Sammy Davis Jnr once famously called himself a “One-Eyed Negro Jew” which as well as being true added disability (Davis has lost an eye in an accident) to racism and Antisemitism. The truth was, and is, as Davis knew from personal experience that Societies often try and marginalise those who are different. And from the seeds of petty prejudice the oaks of genocide can grow. “The Holocaust” would have not been possible had the German people not “known” , or been persuaded to “know” of the “inferiority” of the Jewish race.
We have seen government ministers and other supporters all over the social media in recent weeks hailing the tolerance, lack of prejudice and opposition to racism of the British people. Hard right commentator Tim Montgomerie, tweeted
“Britain is one of the kindest, least racist societies in the world but the way Labour politicians like Dawn Butler rush to think the worst of our institutions, like the police, explains why their Red Wall seats tumbled so spectacularly to Boris Johnson. And why they’ll stay blue.”
The “Red Wall” seats actually “tumbled” because of underlying racism and xenophobia rather than because their electorates are kind and tolerant. Of the many prejudices at work Islamaphobia was perhaps the most significant. Be under no illusion the EU referendum was won in no small measure because of the stirred up anti Muslim prejudice of many. That’s why the Vote Leave campaign ran the wholly erroneous message that Turkey was joining the Union – subtext “Lots more nasty Muslims will come if we stay in the EU.”
The Establishment is in denial about racism, antisemitism and islamaphobia. But the truth is they are everywhere in Britain today. “Britain First” is not just the name of a racist, fascist action group. It’s implicitly the slogan of our government. Look at the preposterous overreaction by the Home Office to the displaced person Boat People. This needed careful, considerate and humane handling. It got a populist parade of prejudice from the Home Secretary and military action. That will have gone down well with the bigots in the Red Wall seats.
The Right does not support the “Black Lives Matter” slogan. Boris Johnson hasn’t and won’t “take the knee”. Nor, incidentally, did the Rugby League players of Wakefield Trinity despite their opponents Wigan doing so before a recent game. Wakefield is one of the Red Wall seats that kicked out their Labour MP last November. Go figure.
I have no solution to these problems but I do know that to deny they exist doesn’t help. I agree with Lord Finklestein, writing in The Times today, that the campaign for racial justice is more than the campaign for any one group and that working together has merit. But recent elections in Britain (including the referendum) have shown that a significant and influential minority of our citizens are racist (or borderline racist) islamaphobic and xenophobic. It’s not comfortable to have to face this reality and it’s not easy to deal with it. But it’s a fact.