I’d heard of Kriss Donald only fleetingly before the three scumbags were convicted for his horrific murder last week. His name was frequently cited by BNP sympathisers as a supposed example of the media playing down racist murder perpetrated against whites.
Now that we know media restrictions prevented extensive coverage until last week, the trolls have already moved on to other victims who can be used as a means for their political ends. To their immense credit Kriss’s parents did their best to ensure he was not used as a recruitment flyer for the BNP.
But that does not hide the fact that we have a problem in this equation. The issue isn’t media bias (which is too subjective to warrant debate) but how we perceive racism.
Last Thursday I was invited to a discussion on BBC Asian Network radio asking “Is racism a big problem within the Asian community?” The simple and straightforward answer is yes and unsurprisingly almost all listeners who phoned in (of Asian origin) agreed.
These examples make some on the left cringe. Racism is not supposed to be a problem within minority communities because they are meant to be the victims in a global power-structure where the odds are stacked against them. Or that they cannot be racist because they themselves have been on the receiving end of prejudice.
But this dynamic ignores the fact that most people behave pretty similarly regardless of whether they are of the minority or majority ethnic group. The experience of ordinary people, as confirmed on the radio phone-in, was that Asians have as much a propensity to be racist than non-Asians. There is no point even denying something so obvious.
The international power structures matter very little to the gangs on the streets of Pollokshields, in Glasgow, where Kriss was brutally attacked. There it is every person or gang for themselves and race becomes a proxy for people’s frustrations or gang allegiances.
But to deny that minority groups can ever be prejudiced or “racist” has unfortunate consequences on a wider scale.
First, it neutralises a strong anti-racist and anti-prejudice movement within those groups. This is sorely needed since the level of animosity between Sikh, Hindu and Muslim groups is rising not falling. It is also necessary to counter the racism expressed at other races, primarily African-Caribbeans. But such anti-racist movements are neutralised by self-appointed “community leaders” who usually have little interest in interfaith dialogue (especially within Sikh, Hindu and Muslim groups), or by the major anti-racist campaigners since they refuse to accept minority prejudice and focus only on white people.
Second, this dynamic means minority organisations who are prejudiced against less powerful groups such as women, smaller religious sects and homosexuals of the same backgrounds, are not penalised for their actions.
In other words some white liberals will look away when an Asian organisation does something outrageous and preserve their indignation for white groups. Sometimes in fear of being branded racist or simply because those organisations are seen as victims. Again, this only reinforces prejudice within our communities.
The third problem is the obvious one. By letting racist and prejudiced “representatives” grab all the headlines, a distorted vision of the Asian community is presented in the media. People start assuming we are all mostly homophobic, misogynistic or religious nuts. Except that good manners prevents them from saying it openly.
Lastly, these policies help feed BNP propaganda that the system is stacked against white working class people.
To use Kriss Donald’s murder as a political stick de-legitimises what actually happened. His memory simply becomes a propaganda machine for whoever wants to push their own agendas.
But this does not excuse the fact that we need to examine the conditions that allow such horrific crimes to happen. As one local blogger wrote, the problem here is more of deprivation and gang-violence than racism. In general the different ethnic communities get on well with each other.
We also have to be careful of a media narrative that completely goes the other way, discovering black/brown on white racism as if is the big new threat. Proportionally, ethnic minorities are still more likely to be a victim of a racist attack.
Nevertheless, the academic framework for racism needs to be broken down and applied to real life. Institutional prejudices do exist, there is little doubt about that. In many cases however that prejudice is based on class and sex as well as race.
So I’ll repeat what I said the other week: the fight by minority groups for equality of opportunity, dealing with social deprivation and under-achievement is a fight that concerns all Britons. It should be made into a broader struggle than about being one tribe over another. It is no longer useful to look at “racism” through the traditional narrative.
[also posted on comment is free today]
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