a bit racist,” said Lee, 19. “I’m being honest - I know it’s a bit
does it mean to Lee to be English?
have to be white, and born in England.”
from an article in The Guardian Weekly.
is one of 4,151 people in this Lancashire town of Burnley Wood who voted
for the British National Party (BNP) - a far right racist party that calls
for repatriation of non-white ethnic minorities that picked up 11.2 per
cent of all votes cast in the last election in this area.
the “Lees” attitude in the form of hundreds of racist white men, and
plunk it in the middle of towns where clusters of Asians live (used in the
UK to describe Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis); add a young, angry
generation of Asian youth who are fed-up of being called “Pakis”,
fed-up of having their fathers’ shops vandalised, their brothers being
beaten up, sisters and mothers and grandmothers harassed and taunted; mix
it up with poverty, unemployment and dilapidated housing; sprinkle hostile
relations between the police and the community, and you’ve got the
kerosene formula for race riots.
a little extra for good measure against the background of growing
anti-immigration politics across Europe. All it took was one match, here
and there, struck in June, to set northern English towns of Oldham,
Burnley and Bradford afire for six weeks with race related riots that
resulted in hundreds of injuries, and millions of pounds of damage.
Bradford, the match sparked four days of rioting after a group of white
“skinheads”, emerging from a pub, began shouting racial taunts at a
group of Pakistani youth.
was fuelled after 20 supporters of the National Front (NF) turned up for a
march that had been banned, and they were confronted with hundreds from
the anti-Nazi League who mounted a counter demonstration. CNN described it
as “the scene of the worst clashes in years: crossbows, flares,
sledgehammers and petrol bombs were all thrown, with cars set on fire and
Stoke-on-Trent, 160 miles northwest of London last Saturday, a group of
more than 100 Asian men gathered after rumours of another NF march.
in full riot gear, wrote CNN, “came under a hail of bricks, bottles, and
broken paving stones.” Fifty
persons were arrested.
Burnley, the match was lit on June 23 after an “Asian” family asked
white party-goers to turn music down. The answer came in the form of
threats and an Asian taxi driver being hit in the face with a hammer,
which broke his cheekbone. That began a three-day rampage by mobs of white
and Asian youth - smashing cars, and shop windows, firebombing a pub and
fighting riot police.
have a couple of theories on ethic tension. One, that far right racist
groups are not aberrations of a society, but a symptom of a general
malaise - that of deeply in-bred and, in some cases, institutionalised
racism. The BNP is a product of British society that is for some reason
churning out racist skinheads.
anti-immigration policies in Britain and wider Europe have emerged from
mild-mannered liberals, but are no less despicable, being openly racist to
second theory is, in hard times, people need scapegoats, and it is easy to
hate and separate people who talk, look, eat, worship differently. It is
easy to dehumanise someone whose language you cannot understand.
BBC on-line community report (that I found appalling because BBC parades
itself as the epitome of fair-play, objectivity and reason),
“profiles” the experience of different communities hit by racial
unrest. The reporter begins with a “profile” of a white family in
which the father, David Atkins, is interviewed.
Atkins was bitter at what he saw as the unfair division of resources
favouring Asian areas. He said the predominantly Asian area of Manningham
had received about £8 million for regeneration after the riots there six
years ago. ‘Now they’ve rioted again - are they going to get more
money? Is it all going to go to them again and we’re going to lose out
on the estates?’ he asked.
Mr and Mrs Atkins said few Asians lived in Fagley (a working class estate
in North Bradford). Mr Atkins said he thought that was a sign they were
reluctant to mix with other races. He
said: ‘It’s up to the Asian population to help us and integrate with
us. At the end of the day, it’s our country.’”
investigation as to whether that, in fact, is the case was done to balance
this so called “profile”.
Guardian Weekly article refutes the claim Asians get more funding, saying:
“Asians are not getting more than whites... but, in a climate of
suspicion and desperation, politicians willing to play on people’s fears
can make headway with frightening ease.”
also refers to a UN Human Rights Committee report that blames “British
politicians and the media for encouraging racist hostility in their public
attitudes towards asylum seekers”.
rumbles of the volcano have been heard. The lessons are clear and kind to
the world because they serve as a warning and give everyone - authorities
and rioters - a second chance. There were no fatalities, despite the
combination of crowds of rioters and armed policemen. The fact that over
400 policemen were injured demonstrates people are more angry with the
State than they are with one another.
is no time for stopgap measures. Britain has to investigate these clashes
with a view to finding out why people are angry and move swiftly to do
something about it because in towns where people are unemployed,
semi-educated, living in substandard housing, with few recreational
facilities and an absence of hope, it is easy to turn against one another
over silly things, like the colour of someone’s skin, or the fact they
speak another language or have roots in another country.
sun may have set on the British Empire, but the British are finding out
they now have a responsibility towards their former subjects. It may not
be convenient to deal with immigrants now, but history is not convenient
to everyone at the same time.
Brits have a phrase for it: “Sods law”.