Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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Middle Class More Racist Than Ever

Mick Hall with a piece on Organized Rage on middle class racism.

Hanif Kureishi says it's not the working class who are racist today the middle class are more racist than they have ever been.
Hanif Kureishi
I have always enjoyed Hanif Kureishi'swork and especially the films of his books like My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, and The Buddha of Suburbia. There are few better portrayals of working class life on the big screen than these films.

He not only understands what makes working class people tick, whatever our colour, religion or race he actually likes and admires our tenacity and common decency to try and do the right thing. Not only that, due to his great talent he has experienced the bigotry of the English middle classes close up.

Unlike the mainstream media, which far to often portrays a middle class whose excreta doesn't stink, while portraying the working classes as a homogeneous lump of bigotry and want. This type of nonsense was epitomised when they and the politicians they support were looking for someone to blame for Brexit, and the election of Trump as US President.

In the UK it was the working classes who took the hit for Brexit. In the US it was Russia they blamed for Hilary Clinton's self inflicted defeat. Rather than face up to their own responsibility and shortcomings they lashed out at us.

In the interview with the Guardian Hanif is having none of this:

The country my father thought of as a place of tolerance has now provided a space for an utterly misconceived and misplaced and vile form of racism, the demonisation of the Other, the positioning of Muslims as backward, misogynistic, racist, anti-gay, the like of which we haven’t seen since the 30s. I don’t think it’s the working class. People say it’s the working class, finally they have risen up, had enough, been deprived, and finally said, well it’s the Poles and the Pakis,’ et cetera. I don’t think so. I think it’s a large section of the middle class who are really losing their place. They are more racist than they have ever been.

His father, Rafiushan came to England from Pakistan in his 20s, married an English woman and with her brought up two children in south London. (Kureishi portrayed their relationship in his book My Ear at His Heart.

The idea of the immigrant coming here to take your benefits, take your women, laze around, watch telly, all of that … Immigrants are the hardest working people. My father used to say to me, and I say to my kids every day, we haven’t come here to sit around on our arse, we’ve come here to make a living, serve this country, work. That has been very shocking and disappointing, and upsets me. Britain’s wealth came out of the empire, and we all came here, to Bradford, to the NHS, to the transport system, and how the Commonwealth and the ex-empire created the wealth of this country. And I feel very bitter about the hatred that is directed against us on a racial basis, when in fact we have served this country. My father was a British subject; my father hated the idea that people would say he was an immigrant. He wasn’t someone from elsewhere, he was originally from India, which was part of the British empire. The lack of gratitude, or sense of history, that the wealth of this great city, one of the greatest in the world, comes out of Britain’s relations with the rest of the world – that is so horrific to me.”

I couldn't agree more with Hanif. Yes there are racist working class people, why wouldn't there be when we live in a society which has never come to terms with the legacy of the British empire. Which incidentally was the most racist institution ever established as it had racism at its core. As bad as they were, compare the British empire with those of the Romans or Ottomans and you will get an idea of what I mean.

The big difference between the British working class and all other social classes is the new comers to the UK mainly live amongst us, in time they often become our friends, neighbours, family members and love ones. This is especially true of boroughs like my own which have a long tradition of welcoming new comers. Why? Because few people can trace their own families living in the borough for more than a handful of generations, and they understand what a cold house the UK can be for newcomers.

True, when they first arrive some local people act like frightened bunny rabbets caught in a car head light, but this normally settles down. Sadly in recent years it hasn't helped with Ukip and before them the BNP stirring the pot. But even with their lies and provocative behaviour the majority of working class people were not persuaded by their reactionary and hateful ideas. Besides many of those who were uneasy about the numbers of newcomers to the borough had legitimate concerns about lack of affordable homes to rent or buy, the pressures put on schools, and doctors surgeries, and the under cutting of wages in the jobs market.

None of these are insurmountable problems. A fair rent act and building a half a million new council/housing association homes would solve the first. Adequately financing the NHS and education the second. And the third could be solved by the ending of zero hours contracts, a legally binding minimum wage of ten pounds and removing the anti trade union legislation from the statute book.

Thankfully with Corbyn Labour, for the first time in 30 years we have a political party contesting the 8th June general election which is promising all three in its manifesto.

The full interview with Hanif Kureishi can be read here.