There is a good article on racism in the Sunday Times today – except for the fact that racism is not defined. That is because the whole concept is subjective. What I think is racist is unlikely to be the same as what you think is racist. It is not an absolute.
The words bigotry and prejudice come closer to helping us understand the subject. As does discrimination. These are arguably racism in practice. So if I discriminate against somebody in employment (for example) then I can be seen to be racist – there is hard evidence.
Let’s look at the “median household wealth” graphic from the Sunday Times above. For a white household to have an almost ten times higher wealth than a black African one is remarkable. Is this the collective result of decades of discrimination, of culture and lifestyle, of educational failure – or of something else ? If we don’t analyse and explain then it can feed bigotry. There are plenty of social Darwinists around who will argue it’s nature more than nurture.
Judgments are nearly always biased by our own norms. Observing, for example, a high street in a predominantly Asian area how often do white British express disapproval ? “It’s not Britain any more”. Point out that Brits of Asian heritage are just as British as they are (a fact) and they disagree. Is this hard core racism or just ignorant prejudice?
British Society is full of discriminations – by race, creed, colour, class, gender, religion – even accent and place of origin. These discriminations are often ignorant and sweeping. I’ve been insulted on social media because of my first name and told I’m an “Irish git”. I was born in Kent and have no Irish connections !
The hard fact is that the default position in Britain, and not just white Britain, is to stay in our familiar enclaves. We don’t mix very well. And Ignorance breeds prejudice. Where there is genuine integration – in The Arts or Healthcare for example – knowledge and experience triumphs over bigotry.
One thought on “The problem with us Brits is that we don’t mix very well”
I believe that most racial prejudice is developed by the environment in which people are born into educated, and brought up. In other words, I’m firmly in the nurture camp especially the educated bit for it is education that normally frees anyone from the prejudice of their environment and parental influence. Noone emerges from the womb as racist.
If your parents were racists you are much more likely to follow them with that view, unless a decent education and enlightened working environment intervene.
White supremacists and most Brexiteers I would suggest have a lot in common. Brexit happened because enough working-class people with a narrow life experience disliked Europeans living and working among them. That is classic racism of course which suited this current government and encouraged vote leave to succeed.
Remember Farage and that disgraceful billboard suggesting a Turkish Muslim invasion. Unforgivable but never condemned by the people currently in power.
The white middles classes supported Brexit for similar reasons feeling threatened by cultures they could not or would not try to understand or reach.
I suspect the Royal family in private is as racist as most white middle-class, middle England families. Their hierarchical environment and life experience encourage that. Had they all been required to spent a meaningful part of their lives volunteering in deprived inner cities making a contribution that mattered and not a simple photo op perhaps they could have influenced the country more.
The way to defeat racism in society is through real equality of opportunity and decent education not the reinforcement of hierarchies and inherited rights of passage.