The B-word. The British Exit. We all dread it now, eyes flicker over headlines over delays and arguments caused by it, before reluctantly scanning the article- our livelihoods will depend on the outcome of it, on a global spectrum.
The racism and xenophobia that the fateful referendum has unpeeled in British society is horrifying. In the preceding days after the vote, there were over one hundred recorded incidents of hate crime, all unashamedly open. Brexit had revealed in many Britons an underlying fear and hatred for immigrants, refugees and people who don’t fit into the British stereotype. It gave them an excuse to be ‘patriotic’, if their idea of patriotism was to threaten people unlike them. Many talk about the supposedly apparent ‘taking of resources’ and demanding to send them ‘back where they came from’, unsatisfied at the answer that they did indeed live in Stoke. To have any skin colour apart from white, to have any heritage apart from fully British to the dawn of time, suddenly made people targets. I understand that firstly a large number of people voted to remain and moreover some people who did vote Brexit did so because of other reasons, but I can’t help but notice how society has transformed in the days since.
Perhaps it was cognitive biases of the prediction market, leading people to believe that we were to remain until the last moment, or maybe it was just people waiting for a confirmation of their beliefs amongst others in society, but the surge in hate crime ever since Brexit has revealed one thing: there needs to be more information given to those who have unreasonable prejudices against those in society who are in the minority. Hence The Good Immigrant, whose blurb is simply; “What’s it like to live in a country that doesn’t trust you and doesn’t want you unless you win an olympic gold medal or a national baking competition?” It is a powerful selection of essays from 21 authors who are black, asian or minority ethnic in Britain today. From an actress who was told that she’d only be cast as a terrorist’s wife to the westernised evolution of the word ‘namaste’, it brings into perspective the lives of those who often are most targeted today. And actually, even if you do win the famous Great British Bake Off, as Nadiya Hussain says, she still “expect(s) to be shoved or pushed or verbally abused, because it happens, it’s happened for years.” Despite the blurb, it turns even if the famous aren’t even exempt.
It was edited and complied by Nikes Shukla, who has commented ‘I’m really sick of talking about diversity because I feel like we were beyond that conversation decades ago and we’re still having it and it doesn’t move on. People throw knee-jerk reaction panel events and money at diversity so we can all sit and talk about it rather than actually doing anything that has any long-term benefits.” I think that this book has long term benefits, though: it was the winner of the Books Are My Bag readers’ choice award 2016 and has sold nearly 10k copies in paperback. It challenges the idea that many from the BAME community say they feel about the imperative they have to prove they deserve a place in the UK, that they are worth it: an example of this is BAME actors. Representation is an issue, as Darren Chetty in his essay pointed out: “According to the 2011 Census, inner east London boroughs have populations that are somewhere between 45-71 per cent BAME. So, how many of the top 50 most impactful characters in this programme (EastEnders), set in the East End of London and aiming for realism, were BAME? None.” It’s a shocking but representative fact of the media today; it’s why questions like Could Iris Elba really be the next James Bond are circling, because it seems like he wouldn’t get the role on merit alone. No, people have to have a reason for being on the stage, because ‘being quite good’ just doesn’t cut it for some people.
Well, those type of people should read this book, or simply those who are interested in an enlightening, humorous and illustrative read.
I can thoroughly recommend The Good Immigrant.