Given Britains history its no surprise that racism still infects our politics | Gary Younge

Our nation was built on slavery and colonialism, and today we have the Windrush scandal. Yet some believe were a lighthouse of forbearance, says Guardian critic Gary Younge

As Labour foreign secretary in 1951, Herbert Morrison described independence for African settlements as comparable to giving a child of 10″ a latchkey, a bank account and a shotgun “. In 1955, Winston Churchill told cabinet ministers he wanted to fight the general election on the motto: ” Keep England White .” In 1964, in Smethwick, West Midlands, a Tory candidate bucked the national trend to win with a campaign motto:” If you miss a nigger for a neighbour election Labour .” In 1968, Enoch Powell warned there used to” rivers of blood” if non-white immigration were not halted. In 1978, Margaret Thatcher referred to Britain being” swamped by peoplewith a different culture“- a utterance repeated by David Blunkettin 2002 in reference to asylum seekers’ children who live in class. In 1990 three Liberal Democrat in Tower Hamlets were expelled from the party after giving a impostor Labour leaflet alleging Labour would rehouse homeless Bangladeshis. In 2004, the agent in a byelection campaign, chaired by Tom Watson, emailed successful candidates, Phil Woolas, and his expedition overseer:” If we don’t get the white election exasperated he’s gone .” When a court ruled that Woolas had breached election law by making false statements he received themes of providing assistance from both Gordon Brown and Cherie Blair. In 2009, the British National party prevailed two posteriors in the European parliament. In 2014, Nigel Farage, then the leader of Ukip, said ” the basic principle” of Powell’s flows of blood speech was ” correct “: his party topped the survey in the European elections later that year.

The current “ministers ” has refused to apologise for referring to black people as “piccaninnies” with” watermelon smiles” and Muslim females as letterboxes. A single black MP, Diane Abbott, receives half of all the online abuse sent to female MPs.

Racism is not new to British politics. How could it be? As a nation built, in no small percentage, on bondage and colonialism, it has all along been fouled our culture and conservatories. And since politics emerges from that culture, is embedded in those institutions and involves sharing resources and power, it could never be immune. It is not just a matter of individuals with bad hypothesis, but a arrangement of oppression that does bad things. All defendants steer it – you can’t be on the ballot and not be in society.

For those who imagined that electoral politics offered a clearly defined moral alternative between parties untainted by racism, the last week would come as a particular shock. It certainly seemed to throw ITV’s political journalist, Robert Peston, in his response to thechiefrabbi’s statement that Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism obliged him unfit for office.” I am not making any kind of political statement here ,” he tweeted.” What I am saying is our democracy has traditionally been a beacon of indulgence and understanding .” Peston reasons not only from a position of absolute ignorance but relative privilege.

This is, of course, a very political statement from him. The reality that a political writer believes it is not is itself revealing. It are striving to make racism out of the realm of politics and into the domain of decency and fair play. Looking beyond politics to the coarse discourse below, he provides himself above it all and prejudice beneath us all.

Racism doesn’t work like that. It is not a metaphor- a badge for incapacity, boorishness, impoliteness or absurdity. Nor is it a state of mind- a inadequacy of the mind, nature, geniu, spirit or force. Racism is a systemic formation of discrimination, with a centuries-old legacy, that determines lived experience today. As such, it cannot be weaponised because it is already a weapon. As well as denying beings employment, living, education, equality, human rights, safety and opportunity, it can literally kill.

Racism can, nonetheless, be deployed. It may galvanise, distract, avoid, distort, scapegoat and marginalise. It is an fantastically effective tool for separate beings and contributing a sense of supremacy to those to whom you have nothing material to offer.

Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson:’ When it comes to combating prejudice, parties expect more from Labour; they expect nothing from Conservatives .’ Photograph: WPA Pool/ Getty Images

The fact that it has blighted both parties does not mean they are equally as bad. Labour has, historically, been most likely to identify with fluctuations that opposed racism- even if it has not ever lived up to its promise- and to pass rules that supported equality. That is what stimulates the moment so distressing. When it comes to combating prejudice, parties expect more from Labour; they expect nothing from Conservatives.

Nor does it mean that nothing can be done about it. The intolerance that has characterized politics can only be eradicated through politics. At any given moment there are potential allies and opportunities to force institutions to meet their historic and stated outcomes. Trade solidarities were once the principal obstacle to non-white people being hired in some sectors in this country. Minorities did not abandon associations. They faced them down, fought them from within and turned many of them into effective bulwarks against racism. The issue is whether the organisation in question is fit for purpose.

The aim here is not to change the subject from antisemitism and Labour, but to broaden our understanding of it and, in so doing, deepen our capacity to resist it. It is, of course, probable to discuss antisemitism in Labour on its own terms. It is not necessary to deflect attention from it, minimise it, repudiate it or debate it. The presence of a component of the left that is susceptible to antisemitic conspiracy speculations, and suspicion among Jews that those views are being tolerated and even urged, are both real.

It should also be possible to discuss it in relation to antisemitism elsewhere and to racism of other forms. Indeed, it is crucial to do so lest it is rendered an idea- examined as an quarantined and particularised occurrence of sexism in the polity that afflicts one gathering and one minority, rather than a longstanding challenge to an integrated part of our politics and culture that affects numerous minorities and all parties.

To talk about Islamophobia in this context is not ” whataboutery “. Half of all religious hate crimes in England and Wales are directed against Muslims, the religious group most disproportionately underrepresented in parliament and overrepresented among the poor. The Tory party’s record on Muslims is appalling and it has no intention of addressing it exclusively. It’s difficult to see what meaningful discussion you can have about racism in British politics that does not involve the Windrush scandal, which learnt British citizens obliged out of jobs, disclaimed living and health care, evicted, or threatened with deportation by a deliberately callous government. The only way in which issues like this become irrelevant is if you earnestly is of the view that a” beacon of forbearance and understanding” has only now been extinguished.

It’s an election. We have to make a choice. If” the soul of our person” really is at stake then these more are causes in that choice.

It is possible to keep more than one doctrine in your president at the same time. Indeed, it is necessary because those who would seek to divide us would adoration us to remain in ethnic silos, indicating about who has it worse- rather than uniting to make it better for everyone.

* Gary Younge is a Guardian columnist

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