Sunday, 12 January 2020

Harry, Meghan and the Racist Mindset

Well, they're going their own way, and who can blame them? The incorporation of Meghan Markle into our royals was never given much of a chance after their fairy tale wedding. From the outset, she was the target of a hostile tabloid press. Foremost among the hostile critics was our old pal, Nigel Farage, who, in Melbourne last August, lamented the fact that Harry was once:
"... a brave British officer who did his bit in Afghanistan... the most popular royal of a younger generation... then he met Meghan Markle, and it's fallen off a cliff."
It seemed as if Meghan could do nothing right, if our tabloids were to be believed. As Amna Saleem said in yesterday's Guardian: 
"She couldn’t even enjoy avocados without being framed as a drought- and murder-fuelling traitor, set on bringing down the monarchy. Harry, to his credit, has been by her side every step of the way, challenging traditions by demanding an end to the tabloids’ abuse of her, which sadly had little impact."    
Sad indeed, as we are set to lose our most progressive pair of royals since er...when? I didn't listen to Nigel Farage on LBC this morning - never do - but I bet he's smirking like a well-fed mongoose.
What has not been mentioned so far is the fact that Harry and Meghan's wedding came after the EU Referendum when hate crime against religious and ethnic minorities was increasing. This xenophobic tide, which Farage and others ride so skilfully, clearly influenced the tabloid press and made hostility to Meghan far worse than it would have been, say, ten years ago.
I don't believe that racism was the sole cause of the hostility. As said before, old fashioned upper-crust snobbery against a divorced, mixed race, American commoner would have played its part. Resurgent racism, though, was undeniably a major factor, and I think it needs looking at more closely.
So - what makes a racist, or, which is perhaps a better question, what is the racist mindset? It is difficult to answer this, as racism is an irrational attitude, best examined by social psychologists. However, I think that by providing insights from my own experience (and thus admittedly anecdotal) I can point to certain racist characteristics.
One such is the fact that racists rarely think clearly or logically. In the 1970s, I worked for Southport Parks Department. One of the foremen was a rabid racist. He'd served in the army in Palestine during the Jewish uprising in 1948 and was virulently anti-Semitic. For no apparent reason, he hated black people as well. One of his first questions to newcomers was: "Are n-----s human?". If you replied in the negative, that was fine; if you said "yes" you were no friend of his. When I asked him what he meant by human, he displayed his intellectual capacity by replying "Well...white". This overt racism would never be tolerated in any workplace nowadays (I hope), but at that time, his racism was well known to management - and tolerated.
One day, he was vehemently blaming coloured immigrants for lengthening queues in hospital A&E; the fact that there were hardly any black families in Southport did not occur to him. In fact, there were more people of colour working in the local hospital on any given day than were attending as patients. Pointing this out to him would have  had no effect. Racists, you see, start with their racism and look round for reasons to justify it. Even when their absurd anti-immigrant tropes are exposed as false, they simply look round for other reasons to be racist - rationalisations. 
Another was a man who'd lived in Yorkshire in what he described as "a good area". It seems that a black couple moved into one house and opened a brothel. "That's why I hate them!", he said - i.e. all black people. Very logical - I don't think. Both of these parks men were Conservative voters.
Racists often speak of their admiration for the late Enoch Powell whom, as we know, is deeply admired by Nigel Farage. Interestingly though, when you ask them "Well, what did Powell say that you agree with?", they are usually unable to give a coherent answer. Most appear to think he advocated compulsory repatriation, but he did not. In fact, the closer you question them about Powell, the vaguer they get. And this points to another racist feature - the incoherent understanding of Populist politicians like Farage and Powell and, it seems, politics in general. The classic example of this was the man interviewed on Channel 4 the day after the EU Referendum. This man had somehow acquired the belief - perhaps by osmosis? - that as of the next day, all Muslims were going to leave Britain. 
Sadly, racist views can be found among more intelligent whites also. Again, a narcissistic Southport racist I knew in the 70s, who prided himself on his IQ, among other things, held a senior position in a Southport hospital. Interestingly, he never expressed racist views in the hospital. His ethnic minority colleagues - doctors, nurses and others - never knew that he referred to them as "wogs" out of their hearing. Still less did he tell of how he had once actively considered joining the National Front, but he was at least more honest than the others when asked why he was a racist. No rationalisations from him. He confessed: "I don't know - I just don't like them!" ("them" being black people). Racists of this type were given encouragement by the rise of the National Front, and statements such as that made by Margaret Thatcher in 1978:
"People [in Britain] are rather afraid that this country might be swamped by people with a different culture".
Yes, it wasn't easy, opposing racism in the 1970s. I'd hoped that the intervening decades had put paid to such bigotry, but events are proving me wrong. I can only hope that those of us who believe in a tolerant, enlightened, multi-racial Britain can again successfully combat these prejudices, and perhaps restore a society in which Meghan, Harry, their son and all of us can live in peace.

1 comment:

  1. Racism is inherently stupid. Your high IQ racist was irrational in that he could not explain why he was racist, so perhaps he wasn't quite as intelligent as he assumed. Intelligence isn't something you just have: it is something you apply, and as he didn't apply his to the question of race, he was stupid concerning such matters. It is possible to be quite clever in some ways and incredibly stupid in others.