This is our truth, tell us yours
I had the not uncommon experience this morning of being called a bigot for not liking racists. Its a feature now of political discourse where the language of non discrimination has become so embedded in our consciousness, that even those who rail against political correctness use it.
Thus we are told that to have an opinion based on an emotional response is bigotry, the belief is that because bigotry is a bad thing, a position proposed by the left, the right can attack anyone opposed to them as bigots Its a strange looking glass world where people steal the clothing of their opponents to use against them, then point and say “look you are naked now”.
Of course the dictionary definition of bigot carries no political weight, does not differentiate between different view points.
Merriam Webster however does seem to think bigot applies more accurately to some groups than others
a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices;especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
The thing shared by both definitions is a sense of an unreasonable belief, an obstinately held one in the face of facts, something clung to regardless of the evidence. Obstinate is a word redolent of someone sticking fingers in their ears and saying “la la la I cant hear you”. Now unreasonable is a little harder to pin down, one persons unreasonable is another persons common sense, so we are brought back to the idea of evidence, of ignoring facts.
So, given this idea of a bigot being someone who has an unevidenced, obstinate dislike against people or groups who are different to them, how accurate is it as a description of those who believe many brexiters are racist, ramping up the fear of immigration?
Nigel Farage is not the official spokesman for Brexit, much to his own annoyance, however he is widely visible in the media, is the chosen brexiter to debate david cameron, and leads a party who have campaigned since its inception to leave the EU.
Here is a selection of his thoughts on immigration
Nigel Farage Predicts ‘Violence The Next Step’ If Immigration Is Not Controlled A statement reminiscent of POwells rivers of blood speech.
He has consistently claimed immigration is out of contril, with the idea this is a bad thing contained within fearmongering rhetoric this idea that unless we leave we will be “over run” and that every inhabitant of the planet has no other goal than moving to surrey has reached quite hyperbolic levels .
In the interests of fairness I should mention these results from google ignore the discussion of the farage battle bus, nicknamed the aubergine, although no doubt he prefers the term egg plant
The official brexit campaign is vote leave, so setting aside the media’s obsession with a former stock broker who has consistently failed to be elected to parliament, what are their arguments? I put “vote leave” in to google news search, the top stories were:
Vote Leave embroiled in race row over Turkey security threat claims Several different publications carried this
Various reports on the remain campaign, which for some reason had been tagged with vote leave
I know how google works, I know that this is not a scientific test of everything that vote leave have said. There may well be decent, thoughtful, left wing members of vote leave talking about resisting TTIP and the solidarity of workers across national borders. If there are though they are not at the front of the campaign.
So, is it obstinate or unreasonable of me to look at the arguments for Brexit and see that they largely seem to rest on whipping up fears about millions of “them” coming over here? The constant refrain is be that without leaving the EU we will have large scale immigration into the UK, and that this is a bad thing. Immigration is always referred to as a negative, immigrants themselves painted as a group who contribute nothing and are an unending drain on the country’s resources. The suggestion, for example, that millions of Turks are waiting, passport in hand, for the moment they can move to the UK is not based on fact, but the strange belief of Brexiters that England (and they very much only ever refer to England) is simultaneously a broken nation, on its knees due to multiculturalism and immigration, and the greatest country in the world, which anyone and everyone would want to move to.
Which brings me to the second part of the accusation, that calling brexisters racist is bigotry. Of course there will be non racist brexiters, I have much sympathy for the left wing leave arguments. But as I have already shown these are not the arguments brexist is choosing to fight on. Racism has become superficially unacceptable in our culture, whilst still being deeply racist. The accusation of racism is seen to be something that should never be made, as happened recently when a labour MP was attacked for a perfectly accurate description of a racist voter (with shades of Brown and bigotgate). The narrative seems to be that someone’s hurt at being called racist matters more than trying to challenge racism.
So, let me make it incredibly clear, if you believe there is a substantive difference between people born in the UK, and without, if you believe that skin colour influences criminality, if you believe that there is an Englishness which is diluted by immigration, you are racist. Furthermore whilst east European is not a race, if you transfer those previous prejudices once deemed acceptable to hold about people of colour, onto Romanians, Poles, Hungarians, and others, you are prejudiced, and come under the catch all term of racist. It does matter not to ignore colourism, anti blackness and prejudice based on racial origins, however prejudice due to origins, which reapplies racist tropes is, I believe, under the umbrella term, racism.
If you believe that all other countries are in some way inferior to our own, and that its inevitable that “hordes” (and the language is always that of violence, of invasion) of people will travel to the UK, you are racist.
If you believe that there is some undefinable Englishness, which is centered on whiteness, on an invented history, on myths of unity which never existed, and that the outsider will in some way pervert this aryan nation, you are racist.
Brexiters attempt to claim worry about infrastructural issues if immigration continues. I believe if we look at their general concern for these issues, we can see how this is simply a false flag they are hiding behind. A good comparison is with the current bathroom bills being passed in the US. The people behind these have shown no concern for sexual violence against women in the past. Proponents of “real rape” opposing abortion for those who have been raped, blaming women who are raped for their dress, behaviour, sexual activity, they are using the excuse of protection to attack trans people.
In the same way genuine concern about classroom sizes, affordable housing, the strain on the NHS, would be shown by a history of discussion and debate around these issues. Tories who have underfunded public services turning around and now saying that public services would be overstretched show that in order to promote anti immigration feeling their hypocrisy has no bounds.
To call a racist a racist is not bigotry, it is a fact. To be opposed to racism is not bigotry, it is a moral belief about which values matter to an individual. In many ways this post is prompted by my despair with the brexit campaign, as someone who is naturally anti state, I might be a natural leave voter. However I cannot vote for people who whip up the worst us and them hysteria around immigration, I cannot vote for racists. It is not bigotry to say your values are so far from mine that I shall oppose them. If brexiters are hurt by being called bigots and racists, then, it behoves them to prove themselves otherwise, rather than latching onto the language of the left, seeming without understanding what it means.