Posted by: anglopole | September 18, 2009

So, who are the racists in the UK?

Yes, it does look like it’s a follow-up to a post I wrote some time ago about ‘This is England‘, a film I had watched and found thought-provoking, indeed. For the past few weeks I have been stumbling on the subject of racism in the UK either  on  internet forums I visited, or when watching news, or listening to real-life stories told be people I met here and there.

Racism has been in the world forever…. that is a fact. Also, one might think that everyone would know what it means to be a racist since the problem is as old as the world itself. It seems to me, however, that the whole notion begins to be more and more blurred, mis- or over-interpreted. I’d say, often people are simply tactless or stupid rather than racist.

Racism is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.[1] In the case of institutional racism, certain racial groups may be denied rights or benefits, or get preferential treatment, while Reverse discrimination favours members of a historically disadvantaged group at the expense of those of a historically advantaged group. Racial discrimination typically points out taxonomic differences between different groups of people, even though anybody can be racialised, independently of their somatic differences. According to the United Nations conventions, there is no distinction between the term racial discrimination and ethnic discrimination.” (Wikipedia)

A good example of this definition of racism is, of course, the nazi movement both the original one from the last century and its current continuations under many different names and in various countries. Only last week we could see an English Nazi movement in action; “Anti-Islamists target Palestinian rally in central London“. Such riots start more or less like this:

Luton riotNow, I know of a few Englishmen who claim it’s only the immigrants in the UK that are racist, but, somehow what we can witness in various towns in the UK, both as eyewitnesses and viewers of various news channels, is angry Englishmen tired of being politically correct about what they truly think of equal opportunities, ethinc minorities or their own superiority over everyone who happens not to be a white British.

I too was accused of being racist after sharing my thoughts on how I perceive various things here in the UK – it is rather stupid and ignorant not to see the difference between a criticism of things you don’t like in places you visit and an irrational,  patronizing attitude making you feel better than people of other cultures!

Inasmuch as I am not in favour of cherishing prejudices or stereotypes, I am sure nobody is free from possessing prejudiced opinions about other nations. Yet, the fact that consciously or not we hold onto silly stereotypes, doesn’t have to mean we are racists, or does it?

It amazes me how words, sentences, or comments get taken out of context and misinterpreted here; Recently, I have read a conversation between a few Poles and some Brits. One of the Poles quoted another person who allegedly had said that ‘Asians smell or do not pay much attention to personal hygene’ or some such. Taken out of context such a statement is not just an unfair, prejudiced opinion but indeed could well be perceived as racist. Quoting what someone else has said for the sake of a argument doesn’t prove that the person using the quote agrees with the message of the cited sentence….

Let’s have a look at something else. Not long ago BBC reported that British property agents are keeping out East European tenants (funny enough, in Poland the English, the French, the Germans are never referred to as Western Europeans…. after all each nation has its own identity!) . Favouring one nationality over another in letting houses for rent is an obvious display or racism and prejudice. Nevertheless, some people say it is the landlords right to choose who they let their property for rent to….

Racism exists in the UK and, even though many migrants are racists as well, the real problem is with some attitudes manifested by the citizens of GB. Pointing fingers at ethnic minorities and accusing them of being racist not only doesn’t solve the problem, but makes it even worse….


Responses

  1. I guess this is an issue we can find everywhere and anywhere. It seems as if we haven’t learned everyting we should have.

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    • Indeed, sad as it is people in many countries seem to find it hard to learn from history and so it is likely to repeat itself…

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  2. I would object to these sentences:

    “I know of a few Englishmen who claim it’s only the immigrants in the UK that are racist.”

    I don’t know who is claiming this.

    “It amazes me how words, sentences, or comments get taken out of context and misinterpreted here; Recently, I have read a conversation between a few Poles and some Brits. One of the Poles quoted another person who allegedly had said that ‘Asians smell or do not pay much attention to personal hygene’ or some such. Taken out of context such a statement is not just an unfair, prejudiced opinion but indeed could well be perceived as racist. Quoting what someone else has said for the sake of a argument doesn’t prove that the person using the quote agrees with the message of the cited sentence….”

    This simply isn’t true.

    The quote was by a Pole. An Englishman said the quote was ‘racist’ and a number of people jumped in to state that either (a) you shouldn’t be so politically correct (b) Pakis do smell or (c)absurd semi-literate nonsense about Poles being persecuted in the U.K..

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    • Hi Warren,

      Thank you for your kind attention to my blog and this entry. I have approved of your comment as I share your fierce hatred of racism. However, I also understand the mentality of Poles and know that many people simply suffer from the ‘foot and mouth’ disease, which does not have to be synonymous to being a racist. I am aware that there are many Poles who are racist – my family have experienced it first hand. However, I disagree with comments suggesting that it is the immigrants mainly that are racists in the UK. The comments you quoted are taken out of the context of the rather long thread where the participants did try to explain what they meant by making such comments. They were tactless, and far from politically correct, but I wouldn’t judge the people making these comments as racist as I personally do not know the people. Perhaps, you have met them and interacted with them and can have a more reliable opinion of them. I do not know them and based on one or two sentences I cannot label them as racist.

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  3. And if anyone’s interested, here’s what was actually written, (by a Pole) and my translation into English:

    “moze i uogolniam i krzywdze tym pozostalych Pakistanczykow, ktorzy sie nie boja wody i mydla, ale dla wiekszosci z nich kapiel raz na tydzien to nic dziwnego”

    “I might be generalising and angering those other Pakistanis who are not afraid of soap and water, but for most of them bathing once a week is nothing strange.”

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  4. My feelings of living in Poland about the racism I encounter here, is that it is born from ignorance – most people I talk to have never talked at length to anyone of a non-white background before. I don’t think they can really be blaimed – many people have said to me, that once they realise I’m “just a normal person” they have changed their opinions. I think this is a natural progression.
    Going to school in the UK, I had classmates from all over the world – if I had, after this experience, said the same things I sometimes hear in Poland about non-whites, then that would make me racist and hatefull. But, some of these protestors in the UK, they’re mostly from the north, and some have had the same upbringing of many Poles – almost no experience of multiculturalism. I think it makes it a lesser crime – although, they’re still as stupid as a box of hair and I’m ashamed they get press time…

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    • Hi there Szczygielka! It’s great you choose to be undestanding towards Poles who, as you rightly said can be ‘as stupid as a box of hair’ about their approach towards strangers, especially those who are of different ethnic background! I have to say that whenever we (and we are a multi-colour family) visit Poland and get the stares from people all around, I do not find it remotedly funny. Even if the stares are not hostile, I just it really is stupid to be staring at someone just because they are black or mixed race!! After all, it is not that uncommon to meet ‘exotic’ foreigners in Wroclaw, where I come from, as it’s a university town!!!

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  5. The comment on “Eastern European” is interesting. Chatting with a Polish friend who I have not known long I came to realise that if you were brought up during the cold war period everything behind the wall was refered to as Eastern Europe. This vast area of the world was almost completely unknown to us. Depicted in films and TV as grey and drab and under the communist yoke. My friend sent me a picture of the view from her flat. It was rolling green flower meadows with mountains on the horizon. As has been said above, many things come from ignorance. To a Brit of a certain age all the Eastern bloc countries were painted with the same brush, incorrectly a dull wet grey. This doesn’t excuse racism on any level but ignorance and misinformation are the stock in trade of the bigot down the centuries.

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    • Thanks for your comment, Neil! Ignorance is indeed the devil that can be blamed for many things in many societies and I really like the fact there there are quite a lot of documentaries, chat shows etc. on the British tv that do give information and educate people about different culutres, ethnic groups, etc. Nevertheless, the ‘Question Time’ that was aired two weeks ago was quite a controversial happening, was’t it? It was when Nick Griffin, the leader of BNP had a platform to have his say about some issues that are closely related with racial prejudice….This show confused many here as a general feeling is that even the freedom of speech should be safeguarded by some guidlines as to how far people can go in propagating their controversial views =>> One cannot condemn racism and treat is as illegal and at the same time allow an openly racist political party exist and spread its rather sick views.
      Equally irritating and often unhelpful is political correctness , supposedly meant to protect people from being racially abused. I’d say PC often makes people more racially aware. I really am wondering why we can’t be as natural about ethnic difference as we are about languages – after all hardly anybody would claim one language to be objectively superior to another, or would they? Why can’t people understand that ‘different’ doesn’t mean ‘worse’?

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  6. The world is getting smaller and smaller, it’s not so much an education issue than an issue of fear, loss of identity, jobs, values etc.

    Some people don’t get the benefits there can be from a cultural mix!

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    • I totally agree with you, Blair! 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

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  7. Perhaps this quotation from a Polish newspaper might help you discover who the ‘real’ racists are:

    “Nie brakuje jednak kobiet, które są rzeczywiście zakochane w swoich Nigeryjczykach: – Trudno o tym mówić, ale są one mało atrakcyjne. Eufemistycznie ujmując: równie słabo rozwinięte intelektualnie”

    “There is even no shortage of women, who genuinely love their Nigerian partner. It may be difficult to say this, but they are hardly attractive. Euphemistically speaking, they are equally poorly intellectually developed.”

    (I don’t know if this is a good translation).

    This quote is amazing.

    It is like something you would expect to read in a German newspaper of the nineteen thirties, or an Afrikaaner newspaper during the time of Apartheid, rather than a ‘modern’ European nation in the 21st century.

    Mercifully, Polish is not widely understood by non-Poles.

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    • Instead of commenting on the article, I will refer to Joanna Tegnerowicz’s opinion about it: http://www.max-solidarity.pl/
      The tragic death of Maxwell Itoya and arrest of 32 other Nigerians in Warsaw a few weeks ago did remind the general public that racism is one of those issues that need to be tackled by the Polish government and sooner rather than later.

      However, pointing to the situation in Poland does not make the racism still present in the UK disappear…

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      • The ‘real’ racists are those who openly state that ‘Pakis smell’ and that women marrying Nigerians are poorly intellectually developed.

        Anyway, I’ll do what I can to publicise this awful case over the internet.

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      • I agree with you Warren and I don’t tolerate the racism displayed by my countrymen be it in Poland or the UK. What’s more I have detached myself from those Poles who are racist and openly condemn any form of it. You may be interested in having a look at this thread: http://www.goldenline.pl/forum/1717428/rasizm-nietolerancja-etc
        I find I often am a kind of a lone ranger in opposing discrimination of any kind…

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  8. “Niestety nie masz uprawnień do oglądania tej strony.”

    You seemed to be pretty tolerant of the racism in the Londyn group of which you were/are a member.

    As far as countries go, I believe the U.K. is pretty tolerant on race issues, and it is silly for you to claim it is not. Especially when you compare it to your own country.

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    • You should know how GL works by now – join the group in question (it’s in Polish, though). If I was of one mind with the posters in the Londyn group, I wouldn’t have left it. Your perceptions often deceive you, W. Once you’re prejudiced against a person you tend to view everything they say through that prejudice… I know ‘you believe the UK is pretty tolerant on race issues’ and, when it comes to the legal system, I couldn’t agree with you more. The law does not always reflect the attitudes of the citizens of a particular country, though.

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  9. I can only join the group if I know which group you are refering to.

    Again, I don’t believe the citizens of the U.K. are particularly racist when compared with those of other nations. Poland, for example. And neither do I believe this has much to do with ‘the law’.

    You state that you are ‘a lone ranger’ in your fight against discrimination, but you seemed to take the side of your fellow citizens in the ‘Do Pakis smell?’ debate.

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    • Sorry, my bad – I forgot to mention the group’s name. It’s Kulturoznawcy.

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  10. No doubt you’ll be seeing me there in the near future.

    If you can find the time, please translate the offensive newspaper article, and send it to me to proof-read.

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  11. And perhaps encourage some Nigerians to contribute here:

    http://polandian.home.pl/index.php/2010/05/30/institutional-racism-lead-to-the-violent-death-of-a-nigerian-in-warsaw/

    Like


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