5. Racism and Reality

10 10 2016

Brexit Blog 5:  Racism and Reality

Racism: Dictionary Defns: “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races” or “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

Now I put the above definitions up as a starter for the consideration about one particular aspect of the rumblings about Brexit that have come from the Remain side. We’ll look at it more fully in a moment or two. Things have happened post-Brexit and I would like start to examine in this blog the claims of racism that are made and then perhaps go on to consider other problems to do with immigration, which is an associated hot topic.

London thinking versus the rest?

It is a strange world we live in and certain aspects of Brexit suggest that London is a little island of liberal thinking that may be ahead of the rest of the nation in ‘reasonable’ thinking. It is clearly where the heart of the media resides but merely because London media and advanced liberal thinking (sometimes akin to Christian ethics but from different motivation) declares something, it doesn’t mean the rest of the country believes it and agrees with it. A recent example was the furor that arose over young people and sport and homophobic chanting and general opposition to the gay outlook. The fact that it hit media headlines shows what many already know, that not everyone in the nation agrees with the liberal agenda of London.

Racism does happen

The Independent newspaper recently wrote, “The full extent and true nature of the “blatant hate” that has beset post-Brexit Britain is today detailed for the first time after The Independent was given exclusive access to a database of more than 500 racist incidents compiled in the weeks since the EU referendum.”   Let’s assume the Independent figures are accurate.

So the Brexit equivalent is the apparent wave of racist incidents that have occurred since Brexit. Rather than take the popular apparent media view that this is caused by Brexit (although the Independent quote doesn’t say that) I would suggest that it was there long before Brexit and a study of headlines over the last three years, say, will show that job security and immigration have been linked subjects in some parts of the country for a long time.  All Brexit did was release in the minds of those who already felt this, a freedom to act wrongly to express their feelings.

Racism or simple defensiveness?

An observation of the Prime Minister’s final speech at the recent Conservative Conference clearly indicates she and her ministers are now patently aware of the hostility to those who have come into this country and taken jobs here, by some already here who felt threatened and aggrieved by that. The words ‘fairness’ or ‘unfairness’ cropped up 16 times and the word ‘fair’ a number of other times.  For example, “if you’re one of those people who lost their job, who stayed in work but on reduced hours, took a pay cut as household bills rocketed, or – and I know a lot of people don’t like to admit this – someone who finds themselves out of work or on lower wages because of low-skilled immigration, life simply doesn’t seem fair.”

It may be of academic interest, but nevertheless true, that merely because certain parts of the population feel threatened by (as they see it) their jobs taken, does not mean they fit the definition above of racism. Superiority or inferiority may not come into it – merely that “this is my land and you are taking a job that should be mine.”  Let’s face it, that has been a similar argument that has been used historically by a variety of Unions whose members fought off others encroaching their domain as they saw it.

Wider ponderings about racism

Let’s refocus on that original definition of ‘racism’: “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races” 

Already above I have suggested that protectionism or defensive anger against perceived threats to jobs is not necessarily the same as racism (although racism can be part of it). Now because so much casual hot air is expressed about such subjects as racism, we need to look more carefully at just what specific words being used actually mean in common usage.

Let’s consider the word ‘race’ in the above definition. Usually the first and more common definition found is:

“A group of people identified as distinct from other groups because of supposed physical or genetic traits shared by the group.” 

Notice the ‘physical’ or ‘genetic’

Now notice a wider definition that, I suspect, has sneaked in with questionable origins:

“A group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality or geographic distribution.”

From this second definition we would assume that long-term inhabitants of France would be called a ‘race’ or similarly inhabitants of ‘Germany’ are a ‘race’ by these standards. How about the Dutch or the Swiss or the Italians?

The inherent demand (because ‘racism’ is being used as a morally bad word in modern society) of the above definition is that it is wrong to suggest that the inhabitants of any particular country have particular characteristics that mark them out from other countries.

Tell a Frenchman this, or an Italian this, or a German this, and I suspect they will be offended. Cultural stereotyping in dangerous and so an inhabitant of the USA might be upset if someone suggested they were all ‘extroverts’ (which is clearly not true), while a German might be pleased if you said you thought a primary national characteristic (not the only one) was ‘industrious’. Websites referring to the English are likely to include such words as, “Stiff upper lip, resolute  in the face of defeat, self-depreciating and fair play,” all generalizations.

But here’s the point, both of my starting definitions speak about ‘superiority’. We’ve already noted that different counties are known (rightly or wrongly) for their national characteristics. Don’t confuse ‘different’ with ‘superiority’.  I would suggest that the language of racism is so often used as a weapon to demean the other person’s argument. It is also the language of the person who has had little contact with other nationalities. Do we have to like the apparent national characteristics of another country? No, but it will depend on what it is. Is it wrong to observe different characteristics? I suggest not. Is it wrong to look down on others for their characteristics? I suggest, yes. The demand to be like everyone else in Europe is both unrealistic and unknowing. We’ll say some more in the next blog. There is enough here to chew on.

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