Dear Race Puritans
I was born and raised in England. I do not know of any culture except the one I live and breathe every day. One of its seeds may lie deep in the foreign wilderness of my ancestor’s “homeland” but its flowers continue to blossom in the cold of an English winter. The food I eat is enjoyed by many Brits and the national dish I am told is chicken tikka masala. Britain is my home so much so that I am a stranger outside her borders. I feel British, but then I come across you and profound hatred, and you stir in me feelings of ambivalence and disconnectedness.
You say “a dog born in a barn is not a horse”, such is the power of your intellectual insights thundering through the comedic banalities of the old tired jokes. Hear me when I say this to you, I’m not a dog and you’re not thoroughbreds. You weren’t born in barns. I was born in a British hospital, delivered through the care and affection of midwives from across the world.
My ‘white’ friends tell me to ignore you. They say visceral outbursts are not a counterweight to the country’s legal norms centuries old. They remind me of my British citizenship on account of being born in the UK to Britons born here. Whether this makes me a lesser Brit to your authentic peers I leave to the conscience of your breed of race-experts. Should I be denied a British identity for the sake of an ethnic purity that shall forever dwell in the kernel of a timeless label that is very recent in modern history? I leave this proposition to your ethnologists and their 40 thousand years of white race history.
Of course ‘race’ is important to you.
So I will be charitable to you. I concede that my natural tan, without the need of tanning machines or the spray-tans of your errant peers, does put me on the lower rung of your imagined ladder that reaches high into the ‘white’ clouds of your ancestors, Hengist and Horsa. I may be asking too much of you to recall these fictitious characters of Anglo-Saxon pride, but only as a cautionary do I say that similar flights of fantasy resulted in the near-extermination of the Third Reich’s “non-Aryan” “Jews” for the preservation of the “Master Race”. That Master Race didn’t triumph! Of its fiendish cruelty, the Allied Powers resolved with much self-reflection, “never again”, although for Germany’s vanquished daughters they had to suffer a little while longer at the hands of the Red Brigade. This is the actual history of ‘race pride’ and the evil it unleashed.
And now we’re at the cusp of ‘Brexit’, a future of economic uncertainty and political turmoil. But, you’ve discovered the true meaning of being “British” through the midst of debates that do not include your brand of “primordial nationalism”. You’ve also rediscovered your voice, unjustly silenced by political correctness. Ever the more emboldened, you are now galvanised by the ‘leave-vote’ and want to excoriate the excesses of Britain’s liberal ills. You say the “metropolitan elites” have destroyed the country’s national character against the wishes of her indigenous patriots – the “left behind” who continue to speak in the old language.
These are your sentiments entirely.
They are not facts but the product of whims that make for great slogans and a great deal of hatred if left unchecked. Your claims seldom pass the test of historical truth not least because they are all made up claims. And then you sing boisterously ‘Rule Britannia’, proud of your country’s imperial exploits, wrapped in the Union Jack; you hold the trident in your left hand. But, for reasons beyond your intellectual wit you recoil from the global implications of that legacy. You don’t know that imperial colonies, subject-peoples, economic exploitation and mutual-recrimination were all bound together in a system of reciprocating relations not of anyone’s choosing. The decline of Empire signalled the dawn of an age where populations moved beyond their newly created ‘nation-state’ borders created by the Empires themselves.
As a ‘black’ Briton once said, “We’re here because you were over there!”
This ‘truth’ applies to migrants from the European Union, a project that has its direct genesis in the terrible cruelty of the twentieth century. I remind you that having killed one another in two World Wars, your ‘European’ leaders admonished themselves by saying, “better to trade freely than to exchange blows and bullets and war reparations”. They pledged allegiance to a new dawn of hope and continental peace, and the European Union prospered like no other ‘people’ – this is a history you are unaware of. Our ‘present’ is very much mired in that earlier more horrible ‘past’ and only those with fickle memories are unable to grasp the rationale of the European Union and the security it bought.
I suspect that there are vocal elements in this country like the primordial “majorities” across the world, keen to remind people like me that we’ll never be accepted as true sons of the soil. Who knows, providence may prove them right. She may even prove them wrong. But what of this belief, this notion of ‘Englishness’, this myth of racial ‘whiteness’ inextricably linked with the ‘colour’ of a person’s face? Perhaps it is more than mere pigmentation but linked to a person’s bloodline and ancestry?
On both counts, I’ve none of that “authenticity” – thankfully – that allows your peers to stiffen their backs with their chests pumped out unaware of how stupid they look. It’s true that I’m not the descendant of the ancient Britons, the Picts and their cousins – a tiny minority that coalesced with much bigger majorities. But I ask weren’t they the offspring of Indo-European speaking Celts from Central and Western Asia, who not only bought a new language to the European Continent, an artificial construct, but new DNA? Perhaps the linguists and geneticists have got it terribly wrong; may be they weren’t neolithic farmers, or bronze-age warriors from the Asian steppes. I am neither the linear descendant of Roman Soldiers nor their aristocrats, but weren’t they settlers from ‘southern Europe’, ‘North Africa’ and ‘Western Asia’? Perhaps the classical historians have got it wrong. I do not claim descent from the ‘Angles’ or ‘Saxons’ and neither have I descended from the ‘Jutes’, ‘Vikings’ or ‘Normans’ but weren’t they marauding “invaders” from ‘Northern Europe in search of riches and new pastures’? Perhaps the geneticists and anthropologists have got it wrong again. Of the countless refugees who came to these British shores having left their lands in mainland Europe fleeing religious pogroms I’ve no connection, but again weren’t these people foreigners once upon a time? Perhaps the humanitarians and constitutional lawyers proud of Britain’s humane traditions have got it wrong. However I know with conviction that I am the offspring of immigrants whose courage I thank in the same legacy that bought many of Britain’s ancient and medieval forebears to these shores, if not millennia before the Irish came to the UK with a foreign religion from the Near East.
WHO EXACTLY WERE THE PEOPLE SHAPING THE COURSE OF BRITAIN’S HISTORY?And so I ask you, do you even know your ‘origin’ that you want to callously spite me because of mine? Perhaps, unlike our experts and liberal elites you’ll know better!
No matter how far back you go into the chronicles of history in the attempt of tracing your ‘indigenous’ roots you cannot feign a primordial British identity – for you too are the distant offspring of migrants, perhaps less distant than you care to know. You are not ‘native’ to these Isles any more than you were born with title deeds to your piece of little England when exiting your mother’s womb exhaling ‘hail Britannia!’! I accept that in your mind you are a true patriot in your own lands, so I will never ask you to disown your origin-myths in as much as I don’t want to be asked every so occasion, “but where are you really from?” Perhaps this is the price of our country’s incessant obsession with ‘foreigners’ courtesy of the rightwing media looking for foreigners to blame. It may be the price of a collective fallacy that reduces individuals to categories and boxes, ‘extensions’ to something else.
I am not a collective though. I don’t belong to a ‘tribe’ or an ‘imagined nation of foreigners’. I’m not the informal representative of a people’s religious or ethnic traditions by virtue of some prehistoric association stamped on my forehead. I am just a person with hopes, likes and aspirations like you. I have a family and want the best for my children, who will grow up to pursue their own dreams. This latter sentiment may not give me British credentials but it makes me one hundred percent ‘human’.
I ask you to accept me on humanistic terms as an ordinary person, born and raised in these British Isles in the spirit of countless others. If you’re still unwilling to accept my ‘Britishness‘ – and I’m not in need of a label – then please cast an eye on the origin of your most celebrated Brits in the hope of intellectual redemption. You don’t have to look far. Begin with senior members of the Royal Family and work your way to important political, business and media personalities; to the very peoples who founded your Parliament and gave you your ‘English’ language; to writers of some of your most cherished novels and scientists of the greatest calibre. Many of Britain’s largest listed companies are owned, managed and staffed by people from ‘immigrant’ backgrounds creating the very wealth you’re so keen to protect. They may be ‘ambiguous whites’, they may be ‘ambiguous blacks’, or they may eschew the language of 19th century race-theorists, but their distant origins are beyond the borders of these Isles. If this does not sway you from your irrational hatred of me by virtue of my ‘foreign’ roots, then I direct you to the content of my actions.
PERHAPS, IT IS MY ACTIONS THAT OFFEND YOU?
And so I ask, how have I diminished your country’s ‘worth’, ‘prestige’ and ‘global standing’? How have I made Britain less culturally authentic and how have you made it more true to itself? How have I made Britain less great and how are you redeeming that ‘primordial’ “Greatness”? How has my presence in Britain made you poorer and how have you made me richer? In fact how have you made your countrymen – the ‘authentic’ ‘indigenous’ ‘whites’ – more prosperous? In what way have you personally contributed to the accomplishments of your nation’s many undertakings and how have I, the descendant of a foreigner lessened it? You lament, “Britain is not great anymore”. You protest “they’re stealing our benefits and our council houses” but you never once ask why this is owed to you simply because your presence predates that of other equally less-fortunate as you? You exclaim, “But I’ve always been British… I’ve roots here unlike the ‘foreigners’ who come here for the benefits…” alas ignorant of your own incoherence when you condemn people for living off hand-outs. You speak the language of entitlement and play the politics of ‘race’, envy and suspicion, and yet you fail to ask yourself why should your wealthier brethren be obliged to give you a place to live? Why should they clothe and feed you, whilst you, whose done nothing to produce and earn that wealth, spite the misfortunes of others?
If you ponder this question in earnest, you will realise that you are a walking talking contradiction! You are living a lie. The social and political remedies we all take for granted today have their precursors in a liberal humanistic tradition that go against the very fibres of racists and xenophobes. The Britons who created the welfare state sought to give human beings dignity in their lives so that they were clothed, fed and housed when they needed it most irrespective of their class or creed. The enlightened activists who fought for the poor, downtrodden and disenfranchised fought hard to give working people rights. It is part of that same tradition that protection from discrimination for Britain’s minority communities is rationalized and put into statutory effect. Those who made this aspiration a reality also belonged to that ‘metropolitan liberal elite’ whose contributions you cheapen when you shower scorn on the “rich” and “wealthy” in some populist plea to awaken in the masses their most base instincts for political gain. And yet you are utterly illiberal in your views, beliefs and actions. Despite your protestations that you’re speaking for those ‘left behind’ you are unable to offer anything tangible, or of substance to improve the lives of the very people you seek to manipulate. What you do offer is hate and bigotry, ‘entitlement’ and ‘status’ on the back of a history that transcends your imagination.
You seem to not know that the hatred you espouse today was the same hatred that existed in yesteryears. It exists in many places, countries and continents. It has precursors in every society on earth as many a historian will attest, deafened by the howls of history’s hapless victims. The world from that inward-looking perspective has always been full; “just too many “Jews” or “Irish” mouths to feed…”; “…too many “Huguenots”, too many “persecuted dissidents” for our little country to house!” Its remedy did not lie in your particular brand of ‘nativism’ but in a benign tradition that demanded compassion for all human beings irrespective of background; Britain has never grown poorer as a result. And yet you are the antithesis of that tradition. You don’t even have the inkling to know that had you been born in any of those places, you would not be part of any ‘resistance‘ – perhaps you too would be seeking out greener pastures. Bigots exist in all countries, racists are not far behind; no one country has a monopoly on hate-preachers, but you exemplify the very thing that denudes people of their humanity.
We call this populist ideology “inhumanity”. Its mechanics are the politics of hate and othering.
Which brings me to my concluding remarks; it’s okay to hate me by virtue of “othering” me. I won’t hate you for it. Hatred is a burden too great to bear and I want to be free from its shackles. I seek commonalities and not differences. You may even feel that your particular brand of hatred gives you national pride because you have demonstrated your allegiance to your ‘white’ peers, ‘blue-blooded’ ‘Queen and ‘green’ countryside, but in reality you exhibit stupidity! You are mistaken and living off the real achievements of others. Your country is great in spite of you. It is the birthplace of personalities, who are justly celebrated for their wonderful accomplishments and their striking humanity. Your society has its vices and it has its share of virtues too, but unlike you, it seeks to right its wrongs. Britain has always sought to challenge tyranny and the abuse of power so much so that love for the rule of law is a British value. British people hold themselves to account before they hold others to account. This ‘nation’ is home to the first parliamentary democracy and the suffragette movement. It is home to the Magna Carta. Great Britain is not a miserly country, she donates billions of pounds in charity for domestic and international causes even as her people are gripped by economic fears and uncertainties – whilst you personally decry this ‘excess’. This country of yours stands up to aggressors in a world riven by cruelty and oppression even when it gets no thanks for it. It may not be a perfect political ‘Union’ as it’s surely not an equal or fair society, but for the most part it is a principled and humane country that is rules based, welcoming and at ease with itself, as it tries to come to terms with its past, no small achievement for a tiny island nation.
For those of us who look to this particular version of Britain for inspiration, we look to the future whilst you look to an imaginary past. It is this inclusive Britain we call ‘home’. It is this ‘Britain’, we hope, will continue to lead the world in human rights, democracy and liberties whilst your insular projection of Britain will be a blip in that timeline. We the sons and daughters of immigrants know the burden we owe Britain and her peoples, to protect her cherished and inclusive way of life – is to be British.
So, it’s okay if you want to repatriate me, I don’t need prompting. Before you finally get to the stage of forcibly repatriating ‘the likes of me’ and ‘the wrong sorts of Britons’, you would have created the Fourth Reich. I promise you we’d have already left. Our shared ‘species’ is not bereft of its humanity, not yet at least, for we are still intelligent enough to understand the lessons of the past. ‘Great Britain’ for the likes of us is not merely territory; it is not even her constituent parts. Britain is not just her ‘flag’ or her national songs, it is a sacrosanct value that many hold dear to their hearts because it is inherently true. It is an idea that epitomises the very best of the human spirit during its darkest moments. Britain is fairness, equality and hope.
So there really is no reason to swear at me at a supermarket aisle or at the GP’s surgery and neither do you need to spray paint community buildings or pull off someone’s religious attire. You don’t need to kick or punch frightened women and neither do you need to teach your innocent children to hate their foreign peers. You’ve done a sterling job of marketing your particular vision for Britain that the ‘foreigners’, ‘tourists’, ‘international students’, ‘investors’ and the ‘undesirables’ will think twice about coming to these shores and you’ll have succeeded in keeping ‘your’ Britain ‘white’, ‘monotone’ and ‘pure’.
On behalf of the lesser Britons, white, black or brown or somewhere in between; gay, straight or otherwise; of whatever gender, class or creed or none; whatever their political orientation; whether we voted to leave the European Union or remain, I implore you not to claim Great Britain’s virtues when you are steeped in all that is wrong with the modern world. No one likes a hypocrite especially a confused one, and you no more own Britain than a suicide bomber owns ‘victimhood’ whilst blowing up others he wants to redeem. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you, but the existence of “us lesser Brits” demands that I show you the absurdity of your stupid ways. I may be wrong in my sentiments or thoughts, but at least in Britain no one has imprisoned, maimed or killed me for my intellectual aberrations.
I’m free to speak my mind as you do.
So don’t tell me to “shut the fuck up and go home”.
I never left.