As a black immigrant in Britain, my response to Obama’s US presidential victory was a resounding indictment on British moral, social, cultural, racial and political backwardness in a world that is renewing itself daily with dynamic idealism. Immediately after the US election, when America proved itself as a land of the possible— a land of the dream–British newspapers plunged themselves into self purgatory of awesome kind. In a remake of rent-a-mob, editors were able to smoke out self appointed black leaders into debating the idea of a future black British Prime Minister. They want to know if the ‘historical Obama coup’ could happen on this small island. Expectedly, their arm chair analysts and opinion makers rested their predictions on hopelessness, impossibility and pessimism. From the Westminster village, the comments of Adam Afriyie, Sadiq Khan and Shailesh Nara all MPs for their respective constituencies, were laced with defeatism.
Why this pervasive dark mutterings of hopelessness of a future black Prime Minister in Britain? To answer this, we have to open the heart of Britain to analytical surgery to know why this country is averse to a black premier. This piece will demonstrate that black British premier is a delusion, a delusion ably supported by quite disturbing hubris of a decidedly English kind.
The English people are peculiar and they live in a society reeling with penkelemes! Apology to Adelabu, the quibbler, who gave us penkelemes from peculiar mess. They are innately conservative—in manners, attitude and social outlook. Their monarchy is a class-ridden bastion of stifling tradition, dehumanising hierarchy and it is hideously white English. The monarchy holds the British society together as the custodian of its tradition and heritage—many of which are Anglo-Saxon! Unlike America, Britain thrives on aristocracy, class system and craven deference to nobility. There are hereditary titles, peerage, conferment of honours and several class distinctions. Lordolatory is part of the English creed and their children are brought up to respect the peerage as the Englishman’s second bible. Hardly can you find a black man who is distinguished by his hereditary title, regimental tie, Savile Row, green willies or tartans.
Also, the idea of blacks in British history and tradition is a recent construct and historians have deleted even the smallest contribution of blacks out of their history books. For centuries Britain had been living a lie. She had been living a conflictual existence of projecting a vibrant image of multiculturalism, fairness and tolerance but in her undertow, the country is an oasis of whiteness.
Britain had always been in denial. And this denial has infected the so called fictive ‘Middle England’ so much that it cannot locate a new vocabulary of inclusion for the millions of its non white population. First, second and third generations of Blacks and Asians are still perceived as immigrants rather than Her Majesty’s subjects or citizens.
White Britain still holds on to the evil permutation of self-made gentile like Norman Tebbit: would you call a dog a horse because the dog was born in a stable? Obviously, a dog would remain a dog regardless of place of birth. In other words, being born British does not make you a citizen but an immigrant born in Britain! Would Obama have made it to the White House if he had been so regarded from birth? Would non-white Americans have a future fighting chance if their citizenship is in question? Tebittism still runs in the psyche of average Englishman. Can you see the first English peculiar mess?
Greg Dyke, a scion of the true Brit, an incorrigible Establishment hand and former honcho of BBC once indicted the world famous broadcasting station of being hideously white. Dyke forgot to mention also that the corporation had gone Asian. In the BBC, blacks are invisible as newsreaders and presenters. They are unwanted as producers, reporters and editors of news. But blacks are in the backroom as cooks in the canteen, cleaners and delivery ‘boys’. Few miles from BBC’s White City’s head office is the House of Commons. If BBC is hideously white, the British parliament is obscenely more so and shamelessly racist and patriarchal. British parliament is a treacherous, white dominated enclave. Of the 600 MPs, only 15 are non white. Permit me to say that I hate the term ethnic minority. The London Metropolitan Police has been tarnished as institutionally racist. There, the higher you peep into its greasy hierarchical pole, the whiter it becomes. To buy into the spirit of tokenism and alleviate its depressing whiteness, three Asian officers are now deputy/assistant commissioners of police. In fact one of them, Tariq Gaffur, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, has just collected £300,000 as out of court settlement for racial discrimination. Blacks are still barred from its inner sanctuary. There are no Collin Powells in the British Army. No Condoleezza Rice in its Foreign Service. Another English peculiar mess!
For the past decade the Sunday Times has not featured a single black millionaire in its April Rich List edition. Here there is no P-Diddy, Beyonce, Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Samuel L Jackson, Jay-Zee and Stevie Wonder. There is dearth of black faces in business, politics, law, medicine, pharmacy, entertainment, film and banking. There is no quickening in British soul. It is not a place where an area boy can emerge as head of the London Underground in 20 years. But in America an area boy with gut could remake himself and head the New York Metro in 20 years. Britain is a gradualist and deeply racist society with deeply entrenched consciousness of Europeanism and hierarchy rather than assimilation and oneness. Here you are still judge by the colour of your skin for higher posts.
When America embraces unifying patriotism, Britain celebrates fragmented nationalism. Perceived as outsiders, millions of non white British people still find comfort in their countries of origin. This loyalty has been tested in cricket and football matches. For instance, British born and bred Jamaicans are naturally disposed to support their home cricket team when pitted against the British team. The same sentiment resides in British born Nigerians when the Super Eagles meets the England football team. The Norman Tebitt’s prognosis of immigrant natural bias here finds self fulfilment! Can you still see Englishman’s peculiar mess?