British foreign policy is often referred to as ‘Perfidius Albion’, another name for counterfeiting for profit. Say some things to some, say others to others, keep the cards close to your chest and bend the rules to get the desire of the British elite. It goes back to at least the 17th-century Limerick Treaty, which granted some rights to Irish Catholics, but these were soon withdrawn to reiterate the pre-existing order. Elegant phrases give an explanation on cross-inhumanity, making injustice seem improbable and replacing brass with artificiality. For example, Britain claimed credit for abolishing the slave trade, after which it created contract labor.
Continuing to gain advantage abroad is one thing. But at home? But whose interest is it? The question is important as there are allegations that the British government is trying to change the conclusions of the controversial report on racism. One week ago, the Nominally Independent Commission released a long-awaited report on racial inequality in Britain. Led by Tony Sewell, who runs the educational charity, the panel includes academics, journalists, charity experts, researchers and activists. They represented different races, religions and places of origin. Apparently, some at least doubted that Britain had a racist problem.
And that’s the problem.
The report intimidated many activists who had spent years confronting racism. Its main conclusion is that Britain has not eliminated racism (who owns it?), Its racism is neither constructive nor institutional. The intent is not racism; Class division issues; Not all minorities are the same, and a subtle understanding is required.
First, intent is not as relevant when fixing results is required. Class is always important. Micro-analysis should not change the state passively when addressing multiple layers of discrimination revealed by intersection analysis. Yes, Caucasians are poor, but are they poor because they are Caucasian? As the protests have shown, “black lives are important” because they are not historically important; As Cambridge educator Priyamwada Gopal briefly points out, other lives do not matter.
Even more embarrassing, some commission members complained that they had not seen the full report, its recommendations, or Sewell’s preface before publication.
The British thought they were almost full of glass. No politician warns how a city council will announce today, or what Enoch Powell did, in a foreign newspaper (as it did in the Leicester Argus) that discourages the expulsion of Asians from Uganda to their sprawling city. There will be “rivers of blood” if immigration continues. But when Theresa May was home minister, British cities looked at billboards, warning that they would be sent home if they could not prove they were legally in the UK. Ahead of the Brexit referendum, a billboard threatened hundreds of refugees to ‘flood’ the UK. For decades, British tabloids abused refugees in such rebellious language, which was condemned by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Immigrants in Britain are given an authority (which can be withdrawn) called ‘indefinite leave to stay’. This is not a right. As journalists such as Amelia Gentleman have shown, many Caribbean immigrants who helped build Britain after World War II have returned decades later, without due process, often by mistake. Like Shamima Begum, who was a child when she left the UK to join the Islamic State, her rights were not perfect, but she was prevented from returning. In each case, the victims were not Caucasians.
Sewell reports that Philip of Windsor married the Queen but did not become king. The man who was hailed as the living god worshiped on the South Pacific island was followed by praise and anemia, which Royalists politely described as ‘gaffs’, but humiliated those who did not look or speak like him. Surprisingly, the tabloid Daily Mail, which is often accused of inciting racism, published a 144-page tribute to Philip and the broadcaster provided wall-to-wall coverage, which provoked numerous complaints to regulators. The mail targeted Gopal, who said that the British monarchy had benefited from slavery, and that it was a perfectly reasonable view that it was a “white” organization. Ask Meghan Markle. (Late last year, Gopal paid defamation compensation for making false references to the mail).
Britain today knows more about its flaws, but it shrinks when pimples show up. Cecil Rhodes Many believe that being an Englishman is like winning the greatest prize in the lottery of life. As the poet TS Elliott recalls when it was a natural thing (not a citizen), you can only be born one, not become one. Such attitudes lead to hybrids. Their roots run deep. Sewell did not recognize the depth of the report and was unable to break it. Look at the gap, it says, but have not yet figured out how wide it is.
Salil Tripathi is a New York writer. Read Salil’s previous mint columns at www.livemint.com/saliltripathi