Firstly, I’ve made tapped nary a single key here to comment on the so-called British National Party hoohah and the easy effort of not being a racist or pandering to racists when you are on a Question Time panel. Rather more difficult, it seems to me, is sticking to those estimable sentiments when Labour Governments and Tory Governments are formulating and regulating their policies on immigration and the seekers of asylum – and representing these to the wider public. For me, as a quasi and occasional scholar of the historical phenomenon of racism in particular communities, what was particularly of interest (not strictly interesting, but of interest) was how different panellists constructed the question. What is this racism and why is it bad? Who do we think of as our archetypical racist, and what error is he or she making?
Some answers emerge from the language. An easy place to begin is the older discourse of race relations, still tacked to the top of the current
This, I’d suggest, from an anti-racist perspective is a distinct and continuing problem. Rather than scorching the roots of a false ideology, we merely trim the savage plant, constrain its growth within an orderly box, and hope all past blights cannot return. I’d suggest, as a sine qua non, we should stop talking about race as if it had a meaningful underlying referent. Period. Certainly, we might want to analyse the social phenomenon of race-thinking in public life – of which there are extensive examples – but as a political project and a conceptual frame, race and race relations ought to be hastily junked. I look forward to the day when our lexicons will read only:
race (n) (archaic)
However, a hasty change in our terminology won’t do of itself either. I’ve attacked social research before which draws on discourses of ethnicity, and promptly asks me whether I’m white or black – not, I notice the wobbly, peelywally pinkish hue typical of unsunned Scots. If our emphasis is cultural, and ethnicity recognises in the way a racist cannot that ethnic categories are socially begot and none the less valid for all that – then why do the guilty terms of black and white reappear, bashfully pretending they do not draw on a racialising discourse which might explain their presence. At which point, to the promised echo room. The august Lord Rector of the Universitas Academica Edinensis – first class – Iain MacWhirter has an excellent article this morning in the Herald which tied my tongue and stole (albeit without the reticent mens rea) much of what I had wanted to say about the inevitable kilting and Scotticism of the issues raised by wider awareness of the
“This is replacing civic nationalism with the blood-and-soil variety. I’m angry that such ideas might see the light of day. How would an English child or an internationally minded Scottish one feel on such a visit?” ... “
is a country where the texture of society is still authoritarian and certainly conformist” ... Scotland
“I find it creepy that a movement’s future is so bound up with such a talented, impulsive and autocratic leader. The SNP would get more value out of Salmond if they made him accountable for his policies rather than crowning him the unofficial King of Scotland at each party conference. If independence is full of disappointment, then weak democratic institutions could be menaced by a demagogue.”
While a reasonable tactic to popularise Gallagher spanking new (and presumably, hard sell) book The Illusion of Freedom: Scotland Under Nationalism – we ought not to be too brisk to call the man a wobbling numpty. If there are answers to these claims, and easy answers at that, we ought to be able to produce them. Personally, I see in Gallagher’s suggestion about the force of the Maximum Eck’s mass manipulation a manifestation of the traditional Scottish cringe. Even our masses are crapper and less massful than everyone else’s, our manipulations rather … er … incomplete. I’m more interested in his suggestion about the conformist and authoritarian tack of Scots culture – that is an issue about which we can – and ought to have - a real discussion.
Yon article by Mr MacWhirter is not a bad place to start.