Why The Grenfell Tower Effigy Video Is Symptomatic Of The Undercurrent Of Racism In Britain

There often seems to be a limited amount of empathy for people of colour in tragedies
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Earlier this month, a video of a group of people burning an effigy of Grenfell Tower on Bonfire Night went viral.

In it, a group of men and women can be seen hysterically laughing, as they spark a bonfire and set a cardboard mockup of Grenfell Tower on fire, complete with screaming brown people in the windows, all drawn up with felt tip pen and paper solely for their entertainment.

Remarks such as “that’s what happens when you don’t pay your rent,” and “that little ninja’s getting it at the minute” (in reference to a Muslim woman in a burqa depicted on the model) are casually thrown around, as if it is second nature. Several bystanders can be heard shouting, “help me, help me” whilst making siren sounds to mimic the horrifying atmosphere of the devastating incident last June.

Another member of the group can also be heard saying that the fire started on the 10th floor, and so they should have placed the box upside down.

What went through the heads of these people, that they felt it was fun to mock victims who died in such a horrendous way, we will never know. It’s enough to make you feel sick to your stomach.

Do they not realise that 72 people lost their lives in Grenfell Tower last year?

That’s 72 people who went home that night and never left.

72 people who should never have died.

Not to mention the countless families who are still dealing with the pain and anguish of losing their loved ones; and the residents who have been displaced and who still do not have a home to call their own, over a year after the tragedy. As well as the firefighters who entered the building with their names written on their helmets just in case they didn’t make it out alive.

To answer the above, they do realise - they just don’t care.

But how is this possible in such a seemingly multicultural and inclusive society?

Unfortunately, hate crimes like this video are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s shocking, but hardly surprising at all when our press have spent years whipping up anti-immigrant hysteria and demonising migrants. After years of inflated headlines about immigrant health tourists, benefit scroungers, tax-dodging asylum seekers and phoney refugees, it’s not surprising that people are dehumanised to the extent that their death means nothing to some people.

In fact, some people don’t even find it sad - they find it funny.

Grenfell Tower was home to hundreds of working class people, living on a council estate, yet living and residing in the richest borough in London. Most of the residents were BAME and some had fled war-torn countries looking for a better life, yet were still seen as undeserving of sympathy.

The residents of Grenfell Tower had also repeatedly complained to Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation about the conditions of their building – such as the fire door not automatically closing properly or cold drafts coming through windows. Both problems later became crucial lines of investigation for authorities trying to determine how the fire broke out of the kitchen on the fourth floor and set the cladding alight.

The way in which our society often permits the torment of working class people in general is sickening, but it is progressively amplified in cases of those whom are not white. There often seems to be a limited amount of empathy for people of colour in tragedies. Some individuals in this country genuinely view the lives of black, brown and/or Muslim people as having inherently less value, but they would never admit that to you. It’s almost the grain, the undercurrent of racism and that “us vs. them” mentality, which is always there, whether bubbling under the surface or not.

The narrative perpetuated by the media has consistently embedded the ideology that anyone who is not from here, is not to be welcomed. Various political parties over vast decades have repeatedly propagated an anti-immigration rhetoric, essentially ensuring that the far-right’s rise in the UK is anything but an anomaly and thus opening the floodgates for racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia to thrive and survive and enabling comments like “we want our country back,” and “go home!” to be thrown around like casual banter.

In short, this grotesque video insulting the victims of Grenfell in such a hideous way would also not be possible without austerity’s constant marketing, when in reality they need to look at those who hold the power to make that decision in the first place, but until then, this continuous cycle of hate will continue to prosper.

Some people see and read their type of thinking on our TVs and read it in our press. They see it on posters from those who actively seek to eradicate and erase our experiences because they do not want to listen. They feel their hatred and disdain for those who do not look like them is justified, and legitimised by the likes of Brexit.

These racists and their views are sustained by the very heart of our culture and until we understand this and work to tackle this as one , then nothing will ever change. The classist and racist disorganisation of the Grenfell Tower disaster cannot be simplified into a few paragraphs. The repercussions of treating these people as social pariahs cannot and will not be ignored.

We must begin to address how we, as a society, treat people who are victims of tragedies, and we must look at the socio-political inequalities that allowed this senseless tragedy to occur in the first place.

The poor and the marginalised should never have to die for their voices to be heard.

We owe it to the victims to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. May we never forget or allow others to mock those who suffer or lose their lives at the hands of those in control.

Stand for Grenfell.


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