Your Concerns are not Legitimate…

…or how we lost the Windrush in 2010.


“I’m not a racist”, it begins. It always begins that way. A Statement of being. If you misunderstand what the meaning of what I am about to say, that is your fault, because am not racist.

“…but…”, of course, there is a but. ‘But’ means I am about to say something contrary to what I just said, but ‘but’ doesn’t mean I’m a racist. Because I just told you that, remember.

“but…there’s a lot of foreigners about now, isn’t there? Lots of Immigrants”. Is there? I mean, probably – but is that a problem? I mean, is it affecting you?

“I have legitimate concerns about the effect of increased immigration is having on my country”. Do you? Or do you just not like people who look different?


This kind of attitude or justification for casual racism is accepted now. And it has to stop.

The idea that people “aren’t allowed to talk about Immigration any more” is a situation of which I’m well aware, as Nigel Farage seems to raise it every time he appears on the BBC’s flagship Political discussion show Question Time, becoming its most regular guest in its past 5 years. The people who dare to broach this subject, and raise the common sense legitimate concerns they have are labeled ‘racists’ or ‘old-fashioned’.

But, when these attitudes aren’t challenged. When parties like UKIP dominate the airwaves during the biggest national debate of the modern era and produce posters warning of hordes of immigrants who can come into our country – our political system changes. When a major British Politician can stand in front of a poster of refugees or immigrants declaring that the country is at “Breaking Point” because of it – we have lost our way.

Farage.png

But I don’t blame Nigel Farage. He’s open about his dislike of immigration. He seems almost proud of his race-baiting at times. So no – at least he declares what he is.

I blame Gordon Brown.

In 2010, during the General Election campaign, the then Labour Leader was at a campaign stop in Rochdale. Enter Gillian Duffy, a 60-odd year old woman who has worries and concerns. Concerns about hospitals and schools and the deficit. Concerns, she raised about ‘people on the dole’ and when Mr Brown, consummate politician that he is, explains that a life on the dole is a thing of the past she asks:

“You don’t say anything about the immigrants…all these eastern Europeans that are coming in…where are they coming from”? [1]

Mr. Brown accepts that, but then talks about the important of Helping people and, as Ms. Duffy is a Labour Supporter, she will appreciate that is the overriding principle. The importance of investment. “but what about all the students coming over”. Deftly, if awkwardly, handled.

Then – the infamous hot mike – “what a bigoted woman” he remarked from the safety of his car, while wearing a live microphone. He heard his remarks back on the radio…live…and his face says it all.

And then, he apologised. He had been caught, out-of-touch with ordinary working people. Why didn’t he share the legitimate concerns of those people? Why didn’t he listen to them. Why wasn’t he thinking what they’re thinking? How dare he call an ordinary woman bigoted just because of her concerns about “all those Eastern Europeans coming in”!

Immigration.jpg
The Tories, on 2005.
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…just in case the first one was too subtle for you.

 

But what if he didn’t apologise. What if he asked Ms. Duffy and her supporters – none of whom are racist or bigoted, of course – what they meant. What their concerns were. If it was underfunding, whether we should be demanding the richest people and businesses to pay their proper taxes and not, ironically enough, move their money off shore?

What if he – we – challenged how legitimate these concerns were.

Ms. Duffy voted Leave in the EU Referendum in 2016. Partly because she was frightened about us “losing our identity“. English Identity, she later clarifies.

It started in 2010…or 2005. On National TV, in the age of rolling news and the cusp of social media. It brings us to 2018, where thousands of people from the Windrush Generation – a moment so important in our National Consciousness that it was part of our 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony – are facing deportation, withdrawal of health care and even losing their jobs because they can’t prove that they have lived here!

But it’s OK. When they landed they had to give Landing Slips which will have been retained by the Home Office. They will confirm the exact date they decided to cross the world to Britain, make the country that so many Windrush travellers felt they belonged to, their home. Except 8 years ago, against Legal Advice, the Home Office decided to destroy them. They say it was due to Data Protection rules where information cannot be kept past the point it is useful – and it’s not useful any more…unless you need to prove how long you’ve lived in the country under the Immigration Rules. Set out By the Home Office. Who have just destroyed the only way you may be able to prove how long you’ve lived in the country for.

I’m telling you, when the Prime Minister Theresa May gets a hold of the Secretary of State for the Home Office who presided over this mass destruction 8 years ago, I’m sure there’ll be trouble.

Except there won’t be, of course. The Current Home Secretary hasn’t resigned and the then-Home Secretary has said she is sorry, so that’s that then. Sorted. Unless you’re deported of course. Or lose your job and lose your livelihood. The Windrush Generation abonded by the law an country that promised to look after them if they came.

Nothing will happen because why should it? We’re allowed to have legitimate concerns about immigration. And these, after all, are immigrants (even though they’re UK Citizens). And it’s not racist to talk about Immigration.


“But they’re not really Uk Citizens” – except they are and were promised all the protections and rights that British Citizenship promises.

“But they’re not really British. You know. Like you and me. You know”.

‘You know’. What begins with “I’m not racist, but…” ends with “you know?”.

“You know what ‘you know’ means. It’s obvious isn’t it? You know. You’re like me, and I know, so you know.” Is it that they’re black?

“WOW. Don’t bring race into this!” – what else could you mean?

“You know”.

Nah – I don’t. not any more.

From now on, I’m gonna need to ask you; and you’re gonna need to tell me exactly what you mean.

But, of course, it won’t be racist.


[1] The answer, for people playing along at home, is “Eastern Europe”.

 

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