In a country that boasts tolerance we somehow continue to differentiate the non-whites from the ‘true Brits’
The year is 2015; roughly sixty years after the start of the civil rights movement in America and the UK. But what was deemed to be such an influential and monumental era of progression and acceptance, appears to be on the gradual decline now as the struggle for jobs and prosperous living only becomes harder for Britain’s population. This has caused the growth of a vastly inappropriate animosity towards the notion of immigration and those ‘other’ British citizens, that do not fit into the ‘European Caucasian’ stereotype.
There has been a lot of speculation concerning immigration and ‘non-native’ Britons especially during and prior to the recent general election, visible from the sudden surge of popularity of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). A crucial factor in the sudden increase in support of nationalism has predominantly been caused by the media (consider Fox News) and newspapers such as the Daily Mail that insist on blaming the influx of migrants as the cause of Britain’s current economic decline, leading imminently to a lack of jobs on the market for ‘real Britons’. Yet there is an incessant urge to question this idea of ‘Britishness’.
For instance, what is the current criteria in order to be considered a ‘true’, ‘well-deserving’ Briton? The common answer, of course, is whiteness. Unfortunately the average Briton’s perception of Britishness has regressed to one similar of the 1980s, where in our last economic crisis derogatory and uncouth terms became a common description towards a person of differing ethnicity and race. This can also be seen clearly in films such as This is England (2006) and East is East (1999). Yet why is it that in our current era – supposedly pioneering for the ‘acceptance of diversity’ – are a vast majority of Britons insisting on blaming their lacklustre and lazy behaviour on people who are deemed to be unworthy of Britishness?
Music postgraduate Laila Woozeer lends us some of her own personal experiences with bigotry and racism in her recent blog article (https://tapeparade.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/what-its-like-not-being-white/) where she discloses anecdotes that can only be described as demeaning and cruel, far from the idea of a liberal, all-encompassing and compassionate Britain that many people consider the UK to resemble. Her past experiences relate particularly to her reception in the teaching and tutoring industry, which prove highly suggestive of British ignorance. As feedback from a prospective school that she had previously interviewed for, she was informed begrudgingly: ‘oh! we assumed you didn’t speak English very well’. This was one incident among the many others where she had to continuously iterate her level of English proficiency, even though her generic British exam grades and nationality were listed on her C.V.
Unfortunately these are just a handful of scenarios that ‘non-white’ Britons are subjected to on a daily basis. Society has conditioned Britain to think of the typical Briton to be of white, Roman or Celtic descent and any other ‘non-white’ citizen, no matter their generation, family background or English proficiency, is to automatically be deemed as the dreaded ‘immigrant’ or ‘other’. As Laila mentions, she is ‘literally forced to identify [herself] as “other”, because [she is] “Mixed Other” on the drop-down menu of racial backgrounds on HR forms and the national census’.
Minorities are naturally segregated into ethnic or racial groups where one’s ‘native’ country – usually alluding to their parents, grandparents or even before – will define you, your cultural behaviour, intelligence and overall worth in Britain. Unfortunately, changing a country’s overall perspective and general negativity towards ‘non-white’ Britons is unlikely to happen within the next generation but that does not mean our progression towards equality within civil rights has to plateau. A possible solution would be the idea of ‘re-education’ in order to create an increased awareness towards the racist events still occurring in abundance from day to day, in an attempt to eradicate this ignorance many Britons still possess and freely use to demean others.
We need to destroy this consistent ideology of the ‘proud Briton’ who historically is known for ‘selflessly colonising’ poverty-stricken countries in order to force Christianity, industrialism and impending civilisation upon their barbaric inhabitants. It has become apparent that there is a clear lack in compassion for those not deemed ‘native’ to Britain, but perhaps with increased understanding of Britain’s own historic past and the part it has played in creating potential disruption within other countries, we can begin to have a better sense of why it is necessary to have immigration and why our overall demographic has widened considerably within the past few decades.
In the meantime, it is essential to continue to stamp out the inclination towards pejorative connotations that can quickly, sometimes routinely, come to mind when considering non-white Britons and their personal backgrounds. We should not be so fast to judge those who have taken the time and effort to learn our language, culture, and who have helped to benefit our public sector, thus inevitably boosting our economy.
Let British ignorance, sensitivity and the tendency towards derogatory perceptions be eliminated and replaced by an element of compassion, interest and general appreciation. This after all, is what the true essence of ‘Britishness’ must entail and should relate to anyone willing to dedicate their time, skills and effort into helping our country thrive and prosper.