Two days ago a friend of mine asked me to help him shoot off a few emails to various media news outlets because he wanted to respond to a report of racism ‘on the rise’ in UK with 1 in 3 people admitting prejudice with ideas on how this alarming trend might might be reversed based on he and his family having been on the receiving end of racially motivated attacks and his own Christian beliefs and cultural understanding. One day ago, another friend, a black lady, articulate and well adept at engaging with any culture, including that of the dominant hosts, told me that in the past week she had been on the receiving end of two separate unpleasant racist incidents, both of which were unexpected and extraordinary. I should add I have had previous discussions with this lady about the extent to which racism is rife in Britain and have still to reach a firm view. These two encounters, soon after the UKIP triumph in the recent elections, believed by many due to their stance on stopping immigration, got me thinking and make this my next blog entry.
A few days ago, I was watching an interview that took place in 1969 between David Frost and Enoch Powell on the issue of immigration in the light of Powell’s famous “Rivers of Blood” speech. I don’t want to dwell on this other than to say that this among many other things has helped to inform what I am about to write. One of the many interesting points Powell made, and this in response to the question “are you racist”, is the need to define terms. Often the lack of agreed understanding gives rise to confusion and is often used as a stick to beat those whose ideas do not conform to our own. My quick Google search came up with “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior”, and while I have no doubt this can be refined, it will do for now, although I might suggest replace the word “superior” with “different” and that will open up more possibilities.
I wanted to let the dust settle a bit after the recent election results to see what transpires but as I suspected that is unlikely to happen. The main parties do need to respond to the reasons for UKIP’s appeal and declare what they are going to do about the concerns raised, if in power, including arguing their case. UKIP need to demonstrate they are about a lot more than Europe and immigration and deal with the accusation that they mischievously milked the populist racist sentiment that the above report has pointed to. I quite accept though that as in all parties there will always be some “bad eggs” but according to the afore-mentioned definition, UKIP are NOT racist as some of their opponents claim.
Listening to Tony Blair being interviewed during the week and asked about his reactions to the results, I was astounded at what I felt was his complacency and arrogance. Nowhere was there any admission that his policies had allowed the floodgates to open to let into the country large numbers of EU migrants. While it may be argued that doing so was part of the deal of being an EU member and that the net result has been positive, there are other negative indications, such as the strain placed on services and the real perception of many that somehow indigenous Britons have lost out as a result. This of course is one of the debates that needs to happen. And, I am not just having a go at Labour either. As I pointed out in an earlier post, the plight of destitute asylum seekers has worsened under the Conservatives, and many immigration issues remain unresolved.
So let me give ten points as to what I think should happen and/or those attitudes that need to change. I realise I that whatever I say will raise emotions in and criticisms from some, as did Mr. Powell before me, even though there are things I disagree with, but like him I shouldn’t be afraid to say what needs saying, just as did the Hebrew prophets of old. I will keep it simple but am prepared to elaborate when asked. I feel I can do so, having to an extent earned the right, given that a significant amount of my community work has been working among black and minority ethnic communities, to empower and encourage them, and in promoting equality and diversity. Besides working closely with the various strands of the Christian community, of which I am a member, I have also worked with those of other faiths including, pertinently for this discussion: Islam, as well as with those with no faith at all.
- We have too many immigrants coming into the country, especially from the EU, and this needs to be controlled to safeguard British interests, even at the risk of alienating EU partners.
- We need to have a more just and compassionate stance toward genuine asylum seekers and do what is needed to prevent and address destitution, irrespective of a person’s status.
- An intelligent and balanced debate on the rights and wrongs, benefits and drawbacks of immigration needs to be had, and in clear terms such that the layperson can understand.
- A common sense approach to education that teaches British history and Christianity as a priority as well as some basics of the history of our immigrants countries of origins and their religions.
- The message has to be that racism, as per our earlier definition, is unacceptable, in whatever form or context it is found. This needs to be reinforced and racist behaviour needs to be challenged.
- From a biblical perspective, showing hospitality to the foreigner is one way by which we may be judged by God. We need to be showing this. It is also right that those living in the country are treated equally under the law and receive the same rights of education and health and all other rights subject to qualification.
- Insist with those who do come into this country that they must obey its laws and respect its way of life, and that concessions to their culture such as use of foreign language is not mandatory and that certain benefits are to be earned rather than given by right.
- A return to the Judaeo-Christian consensus that once governed this country, despite the rise of secularism and multi-culturalism, is needed in order to restore to this country its moral compass.
- Providing it does not untowardly affect the present British way of life or restrict the freedom of or be a threat to indigenous Britons, allow and even encourage and celebrate the cultural practices of those immigrants who do come into the country.
- Consider carefully our relationship with Islam: on one hand encouraging and welcoming Muslim contributions to UK life, yet resist pressure to Islamize the culture such as by adoption of Sharia Law, wearing of the Burka and Halaal practices.