I have been watching what has been going on today in America on Twitter and although I didn’t want to post anything on Social Media because I felt that my reactions would be too unconsidered, I have this blog and I can use this platform to raise my voice about what I see is going on just now. This is the beginning of a much larger shift in our collective consciousness but it has been in the pipeline, if you excuse the metaphor, for a long time.
I deliberately used that metaphor however because it has a direct bearing on what my theory is about the unexamined racism that exists in our societies on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK as well the right-wing press has been ratcheting up their rhetoric for years and people like Boris Johnson (and his trusty sidekick Dominic Cummings) have been riding the wave of anti-immigrant/racist sentiment. Why did I use the pipeline metaphor though? It is because our use of oil and exploitation of the Earth have a direct connection to our society’s slave owning past. It is my contention that the abolition of slavery and the industrial revolution happened at the same time and was a means to transfer the concept of enslavement from one thing to another. The large landowning and slave owning elites in Britain were compensated richly for the emancipation of their slaves. But what did they do with the money? They poured it into the industrial revolution which was based on the premise that the technology of man was able to harness and exploit the wild forces of nature. Nature herself became enslaved. And we have been the beneficiaries of this ever since. But there was never an acknowledgement that the patterns of society were wrong and therefore there was never a sense of reconcilliation with those that had been enslaved and still were enslaved. Racism became institutionalised. And this is why there has been a parallel trajectory of the two societies East and West of the Atlantic. It is also known as the “Special Relationship”.
I have been in a fortunate position to have grown up in the Mid-Atlantic, so to speak. I was born in America but have lived most of my life in the UK. I am an immigrant. And I was one of many that came over with family to the UK during the 1980’s. I was an outsider and I got my fair share of bullying at the local school for my strange accent. I’m not saying that I ever experienced the levels of racism that are directed towards black and Asian people. But I could at least relate to their predicament. One of my friends who has been a staunch advocate for Anti-Racism convinced me to go on a march in the 90’s in London which was to protest a British National Party bookshop in London. Thousands turned up but the protest turned nasty and police on horseback charged the crowd. It was lucky that no-one that I was with was seriously injured. I remember Bobby, my friend, heroically getting people to safety as we tried to flee from the crushing throng. The BNP watched from behind the police lines jeering at us.
I have never been able to take racism. I found it particularly difficult in recent years when I friend who was in quite a prominent position was targeted with racist abuse. It was abuse so subtle though that combatting it could only be done merely by trying to be as supportive as possible. I feel that my position and reputation in the community might have suffered however and I don’t think it really will ever be fully rectified. Do I care? Of course I care if it has meant difficulties with my career but on another level I feel that at least I did the right thing.
What I’m seeing in the States right now is on a whole other level. This is a testing time. A time when we will really find out what people stand for. I thought that it had gotten bad enough when Donald Trump was voted in. He can barely conceal his own racist beliefs. But now the police in America are showing their true colours and the backlash against them has driven them into a desperate defensive position. They feel that they are under attack not just physically but ideologically. Their authority and institutionalised racism is being challenged and just like a bunch of thugs they are holding together and fighting back. The question is: will this spill into the wider society and cause the lines to be drawn up between the factions that espouse the white supremacy that Donald Trump stands for and the rest of the population including the oppressed minorities that have been the victims of their attacks? And if those lines are drawn up will there be a dialogue or will the violence escalate? I fear it could be the latter.
If it is happening over there, then I am fairly certain that the UK will also be affected because, as I mentioned, there is a shared history and a similar trajectory experienced by the two countries. The UK has had its own trials recently with the high levels of corona virus deaths but more tellingly the ineptitude and callousness displayed by the UK government. The UK doesn’t really do riots on a large scale though unlike near neighbors such as France. We are generally more placid when faced with injustice preferring to send a strongly worded letter. On the good side that does mean however that we are less likely to see such high levels of violence. I would never advocate violence.
The issue still remains though that we live in a society which has never really faced up to its slave owning past and has instead transferred this mentality into a system which exploits nature as if it were a slave, constantly taking, taking, taking and never stopping to see the consequences. These consequences will eventually have to be faced one way or another though. Hopefully this is the beginning of a journey in which we face and acknowledge these past behaviors so we can move on into a better future for the generations to come.