We cannot let racist caricatures become the new norm in our national press

Audrey Sebatindira  /  11 Comments

When I first saw this cartoon, published in the Daily Mail, my first reaction wasn’t anger or indignation. It was fear. As a black African, it scares me that anti-immigrant rhetoric (heavily laced, more recently, with anti-black racism) has reached such a fever pitch in England that racist caricatures of black people can be published in national press to little public outrage. And, make no mistake, this is a racist caricature. Look up old, racist cartoons of black people and you’ll see the same indistinguishable features across the faces of each character. The same white ovals and comically full lips for mouths.

We’ve seen these pictures before and view them as relics of the past. They are roundly condemned. And yet, now that they’ve made a reappearance, there’s silence from the majority. Has everyone really become so inured to the dehumanisation of African immigrants that this is normal now? Yes, we all know that the Daily Mail is hardly a bastion of liberal thinking. But surely there’s a limit to what we can accept from those at the fringes of right-wing politics? We should, every single one of us, be outraged. But the lack of news coverage concerning this image suggests that few people are. Hence my fear.

The thing about cartoons like these is that they are never just cartoons. And the silence that receives them is never just silence. The only reason why the Daily Mail has been able to get away with this is because of the rise in England of the irrational fear of immigration. The consequent devaluation of the lives of people fleeing poverty and instability (as any of us would do, I can assure you, if we were in their position) has become extremely fashionable.

From Katie Hopkins referring to immigrants as “cockroaches” to foreign secretary Philip Hammond claiming “marauding” migrants are a threat to the English standard of living, it seems everybody wants to get in on some migrant-bashing. This appears to be reflected in the general population, too. I know to ignore the sort of people that spew hate in comments sections across the internet, but the violence of some of the comments is appalling with some going as far as calling for the murder of the immigrants.

In the seven years I’ve spent being educated in England, I’ve never seen this much racist xenophobia hit the mainstream. I’m not convinced that the language currently being used by politicians and civilians alike would have been acceptable a few years ago. Which means that views are changing fast, and for the worse.

So there’s an important question we should be asking ourselves: why, all of a sudden, are immigrants and refugees being perceived as a major threat to the English way of life? There’s no real evidence that they are what people keep saying they are. Figures from between January to March 2015 show that only four percent of Europe’s 185 000 asylum seekers applied to the UK. Hardly a “swarm”. Moreover, the number of refugees in England is, in fact, falling. It’s true that living standards across the Eurozone have been in decline, but this is hardly down to immigration. Yet immigrants are simultaneously scapegoated both for the lack of jobs and for benefit fraud on the part of the unemployed. In spite of these facts, the population is being invited to unite against a “threat” that hardly exists.

And so cartoons such as this can be published and hardly a ripple is caused. If the facts don’t convince you, you should at least be questioning how it’s justified to decide whether to respect a person’s humanity on the basis of something as arbitrary as their nationality (and, in the case of this cartoon, their race). Nobody chooses their country of birth, and Europeans aren’t any more deserving than anyone else of political and financial stability. This is especially true considering that European wealth was derived from the colonisation and exploitation of some of the countries from which refugees are fleeing.

I concede that the problem of immigration is a complicated one. No clear solutions exist. But I do know that the answer isn’t to demonise vulnerable people simply seeking better lives for themselves, as is their right. Nor is it to remain silent in the face of their oppression. I refuse to accept racist caricatures in national press as the new norm. So should you.

  • mike_in_brum

    So, if you don’t like it, we give you the freedom to go back to where you came from.

    • Luqman

      Do you think really that the British wealth were built by the hard working white english men and women. I think you need to history classes to learn where the wealth that made britain became financial centre of the world. Watch how slave economy became the foundation for the financial economy you have now.

      • Jugurtha

        Well said Luqman. You’ve convinced me. I personally accept responsibility for every act of depravity committed by the British in Africa throughout history. I need to make reparation. Send me your bank details Luqman and I’ll transfer my life savings.

        • John Stuart Mill

          I love it when people use an hour-long video to prove their point; this is either high-level trolling, or someone who has convinced themselves that their viewpoint is so correct that it warrants an hour of another person’s time.

      • Thor fenris

        ‘You need to history classes’. I think you need classes in Grammar and Spelling.

  • John Stuart Mill

    They have the right to print what they like in their paper, in the same way that you can write what you’d like on your ‘blog’, and I can tell you that you’re wrong.
    “But surely there’s a limit to what we can accept from those at the fringes of right-wing politics?”
    What would you have ‘us’ do? Censor them? Tell them to take their views underground?

    • Luqman

      You are a wrong John Stuart Mill. You are such confused white supremacist. The history of human is the history migration. Why is Britain freaking out after the atrocity Britain unleashed on Africa. You took away our history and achievement. The able bodies and the intelligent men and women were enslave. 400 years plus colonialism that just ended in the 1990s of our history was dismantled. You handed down to us second hand form of development while you take all our resources. HERE FOR YOU SELF.

      • John Stuart Mill

        You attribute actions to me that I was never a part of and use those actions to form a nonsensical argument against my point. At no point did I self-identify as a member of the white invading colonial powers of the late 19th century, or as white, or as British. Try and argue against ideas instead of using identity politics as a way of cloaking nescience and idiocy.

        • Thor fenris

          Good points JSM

    • Thor fenris

      Censoring them is EXACTLY what these crybullies want to do. I mighht ask what are the limits we can accept from the fringes of left wing politics. After all the fringes of leftwing politics. Support i) Female genital mutilation, ii)condone the murder of gay people iii) whitewashing of large scale sexual grooming of children iv) the worst regimes in the world etc etc

  • jhgjkgjk

    Let us know when you plan on doing a Charlie Hebdo - we cant have free speech when its against non-whites , even though they abhor the views you hold . If its a few thousand (caucasian) little girls being pimped/sold amongst muslim males (which they feel is in no way wrong as they are brought up to look at non-muslims as worthless slaves)- then we must ignore this , because it doesnt fit into the great Liberal dream you hold in such high esteem .
    Come the revolution , you will be the first against the wall . Brevik had the guts to do it .