Political hand-wringing over the ethnicity of Britain’s babies simple reveals the pervasiveness of racist attitudes.
Good news: the population is stabilising. The people of Britain are having more babies, which means we’re less likely to face the ticking time-bomb of an ageing population currently causing consternation in Germany and Japan. But according to right-wing pundits, this is no cause for celebration – for too many of those babies aren’t the right sort of babies. They’re babies born to immigrants or to parents from ethnic minorities, rather than to what Melanie McDonagh in the Daily Telegraph called “hand-wringing Anglo-Saxons - the mortgage-paying, marrying middle classes”. In other words, the darkies and the foreigns are reproducing, and they simply must be stopped. I don’t need to point out the wildly erroneous assumption that immigrants and their children never enter the “marrying middle classes” – the mask has already slipped from the real face of racist elitism in Britain.
This summer, Tory MEP Daniel Hannan gave a high-profile interview in the United Stated declaring Enoch Powell as his personal hero, as ‘somebody who understood the importance of national democracy, who understood why you need to live in an independent country and what that means.’ Yes, that Enoch Powell. Try as the Cameroons may to disavow and distance themselves from Hannan’s trigger-happy expostulation on everything the Tories try to pretend they aren’t anymore, this came as fellow Conservative MP Nicholas Soames (and Labour colleague Frank Field) garnered publicity again with their call for ‘Balanced Migration’.
The euphemistically-titled policy plan is touted as an “all-party call for a cap on migration”, despite the fact that one bigoted Tory colossus and his favourite Labour maverick does not an all-party call make. Its skewed statistics, which draw an explicit distinction between white and non-white immigrants, display a rampant paranoia over the presence of ethnic minorities in this country, with particular emphasis on those immigrants who have the temerity to produce offspring. It’s not enough for hard-working foreign-born people to naturalise as British citizens – they and their children and grandchildren are still seen as inimitably threatening by Field, who pointed in the Guardian of all places that “the full effect of immigration over, say, a 20-year period must take account of the children of those immigrants. A more sophisticated calculation of this kind shows that immigration accounts for nearly 70% of population growth.” Shock, horror, close the floodgates!
In early August, I attended the funeral of a first-generation immigrant of the kind which Messrs Field and Hannan certainly do not approve- an immigrant who stepped off the boat with her young husband and proceeded to produce six children and eight grandchildren, of whom I am number five. Marta Rebecca Penny, my nanna, was proud to be a British citizen; she came here from Malta in order to access decent care for her second daughter, who was permanently disabled, and enriching the state in the process with her endeavours. Every one of her children who survived to adulthood got into grammar school and went on to serve the state as a teacher or a lawyer. She paid her taxes, volunteered at her local school, was awarded the George Cross for war service in the Maltese resistance, and quite incidentally was a lifelong Tory voter who was buried wearing her cherished 'Thatcher In' badge. In your face, Daniel Hannan.
She also requested that her coffin be decorated with red, white and blue flowers, and that the final hymn be her favourite song – Jerusalem. I found myself choking up as we droningly requested to be brought our bows of burning gold. Nanna was proud to be British. She had a vision of a Britain in which she and her children and grandchildren could live in peace, educate themselves and improve their circumstances and the health of the nation in the process; a country in which hard work would be rewarded and nobody would drop any more bombs on her kitchen. Fifty years later, at her funeral, inspired by Nanna’s charging immigrant patriotism, I renewed my resolve to help build the kind of Britain she dreamed of.
None of that, however, matters to Powell devotee Daniel Hannan, or to the scantily-concealed white paranoia behind the ‘Balanced Migration’ tract, which reduces my family’s story to one shocking “key fact” - that “one in four children are born to a foreign-born mother”.
What the drooling racist commentariat fails to grasp, apart from the basic tools of grammar, is the fact that we are all immigrants, even British-born natives who can trace their families back centuries untold. Immigration is what Britain is all about: since records began it’s been the waves of Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, Romans, Normans, Spaniards, Celts, Hibernians, Huguenots, German Protestants, Jews, French, Italians, Chinese, South-East Asians, Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Eastern Europeans and Americans that have kept us vibrant, kept us whole and humble and constantly changing as a nation. It is the racists and recalcitrants in power who are the real scum muddying up the waters of change and vitality roaring around these islands, keeping the poor poor and the rich ignorant, holding us back.
From NP Communard thesamosa.co.uk
© 2009 The Samosa
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