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?