Lists of foreigners

I’ve rarely used this space to comment on politics in depth, or world events in depth beyond the emotional impact. I’ve always looked at the abundance of hot takes, statuses and tweets out there and figured one more voice yelling the same thing of sympathy/condemnation/etc made not much difference. I’ve also always been careful, in my own reading, not to be swayed by media rhetoric; I dig for the facts, look for the information and try to think for myself because I think that’s the conscientious thing to do. Better not to be led by the nose and someone else’s ambitions or careful spin.

But that’s not the case anymore – because most people are led by the papers and the headlines that shout loudest, and what they are told spun in the way they’ll agree to it, and right now, those headlines and the leaders creating them are leading readers to facism. So this is absolutely the time for one more voice, and then one more, and as many loud voices as possible to say, ‘No, enough, not in my fucking name and – actually – not at all.’

 

Looking at the news and plans coming out of the Conservative conference, and looking at the way it’s being reported in the press, I can’t sit quietly. It’s been brewing and rising for a long time, this xenophobia, and I’ve touched on it before. And I’ve been scared by it before. I had a proper cry after the result of the referendum because it felt like we as a country had just thrown ourselves into a fuck-off great pit that we will have considerable difficulty crawling out of. And now, a few months on, I feel like I’m watching the government and the newspapers and a terrifyingly large (but hopefully not large enough) percentage of the country grab shovels and keep digging that pit deeper, until, presumably, we hit some version of Facist gold. A new state, a pure one, no foreigners.

 

All those films, all that history recorded and taught, all that horror – and we’re, as someone pointed out on twitter, sleep-walking straight back into it. And I’ve tried to believe (truly have because it would be more comfortable and I could sleep better at night) that this is some sort of hysterical reaction. There’s no way that we, in this country, would ever let things get as bad as they did in Nazi Germany, right? But the Germans thought that, too. It’s how it works: bit by bit, move along, until suddenly there are concentration camps and ghettos and it all seems perfectly inevitable and nobody says anything because that’s just the way things are.

 

The right has become far-right, the left has all but stopped opposing while it fights internally and the government and media are howling about the evil of all people foreign and how we (yes we, hi there) are a threat to jobs and safety, and ‘suggestions’ being put forward by the party in charge include making companies provide lists of foreign workers, well. It’s happening, isn’t it? After the lists, do we get badges? How far will the suggestions go? ‘Should we remove them from schools so British kids get better educations without them getting in the way?* Maybe we should set up special areas where the foreigners can live out of the way of the real Britishers while we figure out what to do with them? Wait, how do we qualify foreign? Everything got so liberal and mixed up over these past years – should we check skin colour or parentage back to grandparents? Place of birth or place of growing up? First language spoken?’

 

I would really, really love to believe that I’m looking at this as a worst-case scenario and I want, more than anything, to look at this post in a couple of years and laugh and say ‘flash in the pan, over-reaction, you muppet’. I want to look ridiculous. I’m willing to look ridiculous in order to say no. Not in my fucking name. No, never.

 

And to say: I will not put my head down and pass as British in this day and age – by my own choice, not because there’s a list or a badge. By almost any of the most basic standards of what constitutes foreign, I’m foreign. I was raised here, not born here. I got British nationality at 21 (at my mum’s insistence  – and props to her for having the foresight). My parents are not purely British. My dad is an Australian immigrant. He got British nationality around the same time I did. My mum is the daughter of a German immigrant, and to her grandchildren she is Oma, not Gran. She’s a nurse, by the way – yay healthcare). On any day, on any street, you wouldn’t pick them out and it has never mattered. (Unlike for people of colour who have to deal with shit on the regular whether British or not, and now are dealing with even more shit as it’s been framed as acceptable to be a racist fuck). But today, now, they aren’t welcome, apparently. I’m not welcome. Stick us on lists.

 

I’m taking comfort in the fact that so many people are standing up and saying no, not in my name, in the face of everything that’s saying that it absolutely is in your name, for your own good you silly liberal, now sit down and shut up. I’m taking comfort in that there are these voices out there saying it in my world in real life. Not just in the echo chamber of Twitter, but people in the Northeastern town where I live, one that voted for Brexit, but still, still, had 44% of us wanting to stay. I’m trying to take comfort in that, by the referendum numbers alone, it was close. A massive chunk of the country is not taken in by racist rhetoric. But then again, the Nazi party only needed 33% and a coalition government.
*UPDATE: I’ve just found out that the government have updated school census questions and demanded schools record the nationality and country of birth of students. So. Yeah.
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One thought on “Lists of foreigners

  1. Great post. I fear that your fears are not unfounded. With elections coming up soon here in France, we are facing the same demons. Thankfully there are still people like you around to call out the racist rhetoric.

    Liked by 1 person

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