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The American race narrative is unique and irrelevant

December 8, 2010 4 comments

In Anglophone countries, we tend to view race through a US prism.

The recent Teacupgate saga that black (meaning black, not BME) students are underrepresented at Oxbridge is a good example.

In the UK, and every other majority-white country except the US, black people are just another immigrant group – they’re people who’ve mostly come to the relevant country in the last 50 years, alongside people of all other ethnic groups who’ve done the same as international migration has taken place. They represent about 2% of the UK’s 10% ethnic minority population.

In the US, 13% of the population are African-American, and the vast majority are the descendants of people brought over forcibly, 150 years ago or more, to work as slaves.

So what? Well, “choosing to come over recently to avoid poverty or torture” is a choice. An excellent choice that people should be allowed, but a choice. And a choice that took place within living family memory.

“Being the descendants of people you don’t know and whose history you don’t know who were brought over in chains” is rather different. It’s much closer morally – and, as the data says, in terms of levels of deprivation and lack of civic engagement – to being part of an indigenous community.

So however the US government treats black people isn’t relevant to how European governments should relate to black people, in the slightest. Black people in Europe are equivalent to South Asian and East Asian people in the US – a minority with specific cultural needs, but not a group to whom a special obligation are owed.

In Australia, New Zealand and Canada, there are directly analogous groups: the Aborigines in Australia, the First Nations in Canada, and the Maori in New Zealand. Of those, the Maori are the most relevant, as they account for a similar percentage of the population of New Zealand as African-Americans account for the population of the US.

In the UK, the closest parallel are people of Pakistani origin working in northern ex-textile towns – although they weren’t sent over by force, whole villages were offered migration in a “everyone else is going, so you’d better” deal in the 1950s and 1960s to serve the textiles industry as cheap labour. And, oddly enough, the obstacles those groups face are similar to those faced by African-Americans.

But that’s got sod-all to do with being black – indeed, if you called the average Bolton Pakistani black, they’d be distinctly cross. It’s to do with being a minority group that’s been transplanted en masse, rather than through voluntary “I’m going to leave everything and head elsewhere” choice, to another place.

So can we please drop the pseudo-American discourse under which ‘black’ is a unique and specific cultural difference worth making something of?

The reason black Caribbean British people have a shitty time of it is because they’re in the same boat as white working class British people. Which is a shitty boat, but the stats suggest that the white working class and black Caribbean immigrants live in the same places, do the same things, and have an equally rubbish time of things.

Meanwhile, other immigrants – excepting the descendants of Pakistani and Bangladeshi mill-workers, but including black African immigrants – view themselves as middle-class and get treated that way.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,

Soccer, with added self-loathing versus racism

December 3, 2010 6 comments

OK, so as an Englishman following the World Cup bidding whilst living in and loving Australia, the last 20 minutes have been kinda sad.

My pre-draw, pre-looking-up-facts take on things would be “it’s most likely that Russia and Qatar will win, because the draw is decided by crooked bastards from the third world appointed by crooked Mr Blatter”. I still half stand by that: they did, and on one side, it was. On the other side, I was a bit hasty.

England is going to have hosted an even bigger event six years beforehand and will have the infrastructure in place. Meanwhile, as well as being massively incompetent at everything and almost as crime-ridden as South Africa, Russia is notoriously one of the most corrupt countries in the world, is desperate for international validation, and has enormous mineral wealth.

But I think England can hold its head up high. Russia is, in any sane sense, a worse candidate to hold the World Cup than England, and only won due to the fact that it’s run by lying, cheating bastards who don’t care in the slightest that we all know they are.

Qatar’s victory isn’t quite so simple. While Qatar is a mineral-wealth country, it’s not very corrupt. Indeed, according to the rankings above, it’s no more corrupt than the UK or Japan.

However, unlike Australia and the US, Qatar seriously devoted itself to the World Cup bid. Instead of bribing corrupt officials, it cultivated diplomatic relations with their countries (bribery is evil when it involves individuals, but when a poor nation’s Treasury is enriched by a kind foreign country, giving them your vote in a soccer election isn’t a terrible thing). And it showed that it could build infrastructure, which (let’s be honest – hell, this is the main reason I was hoping we’d win) Australia isn’t great at without an external push of some sort.

So yeah. The Russia World Cup is going to be a terrifying and inept event, which they never should have won. The Qatar World Cup is going to be a boringly competent event, which would have been more fun if it would’ve been in Australia.

And despite stereotypes of Arabs, Qatar won primarily on merit. Unlike the fucking Russians.

It’s a Jolly Fun Bank Quiz

November 8, 2010 20 comments

It being Sunday, or Monday, or one of those kind of days, and this being a Journal of Record [*], I thought I’d put out the kind of quiz that only my readers could answer.

What do the following UK-headquartered banks:
* HSBC
* Lloyds Banking Group
* Standard Chartered
* RBS

…have in common with no other UK-headquartered retail banks?

[*] I’m almost embarrassed to say that this blog is being archived by the British Library. I actually have no idea what the hell 25th century historians of the 21st century will do – well, I recognise half of my readers believe they’ll occasionally venture out of their caves and wonder why the outside world still makes their skin blister or similar. But right now, every humanities undergrad thesis candidate is delighted to find a neglected text to use for their work – in 2500, this crap will be (and, in terms of proportion of utter shite to “survives”, actually will be) available for an undergrad thesis. In which case, hello 2500 person, I hope they’ve genetically engineered girls to look like Natalie Portman, gizza shout if you’ve got a time machine, OK?

Crooked Timber comments deliver, again

September 12, 2010 2 comments

From a post on the correlation between studying engineering and becoming a violent extremist, commenter Tom Bach:

Hitler was notoriously lazy and profoundly ignorant; in large measure because he never studied anything and read less. He enjoyed rambling monologues filled with made up facts.

Commenter Stuart:

It sounds as if Hitler had been born a few decades later he might now have a show on Fox News.

A gift for old times’ sake

August 25, 2010 Leave a comment

The Awl, which is still excellent, has a poem purportedly in the style of Philip Larkin on the UK cuts crowdsourcing farce:

An Elegy For England

We sold the swans for meat and all the toffs came ’round to feast
Big Ben went to a very wealthy sultan from the East
The price we put on Stonehenge didn’t make Boone Pickens blanch:
He bought the lot and now it sits on some West Texas ranch

We made the Queen redundant and we put the corgis down
We shopped her jewels to Beckham’s wife, who also bought the crown
The London Eye, the London Bridge, the Angel of the North
Have all been shipped to Tokyo, as will the Tate henceforth

Most prisoners went to China, where they perished in a quake
The rest were leased Down Under, as a gift for old time’s sake
We melted down the Dome and used the leftovers for scrap
We tried to sell Lloyd Webber but, well, who would buy that crap?

We hawked the best of what we were and went on with our lives
And look at us, we’re now bereft: there’s nothing left but knives

Well, quite.

Update: @anattendantlord on Twitter points out that the poem isn’t actually very Larkin stylistically – the rhyming and scansion are too simplistic, even though the subject matter and sentiment are right. I agree, and reckon that maybe Chesterton’s a better fit; he reckons Kipling. Somewhere between the two. This probably reflects the Awl’s limited poetry skills, rather than a deliberate attempt to channel earlier, more populist poets and label their work as Larkin-esque…

And the JB returns

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Apologies for complete lack of recent content: I’ve been assortedly in the UK and Hong Kong, trying to squeeze a year’s worth of catching up with people, a wedding and a stag do into two and a half weeks.

I’m now planning to chain myself to the desk for a couple of weeks and do some fairly serious work. This will almost inevitably lead to bloggage; aren’t you lucky?

In other news, Cathay Pacific are an excellent airline in economy as long as you have short legs, which luckily I do.

Shorter this post: don’t BACAI

July 22, 2010 13 comments

1) no act that is committed without malicious intent can ever be morally wrong, no matter what its consequences are.

2) if you are harmed by something that wasn’t malicious, you have an absolute moral duty to forgive whoever did it.

3) people who fail to forgive people who’ve non-maliciously harmed them are the worst of all people, and the only people I truly loathe and despise.

Maxtone-Graham-Simpson-Win also OMFG

July 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Sometimes, people judge on outcomes. For example, the excitable Twitter idiot johnb78:

For example: anyone who thinks that Paul Foot is a bad man because James Hanratty turned out guilty is a worthless idiot – because although JH was guilty, he shouldn’t have been hanged on the falisfied evidence that was presented in his case. See also: OJ. I’m not mournful for the rapist and murderer Hanratty, but Paul Foot is absolutely right that he shouldn’t have been convicted.

On the other hand, people sometimes judge on excellence:

When a knight won his spurs, in the stories of old,
He was gentle and brave, he was gallant and bold;
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand
For God and for valour he rode through the land.

No charger have I, and no sword by my side,
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride,
Though back into storyland giants have fled,
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead.

Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
‘Gainst the dragons of anger, the ogres of greed;
And let me set free, with the sword of my youth,
From the castle of darkness the power of the truth.

Update: this post makes no sense. For those struggling to connect it with reality, When A Knight Won His Spurs was written by Joyce Maxtone-Graham, whose nephew wrote many of the best Simpsons episodes.

Categories: Uncategorized

Thursday quiz: one easy, one less so

July 8, 2010 4 comments

1) which country’s national anthem contains the line “I’ve always been a loyal subject of the King of Spain”?

2) which famous 20th Century American science fiction writer wrote Blade Runner: a movie?

What makes me angriest? Quebec.

June 15, 2010 20 comments

There are many things in life that rile me. But in terms of ‘obvious, absurd, insane unfairness that’s tolerated for absolutely no sensible reason at all’, Quebec is top.

In most countries that have real languages and joke languages that are indulged, the joke language that’s indulged is the language of the people the land was stolen from, and it’s a pathetic token attempt to make amends. Which is fair play.

And even in those places, the joke language isn’t actually required to be taught as a second national language outside those communities. All signs, ad campaigns and media don’t need to be shown in the real language and the joke language nationwide.

But the white people who stole Quebec couldn’t even be arsed to learn English – and Britain in the 1770s was so lame (and, in fairness, distracted) that we didn’t compel our inherited Frog-speaking subjects to learn our language, give up their disgraceful religion, and generally follow the wise example of our settlers elsewhere in Canada. Together, these poor decisions have created one of the worst pathetic cultures of fake victimhood ever to have existed.

So in the rest of Canada, French is an official second language that must be indulged and written in for product labelling and all official purposes. But in Quebec, English isn’t a second language for signing and official purposes; it’s forbidden for any of that kind of thing. This fact highlights the fact that Quebecers aren’t just stroppy, they’re total bastards.

The only reason the rest of Canada puts up with Quebec is to annoy the USA. Actually, that’s an excellent evolutionary example of ‘high cost signals’: “yes, we’re willing to put up with a province full of the most dislikeable Frenchmen ever, on the grounds that you’re even worse than them”.

Oh, and Leonard Cohen’s a Jew who sings in English, so totally doesn’t count.