Scapegoating their way out of trouble?

KCL Intersectional Feminist Society President Shanice McBean calls out the government on its racial profiling.

 

I’ll begin with a statement of fact: the government’s ‘Go home’ van campaign and their use of UKBA officers outside tube stations in multicultural areas are both racist.

Reports from activists and victims on the ground suggest that UKBA officers have been targeting people who have brown skin and questioning their status on that basis. This is predicated on the racist notion that simply having brown skin means you can justifiably be questioned about your right to walk down the street. Immigrants come in all colours, so we have to call the actions of UKBA what they are: racial profiling.

We have to ask why the government would be willing to do this when the notion that immigrants are a particular economic problem for this country is a myth. Immigrant labour participation, for instance, is proportionally higher than native participation. Why, then, is there a concerted attack on immigrants?

During a time of economic crisis it’s fundamental that the government are able to both shape and pander to popular prejudices, including the idea that the blame for the economic ills of this country lays on the shoulders of immigrants.

By targeting people of colour in this way, it creates a general sense that there is or is potentially something questionable about all people of colour. This helps feed into a general anti-immigrant sentiment popular at the moment, evidenced by the rise of Ukip, the sharp rise in the EDL and the notion that immigrants are a central cause of the economic crisis.

This populist racist sentiment allows the rich and powerful to divert attention away from the real causes of the crisis: deregulation under the Labour government, irresponsible banking and the inherent contradictions of capitalism that inevitably lead to crisis.

Historically, economic crises have always been intimately married to scapegoating minority groups to divert attention from the real causes of economic instability. In Britain at the moment, the conditions are objectively right for the rise of fascism: economic turmoil, increases in racist propaganda and the rise in fascist organisations like the EDL following Woolwich. We can’t pretend it‘s not possible for the sediments of 20th century fascism to solidify in 2013; look at Greece and Golden Dawn. Look to the sharp rise in racist attacks and vandalism following Woolwich.

Of course there is a lot preventing a rise in fascist sentiment in the UK comparable to Greece, most notably our successful history of anti-racist, grassroots activity. However part of continuing this tradition is standing against racism wherever it occurs. That means standing against the actions of the Tory government and UKBA who are creating false notions that immigrants are a severe problem for this country.

Racism leaves society divided, meaning we’re less able to collectively assert our political power against those who have caused our living standards to sharply drop over the past five years.

But we also have to ask ourselves why people choose to come here illegally. Almost always it’s because the country the person is coming from is itself in a state of economic turmoil. In Third World countries especially, this is the result of the Western colonialism of the past and the imperialist domination that still exists today. We reap the benefits from the exploitation of these countries and then turn around to their people and proudly exclaim that they are not welcome here. What does that say about us?

15 Comments

  1. Eric

    19 August, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    This article, apart from being a clichéd Marxist drivel, remarkably misses the point of the question. The purpose of the van was to motivate those residing in the UK illegally (ie those who have not beeen admitted into the country and are therefore not registered by any authorities) to turn themselves in to be offered a complication-free deportation. Illegal immigrants, while receiving many tax benefits and being employed here, often do not pay any direct taxes to the system and are therefore abusing it. This equaly renders the (otherwise correct) argument that migrants benefit a country’s economy more than they cost the system wholly irrelevant. This is not, as Qasim Perecha pointed out correctly, a question of racism but of compliance with a law before which everyone is equal. While the practice of the UKBA may be problematic (this is a question of law enforcement in practice however), to state that it was a “statement of fact” to argue that the Home Office van “racist” however reveals the immense intellectual hubris of the author.

    • somcbean

      19 August, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      What is racism? Racism is not just being a bit mean to someone because you don’t like the colour of their skin. Racism is a structural system of oppression: it means society is structured – economically and ideologically – in such a way to as to lead to the material oppression, discrimination and prejudice of a group of people due to contingent, arbitrary ethnic factors.

      What is the purpose of UKBAs current actions and the van? Factually, what do we know: 1) illegal immigrants were not the cause of the banking crisis and their effect on the economy is not what is stopping the economy from recovering. This is to say that their very existence is effectively negligible (in material, not moral or legal terms – I’m not interested in moral arguments regarding “following the law” just because its the law.) 2) we also know – and history confirms – that ideologically ratcheting up hatred against a specific group of people divides society and provides a perfect diversion tactic from real issues. Look to Germany 1930 and the Jewish community – Jews did not cause the crisis, but they were sure as hell blamed for it. Look to the Asian and African Caribbean immigrants of the 70s: they were *helping* the economy, but were still blamed for society’s ills. 3) this racist van is not going to get people to pay their taxes or leave the country. In terms of actually being a way of getting immigrants to go home and/or pay taxes: it is ineffectual.

      All these consider holistically, leads to the conclusion that the vans aim is not to actually get people to pay their taxes: in this its ineffectual. It’s an ideological manoeuvre – as a successful one at that – to paint the illusion the Tories are being tough but realistic. Its a perfect tool to create animosity against immigrants: you see this every single time there is economic crisis, every single time.

      This tactics purpose contributes to the ideological climate of popular racism at the moment which helps prop up a material structures that demonise black and Asian people. That’s not intellectual hubris, that’s fact.

      What is intellectual hubris is using the term ‘clichéd Marxist’ pejoratively as if that’s meant to score you debating points. Lets be clear: I’m a revolutionary Marxist, absolutely. But if that’s going to be a point of attack you’d be better off to draw out the specific theoretical difficulties rather than capitulating to the common-sense within academic circles that Marxism has had its time.

      • Eric

        19 August, 2013 at 11:48 pm

        To respond to your manifold points individually: first of all with regards to your point that it was intellectual hubris on my part to denounce your piece as pejoratively “Marxist”. Having had the honour of studying Marx in depth, I find it highly problematic to adopt a simplistic interpretation of his theory as a philosophy by which to explain any possible issue in the world, ignoring facts if they do not suit this approach, which is little more than distorting reality so that it suits a certain ideological preconception. This simplistic approach ignores the complex realities of life and while Marx’s theory offers quite a few very compelling insights, it is not a model by which to explain the world as a whole. It is therefore not with Marx that I have a problem, but his followers, who are, by the way, a lot less self-critical and thoughtful in using this approach than Marx ever was (hence why he denied being a “Marxist” himself).

        Having explained my issue with the “Marxist” approach as a whole, I may now move on to the issues relating to the topic in specific. I do not see in any way why you are raising the issue of the banking crisis, stating the commonsensical, yet wholly irrelevant, point that illegal immigrants were not responsible for the banking crisis. What is being the issue here is not whether illegal immigration is at the heart of the current economic crisis. This has never been insinuated, apart from a few populist movements on the far right which did not commission this van however, which deals with a different point. Illegal immigration is insofar a problem as that those residing illegally in a country do not contribute to the country’s welfare system which they use. Even on a small scale therefore, they commit highly morally condemnable actions. The scale of material damage done, which appears to be your criterion by which to consider whether illegal immigration is of any detrimental effect, is thence irrelevant. From a material point of view, there is a clear necessity to regulate immigration and if necessary restrict it, if there is a risk of the mere numerical scale of immigration rendering both economy and welfare system dysfunctional. Thence, immigration laws. The scope of immigration permitted within this regulatory framework is very much open to debate and, as stated above, given the real economic benefits to migration, I am an advocate of encouraging immigration.

        I equally believe that you greatly overstate the significance of these vans in stirring xenophobic sentiments, when they were in fact not even targeted at the local population, but directly at illegal immigrants themselves, offering them the possibility to return to their home countries for free without having to fear prosecution by the British authorities. Comments by many community leaders, including by the secretary-general of the Sikh Council in Britain, have stressed that their is a demand for that among illegal immigrants, finding it difficult to make ends meet in the UK. In that regard, it is very much likely to have desired effect by offering a constructive approach by which to deal with illegal immigration that is of benefit to both the state, which is not illegally deprived of resources necessary to maintain the functioning of the current welfare system, and illegal immigrants wishing to return home, thereby refuting your argument that it was ineffective as a measure.

        Furthermore, what is “racism”? Racism is, as a look into the Oxford Dictionary will confirm, the active or passive discrimination, on a private, social and/or institutional scale, of a person or group of a different ethnicity due to their differing ethnicity. What is an “illegal immigrant” by contrast? An illegal immigrant is a person, regardless of ethnicity, who has entered another country/state without having the right or permission to do so. “Illegal immigrants” therefore hardly constitute a race and the insinuation that a resentment held towards those individuals was “racist” is not only factually incorrect, but effectively absurd, as is your claim that the van was in any way “racist”.

        • somcbean

          20 August, 2013 at 1:14 am

          The reason why I raise the economic crisis is because we cannot view things like the racist van in abstraction from the material circumstances within which it is occurring within. This is the benefit of the Marxist approach, much like evolutionary biology, it roots analysis in the circumstances of context and environment.

          The context we’re in at the moment is as follows: we’re in the depths of a global crisis of capitalism, caused by the contradictions inherent within capitalism. This creates the need, ultimately, for a severe drop in the living standards of the worker (cuts, austerity etc). In order to assault the general population in this way, we require ideological justification otherwise – just like in any economic crisis – you risk serious popular revolt.

          We’re also in a context of popular racism: against Muslim in particular and people of colour generally; highlighted by the rise of UKIP and the EDL. We also have all of the major parties pandering in their policies to this current popular sentiment. The context is framed both by a need to divert attention from the real culprits behind the crisis (sub-prime mortgages being capitalised on on the backs of poor, African american communities in America being one factor, the Labour government’s de-regulation being another, the motive of capital accumulation being another etc). The context is also shaped by their being a popular notion (whether you or I believe it to be true or not, which it seems we both don’t) that the economic problems at the moment do rest, in large part, on the shoulders of immigrants – illegal or not – either “swamping” the country, “stealing” our jobs or “touring” the benefits system.

          This is the core of historical materialism, right: rooting analysis in the actual facts and reality of the situation we’re in. Now the context has been laid out, let me respond to you.

          The racist van is also occurring at the same time UKBA officers are targeting people with brown skin at train stations without having any prior information that can legitimise suspicion. This targeting, as I argue in the piece, creates a general sense that simply having brown skin makes you liable to what we must never deny is the epithet of ‘illegal immigrant’ (and increasingly, ‘immigrant’ is becoming its own pejorative).

          It is clear to me then, that the government putting in quite a public effort to demonise illegal immigrants in this way is part of a general context of anti-immigration sentiment and operates both to reflect but reinforce the factually false but ideologically useful notion that this country has a severe problem with immigration: to the extent that is having detrimental effects on the economy. Why is this useful? I thoroughly agree with Marx here: it helps keep us divided and if we’re divided we cannot focus our on energies on a significant fightback.

          Divide and rule is old age but very effective. Look to the American south where living standards and wages have been proven to be lower for both black and white because trade union activity is severely hampered by the fragmentary effect of racism. who benefits from this? certainly not the workers who resultantly receive lower wages. look to the slaves and white indentured workers who were divided purposely by lines of racism after a period where they successfully united to revolt against plantation owners.

          This use of racism is incredibly useful during economic crisis because its precisely during economic crisis where the lines between exploiter and exploited become explicit and take the stage. You need someone to blame for your increasingly deteriorating standard of living, and those who rule do not want the blame to lie on them.

          History speaks in confirmation of this, as I’ve already pointed out giving several examples. We can see divide and rule in action else where. When the AIDS crisis hit America, the ruling class did not acknowledge the reality that the problem was escalating because there were no scientific investments into AIDS, money put into educating people about safe sex, providing the means for having safe sex etc (as such as thing would not be profitable). Instead the problem was framed as a product of the immorality and perversion of gays. For years – and to this day – this set the general population against an oppressed group, diverting attention from the fact the problem lied else where.

          So no the EDL did not commission the van, but the government and even Labour know that popular sentiment right now is heavily racist – they need to tap into this not only for purposes of divide and rule, but also to be legitimate, ‘tough’ candidates for the next GE. Of course the government know full well immigrants did not cause the crisis: but their doing this is not because they believe so, it’s ideological.

          As for your last paragraph claiming resentment against illegal immigrants is not racist. Again, these sorts of comments need to be rooted in the reality and context in which we’re in. We live in high times of Islamaphobia – a relatively new phenomena – following the events of 9/11 and 7/7. Very often, ‘illegal immigrant’ is not this abstract entity that means a person, any kind of person, who comes here and breaks the law. When people speak about immigrants and when immigrants are represented in the press (one of the main shapers of popular ideology) it is almost always shaped as immigrant being synonymous with brown person. Indeed, we cannot abstract conversation about illegal immigration from immigration as a whole as the notion at the moment is there is a problem even with immigrants coming here, “swamping”, “touring” and “stealing”. When this anti-immigrant/anti-illegal immigrant sentiment plays out in real life, in peoples actual lives, it is very much connected to race. There have been sharp rises in attacks on brown people – including those who were born here – following 2008. Their crime? Being here. Its nonsensical to detach this discussion from the topic of race. Nonsensical and apologetic. That is why you quoting the Oxford dictionary is actually a bit silly. The way racism works in reality is not there being a dictionary definition and events have to tick the Oxford dictionary’s box. The interaction between events, policies, ideology, governments and how this shapes racism is much more complex than that. Again, our analysis of the racist van must be rooted in *context* and how the van interacts with that context.

          Also you talk about illegal immigrants being here and not contributing to the welfare system they use? What are you on about? You have to have citizenship to be able to receive welfare. That point is a show of deep ignorance and reflects this factually incorrect notion that illegal immigrants are a drain on welfare. Oh yes, that welfare that they can’t even use.

          The point I’m trying to make is this: the existence of this van should not be interpreted outside of the context we’re in. Its not an innocent attempt to help heal the economy from the drain of illegal immigration. Mainly because the facts are that illegal immigration is not weight on welfare or the economic system. Proportionally to population, more native people are recipients of welfare that foreigners. Underpayments in benefits are higher than fraudulent payments. Immigrant labour participants are proportionally higher than native. Within this context, this van can only be seen for what it is: an ideological tool. The government cares not a jot for providing illegal immigrants with a nice way to “go home”.

          • Eric

            20 August, 2013 at 1:53 am

            I will not be capable to reply to all of your points raised, but I shall answer a few basic ones:

            1) I find the claim that only the Marxist approach roots problems and events in their wider context and environment to be very much unsustainable and quite simply wrong. This is a commonsensical academic approach which is not unique to the Marxist approach. The Marxist approach merely emphasises this aspect of academic analysis to the point of excess. Equally, I have a great difficulty transposing the analyses Marx made with regards to the behaviour and intentions of the political elites in mid-19th century Europe in general uncritically to that of the democratically elected and scrutinised government of the United Kingdom of the 21st century, but that is my personal opinion.

            2) The claim that welfare could be claimed only if one is a citizen of the UK is factually inaccurate. Any EU citizen has free access to welfare in the UK, which is of particular importance with regards to those illegal migrants entering from Romania and Bulgaria, for which the EU laws on free movement of labour do not yet apply. Plus, welfare comes in many different forms than benefits one applies for: emergency health services, the use of publicly funded or subsidised institutions to name but a few.

          • somcbean

            20 August, 2013 at 3:20 am

            Now, in your first comment you claim the problem with Marxists is they fail to acknowledge facts and reality. Now you’re saying the problem with Marxists is that they excessively approach these kinds of questions by rooting their analysis with context and objective reality. Which is it? And in fairness I ask that purely rhetorically. The analysis in this article itself is not inherently Marxist and I know a lot of non-Marxists who agree with it. Hence, your bringing Marxism into this in the first place feels much more like an attempt at ad-hominem against myself as I’m a very open, unapologetic revolutionary.

            With regards to your second point, I had assumed we were talking about welfare in terms of benefits payments: which illegal immigrants are not entitled to. If you want to broaden the meaning of ‘welfare’ to try and deflect the point I made, well, so be it.

          • Eric

            20 August, 2013 at 11:00 am

            You clearly misunderstood the point I made on Marxist academic analysis – my issue with this approach is that they oftentimes distort the factual realities of specific issues for them to fit into a broader narrative which complies, to put it in a very much simplified manner, with Marx’s notion of the antagonism between the oppressive upper- and the oppressed lower classes. What I deplore therefore is the selection and alterations of certain facts over others to ensure that they do suit this broader Marxist narrative. Apologies for not having expressed myself explicitly enough beforehand.

          • somcbean

            20 August, 2013 at 11:11 am

            I understand.

            And if you feel that I have distorted the facts here to fit my narrative it would be good if you could point that out. I genuinely and thoroughly believe in basing politics on facts.

      • Guest

        20 August, 2013 at 1:12 am

        The reason why I raise the economic crisis is because we cannot view things like the racist van in abstraction from the material circumstances within which it is occurring within. This is the benefit of the Marxist approach, much like evolutionary biology, it roots analysis in the circumstances of context and environment.

        The context we’re in at the moment is as follows: we’re in the depths of a global crisis of capitalism, caused by the contradictions inherent within capitalism. This creates the need, ultimately, for a severe drop in the living standards of the worker (cuts, austerity etc). In order to assault the general population in this way, we require ideological justification otherwise – just like in any economic crisis – you risk serious popular revolt.

        We’re also in a context of popular racism: against Muslim in particular and people of colour generally; highlighted by the rise of UKIP and the EDL. We also have all of the major parties pandering in their policies to this current popular sentiment. The context is framed both by a need to divert attention from the real culprits behind the crisis (sub-prime mortgages being capitalised on on the backs of poor, African american communities in America being one factor, the Labour government’s de-regulation being another, the motive of capital accumulation being another etc). The context is also shaped by their being a popular notion (whether you or I believe it to be true or not, which it seems we both don’t) that the economic problems at the moment does rest, in large part, on the shoulders of immigrants – illegal or not – either “swamping” the country, “stealing” our jobs or “touring” the benefits system.

        This is the core of historical materialism, right: rooting analysis in the actual facts and reality of the situation we’re in. Now the context has been laid out, let me respond to you.

        The racist van is also occurring at the same time UKBA officers are targeting people with brown skin at train stations without having any prior information that can legitimise suspicion. This targeting, as I argue in the piece, creates a general sense that simply having brown skin makes you liable to what we must never deny is the epithet of ‘illegal immigrant’ (and increasingly, ‘immigrant’ is becoming its own pejorative).

        It is clear to me then, that the government putting in quite a public effort to demonise illegal immigrants in this way is part of a general context of anti-immigration sentiment and operates both to reflect but reinforce the factually false but ideologically useful notion that this country has a severe problem with immigration: to the extent that is having detrimental effects on the economy. Why is this useful? I thoroughly agree with Marx here: it helps keep us divided and if we’re divided we cannot focus our on energies on a significant fightback.

        Divide and rule is old age but very effective. Look to the American south where living standards and wages have been proven to be lower for both black and white because trade union activity is severely hampered by the fragmentary effect of racism. who benefits from this? certainly not the workers who resultantly receive lower wages. look to the slaves and indentured workers who were divided purposely by lines of racism after a period where they successfully united to revolt against plantation owners.

        This use of racism is incredibly useful during economic crisis because its precisely during economic crisis where the lines between exploiter and exploited become explicit and take the stage. You need someone to blame for your increasingly deteriorating standard of living, and those who rule do not want the blame to lie on them.

        History speaks in confirmation of this, as I’ve already pointed out giving several examples. We can see divide and rule in action else where. When the AIDS crisis hit America, the ruling class did not acknowledge the reality that the problem was escalating because there were no scientific investments into AIDS as such as thing would not be profitable. Instead the problem was the immorality and perversion of gays. For years – and to this day – this set the general population against an oppressed against signally the problem being the fault of elsewhere.

        So no the EDL did not commission the van, but the government and even Labour know that popular sentiment right now is heavily racist – they need to tap into this not only for purposes of divide and rule, but also to be legitimate, ‘tough’ candidates for the next GE.

        As for your last paragraph claiming resentment against illegal immigrants is not racist. Again, these sorts of comments need to be rooted in the reality and context in which we’re in. We live in high times of Islamaphobia – a relatively new phenomena – following the events of 9/11 and 7/7. Very often, ‘illegal immigrant’ is not this abstract entity that means a person, any kind of person, who comes here and breaks the law. When people speak about immigrants and when immigrants are represented in the press (one of the main shapers of popular ideology) it is almost always shaped as immigrant being synonymous with brown person. Indeed, we cannot abstract conversation about illegal immigration from immigration as a whole as the notion at the moment is there is a problem even with immigrants coming here, “swamping”, “touring” and “stealing”. When this anti-immigrant/anti-immigrant sentiment plays out in real life, in peoples actual lives, it is very much connected to race. There have been sharp rises in attacks on brown people – including those who were born here – following 2008. Their crime? Being here. Its nonsensical to detach this discussion from the topic of race. Nonsensical and apologetic.

        Also you talk about illegal immigrants being here and not contributing to the welfare system they use? What are you on about? You have to have citizenship to be able to receive welfare. That point is a show of deep ignorance and reflects this factually incorrect notion that illegal immigrants are a drain on welfare. Oh yes, that welfare that they can’t even use.

        The point I’m trying to make is this: the existence of this van should not be interpreted outside of the context we’re in. Its not an innocent attempt to help heal the economy from the drain of illegal immigration. Mainly because the facts are that illegal immigration is not weight on welfare or the economic system. Proportionally to population, more native people are recipients of welfare that foreigners. Underpayments in benefits are higher than fraudulent payments. Immigrant labour participants are proportionally higher than native. Within this context, this van can only be seen for what it is: an ideological tool. The government cares not a jot for providing illegal immigrants with a nice way to “go home”.

  2. somcbean

    23 August, 2013 at 9:55 am

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/aug/12/home-office-backs-down-go-home-vans

    The government has backed down from use of the racist vans.

    “According to the claimants, the government has accepted it would in future need to have “due regard” to its duties under the Equalities Act, including the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment based on race and religion, as well as to foster good relations between people from different racial and religious groups.”

    • Jacob

      5 September, 2013 at 5:46 pm

      In order to be racist doesn’t the van’s message in some way have to acknowledge and emphasise, the concept of race (that there are different races), in order for its message to rightly be considered so? Looking at its message, although I very much agree its intention was to tap into a bigoted voting base, the message itself is not technically racist. Wouldn’t you agree?

      • somcbean

        5 September, 2013 at 11:02 pm

        Hi,

        I can appreciate what you’re saying. Illegal immigrants are not a race and so it might seem strange to call this racism. That only holds, though, if you abstract the van from the context it was introduced in.

        I think its undeniable to say that the current anti-immigrant climate is inherently connected to race. The problem that is pitched in the media, by political parties and street organisations like the EDL is that there is a specific kind of immigrant that there is too much of: right now it’s Asian folk, particularly Asian Muslims (and Muslims in general). In this way the dialogue about illegal immigration is intimately connected to the subject of immigration in general and race. There’s also fear that we’re going to be ‘swamped’ by Roma coming here either illegally or ‘stealing our jobs’.

        Given this it does seem to be strange when people argue that we shouldn’t see this as a problem that will frustrate race relations.

        • Jacob

          5 September, 2013 at 11:21 pm

          I agree wholeheartedly with the the argument that the context in which the van was introduced was probably racist, or bordering on racism (we cannot say for certain – to do so would be to pretend to know the mental-states of all people involved in the policy process).

          However, it is not undeniable that the “current anti-immigrant climate is inherently connected to race”. You’re arguing that it is by necessity connected to race which is near-impossible to substantiate. I hope you respect the fact that there are many legitimate, even socialist, arguments as to why high levels of immigration are bad in practice and principle.

          Whilst I agree with much of your sentiment, branding these vans and other similar policy initiatives as racist is wrong. It is an illiberal tactic to close down debate. In doing so do you not pathologise and unfairly smear the arguments against your position, in this case illegal immigration? The abuse of the terms racism and xenophobe depoliticises issues, and ultimately stunts intellectual progress.

          • somcbean

            6 September, 2013 at 10:52 am

            You’re problem is you think racism is a facet of someone’s psychology. That racism is a matter of bad people who think bad things. This is actually, I’d say, a product of post-racial ideology that came out of both post-modernism – where we can all create our own realities – and the optimism of the civil rights movement. These, combined with the individualism of neoliberalism – creates the idea that institutions and structures are no longer themselves materially racist. So, all that’s left is a bunch of no-good racist individuals who are a vast minority. I really do wish that was the case.

            When I speak of racism I’m fairly unconcerned with what individuals think; you’re right to say its hard to affirm what individuals think. Racism when dealing with it politically and when talking about the way in which society is organised a matter of the structures, institutions and ideology that reinforce and create prejudice, hatred, discrimination and oppression and repression against a group of people due to some attribute they share.

            If you don’t think the current anti-immigrant sentiment is connected to race then with all due respect the only thing I can say to you is look around. When the EDL are bashing immigrants they connect that to Asians and Muslims. When the Daily Mail do it, they’re bashing Roma travellers. When xenophobia was rife in the 70s, it was Southern Asians and African Caribbean. In the early 1900s xenophobia in Britain was specifically against Jews.

            When people bemoan the existence of benefits tourists coming into this country and “stealing British jobs and welfare” – well, don’t you have to *not be British* to steal someone else’s British job? That is to say, is this anti-immigrant ideological crisis we are in inherently xenophobic. And when the current climate of Islamaphobia, I think its pure madness to attempt to disconnect that from race. In reality, when you’re concerning actual people’s lives, xenophobia is intimately connected to racism (and, actually, always has been).

            Why is it that attacks against immigrants and foreigners increased since the 2008 economic crisis? Is it to pathologise and smear our society to call that a rise in racism? Why were these vans driven through areas with high density of Asian populations? Why were they not driven through *all* areas to try and target all colour immigrant: if, as you say, the van was not operating as a way of substantiating the racist climate that already exists. After all, the largest population of immigrants are “white others”. Why have the UKBA officers been targeting people with brown skin outside of stations in East London like Walthamstow and Stratford?

            I always find it quite sad and near upsetting when people say ‘racism’ and xenophobia are overused. Have you ever thought, that’s likely because racism and xenophobia are rife?

            To attempt to abstract the attack on illegal immigration (which, as I say above in the posts to the other person, is actually a negligible economic problem) from the context of racism, Islamaphobia and xenophobia in which the attack is occurring in is, I think, nonsensical.

          • Jacob

            6 September, 2013 at 2:39 pm

            I don’t believe they are overused. I may even agree that they are underused. But I worry that in many cases the terms are misapplied.

            I agree with 99% of what you argue. But I still think that you can’t use the word “inherently” in trying to connect racism with anti-immigrant sentiment. We see in the broadcast media even the most obvious and notorious racists like Tommy Robinson espouse half-baked, but nevertheless, important arguments for example, regarding the government’s abdication of its duty towards its own electorate first before potential immigrants half way across the world.

            Islamophobia is a great example of the abuse of these supposedly liberal terms. “phobia” quite literally and explicitly asserts, however minor, a psychological defect on the part of the “Islamophobe”. For one it necessitates their irrationality, they irrationally fear/hate Islam/Muslims. This is a HUGE problem emerging in public discourse. This term is so overused and misapplied that one might think there are no rational reasons or arguments to fear Islam, which of course there are: what is the penalty for apostasy?

            I fear words like racism and xenophobia, even homophobia (in the case of recent gay marriage debates) have been used to similarly destroy debate, depoliticise arguments and pathologise the “phobe” in question. In this case, whilst the context of the van I do believe deserves the term racist, its message does not (whether you think these can be separated is a different issue, one I might also agree with you on).

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