Racism never stands still. It changes shape, size, contours, purpose, function, with changes in the economy, the social structure, the system and, above all, the challenges, the resistances, to that system.
The racism we are faced with today is not the racism we faced 40, 50 years ago, when we first came here. Then, post-war Britain was in dire need of our labour – and, to facilitate that, the Nationality Act of 1948 made us all British citizens. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962 was the first step towards dismantling that citizenship. What it said, in effect, was that Britain needed our labour, not us. It is at this point, with that first bit of racist immigration legislation, that state racism is born. And it is the racism of the state – in legislation, in government, and in the criminal justice system – that put the imprimatur on institutional racism and gave a fillip to popular racism.
The fight against that institutional racism, which maims and kills and blights the lives of young African-Caribbean and Asian peoples and other minority groups, continues. But there is a new racism abroad in the land, even more virulent and devastating than the ones we have seen before. And this is the racism that is meted out to refugees and asylum seekers irrespective of their colour. This is the racism that is meted out to Romas and Sintis and poor whites from Eastern Europe. This is the racism that pretends to be based on the fear of strangers and gives it the respectable name of xenophobia. It may be xeno, in that it is directed at aliens, strangers, but it is racism in the way it operates against them. It is xeno in form but racism in content. It is XENO-RACISM.
To fight this racism successfully, however, we have got to understand how it is imbricated, layered, in the processes of globalisation and the anti-terrorist ideology that western powers are instituting through legislation, government and the media.
Globalisation refers, of course, to the...
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