19 January 2006

Celebrity Racism.

I don't know how many of you have been watching celebrity big brother, but apparently Faria Alam has been criticised for stating the obvious fact, that no black or asian person will ever win big brother. This is hardly a controversial statement, especially when you consider that 33% of people in the EU openly admit to being racist.


  1. The Remittance Man19/1/06 2:22 pm

    One problem I see with this report is the very vague definition of the word "racist". There are the obvious examples, of course, such as someone being beaten or killed purely because of their race. On a slightly lesser level we have those who discriminate in terms of jobs, etc, again purely based on a person's race. But once one goes past these obvious examples one very quickly enters a greyish area. It's a bit like the apocryphal definition of pornography: "I can't describe it, but I know it when I see it". Racism could be said to be in the eye of the beholder.

    For example I live in a country with a population that is 80% black. I work with black people and certainly have no desire to harm them or disadvantage them because of their racial origins. In fact, on the whole I think I get on reasonably well with my "ethnic" colleagues. Certainly the ones in my department are well-educated, well spoken and pleasant company. But aside from work related functions we rarely socialise. And that seems to be a two way arrangement. Nor, since leaving the UK, have I had a non-white girlfreind and that is in a country that has some stunning ladies of all races.

    Largely I think that this is down to two things: culture and language. I don't speak any of the nine "black" official languages and African culture is quite different from European ones. But does that make me a racist? I don't think so, but I suspect some people would.

    So looking at the report yes, there are people who consider themselves "racist" some extremely so. But what exactly do they mean by the word "racist"? I can't imagine that even those who describe themselves as "very racist" all spend their evenings prowling the streets looking for innocent people to beat up.


  2. The Blue Foxxx19/1/06 10:32 pm

    There is also some confusion between migration status and race. 'Immigrant' in this report seems to be directly associated with 'non-white'. Given some of the causal factors of this racism implied within the piece (unemployment and stress on national infrastructure) it would seem this simplistic conflation, so prevalent and unchallenged in the media, is a significant causal factor in itself.

  3. The Blue Foxxx19/1/06 10:35 pm

    I agree it doesn't necessarily make you a racist... but how long have you been there? why can't you speak a language? do you think you would be more likely to learn the native language and culture in a foreign, white environment?

    Maybe not, but these would point to possible reasons for people misconstruing your behaviour as racist.

  4. The Blue Foxxx19/1/06 11:33 pm

    RM - Just read another of your posts and see you are in SA. Please feel free to ignore my questions above as I was extrapolating from my own time in Kenya and such things are, of course, context specific.

  5. The Remittance Man20/1/06 6:27 am


    Ten years and I've gotten myself reasonably fluent in Afrikaans, the second "national" language. I also speak fanakalo, which is used in the mines as a sort of basic esperanto. It's not very pc anymore, but when members of your crew speak any one of up to fifteen languages (we employ non-SA people as well) it's hard to find a common one.

    One other problem in SA is that the nine black languages tend to be regional. I started work in Rustenburg (seTswana), then moved to Jo'burg (every language, but primarily isiXhosa) and now live in the Limpopo Province where I can have a choice of at least Shangaan, siPedi, or Venda. Kinda gets confusing. So does the fact that the grammatical structure of the black languages is way different to European tongues.

    So yeah, this evil colonialist does have a couple of excuses beyond laziness. I really should learn a native language though. I think I'll try Khoi-San.


  6. The Remittance Man20/1/06 11:11 am

    There's an interesting article on race etc in this week's Spectator (yes, I know, right-wing loon alert). It's all about the palaver there was last year concerning the percieved "racism" of the National Parks Board and others in the countryside. The whole tennet of the anti-racism industry's argument was that the countryside was unwelcoming to people from ethnic minorities.

    The article asks if there might not be other reasons why the mostly urban members of the ethnic minorities don't visit the countryside. It offers a few possible answers, but nothing definitive, as I suspect the the real causes of this phenomenon are complex.

    Interestingly nowhere have I read anyone posing the other question which perhaps should be asked: How many white Brits from similar backgrounds actually visit the countryside and how was their welcome? I'd suspect that what the CRE and others perceived as racism was actually more a general suspiscion of "townies", a breed distrusted by many rural dwellers.


  7. The Blue Foxxx20/1/06 1:25 pm

    Interactions (and relative analytical primacy)between race and class, or class and gender etc., are complex issues, insoluble at the level of abstraction. How do we theorise the relative importance of Traci's race, gender and nationality in assessing the public's reaction to her? How do we factor in her incredible 'hotness'? And her (insanely) positive and chirpy character?

    As Rm points out above, these are only comprehensible in the concrete, where for example comparisons across both race and class axes would be necessary.

    One thing I would draw from BB so far is the success of LGBT contestants. When the series started, who would have thought the British public (or the self-selected BB voting public) would have been so tolerant? I think for it's many faults this is a tolerant country and once people are able to get beyond the media classifications (scroungign immigrants etc.) such distinctions become less relevant at the conscious, interactional, level ~(though of course they may still form deeper patterns of exclusionary thought).

    Just my tuppence worth.

  8. The Blue Foxxx20/1/06 1:27 pm

    Apologies for the 'it's'. I hate it when others do it...

  9. RM: The thing about this survey is that it is those who admit racism themselves. There are probably a number who are racist who wouldn't admit it, so it could be a lot higher than 33%.

    I remember the 1970s and I rarely met anyone who wasn't racists to some extent. You don't need to be burning asian shops to be racist. I think most people who voted Tory at the last election were tolerating racism with their views on asylum and immigration.

    Nationalism is used as a cover for racism and is just as bad.

  10. The Blue Foxxx21/1/06 4:36 pm

    Neil you seem to be conflating nationalism with racism - is this case or was it simply the result of elision in your argument.

    If it is the case, what do you think of Gordon's 'British Identity' project? I don't believe re-defining nationalism in this way is the the answer but I think it is a positive step forward in combatting racism.

    Similarly separating out race from immigration or asylum policies would be a step forward. It was the implied confaltion in the tory presentation of the issue that was so unpleasant.

    What do you make of the public reaction to black sporting successes - is this simply accepted as it re-inforces stereotypes or does it signify a less racist country - I side with the latter. Similarly, what of the rates and acceptance of mixed race relationships in this country, especially in urban centres.

    Your description of the seventies is probably accurate but it cannot be brought forward to today.

  11. The biggest racism tends to be amongst people who have little contact with black or asian people.

    The only difference I see between now and the seventies is that racism is more hidden, but it is still there. Still I suppose that is progress of sorts, at least bananas thrown at black footballers isn't tolerated.

    I think racism has reached a tipping point. The Tories payed the race card as hard as they could at the last election and for the first time it seemed to lose them votes.

    Cameron has realised the extent to which the Tories have to change tack and actually appeal to the middle class liberals who care about social justice and even world poverty. There is no way his party will let him be as progressive on these issues as Labour, but he might fool enough voters to give him a chance at the next election.

  12. The Remittance Man23/1/06 7:55 am

    I would agree with your analysis that Michael Howard's decision to make "immigration" a major plank of the last election campaign was a big mistake. I think he misread some of the public's frustration with the government's immigration and asylum policies and overplayed his hand, especially as the current government had handed him so many other opportunities on which to campaign.

    I do think you are wrong, however, when you ascribe the genuine frustration with government policy to racism. Blue has it right when he (she?) says that Britain is a pretty tolerant country when it comes to race. Where I believe the genuine frustration is generated is two fronts.

    Firstly there is the perception that native, British traditions and way of life are being subsumed by new ones designed to placate a noisy few among the minority. Examples of councils banning explicit references to Christmas while promoting Divali or Eid festivals may be the extreme, but they are symptoms of a malaise that does cause frustration. My guess is that the average Brit is quite happy for Hindus to celebrate Divali and for Chinese to celebrate their New Year provided they too can celebrate their own festivals and traditions without some pc moron from the local authority stepping in and ruining it.

    The second reason I think there is an undercurrent of frustration is the apparent abuse of the asylum system by many people who are in fact economic migrants. Again, I believe the average Brit is happy for the country to help genuine cases. One only has to look at the generosity of the public in response to the asian tsunami last year to see that people do want to help their fellow man. The problem is that they feel they are being taken for a ride. Why should the country give sanctuary to a self-confessed Taliban soldier who admits he fought against British troops but now wants to live in the UK just because he is now unpopular in his home country? Again, it's an extreme example, but this and other stories like it add to the frustrations felt by the public.

    The sad fact is that by appearing to act in a craven manner, probably so as not to appear heartless and racist, the government is stoking fires of resentment. The resentment is not born of racism, it's born out of a sense that an out of touch government cannot or will not apply a fair set of rules that helps the genuine cases and weeds out the chancers and criminals.

    With the greatest of respect I think those on the left need to get out of their automatic habit of accusing anyone who questions multiculturalism and asylum and immigration policy as racist. What needs to be done is a genuine analysis of the country's mood and then the creation and application of a thought out policy that is fair both in substance and appearance. The alternative is the growth of real anti-foreigner sentiment that will be ugly and nasty.


  13. The only thing that promotes the 'ugly and nasty' foreigner resentment is the irresponsible campaigns run by the gutter press and the Tories.

    Some papers were basically BNP rags at the last election. The BNP received 800,000 votes because of this campaign, not because of Labour's actually quite draconian policies on immigration.

    The UK has some of the most strict immigration laws and asylum policies in the world. The number of asylum applications is tumbling and the UK has far fewer illegal immigrants than Germany, France and the US.

    These pc cases of banning christmas, are actually extremely rare and usually completely exagerated by the press.

    To claim that Christian power is somehow under threat in this country is laughable. It is minority cultures that are drowned out by our media. Look at how Sikhs, Hindus and even Muslims in this country have embraced our consumerist culture. They have accomodated far more of 'our' culture than we have of theres.

    How much does the average Brit know about other cultures and languages? We are some of the most arrogant and ignorant people in the world (along with the rest of the anglo-saxon world) when it comes to learning about other cultures. This is to our detriment and actually against what British culture has been about in the past.

    The British strength in the past has been their ability to assimilate and adopt other cultures as their own. Look at our language - the most mongrelised in the world.

    Ask people what they consider British culture - drinking tea, fish and chips, the Queen, etc. and all of these things have come from abroad. This has always been our strength and this little Englander/Little white South Africa culture (or whatever), that is encouraged by the media is both limiting and stupid, and ultimately just plays to the worst prejudices of the racists. The right wing use fear and prejudice to their advantage. The 2005 election was the first time it had worked against the Tories (and thank god for that).

  14. The Remittance Man23/1/06 1:24 pm

    There you go again branding everyone who has the temerity to question one of the sacred tennets of the modern left as racists.

    It's a simplistic argument and serves only to prevent rational debate. Yes, the press can get hysterical at times, but I'd rather have them than the sort of subservient poodles we see in places like France. As to the opposition, yes, Michael Howard's choice of campaign platform was a disaster and an embarrassment to many of us who wanted a Conservative victory. But neither of these two points should be used to be used as smoke screens to prevent a proper debate on immigration and asylum policy.

    Not everyone who thinks that the asylum system is being abused is a racist. Nor are those who think that getting the unemployed and long term disability claimants back to work might be better than importing yet more foreigners. Some people may consider them mistaken, but they are not necessarily racist.

    I mean, didn't you state in a recent post that you didn't agree with recruiting trained nurses, doctors and teachers from third world countries? Last time I looked, most people from the third world were of a more dusky hue than your average Brit. Should we take that to mean that you are racist? Of course not. Your concerns are about skills drainage from countries that desperately need them. But using your blanket approach to smothering debate I could have drawn that conclusion.

    Rightly or wrongly people do have genuine concerns about these issues. Using gratuitous and simplistic insults does nothing to allay those concerns. In fact I would go so far as to say that they encourage people to listen to the only voices that appeared to be addressing them and if we have driven the debate out to the lunatic fringes then, unfortunately, the loonies will get an audience.

    Now despite the fact I described myself as a free-market or classic liberal which probably lumps me with all the other "right wing loons" in the socialist lexicon I hold no truck with the BNP or their ilk and would very much like to starve them of any attention. But since I also believe that everyone has the right to get on a soap box and make a tit of himself the only way to deprive the nutters of their publicity is to steal their audience. This won't be acheived by avoiding the issue and insulting anyone who thinks otherwise.


  15. RM, I agree that we have to address the issues to minimise the extremists support, and of course there are legitimate concerns relating to immigration and asylum that are not racist.

    But was that really what the Conservatives and the press were doing by whipping up irrational hatred of asylum seekers and exagerating their numbers?

    This supposed oppression of the white middle class is a laughable fantasy of the right wing. The white middle class have far more privileges in our society. You only have to look at our state education to see the apartheid between the classes, which leads to the chasm in university access and job opportunities. Then there is the fact that the lower down you go in the socio-economic scale the higher the proportion of income is taken in tax. The white middle class have nothing to moan about and plenty to be thankful for. But instead they have been persuaded that they are hard done by, by a distorting press with the ulterior motives of the media moguls preserving their power and wealth.

  16. The Blue Foxxx23/1/06 2:56 pm

    "The only difference I see between now and the seventies is that racism is more hidden, but it is still there."


    "I think racism has reached a tipping point."

    What is the relation between these two statements?

    I generally agree on the role of the press in confusing race and immigration issues, but do you seriously believe this country is as racist as in the seventies? If not, how do you account for the widespread discontent on immigration issues? The press are able to present the issue in this way because of the government's confused response to the issue, as pointed out by RM.

    I'm a he BTW, and, alas, not at all Foxxxy.

  17. blue fox man:

    Racism is less overt and maybe even less deliberate than in the Seventies, but I would argue it is just as widespread.

    Racism is probably not quite as bad as a result of these changes but in terms of actual progress, the worst jobs are still taken by black and asians and the gap between their earnings and power (aside from a few exceptions) and those of white people remains as disparate.

    Two differences are that there are a lot more Black and Asian people than there were in the Seventies (2% to 8%) so the type of racism has altered.

    Black and asian people are just as racially prejudiced against each other as white people are against black and asian people, but their controls on the levers of power limit their influence.

    Racism has reached a tipping point in that the Tories are now having to appeal much more to black and asian people in oppressing the new wave of immigrants. And the Tories have not yet managed a very successful strategy on this.

    It's good to see that having a Labour government (even a fairly rightwing one) has moved the debate considerably to the left. So much so, that the Tories are having to talk about social justice, world poverty and the environment.

    I'm not sure they are ever going to announce any policies in these areas, but it's good to see them having to position their image there. It shows that New Labour have won the debate, the Tories will never be able to match Labour on these issues.

  18. The Remittance Man24/1/06 9:10 am

    At least you admit that a sensible debate is necessary, but might I suggest a few pointers? Your constant "blame the press" attitude only serves to make you sound petulant. The newspapers need to sell, extreme and eye catching stories help them to do that. Live with it.

    Your "blame the Tories" line also creates a similar impression. Michael Howard made a big fuck up in the last election. He misread the opinon of the country and picked the wrong plank on which to fight. I think we can safely say that the Tories will have learnt that lesson. Labour certainly can't afford to assume otherwise.

    So what can you/The Labour Party do? Well, start by telling the truth. Clearly, without spin and in terms that can be both understood and verified by the ever sceptical blogmob and their dim cousins in the MSM. Don't quote the party line verbatim. You sound like a newsreader from the People's TV in North Korea.

    Explain why we need X thousand migrants per year when the government admits that there are an awful lot of people out of work or claiming disability benefits who shouldn't be. Explain why a family of Albanian asylum seekers from should be let into the country having crossed most of western europe to get here.

    And finally, when people express their own opinions or question your facts don't throw a hissy fit and call them racists or sheep-like dolts parrotting the news barons' line. That's like having a chum shower before going swimming in shark infested water.


    ps. Referring back to my original comment, I note we still haven't got a definition of what "racism" might actually mean. Kinda makes the whole debate academic so far.

  19. The Blue Foxxx24/1/06 12:14 pm

    Just for a comparison which the bald figure of '33% in the EU' flattens out:


    I agree with your argument on economic positioning. How much of this is down to the low social mobility in this country, which has (again) grown worse under this supposedly Labour government?

    Again, the interaction between race and class, and the role of the press, is a complex issue but one that is here being played out in a largely tolerant country.

    Exaggerating the problem and conflating discussion on problems relating to immigration with racism (still undefined)is, as RM has pointed out, liable to worsen resentment and frustration.

    Traci to win CBB! (That will 'prove' it)

  20. RM: "Your constant "blame the press" attitude only serves to make you sound petulant."

    It probably does, but what can I do? It's the truth, the press is a major factor in why the electorate vote as they do.

    "Your "blame the Tories" line also creates a similar impression. Michael Howard made a big fuck up in the last election. He misread the opinon of the country and picked the wrong plank on which to fight. I think we can safely say that the Tories will have learnt that lesson."

    Attacking immigration and pandering to the racists is a core Tory principle, just as much as tax cuts for the rich and increased defence spending. They are having to change their image beyond recognition to go against this and I don't trust them one iota when they haven't put forward any concrete policies to back up their new image.

    "You sound like a newsreader from the People's TV in North Korea"

    Oh come on, really? I slag Labour off like mad on here. Legalise drugs, proportional representation, citizen's income, the threat of religion etc. These are hardly new Labour policies.

    "Explain why we need X thousand migrants per year when the government admits that there are an awful lot of people out of work or claiming disability benefits who shouldn't be. Explain why a family of Albanian asylum seekers from should be let into the country having crossed most of western europe to get here."

    Every country in the world has immigration, a lot of countries take far more immigrants than us. Job creation is not static. Immigrants create jobs as well as taking those vacancies available. You do have a point about those who are not working. These people need to be equiped with better skills. We need to improve our education and training. Labour has reduced unemployment and those claiming disability and has plans to go further. Employment is at it's highest point ever. Do you remember unemployment under the Tories?

    "we still haven't got a definition of what "racism" might actually mean."

    From dictionary.com

    'The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
    Discrimination or prejudice based on race.'

    The big question that determines a racist is this.

    Let us suppose that the majority of people in the UK will soon become black or brown. Is this good, bad or makes no difference?

    If you answer that it is good or bad, you are a racist.

    Blue Fox: "How much of this is down to the low social mobility in this country, which has (again) grown worse under this supposedly Labour government?"

    Much is made of the gap between rich and poor growing under Labour and I need to put a few facts straight here.

    Labour has reduced poverty massively compared to the Tory years. Because the economy has been doing so well, it is a bit like running up a down escalator to try and reduce the gap.

    The gap grew far far more under Thatcher. Under Major the gap grew at a much less rate. This however wasn't down to any Tory redistributive policies. It was because the rich/poor gap always closes during a recession. Major provided us with a massive recession in the early nineties, that is why the gap closed even while poverty grew.

  21. The Remittance Man25/1/06 7:58 am

    Well, it's a start, but you'll have to do better to convince me.

    Just a a couple of points:

    "Attacking immigration and pandering to the racists is a core Tory principle,"

    Please provide some concrete proof of this assertion since the two other examples of "typical tory thinking" you try to use to justify it are of the People's TV News standard.

    "tax cuts for the rich" - I think you'll find they were tax cuts for everyone. Besides, I think most normal people will agree that a top-tax rate of 90% was nothing more than pure class hatred made concrete and worked to the country's detriment.

    "increased defence spending." - three of the most savage 'spending reviews' of the post-war period were the Sandys cuts in 1957(?), the Nott cuts of the early 80's and Major's "Options for Change" in the early 90's. The increased spending under Mrs Thatcher in the mid and late 80's was a reaction to concrete evidence that spending cuts had gone too far (Nott's cuts were, after all responsible for making the Argentines think they could invade the Falklands with impugnity). As far as I can discover, Sandys, Nott and Major were all Tories (at least in name). In response the only significant defence 'review' under Labour was the Healy cuts in 1974. 3-1 to us I think (2-1 if you allow that Mrs Thatcher's increases balance out Nott's cuts). Furthermore, it was a Labour government that maintained conscription after WWII for the first time in British peacetime history and a Conservative one that ended it. Aside from being illiberal, conscription is almost universally held to be both costly and detrimental to defence capabilities.

    Thanks for the dictionary.com definition although I think your test question may be a bit vague since my answer would be "if the culture and ethos of the host country were changed out of all recognition, this might be neutral, good or bad, depending on one's viewpoint". Let's say I like the the UK the way it is at present. What happens if Aztec-Britons become the majority and institute compulsory sun-worship and human sacrifice? Culturally I'd say this was a bad thing, but would opposing this make me a racist just because the Aztecs are slightly darker skinned than me? There are a few too many variables in your equation to allow a more definitive answer.


  22. The Blue Foxxx27/1/06 9:57 pm

    Britain might be a tolerant country - but I give up! Bingham in sixth... it might not be racism bit there's somrthing sick in this society.

  23. The Blue Foxxx31/1/06 4:56 pm

    Incidentally,. you countered a point about social mobility with talk of absolute poverty rates. The point stands - social mobility has decreased, and the gap between rich and poor has increased. If non-whites start in a lower socio-economic position they are less likely under this government to rise any higher (lower social mobility) even if fewer are living in absolute poverty.

    Surely you can understand the difference and understand how one is relevant to the debate above and one (yours) isn't.

  24. The Blue Foxxx31/1/06 6:42 pm

    "Even the Tories Oliver Letwin, has now acknowledged that inequality matters. It is not just absolute poverty that leads to higher crime and wider health and education disparities, it is inequality itself, better described as relative poverty."
    Neil Harding - 'We could beat poverty, if only we tried'thread

    And it is inequality that has grown under this government.