Are black and minority ethnic communities still seen as immigrants?

The government is to introduce English tests to all immigrants who come into Britain in Autumn which Prime Minister David Cameron referred to as helping newcomers integrate into British society; however the racist intentions of this policy is revealed by the fact that only immigrants outside of Europe will be tested.

The immigration debate in Britain has never been honest and fair, but has always had strong racist elements. Despite the fact that the media and successive British governments have tried to give the impression that the immigration debate has moved on from race the careful observer can still detect the elements of racist ideology in immigration debates and government policy.

Prime Minister David Cameron is to introduce English tests to immigrants starting in Autumn. Any immigrant wishing to marry or join their partner in Britain will have to first pass an English language test before they receive a visa.

While Cameron said that this will help newcomers integrate properly into British society what is not examined is why these measures will only apply to immigrants outside of Europe?

What this government is saying is that a German, French or Spanish immigrant neither requires integration into British society nor do they need to learn the English language. This is a clear indication that the immigration debate remains fixed on race. It is the same racist colonial ideology which has remained an essential part of British political discourse on immigration.

According to the London Evening Standard today the move will have an impact on Britain’s Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.

In another report today a government think tank called Forum for the Future, a British non-profit organisation with a mission to promote sustainable development, said that Britain needs a national debate regarding rapid population growth and the effects it will have on government policy. (BBC: June 9)

Although the think tank calls for a grown up debate on the implications of immigration their position is already given away, the concern is about non-white immigration, not the birth rates of indigenous whites.

This argument can be supported by the fact that the British media is obsessed with the birth rates of non-whites. In 2001 the BBC website news headline read, “Ethnic birth rate climbs”, where it was reported that Britain’s ethnic minorities were growing at 15 times the rate of the white population. (BBC:21 September 2001)

In December 2000, a Daily Telegraph headline read, “Midlands communities will be mostly non-white ‘in 15 years‘” (Weaver & Johnston: 8 December 2000), and in March 2007, a Mail online headline read, “Why 10m Britons will be from a minority by 2027.” (Slack: Mail Online: March 2007)

For a country which boasts about its multicultural society and claims to be one of the most tolerant nations in the world why this obsession with the birth rates of non-whites?  It seems that the media has more in common with the British National Party that they would like to admit; they too seem to want to keep Britain white.

The British media’s obsession with the birth rates of non-whites plus the government’s focus on non-Europeans when it comes to immigration policy sends a clear message, which is that the immigration debate is still about race.

How would British people and the British media react if African countries, India, Pakistan, and countries in Asia began demanding that white people take language tests before they were accepted in the country? How many whites speak the native language in non-European countries? What if these countries began to speak of whites integrating culturally in order to be accepted? What if the media in these countries began to write headlines about the growing birth rates of whites in their country? The fact is the reaction would be very different.

If Britain wants a grown up debate about immigration they will have to abandon the racist idelogies which historically gave birth to this debate and continues to inform the way it is still discussed today.

What is disappointing about this debate also is the fact that black and minority ethnic communities have been seduced by the language of the far-right and have begun seeing immigrants as the ‘other’, not forgetting that the media and British government once labelled them in the same way. More crucially, they forget that the media and government continues to see them as outsiders or else their obsession with the birth rates of non-whites would not exist.

A sensible debate on immigration will never happen simply because the debate is still from a white perspective.

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4 thought on “Why the immigration debate in Britain remains racist”
  1. You’ve ignored a basic fact here Mark in your desire to paint the British state as racist. That is that nationals of EU member states have the right and have had the right for many years to move from country to country within the EU as they like. I remember as an economic refugee from Thatcherism, claiming dole in Germany in 1983 – my German was basic but my EEC (as it was then) nationality was rock solid and they paid up. It’s the same today, Poles and French can come here whether they speak English or not because they’re EU nationals not because the British state discriminates in favour of white people.

    The argument against insisting on an ability to speak English for potential immigrants is not helped by ill-informed diatribes such as yours. You may well have a point; Cameron may well have a racist agenda but with enemies like you, who don’t check their facts, he’s going to have an easy time of it.

    In solidarity

    Tim Jones

  2. Hi Tim,

    Thank you for sharing that fact with me however, I feel that you have ignored essential points in the article.

    The article began by mentioning that the debate of immigration has always been discussed in this country from a racial angle. I then go on to question that if the British government is concerned about integrating immigrants in society, why are Europeans who do not speak English also not targeted? Although you argue that anyone who is a citizen of the EU can come to Britain it does not address the fact that EU citizens who do not speak English will not be given this test?

    What is interesting however, is that the immigrants targeted just happen to be from non European countries, a coincidence? I will leave the conclusion to the readers.

    I also added supporting arguments regarding the British press’s obsession with the birth rates of non-whites which again clearly shows that the immigration debate still remains a racial topic.

    I then provided provocative questions about what the reaction would be if countries in Africa, Asia and all over the non-European world began demanding that Europeans speak the native tongue and integrate with the indigenous culture.

    When you add all these elements together the argument is very strong that immigration in this country is still predominately about race.

    There is nothing ill-informed about this article as it challenges the dominant ideology of how Europeans have discussed the immigration debate.

    Hopefully, your reaction is the start of a healthy debate about immigration outside the narrow confines set by the British media and the British government.

  3. You say “Although you argue that anyone who is a citizen of the EU can come to Britain it does not address the fact that EU citizens who do not speak English will not be given this test?”. That’s right, it’s all in the Maastricht Treaty; no British government has any right to restrict the free movement of EU nationals within the EU and language ability tests constitute a restriction on free movement. As far as nationals from outside the EU are concerned, any EU country can apply any restrictions it wants to.

    What you seem to be annoyed by is the existence of the EU. That’s a reasonable position to take and you will find supporters in all UK political parties but especially those on the far right – UKIP and the BNP spring to mind.

    In solidarity

    Tim Jones

  4. You are providing some welcome information on this debate but unfortunately you fail at times to stick to the context of the article. The arguments are simple, if Britain’s immigration policy concerns immigrants who do not speak English then Cameron’s tests should apply to Europeans and not just immigrants who come from non-European countries. This policy targets people from different races and gives the impression that only they need to integrate.

    Your point about the Maastricht Treaty only serves to strengthen the points made in the article that immigration and the immigration debate in Britain still remains an issue about race.

    Your claim that I am annoyed at the existence of the EU is wrong and completely off the context from which the article was written.

    You have yet to produce convincing arguments in the context of the article that British immigration policy and the immigration debate is not racist.

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