12 July, 2011
An alternative perspective
At the beginning of the 1980s, minority politics in Bradford and in the other towns was about equal rights and fighting the National Front — symbolised by the acquittal of the Bradford 12: young Asian men who made petrol bombs to protect their streets against white racists.
I rather vaguely recall Sunny Hundal and someone else — I think it was the artist formerly known as Ian Roberts, — speaking in glowing terms of the defence of Southall against the NF in 1979. Here's Yaz on the subject — apparently she actually participated. She writes,
I was at that highly charged march in Southall in 1979 to protest against the National Front, which was meeting in Ealing Town Hall to discuss how they would repatriate "niggers and Pakis" and "bulldoze Southall to the ground and replace it with an English hamlet". It was well known that racists were active in the borough, my borough, and in 1976 had killed a young Asian man, Gurdeep Singh Chagger.
There was a time, no more than 20 years ago, when I would have agreed wholeheartedly with these sentiments. It was almost a legal requirement to do so.
But things move on. Here's a recent quote arising out of confrontations in Brescia (source) (via),
Among [the most] applauded [of the speakers at a rally] was the mayor of Adro, a small town next to Brescia, Oscar Lancini, who declared: "I am proud to be a racist, if racist means defending our territory". Brescia, explained the secretary of the Lombard League, Giancaro Giorgetti, belongs to Brescians first of all.
I don't like violence. I have seen its effects. But we have also been asked to buy into the view that the hostility of the National Front and other "racists" was wholly irrational, an entirely despicable atavistic and unfathomable hatred against ordinary decent innocent "British" people going about their everyday lives in peace, purely on the basis of their "skin colour".
Of course this is to be condemned outright, and firmly repressed.
Well maybe, maybe. I have come over time to re-examine that mantra, that core belief of post-war liberal decency.
Part of the mythology which underpins the "ethnic/liberal" view of "racism" is the unspoken presumption that the current demographic disposition has always existed. That Manningham has been an exclave of Pakistan for ever. Sunny and Kwame may feel that the Southall they grew up in has always been a semi-autonomous Sikh/Hindu territory since time of out of mind. Yaz arrives in the 1970s to find this little piece of India fully formed and apparently deeply rooted.
Well, out of mind for some of you, perhaps.
One of my bad habits on this blog is to bang on tediously about my age. In my defence I plead incredulity. The idea of me being 63 years old seems faintly ridiculous. In my head I am still, of course, in my early thirties. I have to get my old git's bus pass out every so often and look at it to reconfirm the chronological reality. But there are benefits. One of which is that I am old enough to have seen pre-colonial Britain with my very own eyes. Not Southall, or Manningham. But certainly North Manchester and Oldham.
I may be an apprentice doddering old fool but I don't remember seeing a single Black or Brown person on the streets of Moston in the 1950s. Now, apparently, it's infested with Nigerians. I remember when a White Man could walk safely through the streets of Glodwick without fear of molestation. If you're too young to remember that era personally, try thinking about all those black-and-white feature films and documentaries from the 1950s that are used occasionally to fill up airtime on the telly. In the outside location scenes, do you really think the director had to shout "Cut! Get those bloody Darkies out of shot" every couple of minutes in order to preserve the "mythical" overwhelming Whiteness of the streets? The mass colonization of the UK is a recent and resented phenomenon. I sometimes reflect gratefully that it's as well I'm a migrant myself, living in London rather than in my native Manchester. Otherwise I might be doing rather more about colonization than just ranting impotently on a blog.
When that National Fronter or these days that EDLer marches through your streets, you may think he's just demonstrating mindless thuggish drunken racism. He, on the other hand, may think he is striking a blow against a colonizing invader, that these are his people's streets which you have stolen, and he wants them back.
And d'you know, these days I'm coming round to the view that he may have a point. If defending your tribal territory against massive colonizing invasion makes you a racist, then, as they used to say, I'm a Chinaman.
This is the fact which the 'we are all incomers' trope, extruded by the multiculturalists, and force-fed to schoolchildren, attempts (with real success among the young)to obscure.
I understand that the demographers who studied the 1951 census estimated that the number of ethnic non-Europeans living in the UK at the time was just over 50,000- a tiny percentage. The 'Windrush generation' was then virtually just that- a single boatlaod of west indian ex servicemen & their families, who asserted their rights almost immediately under the 1948 Nationality Act . Given the privations (and,yes, 'racist' resentment from the natives)they encountered, very few other west indians followed until after the ending of food rationing, ie after the 1951 election.
Most of the 50 odd thousand resident here in 1951 actually comprised-
mixed race offspring of merchant seamen occasionally resident in Cardiff, Liverpool & the East End
remnants of the 'Chinatowns' that existed in London & elsewhere, dating back to the late 1800s
Asian, African & middle eastern students (most of whom were no longer resident in the UK by the time of the 1961 census)
several hundred mixed race offspring of black American servicemen based here between 1942-45.
In other words, England in 1950 was barely more 'diverse' than, say, Ireland was in 1985.