There was once a time when people believed the world to be flat, a time when people had no knowledge of those they shared the planet with, a time when it took months, not hours, to reach faraway lands. Yet, here we are in 2012, living in a globalised society where we are surrounded by cultures from across the world, where money is the only barrier from reaching the other side of the planet, and where overseas communication takes only seconds. Indeed, it would be safe to say that the United Kingdom is a multicultural state – there has undoubtedly been significant immigration, particularly since World War II. Yet, perhaps what is remarkable is how well these immigrant populations have, across generations, retained both cultural and ethnic identity, and the scope in which the United Kingdom has allowed these communities to do so.
Indeed, it would be wrong to suggest that the preservation of minority identities has been achieved without challenge. There has been a historic and well documented presence of ethnic and racial tensions in post war Britain, for example - the 1958 Notting Hill Riots, the 1981 Brixton, Toxteth and Moss Side Riots and the 2001 Bradford Riots. Yet, despite the presence of far right extremists, such as the British National Party and English Defence League, the United Kingdom does offer protection to racial and ethnic minorities through legislation, such as, the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Equality Act 2010. While it cannot be denied that racial and ethnic discrimination are still present both institutionally and within society itself, the United Kingdom is a state not characterised by fascism but by, though I use this term loosely, ‘equality’.
Since the expansion of the EU, and the growth of so-called ‘Islamic terrorism’, there has been a degree of scare mongering tactics, promoted by the likes of the Daily Mail, used to bring multicultural policies into dispute. Baa baa WHITE sheep, the nativity is banned, halal meat in your children’s school dinner, immigrants stealing our jobs and sponging off our welfare state, social housing filled with foreigners, terrorists have more human rights than us, they can’t speak a word of English!!! Of course, while these myths seem to be brought up in conversation increasingly more, it appears the majority of society do not wish any harm upon our minority communities – take for example- ‘My Tram Experience’ , the Shilpa Shetty race row, or the public trial of Liam Stacey.
Yet, underneath this veil of racial and ethnic tolerance, there is something very unsettling – something which tears apart and refutes every promise of equality legislation, something that disgraces the UK’s claims of multiculturalism, and something that leaves only devastation, destruction, and deprivation in its path: Antiziganism.
So what is Antiziganism? It is defined, on Wikipedia, as “…hostility, prejudice or racismdirected at the Romani people…”, yet as the majority of British people fail to differentiate, let us include ‘hostility, prejudice or racism’ towards Irish Travellers as well. But surely, in multicultural Britain, there is no room for these attitudes? It appears not, indeed one may say what they wish about the Romani and Travelling people with a simple get out clause: “I’m not Racist, but….”