Friday, July 17, 2009

Are racists getting thicker?

Is it just me or are bigots getting more and more stupid? Take this court report from the Tameside Reporter. It seems that BNP candidate and racist "Roy West has been fined after admitting charges of directing racially aggravated abuse at his German neighbour". Nothing unusual you might say, but let's look at the detail.

"West had put up a number of flags in his garden and was attaching another Union flag to a shed Mr Kugow [Mr West's neighbour] believed was on his property."
When one flag simply will not do, he has to put up so many he literally has no space in his garden left and he has to invade next door. Oh boy, I'm there. The scene is set for me.
"An argument ensued"
I bet it did. During that argument "Mr Kugow was met with a torrent of racial abuse."
West... admitted making the insults, including calling Mr Kugow a ‘Kraut’, telling him to go ‘back to Krautland’ and ‘kill some more Jews’ plus adding ‘remember Dunkirk’.

Obviously we can expect BNP members to incite people to kill Jews but 'remember Dunkirk'? Are we sure that's going to get the guy shaking in his boots?

I'm not sure you should be allowed to own that many flags if you don't know that Dunkirk was a massive defeat of the British forces at the hands of the Germans. It's like a Frenchman telling someone English, "Yeah, well, remember Agincourt!" Aren't nationalists meant to know this stuff?

Presumably West then showed his Dunkirk spirit by fleeing for his life and climbing into a tiny boat. That'll show him.
However, he denied they were racially motivated. “If I was to be charged then it should have been with verbal abuse, but without any racist element to it. How can I be racist to a white man?”
By calling him a Kraut as you deck out your garden in hundred of national flags perhaps? That might indicate a certain racist element to the events I'd have thought.
Mr Kugow, who has lived in the UK for 20 years, said he had been subjected to an “incredible torrent of the most vile abuse I’ve ever heard. He said if I tried to come in his garden he would kill me.”

Mr Kugow’s British born partner, Susan Holt, told the court: “I was gobsmacked. I was shocked because you don’t expect your neighbour to come out with those sorts of comments. Normal people don’t do that and I’ve never experienced it before and never want to again.”
That's right. 'Normal' people don't. BNP activists do because they're sad, pathetic, ignorant pricks. Particularly when they have the full backing of their party.
Both the BNP and West had said they felt the case was one of ‘malicious prosecution’ by police and the crown prosecution service. The party had originally intended to stage a protest before West said he wished the matter to remain private.
Yeah, I mean what's the world coming to when you can't take over your neighbour's garden and threaten to kill him? Why don't the police go and catch some real criminals? If a candidate of the party of law and order can't swagger about like an aggressive beer bellied lout in peace what are we coming to - it'll be like 'Krautland' soon (I couldn't find it on the map mind, it's probably in Russia, bloody Commies).

Where will it end? Remember Gallipolli people, remember Gallipolli.


Matt Sellwood said...

The Dunkirk comment made me laugh uncontrollably, I must admit. Genius.

"You'd better watch it, or I'm going to stage a patchwork but brilliantly logisticaly carried out retreat back into my garden, mate!"


Anonymous said...

Not that it takes away from your main point - but unfortunatly, technically, the twat is right, in that he's being a xenophobe rather than a racist. "Race" being a (cultural and historical, not biological) concept to do with physical appearance, not nationality. That doesn't of course stop him from being a ignorant, bigoted little shithead, but unfortunately there's no "ignorant, bigoted little shithead aggravated abuse" law.

It makes me wonder if, although they are well meant, laws that specify particular forms of abuse in this way are somewhat problematic. A law against racial hatred, does that really apply to ethnic or xenophobic hatred? Does a law against gender hatred really apply to homophobic or transgender or sexual hatred? and so on. Because their all different things...

Jim Jay said...

Hanging around: I'm... not... sure... you're... right...

I think it's fair to say that anti-Jewish sentiment is racist but anti-semitism applies whether or not someone looks like a stereo-type or not.

The problem being that both nations and races are abstract concepts that only have power because, culturally, we decide they're real not because they are objectively real, as they aren't.

I'm not absolutely certainly that calling someone a "German wanker" is decidedly worse than just calling them a "wanker", but I am fairly convinced it's racism.

Foolish notions about the German character or racial characteristics are just as possible as with those racial slurs against Slavs or the Irish.

... at least I think so... but I might change my mind.

Anonymous said...

I am teetering on the pedantic side, I must admit. But in part because the law is all about being pedantic.

I don't think it makes it any better that its xenophobia rather than racism - both are disgusting. But the law is based on racism, not xenophobia, so if a law makes a distinction that certain types of abuse need to be singled out, then I can see a situation where (because the law is pedantic) charging someone for racist abuse could backfire if he's actually being xenophobic rather than racist. Its the law thats saying that racism is worse than xenophobia in that sense, not me.

Whether race exists or not... tricky to talk about... I think I would take the personal and academic stance of saying that racism exists but race doesn't. Which might take some explaining.

There are very few things in the world that are "objectively" real. As in, everything we touch, think about, think with, has a culturally and historically contextual existence. The concept of "race" didn't exist before about the late 16th century, and what it means is constantly changing everywhere at all time. So yes, by that definition its not "real" but neither are other concepts, like nationhood, personhood, gender, law, democracy, science, progress, money, property... . Its important (because of the way the concept of race is/has been used) to constantly ram home the fact that "race" is not a biological concept - it not "natural" or inevitable or something that can't be questioned. And as ethical people we should make a decision to refuse it as a concept or a category at every possibilty. Hence I say race doesn't exist.

But as a social fact, race does exist - in the sense that people act in the world as if it exists. To say there is no such thing as race is, to some extent, to deny the fact of racism. Or, to deny that some people use it as a meaningful category in their own construction of self and community. As a comparison: Americans thinking they have a classless society and denying they have significant class differences just makes it harder to struggle against class-based inequality or work for class based solidarity. But class is a socially and historically contingent concept too - it too has no "objective" existence. But that doesn't stop it being "real" in the sense that its a meaningful and powerful entity in the social world.

So politically, I say that race doesn't exist. Anthropologically, I say it exists as a cultural reality in the lives of many people. Personally and politically, I struggle to resist it and look forward to the day when it ceases to be a word that has any meaning other than a historical one.

Anyway. Its all very complicated. And law can't deal with complicated concepts. Which is perhaps the point.

Jim Jay said...

I agree with a lot of this.

I've argued before, somewhere, that in a sense subjective opinions are objective facts in that the *opinions* are real and effect the world, not necessarily that they are accurate statements of the way things are.

Catholicism exists and has an extremely important role historically, this does not mean Catholics are right about those little wafers being the body of Christ etc.

So there is nothing objectively / physically different about someone we regard as the Prime Minister. They can't suddenly breath fire or leap tall buildings, although I would vote for that party if it did, but the fact that we give them that title gives them the objective power to impoverish or empower, murder or save human beings.

However, I don't think "To say there is no such thing as race is, to some extent, to deny the fact of racism" is right.

Race doesn't exist - racism does. See? I said the first and didn't deny the second. Partly it's about paradigms.

Racism constructs a paradigm of race. I reject their paradigm but I do not deny the ideology exists.