Given that voter concerns around immigration formed the pith of the Leave campaign’s argument it should come as no great surprise that their success in June’s EU referendum vote unleashed a tsunami of xenophobic hate. Media reporting has focussed largely on the experiences of the Polish community and Muslim women wearing the hijab – long the target of Islamaphobic and racist ire. The final days of August witnessed the killing of a Polish man in Essex in what seems to be a racially aggravated murder.
While the Polish community have reacted to this wave of racist hate with righteous indignation and anger I find myself asking, what of Polish attitudes towards others? I happened to recall reading a Guardian article back in 2007 on the racist diposition of many Poles towards non-whites. I managed to locate the article and you can read it here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2007/apr/15/asylum.raceintheuk
“In one case Polish children drew pictures of apes sitting in palm trees and claimed this was what their black classmates looked like, while in a school in Acton, west London, a group of teenagers hurled daily abuse at non-white staff and pupils. According to headteachers, some parents asked whether their children would be taught by ‘darkies’.”
Such visceral hatred of non-whites (and Muslims) is something I have also encountered at times in my interaction with Polish immigrants. While it is of course unfair to paint hundreds of thousands with the same brush I am also of the opinion that such a mindset, sadly, is representative of more than the just a fringe racist few.
It’s not my intention to pick on the Polish community as many others are guilty of exactly the same hypocrisy: vehemently complaining when victims of racist abuse but only too ready to mete it out to others they deem inferior. For example, the Lebanese community will vociferously complain about mistreatment in Australia and the United States yet are only too happy to abuse South Asians and Africans in their own homeland. Pakistanis and Indians while bemoaning their own racist steretotyping by the white community will happily spew forth the crudest racist tropes about Afro-Carribeans. Indian students complain of verbal and physical attacks in Australia yet back in India are happy to do the same to African students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grV7DKCD_Bw
When complaining about the racism of others – which of course is the right of every victim of this demeaning crime – it behoves us to ensure that we also have our own house in order.
May the peace and blessings of Allah (swt) be upon sayyidina Muhammad. Ameen.