The King is dead – long live the King! So runs the traditional proclamation when the monarch dies, only to be reborn magically through the next heir. The irony of listening to politicians line up to proclaim that ‘multiculturalism is dead’ is that even after a million such proclamations, Europe moves forward in the very next moment being just as much multicultural and multiethnic as it was before. Not one whit has changed. Except that somebody has clearly been trying to ascend to the throne….
The thing that disappoints me most about politicians that say things like ‘there isn’t a racism problem in Finland’, or ‘multiculturalism is dead’ is that as leaders, they give permission to other people to say and believe the same, even when it clearly isn’t true.
When they say racism isn’t a problem, what they mean is that it isn’t perceived as a big enough problem among the electorate for them to start getting caught up in the emotive and moral minefield that is trying to explain and tackle racism.
When they say that ‘multiculturalism is dead’, what they mean is that populist arguments that immigration is bad have started to convince enough of the electorate that if they were to come out and argue against racism, it is going to lose them votes, crucially amongst their own support.
It has in recent decades become the case that if you start to seriously lose ground on an ideological point in politics, you simply abandon the stance temporarily or permanently or suffer the risk of never getting into power – i.e. leave the job of trying to win the argument to idealists and sociologists. Politicians are pragmatic, at the best of times.
The problem is though that it’s not just political ground they give up, it’s moral ground. The chances are that the silent suffering of immigrants subject to daily, weekly or monthly racist abuse goes on, and even increases. Meanwhile, racists take their propaganda to new levels, with a blatant denial of ALL racism, because if you deny that something is racist, then you cannot be accused of racism when you do it.
To give you some idea of how far this rationale can be stretched, I want to share a discussion I had recently with someone who said one footballer calling another footballer a black c*nt was not racist, because, ‘well, he’s black isn’t he?’ They think that because they find a ‘fact’ to hide behind, they are stating something that is merely true, and so how can it possibly be racist? This same kind of vacuous argument and hiding behind ‘facts’ is put forth again and again by those defending their prejudices on Migrant Tales.
For example, if it’s something that insults and denigrates an entire immigrant group, it’s not racism if they can claim it is as fact, regardless of how shaky or questionable that fact is, or whether it’s absolutely clear that the trait in question can NEVER be a group trait, but only an individual trait. At times, they deny there is even a racial element even when one is blatantly obvious (ergo: “black – but he is black, it’s a fact, it’s not being ‘racial’ to recognise it as a fact,” and said with no hint of intellectual uncertainty). By hiding behind these ‘facts’ and only accepting the validity of race when it suits to denigrate ethnic groups, they can tell us, with a completely straight face – “there is no racism in Finland!”
Of course, there are many nuances to the denial of racism, and these are just a few.
There is one word that springs to my mind when it comes to some politicians and their attitudes to racism – spineless! It’s easy to play the denial game if you know that half the population is also playing it, and most of the other half cannot be bothered to argue about it, even if they know it for what it is. That’s my cynical streak talking.
At the end of the day, the argument about what multiculturalism actually is will rumble on. I would urge you not to buy into the idea that politicians are the best custodians of our culture, simply because they are too concerned with whether it will have any vote value. Alternatively, I urge you to recognise that multicultural is the acceptance that there are many different ways to do culture in legitimate and peaceful ways. In protecting the freedom of those that are different to us, we are protecting our own freedom to be different.
My grateful thanks to Enrique and Migrant Tales for the opportunity to contribute on a regular basis.
Have a nice weekend.