Radio 1 is a national BBC radio station targeted at young people, and Newsbeat is its news service. BNP is a racist political party, which recently secured two seats in the European Parliament.
Like most other critics I’ve read on this, the issue is not so much that the interview took place, but that the interviewer, Debbie Randle, gave the racists a free run, an open goal.
The racists started by talking about ‘British ethnicity’. Despite ‘ethnicity’ being little more than a social construct (it cannot be an absolute category), it is difficult to come up with a definition of ‘British ethnicity’ that is meaningful. After all, Britain, in the sense we now think of it, has only been around for just over three centuries. Just as there is not such a thing as ‘US ethnicity’, there is not a ‘British ethnicity’. What the BNP racists actually mean by this term is ‘White British’. That is White AND British: they hate Poles because they aren’t British, and they hate any British citizen who happens not to be White.
All this becomes clear when they talk about Ashley Cole. Racist Joey says of him, ‘If he wants to come to this country and he wants to live by our laws, pay into society, that’s fine’. Cole was born in London to a Black Barbadian father and White British mother, and raised in London solely by his mother. Perhaps Joey didn’t really know all that about Ashley Cole, but then his comment is just a reaction to someone with black skin. Because Cole doesn’t have enough ‘Whiteness’ to satisfy Joey’s cursory examination, he cannot be British. For Cole, and for many of the almost-half-million British people who are not White, ‘coming to this country’ is meaningless as they were born here, and ‘going home’ means taking a bus, not an airplane.
Racist Mark than tells us that racial mixing would lead to the extinction of white people, which would make him upset just as if there were no more giant pandas, lions or tigers. The interviewer does then point out that white people do not constitute a species, thus they cannot become extinct. Mark answers, ‘You could say that’, in a manner befitting a flat-earther or creationist, and then talks about how sad the sudden extinction of sparrows or crows would be. Get this: being White is a social category, about what people think rather than who people are. ‘White human’ is not a species nor a subspecies, not even a biological variety of Homo sapiens. The racists’ ideas are along the lines of 19th-century ‘racial science’, now totally discredited — we have clinal gradations of population characteristics rather than any strict biological categories. However, these old race theories have been used to support or mitigate slavery, colonialism, ‘settlement’ and genocide. This makes their casual acceptance dangerous.
The interviewer then suggests that some of these ‘interlopers’ have been living in this country for a generation or more. To this, racist Mark replies that, as White people have lived here for ‘40,000 years’, there is a ‘vast difference in time scale’. The problem with this view is that I have only been White British since the 1970s. I don’t know how many ancestors of mine were living 40,000 years ago, maybe thousands, maybe more. They didn’t speak English, as there was no such language, these islands were heavily glaciated and stone tools were the height of technology. Larger time scales actually make the differences between any two humans less distinct rather than more.
There is then the rehashed conspiracy theory about multiculturalism. It’s simply the praxis that society isn’t uniform, we’re not all the same, and so we should learn how to live effectively in our world rather than impose a false uniformity upon it (by ‘uniformity’, think black shirts and swastikas). The conspiracy theorists try to turn the tables on this by suggesting that they are being forced to accept difference in a monochrome world.
Considering all non-White, non-British people to be ‘visitors’, racist Mark adds ‘If I went to live and work in another country, then I would still adhere by their culture and they should adhere by ours’. It is indeed comforting to hear that he wouldn’t drink heavily, brawl and piss in fountains. Ultimately, nonsense as spouted by these two young racists should be challenged, not banned nor allowed a free run.
What is Britishness? No one is entirely sure. A Commission for Racial Equality report on perceived decline of ‘Britishness’ suggests that many White British people put it down to vague ideas of things being better in the past (romantic, selective memory) and the problems of rapid social change (including immigration). Thus, ‘Britishness’ in this context is really a romantic misconception that something (what?) has been lost. I think this is reason enough not to have a British Day — it would be National Wild Goose Chasing Day.