A proposition self-evidently racist is advanced. “British values are unique”. Or: “We should be prepared to look after our own before we look after others”. Or even: “English votes for English matters”.

Such propositions are regularly prefaced with the equally self-evident absurd: “It’s not racist to say…”.

Except, of course, it is. If you’re drawing a distinction based on some notional difference based in race or nation characteristics, and then treating people differently on that basis, then you are being racist. Rarely, you might be highlighting a genuine difference: as a demographer; as a student of cultural history. That, though, is not what is happening here.

My difficulty is that i was raised to a simple morality, quite unlike the refined and complicated codes which afflict our most senior politicians. A bunch of nuns, and then a gaggle of Liberal Catholic priests, inculcated a series of clear-cut, unfussy values.

Don’t obsess over material things. When someone asks you for help, give it. Above all: treat other people the way you would like to be treated yourself.

I really would not cut it as a politician.

The mob are demanding that different groups of people be treated differently, according to race or national origin. That is, i repeat, racist, irrespective of rhetorical wraparound: irrespective of the fact that any moment now, i expect Cameron to defend his position with the obligatory: “It’s not racist to require migrants to subject themselves to working conditions that are markedly less favourable than we grant to true Brits”.

The gutter

At least, it is to be hoped that that is as far as he goes and we are still a way off from the next inevitable twist in this race to the political gutter. For having argued, ad nauseam, that “it’s not racist” to advance this or that racist thing, some in UKIP, in Britain First and all points rightward, are now on to the next abysmal proposition: “it may be racist, but…”. Or, “Sometimes it’s OK to be racist…”.

Cameron is not there. Yet. Though with his argument about English votes, he is skimming close. Besides, we still have six months to go before the next election. There is still plenty of time for him to arrive, dragging, one suspects rather too many fellow conservatives with him.

#ThingsThatAreNotRacist

This week, we all had a bit of a giggle at UKIP’s inability to distinguish a mosque from an English Catholic Cathedral. The result: the highly amusing #ThingsThatAreNotMosques trended for a while on Twitter.

Next week, perhaps we should throttle back on the humour, and turn our minds instead to #ThingsThatAreNotRacist.

Today’s speech, by David Cameron, is probably not one of those.

About janefae

On my way from here to there
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4 Responses to #ThingsThatAreNotRacist

  1. Positive-discrimination is discriminating. That much I agree with.

    I, however, greatly disagree with some of your text for it seems that you truly believe that all humans are innately equal. I disagree, we have flaws and we have strengths that can be accentuated depending on our parents or the society we grew up on.

    Not obsessing over material things is up to you but do you have a right to force others to be as generous as you perceive yourself as being?

    If I migrate to another country I won’t be shocked or surprised that I will have to work hard or prove myself. I might even be treated differently because I speak the English language with a different dialect. Are they racist for doing so? No, they are human and we cannot legislate against humanity.

    UKIP in England and the Sweden Democrats in Sweden share the same root cause. There is a reason that they will grow and that reason is due to the ingrained belief that we must help everyone and that everyone is equal. If you are good at social science and I am good at math does that make one person “better” than the other?

    I fully and completely respect your view but I believe it can cause more harm than good for the “British” values are important just as the “Swedish” values are important. An influx of people from different parts of the world will be detrimental for if taken to the extreme or done sloppily there will be no more unity.

    The fear of nationalism post-WW2 is problematic because we forget that a tad of nationalism can be good such as demanding that all the citizens of a country share the same language, flag, national anthem, values etc.

    There is a reason Putin has such support in Russia and that is because he unites them against a common “enemy”. Is this good? No, but it makes sense.

    I am by the way not a supporter of the Swedish equivalent of UKIP, I am merely interested in reading and reasoning with that which I don’t agree with.

    It would be such a dreary world if we could only talk to those who have the same values and opinions as ourselves🙂

    Greetings from Sweden!

    • janefae says:

      Thankas for the comment. I’ll pick you up on one point – though maybe i have expressed myself ambiguously. I am not requiring others to buy into the same values as i…or at least, not in detail. I think it would be good if people did…if they were broadly more generous to others.

      But that wasn'[t the point i was making. Rather, the key focus of that par is the unambiguity of the values involved. Share. Be nice to people. Don’t obsess with the material. Those are not messages that are easy to subvert (though no doubt there will be a politician along in a moment to do so).

      It was this simplicity that i was contrasting to the sophistry of cameron and his elk: the fact that he can happily stand up in public and claim to be tolerant, while simultaneously proclaiming a policy that is not. Of course, pace your own observations, there might be arguments to be made in its favour.

      But that is irrelevant to the fact that the overall approach is not straightforward or honest.

  2. Most of us can agree on one major point: The politicians ought to be honest and do not fear for we do not lack politicians skilled in the art of platitudes and rhetoric😉

    Not obsessing over material goods is a great ideal but that ought to be up to you and I. It shouldn’t be up to the inefficient government to take it and redistribute it for us.

    Interesting blog though. Gets incredibly boring to only stay within your own comfort zone!

    Have a nice day

    • janefae says:

      Good grief! I certainly was not arguing for government intervention! Perish the thought…

      Bottom line, i wish people generally were less materialistic and i shall work, as i can, to encourage that. But i would never impose it. You cannot “make” people be good.

      Jane

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