I heard a particularly snide piece on Politics UK on BBC radio last night. This morning I tried to find it on the website to listen to it again, because I thought maybe I misinterpretered it. It seems to already be gone from the site.
They were talking about UK racism under the guise of a discussion of free speech. It seemed that some public figures were being taken to task for letting the mask slip a bit and saying what all free white people were saying under their breath. Sound familiar?
When I visited the UK it was obvious to me that there were as many problems with racism there as here in the US. This is quite an indictment since homegrown hate is so prevalent here. At the time (a few years ago), I could detect little discussion in the UK media regarding this.
Since then I have noticed more discussions around “immigration” in the UK press. I put it in quotes because sometimes people put in this category were actually born in the UK (or in France for the French version of this prejudice). Their skin is the wrong color and they have the wrong accent and they are young and scary.
The UK seems to be less hypocritical about its class system than the US. In my view, that doesn’t make the class system any less wrong.
But I have read and heard very little about the UK’s racism.
However you color it and in whatever country or situation, racisim is good old hate and fear of the other, something that creeps into every human situation unless the humans involved are very aware and trying to be their best. Even then, some failure is inevitable along these lines.
I think one of the commentators on the BBC said that one could not consider a certain person a racist.
This is a very entitled formation of understanding: that I am not a racist because I don’t have identifiable personal feelings of hate and fear of the other.
I think racism can also be (and often is) more institutional than that. It’s much different to restrain your own feelings of hate and fear than somehow stopping courts, laws and military actions (fill in your own instutional preference here: church, school, and so on) from doing the dance of subtle but certain hate.
When mob sentiment gets its good clothes, desk and telephone and looks out at the less fortunate and determines who goes first and who goes last and who doesn’t get to go at all, you are looking at institutional injustice (like racism) pure and simple.
This is why in the US when O.J. Simpson was found not-guilty people of color cheered. Despite his sleeziness, O.J. had beat the unbeatable thing: a system designed to keep people repressed.