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Michelle Holmes

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The Miseducation of Britain

Posted: 08/02/2012 18:51

Racism in Britain has once again resurfaced at the forefront of the mainstream news, almost magically as if it disappeared and reappeared overnight. From David Starkey's dogmatic comments last year on the riots being a result of 'whites acting black' to the more recent re-exposure of racism in football, racial prejudice in multicultural Britain is rife and needs to be addressed properly. Something we're yet to achieve so far, hence its constant re-occurrences throughout our history.

When Emma West's racist and ugly rant coined 'My Tram Experience' hit the webs last November, there was an outcry of shock, shame and disgust from every racial group. Aside from her seeming to be under the influence of something and the fact she proudly spewed her racial hatred with her young son on her lap, from what we could make out she felt black people should go back to our own country and sort 'over there' out (referencing to a fictional place called 'niguagua', I can only assume to be Nicaragua - a country in central America). She also seemed to truly believe that her Britain was 'fuck all' because of the invasion of brown people. Other than her clearly ignorant views, one thing that stuck with me was her deluded certainty that blacks (and Polish) were responsible for bringing down the state of her Britain and that she appeared to believe we've taken all of the jobs that could have gone to English people. This leads me to believe Emma, although clearly ignorant is also uneducated.

Black history is relegated to an acknowledgement one month a year. At school we are taught a Eurocentric, westernised version of the events of slavery and a few other key moments, condensed into a few lessons. When I was at school I never learnt, what I now believe to be the important part of black British history and in essence where the melting pot of Britain originated - the Windrush era. This was a time when people from the West Indies came to Britain after the Second World War and ultimately helped rebuild Britain's economy, taking up nursing jobs, train driving and jobs of that nature. Therefore, the term 'go back to where they came from' originates from not knowing the objectives of black people residing here, in this green and pleasant land.

Racism is unfortunately historically embedded in this country. Although this is a sweeping statement, when we look at the history of western colonisation and imperialism great Britain has a history of invading foreign countries (usually made up of brown people, usually in countries rich in natural resources) and implementing their class system of whites being superior and brown and black people being less than which continues to this day. Although MP Diane's Abbott's 'racist tweet' (which I'd rather call an expression of her opinion) came at a time when we should have still been concentrating on the politics of Stephen Lawrence's case, the actual meaning between her generalised statement is true. Western powers, being British and American have historically divided and ruled.

Doreen Lawrence, mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence last month brought two of the four or five killers of her son to justice after 18 years of fighting the flawed British justice system, in a case that exposed the institutional racism of British police in 1993 following The Macpherson report. She recently said that David Cameron's government is not doing enough to tackle racial prejudice and believes that spending cuts will hit working-class and black Britons the hardest, a statement I believe to be 100% true.

Race is a scapegoat when dealing with criminal behaviour, highlighted with the recent expansion of Operation Trident, the Met Police's unit to tackle gun crime in black communities and its role in leading a new initiative to deal with gang crime - a strategy that suggests gangs are only concentrated in the black community. We haven't come far enough from the days of Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood speech in 1968, especially when it can be proudly quoted on BBC Newsnight when David Starkey addressed the recent riots that were not an issue of black, white or brown but a matter of frustrations felt amongst a class of people who had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The unrest last year were no different to that in the 80s that spread across the UK as a result of racial and class inequality then. Racism is football was endemic in the 60's with black footballers having banana skins thrown at them and its clear in that area we also haven't progressed when John Terry, the now ex captain of England's football team can even be accused of being brave enough to use racial slurs to a fellow team mate.

I saw an article offering the explanation that prejudice is in our genes and stems from ancient history when humans lived in tribes and viewed outsiders with hostility and fear; an interesting explanation but what I feel is an effort to scientifically legitimise prejudice behaviour.

To attempt to start to tackle the roots of racial inequality we need to, at the very least, educate all people of all creeds and backgrounds as to why Britain came to become this melting pot; from the Windrush, to Britain being seen as a safe haven for immigrants fleeing their often war torn countries and looking at the benefits minority groups have brought and continue to bring to our great Britain. The only way we can even begin to try to deal with racism is to unlearn what we've been taught is acceptable actions and thought. Then the real hard work will begin.

 

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