englands not so green and pleasant land

The White Season is publicised as a programme examining why the English white working class feel “increasingly marginalised” but what we end up with is a free for all season for racists attempting to justify their irrational hatred for all people of colour and dislike of anyone foreign. From the dying Bradford working men’s club to the lost souls in London’s east end and the ‘Poles’ in between, we are repeatedly told how bad life is and it’s all because of the them. Reluctantly at first but as each programme progresses the more the racism flows freely and unchallenged.

The hands of immigrants turn the white man black in England’s green and pleasant land!

Bradford whites have no where to go so spend their days moping over pints of Guinness and ale and eating themselves up with racist hatred for the people they imagine are the root of their problems. There is one particularly horrible scene when a young unemployed man sitting in front of an English flag with a swastika in the middle says he hates “Paki’s”so much he wouldn’t bat an eyelid if he saw a child run over.

The Barking whites, are all packing up and moving out to be with “their own kind” in “outer Essex” . The programme begins with a group of pensioners in a dancing class making comments about the changes in their community

“Theres far too many people coming into the country we don’t have enough space for them”
“and they’re not our people”
“its supposed to be a free country but it’s not free when we want to speak is it” ”
theres so many nationalities here now you don’t know who’s who you don’t know where anybody s from”.

There is a little social engineering as the programme’s narrator suggests a white couple and Nigerian couple come together even though they would prefer to be with the white Albanians. Then there is the relationship of convenience between a Polish Holocaust survivor, Monty and a Ugandan woman Betty, who come together as two lonely people. Both benefit from the relationship which we are told is platonic, she looks after him and he looks after her. But there is something distinctly unpleasant about it.

The Barking programme is surreal as Betty attends a Holocaust reunion, she the only Black woman and only the men speaking to her and looking lost as they all stand up to sing the national anthem. Colour plays a large role in the prejudices, as the white couple wonder about their neighbor who doesn’t look too black well not black like a Nigerian – which is what he is. And the odd scene in which Dave the resident bigot and BNP campaigner with two mixed race grandchildren, is confused over a young lad when he is told the boy is mixed race and his mother African – he clearly thought the lad was white!

It’s all a bit suspicious having this programme which feeds so intensely into the latest immigration panic. Labour falling over itself whipping up anti-immigration sentiment with ideas floating around such as a “welfare” tax where immigrants have to pay a one off fee to offset any use of the health service and education; a £1000 bond payment by Britons for non EU relatives and friends who visit; no more council funded interpreters as foreigners must learn English; a “British” day and swearing allegiance to the Queen — judging from CiF in the Guardian this one is definitely going to be a non-starter except maybe for BNP supporters.

It is ironic that the BBC should broadcast a TV programme about white working class feeling marginalised when a fair percentage of English TV is centered around those very people such as East Enders, Coronation Street, a host of day time talk shows, sit coms, game shows etc. Try to find a Muslim or an African / African Caribbean on TV – the former will be something about terrorism – an attempt to blow up Parliament and the latter drugs, gangs and 419 scams. Furthermore because their is no opposing point of view the audience is left thinking the people in the programme are representative of the English white working class.

I notice Margaret Hodge (MP for Barking and Dagenham) adding her 5 cents worth to the programme in CiF with a spiel about how the borough has changed over the past 15 years. Hodge’s racism though not crude like Dave’s and the Bradford working mens club, is not even subtle. Back in October 2005, I commented on Hodge’s calls for immigrants to integrate. Then the immigration panic grew out of a Muslims wanting to have government funding for their schools. There have always been government funded faith based schools but it was only when Muslims began to want funding that they became an issue.

The basis of Ms Hodge’s demands is the rising racism amongst Britain’s white working class whose perception of generations of immigrants living in Britain, is based on complete myth and one which is forever being developed by sections of the tabloid press. The solution for Ms Hodge is not to combat the racists or educate this section of British society on the realities of immigration, asylum seekers and immigrants but to pander to the racists by implying that racism is the fault of the mainly Asian but also Black communities for not integrating. The word integration means that immigrants (in Britain the term refers to all non-white people no matter how long they or their families have actually lived in Britain, whether they were born there or whether they hold British nationality or not) must adopt the dominant morals, values and language the host culture.

Hodge is optimistic that in the end everything will be green and pleasant and Jerusalem will be found in multicultural Barking. I am also optimistic but only because in another 5 years there probably wont be any more white English working class in Barking and the BNP will have moved along with them to outer Essex in which case I might move to Barking myself. What the programme does show is that the racisms expressed have no rationality whatsoever and are built on myths and anger at the meaningless and emptiness of their own lives.