Posted by: anglopole | October 9, 2008

This is England

This is England is a very thought-provoking film which I watched some time ago. It treats about skinheads and racism in England. Surely, it shows the extreme end of the hostility of some white Englishmen towards people of ethnic minorities living in the UK. Yet, it did make me think about the present state of affairs when it comes to interaction between people of various racial origins here.

I did mention it before, I am sure, that the first thing I was enchanted with during my first visit to the UK over 15 years ago, was the multitude of Africans and Asians that I saw in London (I came here by coach then and so could see quite a few places we had to pass through). Then I thought naively that the large number of those people proved England to be a welcoming country for foreign visitors and expats. Well, I can’t really blame myself or any visitor in the UK for thinking this way, as one can only have a relatively objective and true opinion of a place after living there rather than coming just as a tourist.

Even though, I have not met skinheads where I live, both me and my husband have experienced various forms of racial prejudice, and hostility at times from the English people. Racism is always a fruit of ignorance and many English folks often confess that education is not greatly valued and even mistrusted here, in the old Blighty. As I work in different schools, I can confirm this stand as true, I’m afraid.

The media have been reporting lately various cases of racism in the British (not only English) institutions, sadly the police force being in the centre of attention. The irony is that it’s the police that execute the strict British regulations against any form of racial abuse…. Oh, well, it wouldn’t be the first instance of hypocrisy here, would it? 😉 Still, I find it rather ridiculous that in the 21st century, people of ethnic minorities (theoretically favoured by employers – see all the equal opportunities forms you have to fill in when applying for virtually any job) should be ostracized and forced to work twice as hard as their white colleagues to be, at least, considered for promotion! 😦

This, however, is not nearly as shocking as the fact that even toddlers can face racial abuse here. Just last week a nursery teacher was fined for racially harassing a little boy in her care . Hmmm…. some may find her behaviour funny… just another instance of the commonly misunderstood English sense of humour, perhaps? What comes to my mind is what John Dryden said:

 “There are only two truly infinite things, the universe and stupidity. And I am unsure about the universe.”

England is a multicultural country, which does not mean that people of origins other than British (white Biritsh, that is) can ever fully feel at home here.


Responses

  1. Thanks Anglopole for your blog. I have just discovered it and find it funny and interesting and love reading your views on the strangeness of English folk and life. Please stick with us, even if we are sarcastic and are insufferably superior, often with very little to be superior about.

    I have written a book with a sympathetic Polish character who finds English men downright peculiar and hope one day it is published so you can read it!

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  2. Emma, thanks a lot for your comment and finding time to browse through my super fantastic thoughts about the old Blighty! 😉 I shall surely stick with the UK, despite all the strangeness I may be surrounded with! I’ve always been fascinated with the English language and one cannot really master any language 100% without being immersed in the culture the language is spoken in, right? My blog is basically about the process of me gaining a mature, realistic view about the country by being exposed to ALL that this society has to offer as opposed to the one based on the literature, language studies only, or tourist visits to the UK 🙂

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  3. Racism or feelings of disquiet or mistrust of things that are different from what you know are universal human traits. British people are by no means immune to them. I wish I could claim otherwise, but I wouldn’t even try. On the positive side, at least there is an awareness at an official level that it’s a bad thing which should be discouraged.

    Although Britain certainly isn’t the multicultural paradise it’s sometimes portrayed as, at least there is a mix of people and the kind of casual racial mistrust that was normal 30 years ago is diminishing with each generation.

    Hey, your comment on my post arrived just as I was writing this!

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  4. hahaha – see, Island; we’re psychics! 😉 You’re right, things are changing here. The locals of the little town I live in keep telling us that 5 years ago you wouldn’t see a black or Asian person here, and if you did, you’d also see the hostility they’d face from the locals. Now, the community, as small as it is compared to London does have quite a mix of cultures and there hasn’t been any major racial abuse towards anybody (except for my hubby who’s in the spotlight due to his job) and what I love about the law here is that racial attacks are treated as criminal offences!

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  5. That’s the other thing people forget or don’t know, the vast majority of people from ethnic minorities live in London or one or two other large cities; most of the UK is about as ethnically diverse as malapolska. That was one of the things that made the Polish invasion so unusual, many of them went to small communities where foreigners and immigrants were rare. I’m exaggerating, but you see my point.

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  6. Yes, you’ve got the point there, Island. It’s mainly in the big cities that you see the ethnic minorities here. Yet, the likelihood of meeting them, eg. on public transport, when travelling around the UK is far far greater than in Poland… In Poland it is more likely for an African to be stared at, which is annoying, but harmless. Here, the racism is more, erm, deliberate, so to say… I’d blame the media for it as well, as it seems that when it comes to crimes, for example, those commited by Africans or Asians seem to get more coverage than those commited by white people. If it wasn’t for the media, most Brits wouldn’t even be bothered to know how many migrants from Central or Eastern Europe came here in the past few years.

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  7. I think the violent racism you’re talking about is more common in the UK because there are more people from ethnic minorities, they represent a sizeable portion of society that people who are so inclined can get upset about. As you say, a black face in Poland is just a curiosity rather than representing a group within Polish society.

    I think even the most ill-informed Brit might have noticed the extra million or so Poles kicking around the place, even without the banner headlines 🙂

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  8. Yes, in places like Peterbrough and Slough, where the numbers of Poles are large, their presence is visible without being in the spotlight of the media… 😉 Yet, the media do influence the attitudes of the Brits towards the migrants, IMHO.

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  9. anglo i love your comment about racism. the truth is its very true

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  10. “racial attacks are treated as criminal offenses” only if it’s a none English person who is attacked.
    The media highlight black crime. If you look at the statistics there are more black criminals in jail than white, I guess you’re going to say that’s because the Police a racist, I suppose.
    I live in Poland and they are FAR more racist than English people, the city I live in has 360,000 people and the Poles don’t like the fact that there are about, at most, 20 British people living here, so I here racist comments all the time , said behind my back, of course. The Poles were even complaining that people were coming from places like the Ukraine and Bulgaria and working for less and stealing their jobs, HA HA you couldn’t make it up could you, how double standards is that?

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  11. “a black face in Poland is just a curiosity rather than representing a group within Polish society.” is that why they killed that black guy in Warsaw, because he was a curiosity, and all the black students there complain about racial attacks on them?

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