Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Racism in England

Racism in England

Those that know me know that I have been living in London for the part four years. I n my trips to Cyprus and Malta, I would repeatedly harangue my friends, peers and passersby on how wonderfully inclusive England was. I would say that in England, it did not matter if they like you or not; the English would give you the job if you were the right person for it, and that’s more inclusive that many countries I have been. I would roll my eyes and be very frustrated when Maltese friends would talk about africans or when Cypriots would rant against Pakistanis. I kept pointing out that there was a place were bigotry was at lest partially replaced with acceptance, and that was England.

We I have to say that I was wrong – its it London and not England that is different. Outside the London area bigotry is still there, and its rearing its ugly head for all to see. Ever since moving to the Coventry area my whole opinion of the English has changed. In every single action were I need to talk to a English person in a bureaucratic post, I leave feeling insulted. From the security guard that believes you are stupid for not knowing which key opens what (even though you just moved in) to the average man on the street who is angered that you ask for directions: the Englishmen I meet here are all emanating with hostility.

It is difficult to put you finger on how exactly they are racist towards you. They rarely step the line were this would become obvious. Rather their opinion of you is clear – it is in the way people talk to you; down to the way they will not go out of the way to help you, while the do for the person waiting behind you. It is with their rudeness in the checkout counters, with the frustration they show when you speak to them about any matter. I might not be able to put my finger to it, but I know what it is: it is the general discomfort of people who really do not want you there.

Recently there was an incident to a person that I am close to that has confirmed that most people here harbour very xenophobic views, combined with misplaced patriotic pride. It involved children, the litmus test of average public opinion you as a foreigner. These children felt superior to an adult because they were born English, while the adult was not: apparently these felt confident to bully anyone who was not like them. This is because they felt better than all non- English people – were they not the brightest of the lot because they were English, in their country, speaking their language? How could a foreigner teach them something – why would they bother making non-English friends?
Unfortunately for the people they were tormenting these children (and their parents) defined their nationality negatively; their “Englishness” is defined as who they are different to rather than to what they had in common with each other.

I lived for three years in Durham as an undergraduate and I never felt this open aggression. Maybe aggression in a wrong world – I could say its open defiance. I know defiance is an odd word to use since defiance implies an act against something. But people here are in defiance against laws that tells them it is illegal to racist – against rules that tell them it is not allowed to harbour negative thoughts against someone of a different colour or country than themselves. So with every action they strike against that- they make sure you know that although there is such a law it does not stop them thinking that you are inferior, and pointing that out to you. Maybe Durham was different, may I was lucky up there. The truth is I am now very disappointed, and somewhat scared because I do not know how to fight back: how can you change the mind of a whole city, of a nation that insists, despite laws regulations, you are not welcome. How do you change that?

2 comments:

nervegenetics said...

Is Malta racist?

Alexander Apostolides said...

Well they have issues with migration from Africa, and at the time i was living in Malta i was shocked by the lack of sympathy the Maltese had on a horrible story over capsized African boat.
The Maltese are generous people, very friendly and clever - some of the most ingenious entrepreneurs - true survivors.
But i think as in Cyprus there are issues with people with black skin.