Episode 3: Hating Immigrants (Transcript)
To listen to the episode, please visit the episode page here. What follows is a transcript of the episode, lightly edited for clarity.
Rural spaces are difficult for people of colour because we don’t have a community to fall back on. If you’ve gone through something racist, you’ve got no one to talk to about it. And that just means you withdraw from the community. You don’t get involved and ultimately, a lot of people end up leaving rural areas because they feel totally unsafe and unwanted.
Hello, and welcome to Hidden Hate, a brand new podcast series from the Centre for Hate Studies at the University of Leicester. I’m Neil Chakraborty.
And I’m Amy Clark.
And we’ll be shining a light on some of the biggest challenges of our time, challenges which destroy lives, challenges which have escalated during these difficult times, and challenges which all too often slip under the radar.
To help us unpick these challenges, we’ll be joined by some fabulous guests who will be sharing insights from their research, their activism and their own lived experiences. In today’s episode, we’ll be exploring the theme of hating immigrants. At a time when hostility towards immigrant communities has been trivialised, normalised and legitimised across all corners of the world, we’ll be exploring the factors driving anti-immigrant hate in rural and urban spaces, and the steps that we can take individually and collectively to be an anti-racist ally.
So today we are honoured and delighted to be joined by the wonderful Gurpreet Sidhu and Chris Allen, thank you so much, both of you for being here. You’re amazing. You’ve got a vast amount of knowledge, insight and energy when it comes to tackling these difficult issues. And it’s a total delight to be talking to you today. So first, some quick introductions. Our first guest, Gurpreet Sidhu, has a long and proud history of anti racist activism, and is the founder of BLM in the Stix, a nationwide campaign to support rural communities in the battle against racism. Hi Gurpreet, how are you doing?
You make me sound so good.
You are good! You’re better than good. That’s why you’re here. Thanks so much for joining us. Our second guest, Chris Allen, is an Associate Professor at the University of Leicester and someone who has spent much of the past two decades researching and shaping responses to the hostility directed towards immigrant communities. Hey, Chris, how you doing?
Hi there Neil. Hi, Amy. Hi, Gurpreet. How are you? Thanks for inviting me on.
Thanks for being here, Chris.
So listeners actually might be unfamiliar with the work that you both do. And I think that we’d all like to learn a little bit more about that, actually. That’s a good place to start. So Gurpreet, if we could begin with you, I’d like to know what led you to be a campaigner within this space, and what inspired you to establish BLM in the Stix.
That’s a great question. Thank you, Amy. Oh, and Hi, Chris, thank you, it’s good to meet you. The catalyst for me was the murder of George Floyd. And that event, as it did for many people, really shocked me and threw me into a spin for about two weeks, where all the kind of racism that I had sort of dealt with throughout my life, I had just sort of mentally stored away in a box just sort of exploded in my brain. And I just had this real sense of like, not wanting to live in a world where that was okay, where public murders of a community member can be, can be recorded and sent around the world. And we know, that’s normal. So I decided to take a very small action, which was just to write a letter to my local MP. In my background work, I’m a consultant, I do fundraising. And part of that is research. So I just researched all of the kind of key anti-racism, bits of research that have gone on by the government and pulled together the kind of key recommendations and send a letter to my local MP saying, Excuse me, what are you doing about this, and then offered the letter on Facebook for anyone who wanted it in my local area. Now, I live in a rural place, just outside of Colchester. And it’s a small village. And to be honest, I didn’t really know what the temperature would be locally. I know it’s a very sort of warm, welcoming place, I would say for a rural space, but most of the people who live here have moved here from London. So they’re quite forward thinking, they’re quite liberal. It’s one of the reasons I moved here, but it is right in the middle of Essex and you just go one mile down the road and things are very different. And basically, I had over 150 people want my letter and then all these discussions started up online around this letter. I was the first person to kind of really raise the issue of Black Lives Matter locally at that point in time. And next thing I know, everyone wanted to sort of form a local group, which I helped with, and we decided to do a river protest, because we live in a really pretty place. Everyone got ribbons, it was a really lovely, jolly day. Everyone remembers it. We got the opposite village involved, and both sides of the river were just there with their ribbons, mainly white, you know, and I decided to write a press release today, to say oh, we’re doing this. Why don’t other people do this? Thinking that maybe there weren’t that many rural places doing that. I was really wrong. A Guardian reporter later told me that there were over 240 protests before ours. So it wasn’t an original idea that I’d had. I offered up a little toolkit, you know, because I wanted people to kind of engage with the idea of doing something. So I’ll say I’ve got a toolkit. And, you know, but this press release just got picked up by the media. And the next thing I know, I was on BBC One Xtra, we were in The Guardian. And then we had people from around the country asking for this toolkit, which to be quite frank didn’t exist at the time, you know, it was an idea. So then it was a bit of a whirlwind from there, because suddenly I had, you know, people from Wales, from Scotland, all over England, and even someone from Canada, saying that they wanted to tackle rural racism, and what should they do, and they were looking to ask for some advice and support. And I think that’s what spurred me into doing something. And it was two things really, at the time, it was the external desire, need for something and realising there was a gap, a big gap for rural areas in terms of this sort of support. And then the other thing, which didn’t kind of come to light for a long time, but I sort of realised that I think what also spurred me to get involved was my own internalised racism that I had been unaware of. But the journey took me through my own learning and development to realise what had been going on for me in my life. And I think that has also spurred me into doing this work. Yeah, it’s a really fascinating story Gurpreet and you said, it came from a relatively small action in the beginning, but it had such a big impact. And something like writing a letter to your MP is something that anyone can do. And I think I’m right in saying that that’s a big message of BLM in the Stix is that everyone can become an activist in their own right, even if it’s a small action, it can make a big difference. And I think that’s a really wonderful message to put out into the world. Obviously, as you said, you you live in a rural area, now. I do.
And I think we maybe agree that rural spaces often get quite romanticised. And we have this belief that they are quite welcoming and problem free places. And sometimes they can be.
I just said that myself about my own village.
But sometimes they can be, right. And sometimes they might not be and I think listeners might assume that they are those welcoming and problem free areas. But I wondered if you could say a little bit about why that might not necessarily be the case for immigrant communities.
The issue in rural areas are several. One is that racism really gets downplayed, and it gets dismissed. So I think we’ve actually got a kind of communications problem, really, in this country where people like you say, don’t think it exists outside of town and cities, you know, whether that’s down to them wanting their space to feel idyllic and lovely and green and beautiful, or whether it’s down to them thinking because there aren’t large immigrant populations in that area that it can’t be a problem. You know, if racism happens, it gets dismissed completely. People don’t want to hear it. They’ll say, Oh, are you sure that’s what they meant? I’ve had a situation in our local pub here, where someone asked me… It was really disarming, because I’m playing with my dog. And then they turn around to me and said, Oh, well, you know, where are you from, when you going back there sort of thing. And I was just really shocked because it was in my local pub. And I think because I’ve moved here after many years in a city, I wasn’t expecting it. I really wasn’t. And I didn’t say a thing. I froze. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything to my… My friend had gone to the toilet. She came back. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t say anything to the pub owners. I went home. This was before the campaign, obviously now I’m a lot more woke… And then went off and spoke to a friend about it, who believed me. And then she told her friend, they’re elders in our community and her friend literally said to her nah, that didn’t happen. And at the time, I knew that story, but I didn’t really understand it until I went on the sort of journey of the campaign. Now that’s a very small example. You know, I’ve heard all sorts of stories about racism, ranging from that kind of micro aggression to really horrific, horrific acts of violence and destroying people’s lives. And I think, you know, rural spaces are difficult for people of colour, because we don’t have a community to fall back on. You know, and if you’re in a space… For me, like, for example, in this area where I live, now, we really put racism on the map, we’ve got a local anti-racist group that’s running now. And it’s talked about, there are people in my village now that I can go to if something happens, that has never happened for me in my life before. And I think that’s the key to change in rural areas, like, it’s not on the agenda, and it’s not spoken about. And as a result, if you’ve gone through something racist, you’ve got no one to talk to about it. And that just means you withdraw from the community, you don’t get involved. And ultimately, a lot of people end up leaving rural areas because they feel totally unsafe and unwanted.
I’m just nodding here in the background so much, because so much of what you’re saying strikes a chord, like the continuum of experiences that people go through, the pressure to conform, and to fit in with what we feel that the norms of rural space, the pressure to behave in a certain way, to use social spaces in a particular way. It’s all there, isn’t it? And it’s really complex. And everybody constantly having to go through all of these thought processes. I found it fascinating living in some of these environments, and working as a researcher in these spaces. I guess one of the things that I’m really interested in, Gurpreet, is finding out what your take is on a sense of community. So you’ve referred to this already. I’ve often found that within rural spaces, that sense of community that people from minoritized groups can feel in more urbanised environments, perhaps isn’t there in a rural space, perhaps your work helps to create a sense of community, but often when I was working in in towns and villages that wasn’t that sense of community. And instead, there were quite a lot of tensions within minority ethnic communities where people would say, well, they don’t belong here, because they haven’t lived here as long as I have. Or they’re not respectable enough, because they’ve come in just recently. So it’s kind of like this conveyor belt of othering, which is a very weird dynamic, and all of it stemmed from this perceived lack of communities. Does that strike a chord with you?
Yeah, it was, as you said that as the kind of like, you know, generational thing. I mean, I grew up in Scotland, in East Neuk of Fife. And the fascinating thing for me moving there was that I was othered, because I was English more than I was othered because I was Indian, because back then, in the 90s, they hated the English. I had no idea what was I was coming up against, but I really loved it. I was like, Oh, my god, yeah, this is great. I’m not being othered because of the colour of my skin, which has been the case most of my life. In effect, I was still, it was there under the surface, but the primary othering was being English. And it was generational. It was like, you know, people who live there, since they were born weren’t considered local. Yeah, I think it’s really interesting. I mean, in the rural spaces that I can think of that, you know, we’ve kind of connected with it is a real big problem. And I think what’s really inherently upsetting about it, is that actually, rural communities are good communities, like the very fact that you can walk from one end of the village to another, that you can knock on people’s doors, you can see people really easily, that you can have a very sociable, easy life, and there are people on hand to help. And actually people have time to talk, to stop, to have those pleasantries, that does create community. And what’s really sad is, you know, ethnic minorities living in those areas don’t get that, you know. Some do because they fit in and conform in one way or another or they’re of service in one way or another. But otherwise, you know, you can kind of you’ll find some individuals but often there’s a backlash against you. And people just keep themselves to themselves a lot of the time.
Gurpreet I could actually talk about this all day because I grew up in a particularly rural environment as well and looking back on it now I know that racism was sort of ever present it was, as you said, bubbling away there under the surface, and it certainly was never discussed openly. and views that people had just weren’t challenged. And the consensus was, well, there’s no one around to offend, because there literally aren’t any immigrant communities living here. So it’s fine. If I have these views, how could you as another white person from this place be offended by the views that I have? Aren’t we just all the same, and that’s hugely, hugely problematic. And as a young person living in that space, I did not have the language or the skills to challenge that at the time. And now I feel like I do. And that’s a big kind of learning curve. For me personally,
I think we’re very keen to pick Chris’s brains on all of this. And Chris, a lot of our listeners will be familiar with your work, some of them won’t be. You’ve had a really busy career, over a long period of time, looking at various issues and various themes. But I think one of the things that I think it’s inspired us and it’s inspired many of our listeners is the fact that you’ve shone a light on a whole range of in justices that immigrant communities experience within their day to day lives. And what what brought you to that, like, what, what made you reach that point to say, Okay, I want to do something within this space?
Yeah, well, I mean, it’s been really interesting listening to Gurpreet, because my, my background is the complete opposite. So I grew up in inner city London on a council estate… Late 60s, early 70s. Yes, I am that old. I know I don’t look it but, yeah I am.
You don’t sound it either, Chris. Listeners will be like Oh my gosh, what’s going on?
I feel it. And, and it was really interesting. So I was brought up by my grandparents who were Irish Catholic migrants, to the UK. The 1970s in London wasn’t a good place really to be Irish and Catholic, given the IRA bombing campaign, which was going on. And we lived on a council estate that was very, very diverse, you know, we had people that come in the mass migration, post Second World War, you know we were living there, there was a very strong Irish contingent there, but there was also a very strong Caribbean contingent, very strong South Asian contingent as well. And it was very much the norm for me at this time, you know, I didn’t know anything different, you know, that that was what life was that’s what London was, you know, and, and looking back it was, it was funny because my nan and granddad obviously were very conscious and very aware of the kind of the problems with being Irish at this time and really encouraged me to not be Irish in any way whatsoever. And I feel like I’m kind of a bit of a sellout when it comes to Irishness because I have no Irishness whatsoever, but, you know, so I’m from London, and my grandparents told me be British, grow up in London, that’s your identity, which, which is what I was. And it’s really interesting, because I try and look back on this question, it’s a really good question. Because I, you know, I kind of stumbled into it in many ways, and, but there’s, themes that I can kind of draw through, you know, which kind of got me to where I am. And one of the biggest ones was, you know, when I was in my, in my teens, and, you know, the two tone movement, which came out of Coventry, you know, where you had like, kind of ska music, you had young black British guys, alongside young white British guys, you know, actually playing music together. Now, in 2022, that doesn’t sound like a big thing. But in 1979, that was a huge thing to see young black and white British people standing on stage together performing because that was what it’s like, in my school, you know, this, for me was the first time I’d seen this, right, you know, we’d seen you know, we had reggae artists coming over from the Caribbean and so on. We had like, the punk movement, which was a very white movement, you know, and kind of like, there was kind of references to reggae and kind of like black communities within that. But actually seeing, you know, the kind of two tone bands like The Specials, The Selector, The Beat, you know, really spoke to me as something that was really very real to me, you know, this was my life. This was what I’ve seen, these were real people. These were people that were hugely inspirational, but they were also really political as well, you know, and the messages they were singing about was about poverty. They were singing about deprivation, they were talking about racism, they were talking about people coming together and, and at the time, I, you know, I’m not gonna lie, I loved the music, you know, like, the fashion, the style, everything was fantastic. And it was only years later that I realised that that’s where I learned my politics from. I learned my politics from the lyrics of the songs, you know, from, you know, from the punk movement from the ska movement, you know, this is where I learned my politics and this was about social justice about, you know, tackling inequalities, this was about you know, fairness, it was about kind of giving people a chance, you know, treating people fairly, you know, and, now it kind of feels like that this is some kind of revelation that I had, but it was something that was going on and very much kind of embedded in and, and of course, it resonated with my school life, it resonated with my home life, you know, it resonated with my family and what they were experiencing, and going through and everything with that. And then, I mean, yourself and Amy, you’ll be aware of this. I didn’t go to university, as soon as I left school, you know, education wasn’t really something that was kind of, you know, kind of too valued within the family and within the environment I grew up in. And, and then when I finally decided to go to university, I decided to train to be a teacher. And I soon realised that I didn’t really like other people’s teenage kids. And so I found myself, like, kind of drifting through the university trying to find a place and I found a place which was in religious studies, and I graduated in the summer of 2001. And, of course, you know, my dissertation that I done for my undergrad degree was about representation of Muslims in the media, I was very much interested in the media, I was very much interested in the way in which, you know, we kind of we take messages and we understand, you know, who people are, you know, how people are othered and so on. And then 9/11 happens, and, you know, from there really, that’s really where my career kind of took off, I was kind of, in that space, you know, when this occurred, and this was something that I wanted to pursue, and something I wanted to kind of like really become involved in a little bit more and find out more. And within a couple of years, I was working for the EU parliament, doing research into the backlash against Muslim communities in Britain. And what I was seeing amongst Muslims was very similar to what my grandparents’ communities we’re seeing, you know, the people don’t forget, you know, my granddad, my nan and granddad had sadly passed by then. But I could really resonate with those experiences… They were being blamed as terrorists, they were being a threat, they was the enemy inside, you know, they were going to turn against us, they were going to overthrow us, you know, very similar to what, you know, the messages that were coming out about the Irish in the 1970s. And so that was really the journey. And I think the the really interesting thing, which touches on what Gurpreet was saying was that after I did my PhD, I didn’t go straight into kind of academia, I went and worked for Birmingham Race Action Partnership, it’s called BRAP now. But I feel like I’m too old and too white to be able to say the word BRAP without being ironic. So it’s a little bit embarrassing for me. And what was interesting with that was because, you know, it allowed me to really understand that grassroots experience, the real life experience of people. We were working in Birmingham, we were working with communities that were really experiencing the full on, you know, kind of full-frontal attack of discrimination and prejudice, but also of deprivation and poverty as well, you know, an exclusion and isolation. And that, for me, was the again, really formative moment and so, so yeah, so that’s, that’s my journey really. So… It’s so interesting to hear about that journey. Not not least, because we now know that The Specials inspired to do a PhD, which is, which is kind of lovely, but just that those thought processes, you know, that you’ve mapped out there, Chris, like taking inspiration from everything around you during those times in a city like London, and then latterly, and in a city like Birmingham, there’s lots to be inspired by there in the context of multiculturalism. There’s also a lot to be alarmed by. And I think there’ll be many people listening to this who think, okay, we’re now in 2022. And it’s a very different world, to the world that you’ve just described growing up in, in the in the 70s, the 80s, seeing what was going on politically, socially, culturally. But is it all that different? And I ask this, that in the context of hostility. We’re seeing rising levels of hostility, not just across all areas of the UK, but pretty much all over the world? And yet, you think, well, one part of you might think, well, we’ve reached 2022, we should be much more nuanced than, than this by now. So what’s going on? Chris? Like, why, why are we seeing these alarming levels of hostility? Well, I think I think there’s, I think there’s some similarities now. And I think there’s some differences as well. And I think that you’re right, there are some things which are very similar, you know, scapegoating, you know, blaming people, you know the other and that can that can be based on, you know, basic things such as what Gurpreet was saying about skin colour, you know, you know, you don’t look like me so you’re an other, you’re a threat. But then there’s the more nuanced side as well, and I’ll touch on some of this and give it given the illustration. So, one of the things I forgot to say is that for my sins, I’m also a Millwall Football Club fan, which does didn’t have the best record or reputation when it comes to issues around race and discrimination. But I think one of the things that you can look at within the football space and see the differences there is that, you know, back in the 70s, and the 80s, when I was going, you know, you could see the people that were from the far right, you know, so you could see them on the terraces, you know, they had a uniform, they had a look, you could see that they were the spaces where the politics of kind of division, the politics of hate was being spread, you know, and a lot of people were buying into that and so you could see that it was visible, it was there. And it was, it was about the politics, and you know, going into the kind of football spaces. And as some of my research recently is shown on groups like Football Lads Alliance, and the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, what that’s done now that’s flipped it, you can’t tell somebody who supports the DFLA or the FLA, from, you know, somebody who looks like me, really, you know, we look exactly the same, you know, we go and stand on the football terrace, we dress exactly the same, we don’t have that uniform. What you’ve seen now is that these groups have kind of flipped this a little bit so that they actually put the cultural stuff first. So the football is what you identify with and bring people together. And the politics of hate sits behind that. And so I think that that’s where those differences… When you look at what the kind of themes are, you know, they’re still talking about the same things. They’re still blaming immigration, they’re still saying, talking about white stronghold, you know, they’re still talking about, you know, how whiteness is under attack, white communities are under attack, you know, they talk about white communities as being victims, and within there, we have to have that nuance. And we have to acknowledge that, you know, there are white communities that are living in poverty that are excluded, that are isolated, you know, and I think that these things, you know, we have to acknowledge because without that nuance, you know, we’re never gonna get anywhere. But what they do is, the things that are the same is that they try to create divisions between us, and they try to wipe over these kinds of things where we have so much in common where we have similarities, you know, the things that bring us together, you know, hugely outweigh the things that divide us. But those kinds of things that we could see back in the 70s and 80s, you know, actually, you know, living on the estate, you know, we all can come together, you know, there were divisions there, you know, there was there was people that didn’t like each other but if the dustman didn’t come on a Thursday and collect the rubbish, suddenly everybody was together. And sometimes it needs things like that, to bring us together. What it feels like now, with social media as well, and the kind of echo chamber spaces, it becomes so much easier to not bring people together around the things that unite us and kind of like, you know, the things that kind of we have a shared interest in, but actually to kind of divide us with the things that are, you know, kind of different between us.
Absolutely. And I think this is really interesting, I want to bring Gurpreet in to get her thoughts on this. You’ve referred to binaries, Chris, like, I think we’re all aware that we live in this kind of binary world now, where we have racist, anti-racist, we have woke and people who aren’t woke and all these labels that were used. And you talked about the importance of getting out of our echo chambers, which I think is something that Amy and I could really sign up to day in, day out, it’s so important for us to do that. But we seem to have reached this position where whoever it may be, political leaders, even grassroots organisations can sometimes find it difficult to maintain that balance between accepting the legitimate grievances that white communities might have about struggles within their day to day lives. And at the same time challenging, explicitly and implicitly, racist messaging. And because we struggle to find that balance, often, we’re left with these binary positions, and it feels more comfortable to just sit within our own echo chambers. So I’m really interested in how we move beyond that, because I don’t think we’ve done a particularly good job of that collectively as a society. So Gurpreet, can I come to you first?
Yeah, a few things kind of occurred to me, as you were saying that one is that you know, and I learned this from Reni Eddo-Lodge, right, that racism, we think racism is a moral issue. You know, are you good? Are you bad? And it’s not. It’s a power structure. It’s all about keeping power in the hands of, in this country, of white men, and those divisions are deliberate, you know, and we’re all acting on the messaging that we’re being given, and for all of us, it’s really, really hard to break out of those patterns. It’s kind of it’s like, yeah, how do we kind of get people to really take on that othering is not a way of resolving their issues. If it was, it would have happened by now, wouldn’t it? It hasn’t. You know, and not only is it not solving their issues, but they’re also missing out on all the beauty of multiculturalism, which is amazing. Everybody knows it’s amazing, deep down, you know, everyone’s benefited from that in one way or another. And that’s the sad thing here.
I’ve got a really, really interesting illustration for that Gurpreet and about this idea that things don’t actually get better despite the scapegoating. So a few years back, I did some research on to the building of the Dudley super mosque. So Dudley is, is a town on the outskirts of Birmingham, it’s very postindustrial and relatively deprived as well, you know. A relatively small Muslim community living near a largely white population. And this mosque was going to be built, started back in 1996, 97. And one of the things that happened with this was it was quickly dubbed the super mosque, so it wasn’t just a normal mosque, it was a super mosque, and the minaret was going to be higher than the steeple of the main church in Dudley Town Centre, which was a huge thing. Because, you know, going back to that thing about power, you know, this is what it was seen, it was like this was the Muslims exerting their power over the Christians in the area. And so, and one of the things that happened shortly after this was that you saw groups like the British National Party begin to become active in the area. And they also won seats in the local council. And what was interesting was when I did research in there, the way in which they did it was they were the only politicians, the only political party to actually go into the most deprived white areas. So Labour, Lib Dems, Conservative, they didn’t want to go into these areas anymore, because they would have to answer questions and talk about the realities that were going on. And so what the what the BNP did, the British National Party, what they did, they went there, and they said, Well, the reason why your kid’s school is rundown, is because they’ve given all the money to this mosque down the road, you know, the reason why your estate isn’t cleaned is because all that money is going into the mosque, and have you seen the gurdwara on the other side of town, and this goes on and on. Now 20, 25 years on that mosque has never been built. Now the BNP came to power, you know, they kind of right, they won seats, they took you know, they become local councillors in those areas. The deprived white communities that were there are still deprived, you know, the fact that mosque never got built has not changed the situation for any of those communities in that area whatsoever, you know, and you’re absolutely right, it becomes so easy to actually deflect the attention on to blaming and scapegoating, particularly minority, migrant communities, you know, blaming them, because actually, that will make things better. And actually, when you when you step back, you know, whether that mosque was built or not, the lives of those who are suffering from the most deprived circumstances, you know, most isolated, are actually their lives are not changed. In fact, they probably still got worse, you know, because of that.
It’s such a seductive, easy message to sell, and also to buy into, particularly in the context of a cost of living crisis where blame figures and targets for our frustration, are sought out time and time again. Can I just ask a quick follow up to this? So thus far within this conversation, we’ve talked in quite generic terms, deliberately so, about immigrant communities, people of colour, minoritized communities… We use a broad range of terms, and we’re talking about groups collectively. But do you feel, and this is a question for both of you really. Do you feel that we need to highlight any specific experiences, that sometimes stay under the radar and Chris, you’ve, you’ve referred already to the experiences in Muslim communities, and the ongoing challenges there, which are relatively well documented, but are there others that we need to know more about, that listeners could, should, could and should read up on?
It’s a moving target, Neil, you know, you know, the targets move all the time. And if we look back over the past, you know, just look at the past 10 years. 10 years ago, 2012 we had the London Olympics. We had that wonderful opening ceremony where we celebrated our diversity and multiculturalism. We had white, black, Asian actors taking historical roles, you know, we had like, you know, looking towards the future of young mixed race, mixed heritage, you know, kind of in, you know, young British people kind of like acting out their roles around social media, moving forward. And, and again, you know, we had this kind of moment where it felt like there was something different, you know, it felt like there was a change. It felt like we could finally celebrate multiculturalism. And then of course, in 2013, we have the brutal murder of Lee Rigby on the streets of South London in Woolwich. And I think that, you know, instantly, you know, things for me kind of changed back then, you know, suddenly had target went back onto Muslim communities, about them being violent, barbaric, the threat, you know, this was the reality, you know, that we were kind of, we had to face up to and you see, you know, within literally within hours, you know, the English Defence League, people like Tommy Robinson, you know, kind of arriving in the streets of Woolwich live streaming their anger, their rage and so on, you know, with this, and you so you see this for a number of years. And then we see Brexit, 2016, we have the Brexit referendum, and you have Nigel Farage stand in front of that big, you know, kind of like that poster of, you know, kind of, like, the big queues of people coming into Britain, which was never Britain, obviously, you know, you know, we know that because to get into Britain, you have to come over water, that was just, they were, they were either already here, or they were somewhere else. So, you know, that was never Britain, but you know, and then what we saw with that, you know, literally within hours, within the Brexit referendum, you know, and you see, Spanish people being attacked in London, you know, for speaking Spanish on, on, you know, trains on public transport, you see white Eastern European communities being attacked, you know, you see, again, you know, kind of black, and, you know, Asian, and, you know, kind of Middle Eastern, and so on, you know, communities being attacked as well. But you see this constantly shifting field, you know, like, all the time, you know, it’s moving, you know, and so it’s like, Who can we attack? You know, who can we blame? Where can we put the put the blame, you know, and now, where are we now in 2022? Well, you know, we’re post COVID, during COVID, you know, we saw that people who looked like they were Chinese or Southeast Asian… Suddenly, this was the China virus, you know, this was actually, you know, they’re the ones to blame. They’re the ones who are spreading it. They’re the ones who are killing us, you know, you also see again, you know, kind of other communities, you know, so black and Muslim and Asian communities, being the ones told that, well, they’re the ones who are not kind of adhering to the rules, they’re the ones who are actually kind of like, where the virus is spreading, and you even get the kind of nonsense that, you know, this is Corona Jihad, you know, like, which was sort of trending on Twitter at one stage, you know, this was deliberate ploy by Muslims to give us all like Coronavirus. I mean, you know, and so this is the thing you see things change very easily the targets can move and, and it sort of what Gurpreet was saying, you know, it’s like, all you’re trying to do is you’re trying to blame people, you know, and it becomes very easy to other, you know, you can be living alongside somebody for years, and then all of a sudden, you know, say do something you don’t like or something, you know, can’t they kind of fill a void or they’ve given an answer or a quick win. And actually, you can turn against him very easily. And you know, and that’s, that’s where we are, you know, and you know, going back to that London 2012 thing I’ve always said that I one of the things I hate about being British is that we always look backwards with our identity, we look back to kind of define who we are. And actually if we were to look forward, we’re hugely vibrant, you know, kind of multicultural nation, which is what we should be looking at, we shouldn’t be looking back to the Empire, to the second world war, to when we were “great”, you know, as we have in our title, you know, and and that’s always to me been a real sadness. The sad thing is that we always look backwards instead of forward because we have a lot to look forward to.
Yeah, you raise some really interesting points there, especially around… I remember that ceremony, it was like Eurovision on crack. It was so over the top. One of the reasons that anti-racism, opposed to not being racist, for me is so important, is because all of our rights can be taken away, you know, someone very wise said to me, it’s not just about gaining new rights, it’s about retaining the ones we have. And we’re seeing that now in America with Roe versus Wade, like, it’s so easy to slip backwards, you know, we’re going through a crazy, crazy period of time on so many levels, you know, environmentally politically, health wise, it’s just crazy, as you all know. And I think for me, it’s kind of more and more like what side of history do you want to be on in the future? Because this will be talked about, this period, kids will be sitting in classrooms, learning about this period, what do you want them to, you know, learn about, do we all want to just want to sit on our arses and watch Love Island or do we all the, you know, sort the situation out
Yeah, maybe we need to keep reshowing that opening ceremony from the London 2012 Olympics as the counterbalance to Love Island.
By the way, I have a lot of friends who love Love Island…
We should say, as a disclaimer, it’s probably not mutually exclusive… A fondness for Love Island and a fondness for anti-racism.
It did sound like you know the same thing… I can’t be racist because because I have a black friend… I’m not against Love Island because I have friends who like Love Island.
Amy, steer us back on course. We’ve got Love Island chat, we’re going to steer into a different podcast recording altogether.
Well, I’m really interested in what I think we were talking about there before the Love Island chaos, which was about maintaining momentum. And this idea well, maybe we need to roll back out the opening ceremony to reinvigorate us. So, Gurpreet, I know that historically, your background isn’t in campaigning, but I think we can firmly call you a campaigner now. And I know that as academics, myself, Neil and Chris would also consider ourselves activists in the stuff that we do and we want to kind of tackle those inequalities and injustice in the work that we do. But this work and the work that you do, it takes a lot of energy. And so I guess, do you do you have any thoughts on or advice on how campaigners or activists individually can ensure that the energy within these spaces might translate to real change and how we keep up that momentum? Particularly when these issues like anti racism just drop off the media and political agenda?
Absolutely. I mean, I’m no expert. But this is kind of what I’ve, I’ve learned from much more experienced people and from the discussions that I’ve had, and I think, you know, anti-racist work is highly triggering for everyone involved. That’s why it’s exhausting. You know, your nervous system gets activated by the stories you hear about it, about the situations that people find themselves in, and the things that are said. And for me, I think actually really understanding its impact on you on a personal level. And being able to regulate that is really important. Looking after yourself. And making sure you don’t burn out is really key in order to keep your energy up. Make sure you’ve got the skills as well to do what you want to do. It’s very easy to dive into conversations about race, and just totally trigger yourself, trigger everyone around you and just end up feeling like you’ve made it worse. And there’s actually a hell of a lot of really good resources out there to read and educate this dive in how to go about some of these conversations. And the other thing I’d say is make it fun. Oh, my goodness, like we need to have some fun. And, you know, I think one of the messages that I’m really keen we get out with the campaign, when we’re when we’re kind of putting out more info again, is helping people to understand their own personal set of skills. And to utilise those to bring about change. I think that’s where energy can really come from. I mean, if you told me that my job was just to do a whole load of bookkeeping, and that was going to help tackle racism, I would say no, but you invite me on a lovely podcast, I meet you lovely people get to have a chat. I’m like, Yeah, all right. This is fun!
Yeah, it is a really important aspect of everything we do. Like there has to be pleasure in it as well. Otherwise, you’re right, the burnout, will come.
Totally such good advice, knowing our skill sets and how we can harness those collectively, but also use them individually, but also knowing what we are probably not that into or are not that good at. And sometimes I think one of the big challenges we all face is that we faced this kind of pressure, to feel that we need to be good at everything or to comment on everything and that that just doesn’t feel like the way to go. So they’re brilliant thoughts. Amy, do you think we should be moving to quickfire question time because you know, it’s my favourite part?
Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so our quick fire round, as it suggests, requires short, concise answers from you both, if possible, please. So…
I’ll exclude myself now,
You can do it, Chris, you can do it.
So our very first quickfire question is, well, we all we all want to be doing better in the spaces, right? But for us to be doing better, sometimes things need to change. So I want to know if you could change one thing, trying to stick to one thing, about society, the justice system, the law, social media, or anything else. What would that be? Chris, I’ll come to you first.
Okay. So the, the thing I do is ensure that the political leaders are held to account. All of our political leaders get off the hook very easily. They distract us, they deflect attention. They have floppy blond hair that can like kind of make the right wing press kind of say, Oh, look at this person, like, oh, it was a gaffe. It was an accident or so on. No, no, no, it’s not. This is all a concerted effort by them. And you know, so that for me would be the thing is hold the political leaders to account. When they say hideous things, when they’re when they’re racists, when they’re, you know, kind of they say things that they know will divide us, that will kind of like, you know, kind of cause problems between and within different communities. We need to call them out on that. And I think that when an old Etonian, you know, kind of Oxbridge Millionaire is speaking for white working class communities, you know, they think that they’re representing them. That’s, that’s where a real issue is here. So we need to call these people out. And we need to hold them account for what they really are, and what the what the policies are, they’re putting in place.
Fantastic recommendation, Chris, thank you. Gurpreet what one thing would you change?
I would, and I’m going to slightly contradict something that Chris said earlier. I think we need to look back. I would implement a whole education programme for our young people, telling them about our colonial past, explaining what colonialism is explaining how we have got to where we are as a country, and where our wealth and money has come from, off whose backs it’s what we have, we have, and I think in doing so we can really start to see some change, because it will stop this idea that everybody else here is other. Because actually, we invited them. And I think that is something that could really have a massive ripple effect down the generations. And for me going to school, I remember going to school, I remember our first history lesson. And I was so excited because my whole childhood my mum had gone on about, you know, how the British have taken the Koh-i-Noor jewel from India and brought it over here and raped the country and all of this. So I was like, Oh, great history, we’re gonna learn all about it. And you know, we started talking about the Tudors. And then we started talking about what’s it called, the feudal system. And I was just like, you know, such a disappointment, and it never came, I waited my whole school life to hear about what I knew, but nobody else around me knew about it had had any understanding of it. And that is still the case today. Children don’t know about this stuff. Yeah. So that’s what I’d do.
Can I just come in there Gurpreet. I was saying about looking to the future to define us now for who we are like, yeah, not to dismiss the past. And don’t forget, you know, Ireland was was England’s first colony as well. So, you know, and you don’t know, you don’t find this kind of stuff out either in history, and also William, I can’t remember which one it was, but he was richly Vilhelm as well. So, you know, like, we don’t learn that our royal family also isn’t actually British. So yeah, that’s another thing as well. So yeah, I’m with you on the history.
You can’t backtrack now, having said that history is irrelevant… Our listeners can see through this. Amy, back to you, we’re doing a good job on the quickfire I think.
Okay, so one thing that we are really trying to do with the podcast is to empower listeners to be kind of good bystanders and upstanding citizens and if they’re safe and able to do so to intervene when necessary. So what specific steps can a listener take at an individual level to be anti racist? Gurpreet, I’ll come to you first.
I’ll be quick, because I’ve already said quite a lot, but I think it’s kind of recognising your own nervous system and how it gets activated around this and what activates you. Developing and really understanding the skills that you’ve got and realising how you could put them to good use. And being informed you know, learn about whatever it is you want to do. Learn about how to have these… if it’s about conversations, how to have these conversations, learn your history, find out what happened, get your facts together, you’ll have a much easier time of it and you won’t get as much backlash.
Fantastic. Thank you. And Chris.
Yeah, mine is to speak up. I mean, going back to you know, song lyrics again, you know, John Lydon, said anger is an energy or, you know, and that’s that’s something that’s kept me going, you know, that’s what keeps me going is, is the anger, you know, I was an angry young man, I’m an angry old man now, you know, there’s still things we need to bring about. And we need to change and, you know, it’s, it’s kind of easier for me because I have a platform as an academic, I can publish, I can write, I can comment, I can do these things, you know, but like we can speak up at any level, you know, we can speak up and speaking up on behalf of those who don’t have that voice, you know, speaking up and saying what’s right, you know, when something’s right, you say when something’s wrong, you say and, you know, and yeah, we have to be brave enough to do that.
Thank you, right. Our final quickfire question for today, then, for both of you is, if you could recommend a podcast or website or a book to anyone wanting to find out more about the issues that we’ve discussed today? What would it be? Gurpreet?
That’s a really hard question. Okay, can I like give some different options, if you’re into watching stuff, I would really recommend watching that Small Axe series on BBC iPlayer came out a couple of years ago, where if you want to, like feel what it feels like, to be oppressed, that’s a great series. And I’d also recommend if you want to learn more about anti-racism, then you know, and the history of it, I mean, Akala’s book is just absolutely brilliant across the historical and cultural themes around this. And you can see, you can go to our link tree, BLM in the Stix, which I’m sure you guys can put a link in for on the podcast, because we’ve got there so many resources. We’ve got a whole book club list, as well with great books and resources. So yeah, if you’re stuck, that’s a good place to go to get some guidance.
Perfect. And we absolutely will be putting any recommendations up on our website as well. So thank you and Chris, what about you?
Well, yeah, I mean, just to say, Gurpreet, Akala’s Fire in the Booth is a fantastic performance and the lyrics are, they blow your mind literally blow your mind. And I would say that one thing I would say not to do is don’t listen to the lyrics of Ed Sheeran but go back and listen to the lyrics of The Specials, The Selector, The Beat and so on. But as a as a solid recommendation, there’s a podcast series on BBC Sounds, which is by Jon Ronson, called Things Fell Apart. And what it does, it’s a brilliantly listenable eight part series, and it takes you back to the roots of all of the things that are in our kind of cancel culture, culture wars, it takes you back to the start of, you know, kind of like the first kind of things around abortion. You know, when did this become an issue that divided us, you know, when did Black Lives Matter become an issue that divided us, you know, going back to like literature banning, censorship, and it’s just it’s really fantastic thing so much is going on around us the things that divide us, you know, whether it’s around trans issues, gender, identity, race, you know, all of these kinds of things. What it does, it goes right the way back to the start, and it looks at them and sees how they have been manipulated. And it’s it’s it’s a wonderful Listen, but Jon Ronson, Things Fell Apart on BBC Sounds, free to listen to.
I’m writing it down now.
It’s really good. It’s really good.
These are fantastic recommendations. Thank you guys. And as Amy said, we will be sharing those on our website. So anybody everywhere can share with this, take a look and be inspired by those recommendations. So thank you, we want to end on a positive and you guys, like deserve all the credit in the world not only for doing inspirational work, but for doing so in a way that channels a sense of fun, and optimism. So I’m thinking this question is gonna be pretty easy for you guys. So these are hostile times. These are difficult times it’s easy to feel down. But what gives you a sense of optimism going forward? I’m going to come to Gurpreet first, I think, on this.
I’m just going to say what I said earlier, I think wanting to be on the right side of history, you know, wanting to be able to look into the faces of future generations when they say, What did you do? And say, Yeah, I did something, even if it was small, I did do something I did try that that gives me optimism. Because I think those questions will be asked.
Yeah, a hundred percent. Thank you, Chris.
I fully endorse everything Gurpreet said there. I mean, the other thing is that there’s a lot of good people on the right side of history as well. Right. You know, like, there’s a lot of good people here, you know, and, you know, there’s a lot of things that we have in common, there’s a lot of things we don’t have in common, but when you’re working with the right people and the good people, those kinds of things we disagree with, that’s irrelevant, you know, that’s fine, you know. But working together with good people that you can kind of have shared agendas with, have shared ideas with, and shared goals. And actually, yeah, if you do that, and you’re with the right people, then hopefully we are all on the right side of history there Gurpreet.
And, Chris, just to add to that, the majority of people are good. You know, a lot of what’s going on is controlled by a minority. And it’s like, that’s why these conversations are so important, because if everyone just starts to speak up, starts to act. It’s really gonna be an easy win. But it’s it’s getting that momentum, isn’t it.
Absolutely. I don’t know about you, Amy. I mean, I feel immensely more optimistic after this conversation that I did at the start of it.
You didn’t even have to watch the 2012 Olympics.
That’s why I’m drawing this to a close Gurpreet. I’m literally going to end this and get my old VHS out and, and start watching that from 2012. Listen, thank you so much. Both of you. We have to draw things to a close now because I think otherwise we’d be breaking all the rules of good podcasting etiquette by going on and on. You’ve been amazing. You’ve been inspiring. You’ve injected a sense of fun into really difficult conversations. We’re in your debt. So thank you so much.
Cheers. Thanks a lot. It was great. Thanks.
And a big thank you to you our listeners for joining us today. If you enjoy our series, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and be sure to follow the Centre for Hate Studies on Twitter, so you can keep up to date with our work and future events. Be sure to come back next time where we’ll be discussing hating women.