Immigration Rhetoric

I have spent the day being upset over the election results, especially because it makes me feel so powerless: I cannot vote, so I had no ability to try and change things. Even if Leeds North West is fairly solidly Lib Dem so my vote probably wouldn’t have made a difference anyway.

What struck me when I returned from Uni (which, like me, was generally in mourning too) was just how many of my friends had voted Conservative. I’m in favour of democracy so I have to respect their choice, but I could not understand their reasoning. So I asked them about it.

SO MUCH ANTI-IMMIGRATION RHETORIC. And these people are supposed to be my friends. So I challenged them on it – asking whether they think I’d better sod off back to the Netherlands then. But apparently I’m an exception.

I’m not sure why, however.

Yes, but you work. Yes, I’m teaching my students that crime is a social construct. Also, I’m taking up a job that a British PhD student could have had instead. In fact, I am taking up a PhD position and scholarship that a British person could have had. Furthermore, immigrants in general are more likely to be in work than Britons. It’s a fact: look it up. I am not an exception here.

Yes, but your beliefs are not different from British beliefs. I’m a continental socialist in favour of electoral reform, who believes that having a monarch is contrary to democratic values. Britain voted Tory. I’m about as contrary to Tory beliefs as it can get.

Yes, but you’re European. So are the Polish and Bulgarian immigrants they like to rail against. I can only ask here – ‘and?’

Yes, but you’re not Muslim. No, I’m agnostic and fairly vocal about that. Britain is an explicitly Christian country given that the queen is also head of church. I have a history of upsetting my Christian friends by being agnostic and being vocal about the fact that I think religion is generally stupid. My Muslim friends are much more accepting of my agnosticism. Also, are they saying native Britons cannot be Muslims? Might want to refer back to some of the facts I suggested they look up earlier. Besides, the Polish people they rail against are Catholic, which is historically contrary to British values yet they haven’t any issues with that. Unfamiliarity breeds fear breeds anger here, I think.

Yes, but you speak English. So does basically the rest of the world because contrary to British values, the rest of the world does actually believe in learning languages other than their own. I’m not an exception here, either.

Yes, but you contribute financially. I don’t, actually, because I don’t earn enough to contribute. I do pay NI, but my scholarship is higher than my NI contributions. I’m fairly certain that me getting the pill on the NHS costs British society more annually than I manage to contribute. And here is where I actually am the exception, but not in a way they like to see me being the exception.

So here we have it. I’m not different to other immigrants, yet my anti-immigrant-rhetoric-spouting friends like to think I am and use this illusion to square their beliefs and their actually accepting an immigrant in their daily lives.

And it also shows that the media’s and politicians’ anti-immigrant rhetoric is so very painfully powerful. I’m sure there’s an immigrant out there who takes out more than they contribute, doesn’t speak English, and generally has beliefs that are incompatible with British values. And is OK with that. I’m sure there are criminal immigrants out there. But they’re at most a small percentage of all us immigrants to Britain.

Following the logic of judging an entire group by a very tiny minority, we need to judge all Britons as thieves, given that there’s a percentage of Britons who commit theft. Hell, following that logic I’m going to have to write up all of Devonshire Hall as drunken loudmouths every night. Isn’t as convincing when it affects other groups, is it?

But it’s appealing rhetoric, isn’t it. We immigrants are a nice scape goat. So blame away. At least most of us immigrants have the transferable skills, in any case linguistically, to move away to other countries. And not in the sense of British expats who move to Spain and twenty years later still don’t speak any Spanish other than the phrase ‘una cerveza’. We immigrants over the whole have a better rate of financial contribution than Britons do – we are the ones keeping the NHS propped up.

But I guess it’s nice to be able to blame us. At least it means Britain doesn’t have to look at itself when its economy fails to properly stabilise because rich Britons aren’t challenged when they evade their taxes and continue to charge extortionate fees for squalid flats. It’s easier to blame us. Go ahead. We’re used to it by now.

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Author: Ilse A Ras

There are times when I am doing research on crime news and language; sometimes I'm obsessed, sometimes I'm bored, and sometimes my tea is getting cold.

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