Today in Internalized Racism News: “Good Immigrants” Vs. “Bad Immigrants”

I have nothing to say about this. I’m just linking it: Pakistani Immigrant in Britain says he won’t help customers who cannot speak English

This news breaks at the same time that Britain is publicly mourning the loss of reality tv star Jade Goody, who shot to fame by making a series of racist comments on her stint at Big Brother. The working class mother referred to her Indian co-star, Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, as “Shilpa Poppadom,” mocked her accent, and her cooking (the smells and taste of Indian food). While many in Britain complained about her racism and some pulled advertising, Goody’s cancer diagnosis ignited a re-write in which she became a misunderstood working class freminist icon whose image was tarnished by the show’s classism  and her racism was negated  b/c of her own bi-racial background (tho she is white appearing and was raised by white family members in a white working class area).

Prime Minister Gordon Brown released the following public praise for her:

“She was a courageous woman both in life and death and the whole country have admired her determination to provide a bright future for her children. She will be remembered fondly by all who knew her and her family can be extremely proud of the work she has done to raise awareness of cervical cancer.” (Yahoo News)

Apparently no one told him classism does not negate racism nor does engendered suffering or the fight for women’s rights (in the case for health care and raising awareness about working class mothers) erase racism between women. Instead, Goody was a contradiction that should be all too recognizable to most feminists. She was oppressed and oppressive; she was an advocate for some women’s rights while actively denying others through her actions if not her words. The erasure of these contradictions is part of the reason we are all still left trying to combat them on the left.

Call it regular racism or another case of internalized racism, both Goody and the Postman remind us that the Brits still have miles to go before they sleep.

9 thoughts on “Today in Internalized Racism News: “Good Immigrants” Vs. “Bad Immigrants”

    • yes its odd given all the evidence from race riots to bnp to comments about actresses on Dr. Who . . . but again, I doubt their denial is any deeper than here in the U.S.

      I kind of think the U.S. acts as a foil for the rest of the world – “We may have a few problems but we aren’t the U.S.” – just like klan act as a foil to commonplace racism in the U.S. – “It’s not like I was burning a cross”

  1. I spend a lot of time in the UK and I think comparisons on racism between the UK and the US depend a lot on the specific minority in question. For example, while both countries have real difficulties dealing with Muslim citizens, in the UK (particularly large cities) people have much more contact and familiarity with Muslims than you would in equally large cities in the US. As a black woman, I personally find myself much more comfortable in London than in the parts of the US where I’ve spent much of my time, but that’s a personal observation.

    For what it’s worth, Jade Goody was popular in the UK well before her stint on Celebrity Big Brother; she became internationally infamous for her racist tirades. Before that, Goody had managed to parlay her time on a season of regular Big Brother into an enormously lucrative career. She was probably among the top two or three most popular contestants of the show. So the slightly hyperbolic elegies in Britain are referring to a longer story than US audiences recognize. Adding to the drama, she found out she had cervical cancer last summer while she was on India’s version of Big Brother, something she was doing to “apologize” for her comments towards Shetty.

    That said, I’ve learned that it’s almost impossible to get Brits to move past class. For them, it’s the definitive way to see the world. (I think there’s a parallel in the US: we never want to talk about race.)

    • I too lived in England for quite some time. And I would argue that the level of violence that Muslims faced in Britain, especially in the 80s, has no comparative in the U.S. prior to 9/11 For me anyway, it isn’t really about comparative oppressions racism has different historical roots and present manifestations in any given country. The UK is different than the U.S. which is different than Canada and so on.

      Yes, there is a long history of Goody on reality tv (and I think even N. Americans have seen the infamous cancer phone call, it certainly played here) but long or short praise without an acknowledgment of her racism by high ranking British government officials is in my mind a testament to what is still left to be addressed in the U.K.

      • I can’t speak to the 1980s, which I gather were a pretty bleak decade in the UK and my sense is that you’re absolutely right.

        My only points of reference are the UK and the US post-9/11 and I find our utter unfamiliarity with Islam and Muslim culture to be quite disturbing. Not to say that knowledge alone eradicates racism but it is a step in the right direction, I feel.

    • I think discussing class in the U.S. would contradict both the dependence on capitalism and the “boot straps” models we teach. That said we have had some lively discussions about class in the past in the U.S. and maybe we will finally have another one now that the recession is on.

      Goody definitely did suffer b/c of classism and her struggle to provide for her children was an important one both in practical and ideological ways. Doesn’t change her bigotry tho (not that you were implying it did).

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