Wednesday, 4 June 2014

I'm not racist but: Opening debate on immigration

I was a young teen when I realised the phrase "I'm not racist but..." always preceded a "racist" statement and by my early twenties I had learned to stop listening when anyone began a sentence with those four words. However a few years on I realise I was wrong for doing this. You see, scoffing at someone who is genuinely concerned with whatever the effects of immigration may be (even if they are wrong) is a bad way to win them over to your viewpoint, furthermore, calling someone a racist when they feel they are not insults them and shuts down any chance of a reasonable debate immediately. If name-calling was an effective retort when it came to debating immigration, UKIP's "earthquake" might not have been so high on the richter scale.

Many British people and in particular the working class feel that they are not being listened to; they see the white liberal middle class (and the politicians) who are more accepting of immigration as a group who do not have to deal with the negative effects of it. This is compounded by phrases I hear frequently uttered such as "immigrants want to do the jobs British people are too lazy to do for less money" - a phrase which shows true contempt for the British working class by implying they are unreasonable for wanting a living wage. Instead of calling someone a racist when they say that immigrants are taking our jobs, why not argue that immigrants drive demand which therefore increases jobs?

It is time to make people aware of the benefits of immigration whilst conceding that there are some negative factors and seeing if we can find solutions to them rather than ignoring them. Rents are rising to ridiculous levels, mine for example (in Tower Hamlets, one of London's poorest Boroughs) is £650 a month (more than two-thirds of take home pay if I was earning minimum wage) for a room in a small flat shared with 4 other people. It is reasonable to assume that if there is a finite level of houses in the United Kingdom, increasing the population by allowing immigrants to flow in is going to increase demand and therefore rent; it is then a question of how we can supply and manage more housing. It is also true that many British people feel their identity is under threat when lots of people with languages and religions that seem may bizarre start filling up the local neighbourhood and opening up their own businesses; we must therefore find ways to integrate better with new immigrants and celebrate Britishness and what it means to be British - which doesn't have to mean you were born here.

The solution to the immigration debate is just that - debate. Not being so shocked that your monocle falls out of your eye socket and sticking your fingers in your ears every time someone says something even slightly non-PC.