I want to follow on from the earlier thread on ‘anti-English racism’ and start with an anecdote I’ve related here a few times. Back in 2005 when I was passionately arguing against the Sikh play Behzti being shut down, because some Sikh extremists were angry, I was invited to a radio discussion. Sitting next to me were some Sikh ‘human rights group’ who said, with a straight face, that they wanted to see the playwright Gurpreet Bhatti (herself a Sikh) put on trial for ‘inciting racial ahtred against Sikhs‘. I kid you not. I laughed at them.
Of course, they didn’t get anywhere, thankfully. I’ve earlier pointed out why Sikhs and Jews in the UK, absurdly, are legally defined as a race. Briefly, it’s a legal instrument to ensure they were covered by race relations legislation while having some particular exemptions. The point is that the law is a bit of an arse and it’s terribly outdated and messy. New Labour did say they were going to streamline and simplify all this equalities legislation but I’m not sure it got anywhere.
The broader point is that the Campaign for an English Parliament are behaving exactly like how Ms Bhatti’s detractors were at the time.
Now. I am happy to call myself English. It was a term I used to shun earlier, but I’m currently writing a few articles on Englishness and why I’ve changed my mind on it. My point is that making Englishness an ‘ethnic’ identity has racial connotation – which is why many Asians in England have always been loathe to call themselves English. We always assumed that being English meant being white.
And so I see being English as a civic and political identity rather than a racial or ethnic identity. Sure, you could probably interpret the law to say being English is also a racial identity, as the CEP have undoubtedly done. The hapless and clueless police have just gone along with it.
But it’s an absurd situation because it’s actually an attack on free speech. Going around with a t-shirt saying ‘Anyone But England’ isn’t an incitement to violence or hatred against English people! Hell, I used to be in that camp! I have friends who still are. But they’re not Scots. And they don’t go around looking to beat English people up, and it’s absurd to use such examples to actually ban such t-shirts and claim they’re inciting racial hatred.
Let me tell you where this is going. This is going to a situation where people are going to start using anything they find racially or religiously offensive as a way to state that statement is ‘inciting racial hatred’. We already have enough fuckwits claiming to upholding liberty while calling for any Muslim they don’t like to being banned. We’ve had, for years, Muslim groups calling for the ban of people they didn’t like. The Sikhs followed suit. The CEP are following that same line of argument.
So I object to Englishness being a ‘racial’ identity on the grounds that it implies that it is exclusive and people have to be born into it. And I reject the premise on which these t-shirts have been banned.
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Filed in: British Identity,Civil liberties