Anti-racist | 29.07.2010 15:37 | Anti-racism
Obviously the racists pick on particular groups (as racists before them picked on particular 'races'). Scapegoats for racists at this time include Muslims (backward un-British culture), migrants from poor countries (taking our jobs, taxpayer's money, etc.) and black youths (violent criminals).
Anti-racist movements tend to focus on the most extreme examples of racism like far right parties and movements (e.g. the BNP and EDL). But there are much more powerful and influential forces at work creating and spreading racist ideas and actions.
Recent governments, by aiming 'anti-terror' laws and policing at Muslim communities and by attacking Muslim countries, have helped to spread the idea that all Muslims are potential terrorists and we should be suspicious of them. The Home Office, through its policy of suspicion of asylum seekers encourages the idea that most are 'bogus'. The police, by concentrating use of stop and search, patrols and surveillance on areas black people live in, encourage the idea that they are criminals to be feared. The state has a very important role in giving legitimacy to racist ideas and attitudes.
The British media also play a major part in creating and spreading racist ideas. Whether it is because their rich bosses have right wing political agendas or simply because stories that tap into existing prejudices sell more papers, the mainstream media help to increase the volume and intensity of racist ideas.
The militant racists, groups like the BNP and EDL, try to make existing racist attitudes more extreme and shift politics further to the right. They can only do this because other forces have built society on racist ideas to begin with.
The EDL are quite an interesting example of the new racism. They are eager to show off the fact that they have non-white members as proof that they aren't racist (in the older, cruder sense). However, only non-whites who take on traditional 'English' culture are accepted, such as the legendary 'Muslim' member Abdul, a Glasgow Rangers fan who freely admits he has no attachment to Muslim culture or religion. Whilst the EDL certainly have a lot of old school racists within their ranks, many members just seem to be militants for the English values that are created in the tabloid media day in and day out - anti-Muslim, anti-migrant and pro-military. The 'War on Terror', attempts to tighten border patrols and increased police surveillance of ethnic minority communities have created an environment in which the EDL can get large numbers of militant racists onto the streets.
Anti-racists often don't seem to understand the way that racism is expressed today. They also seem to be divided across a lot of different areas of activity that have not linked up to make a broader movement.
Firstly there are the anti-fascists. They focus on extreme right wing movements like the BNP and EDL. The more mainstream groups like the UAF and Hope Not Hate attack the racism of the extreme right whilst making allies within the government and mainstream political parties. They seem to have no understanding of the role these politicians play in creating the racist society that the far right feeds on. There are more militant groups like Antifa and the Asian and black youths who stand up to the likes of the EDL in their areas. They have a better understanding of racism but are too small in number and too isolated to make a serious difference.
There are also people working to undermine racism against migrants. Unfortunately their energies often get drawn into trying to support all of those who fall victim to Britain's discriminatory immigration policies. They seem to have little time left to challege the racism that underlies those policies. Again, those that take a more militant stance, such as No Borders, are too few and too disconnected to other anti-racist movements to have much effect.
In the past anti-racists have tried to unite politically conscious subcultures, such as punks and reggae fans, against the racists. Rock Against Racism was relatively successful in bringing together a wide range of people in a movement that was anti-fascist and attacked state racism. Groups like Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) continue to try this tactic but don't seem capable of connecting with new anti-racist cultures. A recent LMHR festival was headlined by UB40 which hardly makes them seem cutting edge! There is no doubt though, that there are plenty of more subversive anti-racist cultural movements out there and trying to form links of solidarity between them seems like something that anti-racists should be trying to do.
In conclusion, racism has moved on from widespread prejudice about skin colour to a more complex set of values that evolve around an idea of Britishness. This is rooted in white European culture and is hostile to 'foreign' ideas and expression. This is stifling and restrictive to many of us who have broader ideas of freedom. It is a danger to those who do not fit the narrow definition of a good citizen that is imposed. We need an anti-racist movement that can take on this racism and promote greater freedom in society. Whilst there are already many promising elements of resistance to racist attitudes and values these need to come together and make links as part of a stronger movement. Autonomous communities, anti-racist culture, anti-fascism and migrant solidarity are all important aspects of the anti-racist movement that is needed.