English Defence League march in Newcastle: WikiCommons
FOR the most part, I love the British. They are appropriately moody, have a wicked sense of humour and are refreshingly self-deprecating. There are certain occasions, however, where I just cannot get on the same page as some of my British friends and neighbours. The aftermath of the horrific attack on a soldier in Woolwich has revealed one such area: racism.
We have been inundated with media reports from Australia over the last year that has showcased the disgraceful racism that exists in some sectors of our community. Racism in Australia seems to exist despite the national policy of multiculturalism, or perhaps because of it. Whatever the case may be, it is a shameful reflection on our society.
Maybe I expected the British to be better. Perhaps I thought that the country was inherently more sophisticated in comparison to the ‘wild west’ colonial outpost of Australia. If that is what I thought, I was wrong. It seems that the British are quite comfortable with making racial judgements, letting offense slip easily from between their lips.
I want to qualify this column by saying this does not apply to the majority of British people, only a minority I have come across in my time traversing the country and speaking with people in pubs and local stores. However, it struck me after the Woolwich attack that racism wasn’t isolated, it was endemic. The vile protests by the English Defence League gave a face to the undercurrent of tension, but racism in the UK does not just come in the form of a heavily-tattooed geezer in a balaclava.
I was speaking with a young English woman that I know on the day of the Woolwich attack. She is highly-intelligent, hilarious and an example of everything that I find intriguing about the British. It was horrific, she said, but quite typical considering that the perpetrators were black. I was taken aback. Surely she was joking? Apparently not.
I learned a lot from that conversation: the attackers were foreign, they did not look British, if only British people were allowed in the UK then things like this wouldn’t happen. According to my otherwise brilliant friend, it isn’t racist to be proud of being English.
I do not think that the British are more racist than Australians, however there is perhaps less reluctance in the UK about vocalising those thoughts. What erupts in Australia in drunken rants on public transport is said casually in the UK, as if it was simply common knowledge.
I can saddle up my high horse all I like, spouting off against the evils of racism. The message is far more succinct though: it is time to take this sad reflection and take a second look at our own opinions. Do we perpetuate the cycle, or do we stand a chance of breaking the pattern?