Contemporary United Kingdom is very often called a ‘global village’. Living here brings a lot of different consequences. One of them is the multicultural variety of people. This phenimenon is very familiar to all the immigrants among the UK. This country, like no other, is a cultural mixture of migrants from Europe, Asia and Africa. You would think that if England is such a hospitable country the problem of racism does not exist. Surprisingly the Europian Comission against Rasizm and Intolerance has a slightly different opnion. According to their report the number of racism crimes in England and Wales amounted to 31.000 in 2003. Five years later it reached 38.000. This increase is a little disquieting, although we have to consider the fact that the number of immigrants comming to UK has rised visibly as well. Simply – the more migrants the more incidents. Not necessarily we have to blame the increase of racist attitudes among native inhabitants. FRA (Fundamental Rights Agency) the huge amount of registered racism crimes assigns to the high effectiveness in finding and punishing the criminals. So maybe the problem of racizm is so visible because it’s also extremely condemned? Anyway according to FRA United Kingdom is the country that handles problems of racism and xenophobia the best. Is that just a pretence or a fact?
Lets skip the real crime for now and concentrate on what we can observe in politics and media. First of all we have BNP. One of the most popular parties in England – country distinguished for being anti-racist – bases their campaign on xenophobic slogans, such as “British jobs for British workers”. How’s that politically correct? BNP’s leader Nick Griffin supports the idea of minimizing the number of migrants in the country. He’s also known for his racial discrimination against minorities, but manifesting it legally is a bit over the top isn’t it? Thankfully the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission knew that as well and BNP ended up being sued for racial discrimination.
British media aren’t free from racism either. How many times while reading UK’s main tabloids we can fing stories and articles casting aspersions on immigrants? Cannot count how many times I found myself reading them with my mouth open in astonishment. On the other hand british government is very proud of their success in fighting rasism. For instance John Denham, the Communities Secretary, in January this year claimed that Great Britain has already gotten used to the multicultural society and the problem of racist behaviours has been almost eliminated, especially since 2000. Mr Denham also noticed that its not racism that is the danger for society but the class discrimination. The discrimination against the poor and less fortunate. What a shame that Mr Denham has forgotten to add that this poorer class includes mostly the migrant families. How to establish if the attack on poor indian family was caused by a racial or a class discrimination? The line is obviously very thin.
Bullying, discrimination or racism?
Even more often we can now hear about the intolerance among children. There’s aggression, insults, pokes or even acts of serious violence. Parents are helpless becuse even though they intervene and try to help nothing changes. Why does it happen? Why in a country where a Pole, a Briton and an Indian keep passing each other on the streets and their children are going to the same school we still can’t stop going on about racism?
Prejudices don’t come from nowhere. Children aren’t born with an already formed opinions about people’s nationality and they don’t hate another human being from the first day of their life. They get it from us – adults.
A child observes, listens and learns how to treat people from his parents, grandparents, friends or closest family. Lets remeber that, as parents, we take the biggest responsibility because it’s us who spend the most time with our children. If the child is a witness of us expressing negative opinions about other nationalities we can be sure that the seed of anger and hate might have been planted.
Lets remember that it’s not only about the racial discrimination. The lack of tolerance concerns a disagreement with any differences like religion, language, fashion, disabilities, opinions. In this matter stay in England for immigrants shouldn’t be any different than staying in other countries. UK offers freedom to anyone who’s ‘different’ in any possible way. In that case some cultural differences or manners aren’t that noticeable because they’re visible on a daily basis and we simply get used to them. It seems almost impossible for a child to experience an intolerance in such a varied society. But is it really?
United Kingdom is constantly grappling with problem of racist behaviours among youngsters in schools. And, what’s interesting, the victims aren’t always kids from migrant families but also English children. This year into the newspapers came back the case of a 15 year old Henry Webster who was bullied by a group of Asian boys three years ago. He was kicked and hit on a head with a hammer several times and still suffers from headaches and has memory problems. According to the reports in this case school is the one to blame, because they’ve done absolutely nothing to prevent this kind of incidents. The school knew that they’ll have to deal with a new ethnic group but didn’t provide students with appropriate integration processes. Aside from that, before the attack that almost ended tragically, there were incidents that should have alarmed the school. Lack of communication between schools and appropriate organisations created to deal with bullying in schools is very often a reason of similar accidents in the UK.
Kids in fact can be a lot worse than adults. They’re not emotionally mature and it’s harder for them to understand what’s right and what’s wrong. That’s why it’s parents and school who should take responsibility for their puppils.
Ill – concieved rasism
The most visible acts of racism, I think, are the ones against Asians. People are usually prejudiced and they like to blame the whole community for the ‘sins’ of individuals. That’s why it shockes me a little when I wake up and, with my morning coffee and cigarette, I sit in front of the telly to watch news and I see another embarrassing report. This time it was about increased safety and control on the airports. How all the passengers are going to be searched very carefully and, as the interviewed custom officer said, those serches concern mostly the followers of Islam. Kind of straight forward don’t you think? After the report I had a chance to listen to the spokesman from the Europian Commission agaist Racism and Intolerance, who was Asian British himself. He said that people who are going to be searched the most are mostly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc. He tried to keep his face straight but in his voice, maybe I’m wrong, I could hear anger and sadness about such an injustice.
Now I do realise that among the extremists who are responsible for the terrorist attacks in London or New York were Muslims but isn’t attacking the whole community a little too much? On the other hand when I actually thought about it, those controls are really the right thing to do and maybe I’m unnecessarily victimizing the Muslim community. Where is the line between rasism and common sense?
It’s worth noticing that the idea of racism is quite flexible and in fact has evolved among the years. Lack of an actuall definition of ‘racism’ results sometimes in ‘stretching’ the facts and classifying any disageement or conflict as racism. From the psychological poin of view everone who is sensitive about discrimination and racism is going to be a victim of it all the time, at least in their opinion. It’s like there was just one word for everything. Why? Because people like to categorize. If I don’t like an African guy at my work – I’m racist, if I don’t like a gay guy – I’m a homophobic, if I don’t like that a particular religion causes fanatic actions – I’m an islamophobic. It really isn’t that simple. So, while racism is a common problem, lets not get carried away like me and think before we accuse someone of racist behaviour.
Stereotypes – foundations of racism
They’re like a plague. Even worse, because the worst disease is cureable. Stereotypes stay and influence our mindes from generation to generation. Thanks to them people seem to be less complicated and life to be easier. Stereotypes seem to be very useful because they let us build the picture of the world. Or completely ruin it. According to them British are boring, Polish are alcoholics, blondes are stupid, lawyers are greedy and every Muslim is a terrorist.
It’s hard to fight sterotypes because peole like easy sollutions and hate complications. They have very important function – they excuse us from the lack of thinking. Blinded by them we often forget about the common sense and prejudge people unfairly. Thats how racism and hate are being born in our minds – by basing our opinions about some ethnic groups on stereotypes without exploring the subject. This is one of the reasons why people devide society into rwo groups – ‘us’ and ‘them’. We have an exceptional need to belong to a group we identify with and where we feel safe. Unfortunately we also tend to dislike people from the outside, people who are different. That’s where reluctance to immigrants and the belief that they ‘take British jobs’ comes from. We all want to be accepted but don’t accept or tolerate dissimilarities of other people – what a paradox of a human nature.
” Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” Abraham J. Heschel