Rivers of Blood

And now for something completely different. After the self-indulgent navel-gazing of my first blog, and the trivial nonsense of my second, I’m going to talk about a serious subject: racism and immigration.

It’s more than forty-eight years since Enoch Powell gave his infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech in the Houses of Parliament. Referring to Virgil’s Aeneid, the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West spoke in apocalyptic terms about the supposed dangers of mass immigration. Despite the politician’s dismissal and the condemnation he received from his peers, the public mood at the time was not entirely at odds with the opinions he espoused. During the same decade, on the other side of the Atlantic, huge swathes of normal American people railed against the Civil Rights movement. Many still believed that African-Americans should be second-class citizens, with some willing to use lethal force to defend their point of view.

civil rights

It is perhaps heartening that we look back on these times with distaste; it seems that both nations have come a long way with regards to attitudes towards racial equality, opportunity and integration.

However, it seems that racism is becoming an issue again. In the UK, right-wing Euro-sceptic party UKIP are becoming more popular all the time. Of course, I accept that many UKIP supporters back Nigel Farage for the right reasons: they believe that his mission to separate from the European Union would benefit the country if it were realised. But not all are so well-meaning. If it weren’t for the much-derided first past the post electoral system, this band of reactionaries would have a firm foothold in the House of Commons. Which is worrying, because a significant proportion of UKIP voters are racist – to a degree, at least – and would probably vote for less-moderate right-wingers if they had the media platform UKIP have. Farage’s party hides overtly-xenophobic opinions such as “Africans are bringing HIV to Britain” behind less unsavoury theories like “Britain is being weakened by EU membership.” Their general message is this: we need to stop immigration and keep foreigners out, for they are the problem with Broken Britain. It saddens me that just seventy years after the end of World War Two, when fascism and bigotry were roundly defeated, UKIP got six million votes. They are exploiting the disenchantment caused by poverty and loss of national identity, just as the Nationalist Socialist party did in 1920s Germany.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage

UKIP leader Nigel Farage

And don’t even get me started on the likes of Britain First. This social-media savvy collection of ne’er-do-wells are becoming notorious for their Islamophobic views and protests. Judging by their poorly-attended demonstration in Luton, it appears most of their followers are internet warriors, happy to hit share or like but unwilling to put down their mobile/tablet/laptop and take to the street. But the popularity of such hate-peddlers is concerning nonetheless.

Islamophobes Britain First

Islamophobes Britain First

Perhaps the most damning indictment of national attitudes to race is the behaviour of our own government. I’m no fan of the current administration for a number of other reasons, but they can be saved for another day. Sticking with immigration, it has become so divisive that until recently, David Cameron was willing to let countless refugees drown rather than risk an anti-migration backlash. Though the rivers of Britain may not be foaming with blood, there is far too much being shed in the Mediterranean. Don’t be fooled by the selfless people who say “I’d have a refugee in my house” – there are still many who want to stop the refugees from landing on British soil, whatever the cost. Hence Theresa May’s draconian speech at the Tory Party Conference last week.
refugees

In the USA, racial tensions are on the rise, with actual blood being spilt. The Charleston church shooting, the riots in Ferguson and elsewhere and the supposed rise of the KKK suggest that, once again, racism is becoming an issue worth killing or dying for. Opportunistic rabble-rousers are using the situation to foment trouble, and Obama’s term in office, which began with such optimism, seems to have only worsened the divide. The fact that uber-bigot Donald Trump is even being considered as a candidate is indicative of the sad state of affairs in the Land of the Free.
race riots
Looking around the world, racism, sectarianism and bigotry are more of a problem than ever before. In the parched deserts of the Middle East, blood stains the sands with every passing minute as IS conduct their murderous campaign of oppression and expansion. The far-right is on the rise in Europe, as minorities are blamed for austerity and other social ills.

IS militants

IS militants

The common denominator is the use of scapegoats. Too many Britons see Eastern Europeans, Africans and Asians as the reason for their troubles when they should be blaming the bankers and the politicians for the recession. Similarly, plenty of Americans cite illegal immigration as the cause of economic hardship rather than the recession. Politically-driven scapegoating, discrimination and bigotry are central themes in my SUBNORMAL series. The victims in my books are disabled people, not ethnic minorities, but the message is the same: the wrong people are being blamed for our problems, and people are being hurt as a result. Communities are divided and human beings are wary of their fellows for no good reason.

subnormal

SU
Apologies if my piece has been markedly Anglo/American-centric. Perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of the rise in racial tensions in our two countries is the fact that our two countries owe a great deal to immigration and racial integration. Britain, a tiny island nation, has punched above its weight for centuries thanks in part to its multi-cultural make-up. The US has risen to prominence in just over two centuries. It’s no coincidence that America is also a melting-pot of different races.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and opinions!

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9 thoughts on “Rivers of Blood

  1. I really enjoyed reading your well-written piece, and I (sadly) agree with your observations. Those with the smallest minds are always the first to blame others for all their troubles. When I first heard Trump was running, I thought it was a joke. Now, not so funny. The West would be far better off with an influx of immigrants who truly want a better life–and will work hard for it–than many of its citizens who’ve made a career of being irresponsible and lazy. Unfortunately, I think the “us versus them” point-of-view is entrenched for much of humanity. Great post, Stuart!

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    • Thanks!

      I think Doug Stanhope said it best:

      “Of course foreigners steal your job. But maybe, if someone without contacts, money or the language takes your job, you’re shit.”

      Obviously, that’s a very simplistic way of looking at it, and I understand the argument about cheap migrant labour driving down wages. But I think the general sentiment is justified.

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  2. I enjoyed reading your piece too, but might I suggest that some anti-immigrant sentiments are rooted in healthy self-preservation.

    I live in Alaska, which is the most diverse state in the union, and also the richest state with a very low unemployment rate and we weathered the recession of 2008 better than most. I value my immigrant friends, almost all of whom waited in line to enter the country LEGALLY and now work in skilled jobs, contributing to the community and the tax base.

    But in the border states, many communities have a 30% long-term unemployment rate (these people are no longer eligible for unemployment compensation, so they aren’t recorded as unemployed). They’re legally denied the right to work for less than minimum wage and whatever they make is taxed (though if it’s below a certain income level, the taxes are refunded to them). They are competing with ILLEGAL immigrants who pay no taxes and who can work for less than minimum wage, so naturally, these Americans will not be working anytime soon. Even if they have a job, their kids can’t get jobs because the usual low-skill jobs teens used to fill a generation ago are now filled with illegal immigrants. Yes, it’s illegal for employers to hire illegal immigrants, but the government turns a blind eye, so legal Americans are at a severe disadvantage competing for jobs within their own country. They feel invaded, pushed out and ignored. Increasing numbers of Americans are living on the streets because the jobs they used to fill are taken by illegal immigrants, who are now living in the homes those Americans can no longer afford.

    So I don’t see their complaints as racist at all. It’s self-preservation to say “We were here first. We should have a right to say who comes into the country and how fast.” And, as well, to set ground rules about wages and benefits and the like. I think if it were Canadians invading the US instead of Mexicans and the economic dynamics were the same, you’d hear the same complaints.

    I don’t know much about Europe’s migrant situation beyond what I see on BBC News, European Journal and read in Reuters, but it would seem that many of the same pressures are at work there.

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    • You make some excellent points. But as you say, the Government turns a blind eye to the employment of illegal immigrants. They should be held to account. I’m reluctant to blame the immigrants; after all, who wouldn’t relocate to a more prosperous place if they lived in poverty.

      The situation in Europe is different. While some of the Middle Eastern and African migrants have travelled for economic reasons, many of them are fleeing persecution and war. It is inhumane to turn them away.

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  3. I was in the merchant navy and have travelled extensively, I like people and different cultures interest me. There is no way I am racist in any shape or form, there are as many bad white people as there are coloured people, we are individuals and should be treated by our actions alone.

    Having said that I object to the fact many called Powell racist. He identified a problem and now his views are coming true. Nor did he want to send immigrants back empty handed, his intention was to give them a better life in their own country. Personally I believe that once people have settled here they should not be uprooted again but that’s a personal opinion.

    People call the UK multi-cultural but there is no integration and harmony. We are a fragmented society with communities within communities. The divisions are growing due to global unrest. I have the greatest sympathy with people from troubled regions but there has to come a point in time when enough is enough. The country is already over-populated and the rest of Europe are far from being our allies. France take immigrants on one border and dump them in Calais to offload them over here.

    Whilst on this sensitive subject, why are we stopping people leaving the country to fight for terrorists in Iraq and Syria, send them packing and good riddance, just make sure they never come back.

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    • I can’t argue with most of that. Powell wasn’t racist in the way white supremacists are; he actually went on record saying that he didn’t see any race as superior or inferior. But to say that different peoples cannot coexist is a form of racism, in my opinion.

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