Racism has become an accepted part of political discourse
by Rabbil Sikdar (2017)
Image Copyright: Pool via Getty Images
If Donald Trump plans a supposed sneak visit, progressives in Britain are already whipping up plans for a major protest. He really doesn’t know how quickly the left can organise a protest. If people descend onto the streets of London to protest, I’ll be there, placards and all. I usually dislike protests because it usually draws disgusting groups like the SWP and I see it as ineffective compared to lobbying your local MP. But there is something deeply important in not just protesting Trump, but being seen protesting him.
It sends a message out importantly to the far right white extremists creeping back into mainstream society over here. It reminds them that they will never be the many because lately it feels as though they are everywhere. We thought far right movements in Britain today were just dying remnants lurking on the fringes of a society becoming increasingly diverse. Some will point to the defeat of the British National Party as proof of far-right extremism in demise. Yet consider the growth of Britain First, the persistence of the EDL, the refusal of UKIP to completely fade and the very manner in which Brexit is discussed, and it’s unquestionable that white nationalism is here, and still a potent threat.
In the aftermath of Brexit hate crime towards migrants and minorities jumped heavily, by 100% across the UK. Dorset saw the greatest increase with 104 offences logged between July and September 2016. And increasingly with their status of living here uncertain, many EU migrants have revealed the insecurity they have felt living in Britain for the first time. Brexit encouraged previously sidelined opinions to come pouring out venomously towards some of them, the feeling of being unwelcomed so severe in some cases that some families have simply returned to their countries of origin. Migrants living here for several years have been left feeling homeless. Beyond the cultural impact, there are the economic ramifications to consider in this, chiefly that the NHS since its creation has relied heavily on the services of migrant nurses and doctors. There has already been a reported 96% decline in application from EU migrants. Cities like London, heavily dependent on migrant services, will suffer heavily.
Islamophobia has surged in recent years and particularly on the streets of London it has grown. Muslims, most frequently women, are routinely attacked and abused. Hijabs are pulled off, they are spat at – often in presence of children – abused on public transports, and in some cases have acid thrown at them. Mosques are regularly threatened, as Finsbury Park Mosque was in the wake of the terrorist attack on it. Many Muslim women are now genuinely afraid of simply walking within their communities, worshippers are mosques feeling increasingly uncertain and insecure, and generally speaking there is huge fear that at any moment a bigot could do something.
Across western society white nationalism is being normalised at the detriment of minorities and Muslims. “Take back control” and “Make America great again” were all slogans for white nationalists, an attempt to reclaim some lost sense of power in an increasingly liberal and globalised world. The messages aimed by the politicians galvanized and emboldened the far right. They believed that Brexit and Trump legitimised their actions and rhetoric, encouraging them to increase their hostilities towards minority groups. To them, their country once again belonged to them, and Brexit was proof that this time wider society stood with them.
Maybe Brexit really was about jobs but there was the sense of a cultural war brewing within it too. It was heavily based on immigration, and what communities looked like. There are lessons in here for politicians and journalists in how they speak about entire groups of people. For several years we have seen immigrants’ dehumanised, portrayed poorly by newspapers and politicians despite the economic prosperity they have helped in creating. If you continuously describe Muslims, Romanians and Poles as threats then that is how they will simply be seen by sections of society. When newspapers employ neo-fascists like Katie Hopkins who occasionally slips into genocidal rhetoric, whether it’s in describing refugees as cockroaches deserving of having a gunship sent towards them, or calling for a “final solution” against Muslims (the words of which were later sprawled over the house of a Muslim man who was attacked) they are legitimising the language of the far right, making them an acceptable part of political discourse.
And if newspapers and politicians can make extreme anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric seem normal then the far right will latch onto this as vindications of their own messages. They will march on streets trying to intimidate. And if Trump arrives, they will feel like they have won.
But if he arrives and they march, I will be there with my placard with thousands of others to remind the white nationalists that we are still here. This is our home and they can never make us go away.