“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.”
THE subjugation of one human being by another is something which has eaten at me for as long as I can remember, and is the main reason why I am a socialist and a pacifist.
That abuse of power shows itself in so many ways in our ever expanding world and not least by the innate racism that exists in white Western society.
Here in the UK, UKIP and many Conservative politicians contrived to make the 2015 General Election and the Brexit referendum of last year revolve around the issue of immigration and fear of foreigners.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage, in particular, singled out Romanians, and immigrants from other former Warsaw Pact countries, as “scroungers” and “criminals” who are taking “British jobs from British people” and putting pressure on our NHS and housing supply.
And more recently, across the Atlantic, US President Donald Trump has daily blamed Muslims and Mexicans for every conceivable problem in the world.
It is the sort of racist scapegoating we have witnessed time and again in this country since end of World War 2.
Racism is the belief that characteristics and abilities can be attributed to people simply on the basis of their race and that some racial groups are superior to others.
Racism and discrimination have been used as powerful weapons encouraging fear or hatred of others in times of conflict and during economic downturns.
You only need to look at the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s or the atrocities meted out today by Zionist Israel to Palestinians, to see the dire consequences if racism is left unchallenged.
But here I am not talking about the overt racism exhibited by Bibi Netanyahu, Donald Trump or Nigel Farage, or even the so-called ‘institutional racism’ within some of our national institutions, such as the police. But I am looking at a deeper racism which exists within almost all of us born white and British.
It exists due to 800 years of our collective history as a colonial and Christian power, hell-bent on exporting our values, religion and control on other nations.
And it exists because our collective media does nothing to challenge it.
In 2001, I was working as chief investigative reporter on The Chronicle – a daily tabloid newspaper in Newcastle upon Tyne. On 11 September, I returned from a routine job in the town to watch in horror – on the newsroom TV – the atrocities of 9/11 unfold in front of our eyes, some 3,000 miles away in New York and Virginia.
The next day, the newspaper’s senior management determined that all employees should stand and observe two minutes silence for the innocent victims of the terror attack.
Not because I did not feel pain or sympathy for those victims, but because my company had never observed even one minute’s silence for the hundreds of thousands killed by Allied military action in Iraq in 1991, the one million murdered in Rwanda, or the thousands killed in Bosnia, just a few years earlier.
Instead I went to the newsroom toilet, sat in a cubicle and cried.
The newspaper’s reaction to 9/11 – and the wall to wall media coverage over the ensuing months – typified everything I had witnessed in my previous 16 years in journalism.
Now, 16 years later, nothing has changed.
If I take Bosnia, Iraq and Rwanda out of the equation, a few other examples may clarify what I mean:
- Three French skiers are lost in an avalanche in the Alps. The next day there are lengthy reports in most UK national newspapers. Each of the victims is named and in-depth family stories are written.
- A lone gunman goes berserk and kills children in a US high school. The next day it is front page news in almost every newspaper in the UK and Europe. In depth analysis of the gunman and tributes to each of the victims and their families ensues.
- A mad man kills hostages in an Australian restaurant. It is front pages news in every newspaper in the UK, USA and Europe. Extensive coverage about the killer and each of his victims finds itself across western media.
- An earthquake in Northern Pakistan kills thousands of inhabitants. Over the ensuing weeks there is barely a mention in any UK or western newspapers.
- Tens of thousands of innocent civilians are murdered by US and UK bombing in Afghanistan and Syria. But there are few reports of these atrocities in UK and western newspapers.
- Flooding in Bangladesh kills thousands of people. Over the following weeks there are just a few lines in UK broadsheet newspapers.
- Almost weekly we read of reports about African and Syrian refugees drowning the Mediterranean. There is often news about how the accidents happen and who is to “blame”, but no attempt by any British newspaper to name the migrants or find out a little about who they were and the grieving families they leave behind.
You don’t need a microscope to see the differences in the reaction and news reporting. It has nothing to do with distance from our shores. It is all to do with white western values.
So our news media – even enlightened newspapers like The Guardian – value the life and story of an English speaking suited, white, Western person quite differently to that of an African black or Urdu speaking Asian person.
We give ‘ours’ names, identities and lives, but the ‘others’ just nationality, religion and race. It is so much easier to avoid reporting the lives and deaths of these people if we don’t identify them as human beings the same as us.
This innate racism runs deep and has been entrenched more deeply with the Islamophobia which has perpetuated within Western society since 2001.
The white mass murderer, Norwegian, Anders Brevik is reported simply as a ‘madman killer’ – despite the fact he was a zealot Christian with a white supremacist agenda.
In contrast any killing carried out by a person of even dubious Muslim faith is reported as the act of an Islamist Extremist!
Sorry for the pun, but it is clear black and white racism.
But we have 800 years to overcome.
Britain, France, Spain, Belgium, Holland and Portugal have been colonialists since the so-called Holy Crusades to Jerusalem in the 13th century, the colonial exploitation of the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries, to the dissection of Africa, South America and Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Our imperialist ancestors conquered peaceful countries, imposed western values and Christianity upon them, murdered millions and took millions more into slavery.
And over the past 100 years we have been joined by our ‘allies’ the USA, which since the end of World War 2 has bombed: China 1945-46, Korea 1950-53, China 1950-53, Guatemala 1954, Indonesia 1958, Cuba 1959-60, Guatemala 1960, Belgian Congo 1964, Guatemala 1964, Dominican Republic 1965-66, Peru 1965, Laos 1964-73, Vietnam 1961-73, Cambodia 1969-70, Guatemala 1967-69, Lebanon 1982-84, Grenada 1983-84, Libya 1986, El Salvador 1981-92, Nicaragua 1981-90, Iran 1987-88, Libya 1989, Panama 1989-90, Iraq 1991, Kuwait 1991, Somalia 1992-94, Bosnia 1995, Iran 1998, Sudan 1998, Afghanistan 1998, Yugoslavia – Serbia 1999, Afghanistan 2001, Iraq 2003, Libya 2011 and Syria 2014-2017.
Our nations have sown war and hatred all over the world – now there is a heavy harvest.
As a white English father I despair for the future for my children and the children of Palestine, Africa, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen and anywhere that is deemed by a Western government to be a target.
At the core of any working definition of racism is the unspoken ingredient of fear.
People around the world all belong to the same human race; they share the same tendencies to fear, domination, and subjugation.
We need to let everyone know, we are the same, no matter what language we speak, whatever the colour of our skin or the religion we follow.
Maybe, I am lucky.
I live in Wolverhampton in the English West Midlands. It is a city which basks in multi-culturism. It was the bed of much Afro Caribbean immigration in the 1950s. This was followed by immigration from Pakistan and India in the 1960s and 1970s.
Now decades later, those with black, brown and coffee-coloured skin mix, work, play and even marry those with white skin.
Currently there are 22,000 Sikhs, 11,000 Muslims and 7,000 Hindis in Wolverhampton. But there is no racial or religious tension.
Within a mile of my house there is a Hindi temple, a Buddhist temple, two Sikh temples, a central Mosque and at least nine Christian churches of various denominations.
Most of those with Asian or African ancestry are now third or even fourth generation immigrants and speak English as their first language, often with a thick Wolves’ accent, that Noddy Holder would recognise as his own.
But, I am not pretending it has always been like this.
I live in the parliamentary constituency which was once the seat of overt Conservative racist MP Enoch Powell (1950-74), and there has been a later history of National Front and BNP activity in the area.
But most of their racial fear, or as Powell put it: “the rivers of blood” of immigration, has now passed.
Now most inhabitants of our city realise that under the skin and religion, we are all the same… we are all human beings struggling to make a living and make sense of our lives.
Then suddenly last week something quite wonderful happened… one young woman brought all these struggles into the light.
Her name is Saffiyah Khan and in the past 10 days a photograph of her smiling bemusedly at an incensed English Defence League (EDL) protester Ian Crossland has been seen by millions of people across the globe.
Her smile has become everyone’s totem of defiance in the face of racism and the far right.
Hands in pockets, Saffiyah, intervened during an EDL rally in her home city of Birmingham after members of the fascist group threatened Muslim woman Saira Zafar, who was wearing a hijab.
The two had never met before, but Ms Khan said that when she saw that Ms Zafar was surrounded by people and looked intimidated, she felt she had to step in.
Ms Zafar explained: “They were saying, ‘You’re not English,’ ‘This is a Christian country, not your country,’ and ‘Go back to where you came from.’ I was alarmed and worried for my safety.”
“I was born and bred in this country so for these people to be saying these things was very wrong.
“There was someone behind me putting an Islamophobic placard above my head and resting it on my head and another person was shoving an EDL flag in my face.”
Facing violence with a smile, Saffiyah said she was ‘not scared in the slightest’ as she faced down Ian Crossland.
“There’s no excuse to be doing nothing,” she said later.
“Even if it just means calling the police and saying I just witnessed this. Even if there’s no violence … just reporting it to the police means it comes up on their stats and they can look at it all and start working on ways to combat it.”
And to add greater hope to this one woman beacon of hope, even our right wing press – such as the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph were embarrassed into calling her a hero.
Maybe, just maybe, the ugly face of innate British racism is beginning to unravel.
So thank you Saffiyah… and watch this space.