Being a White Immigrant

I have been an immigrant for most of my life.

When I was 6, my family moved to another country for economic reasons. We arrived expecting to take advantage of the country’s health care and education. In fact, we fully expected that the normal rules of the education system would be bent for me. As time went on, I took up a place on a highly prestigious education programme, depriving the child of a citizen of that country of the opportunity. We eventually became citizens, but stubbornly retained the culture and values of our home country.

At no time did anyone question our right to be in our new country. People made sure that the journey was as safe and comfortable as possible. We were not imprisoned, detained or penalised in any way for our decision to become immigrants.

Since then I have been an immigrant in 3 different countries. I have always been treated with courtesy and respect, often receiving better treatment than the ordinary citizens.

This is all because I am white. We like to think that migrants are only black or brown people but there are millions of white immigrants globally. Nearly as many Brits live abroad as there are immigrants in the UK (5.5 million compared to 7.2 million). Long running reality shows like ‘Wanted Down Under’ and ‘Escape to the Continent’ share the reasons behind white immigration as well as top tips on how to emigrate, actively encouraging white families to move to the country which will best serve their interests.

Almost every family in Britain has members who have moved elsewhere. In the state of Florida alone there are nearly 400,000 Brits. When the housing bubble burst and banks started to foreclose on those who couldn’t pay their mortgages, large numbers of these Brits simply left all their debts behind and went back home. (http://www.theguardian.com/business/2010/mar/08/florida-property-slump-british-expats) Can you imagine the outcry if anyone attempted such behaviour in the UK?

I can’t even begin to describe the callous treatment and hateful language surrounding other families who have left their home countries. They didn’t just decide to leave, they were forced out. The next time you listen to David Cameron, Donald Trump or Tony Abbott,  I invite you to remember your Uncle James who now lives in Toronto, or your cousin Sharon in Melbourne. They aren’t vermin and neither are the people in Calais.

Post Script

This isn’t an original concept. There are many articles pointing out that white people are ‘expats’ while people of colour are ‘immigrants’. However, these articles are far outnumbered by those spewing hate. I invite anyone who has either lived abroad or has relatives who live elsewhere to tell their immigrant stories. Highlighting our shared humanity is the absolute least we can do for those who risk so much and ask for so little.

Advertisements
Being a White Immigrant

Supporting Corbyn is not naive

I am one of the hordes which has descended on the Labour Party in support of Jeremy Corbyn’s bid for leadership and I’m not ashamed of it.

In the last election the Labour Party had nothing to say about the things which are important to me. I voted for them simply because I hated the Conservative Party more. Many of their policies were simply watered down versions of what we had already seen – continued cuts, continued austerity, continued lack of vision about foreign policy and don’t even get me started on their education ideas.

It seems that the party cannot shake off the dead hand of Blair and his Thatcherite betrayal of everything the party is supposed to stand for. We see this in the endless talk about Labour’s relationship with business and the refusal of the party’s right wing to engage with middle and low income voters. But it’s time to move on. The electorate looked at these policies and rejected them. More of the same won’t win them back.

So much of the Blairite approach is based on a belief in the trickle down effect; if we support business, then business will support the workers. We have been waiting for this to work for centuries. But the wealth isn’t trickling down from the most affluent; the most affluent are sucking the wealth out of everyone else. More and more families tumble into poverty while employers either find or are given more power to exploit their workers. We see this in zero hour contracts and in the scam of ‘self employed contractors’ working for companies and institutions who then don’t have to maintain even the most basic standards of health and safety. The system has failed to regulate itself so it is time for the state to step in.

At the most basic level, this means that companies have to pay their taxes. The current system of letting big companies decide when and if they pay for the services they receive from the state is ridiculous. It is not childish or naive to believe that the law applies to companies just as much as it applies to individuals. If Corbyn said nothing else, this alone would get my vote.

Much of the commentary about Corbyn sneers at his ideas about nationalisation and nuclear disarmament. These things are needed. If we are going to sneer at anything, let’s sneer at Trident. It’s both expensive and useless and 54% of the population thinks that we should ditch it. Let’s sneer at our rail system which costs more and delivers less than even the most basic nationalised system in the world. We know that the current situation is shit, so let’s start doing something about it.

So don’t tell me that things are more complicated that I understand. I understand just fine. I am neither idealistic nor naive: companies can pay their taxes; councils can provide housing; amenities can be nationalised; we can survive without Trident. Above all, this country can look after its people.

Footnote:

The articles below were written before the press started its sneer campaign. The first makes the case for nationalisation of the railways back in 2013. The second speaks about the rhetoric surrounding Trident in the general election. It doesn’t mention that any response by a Trident submarine would take several days. It is worth remembering that the missiles on Trident are 7 times more powerful than those dropped on Japan, which means that we could not destroy an enemy without taking out our allies as well, unless the threat came from Australia. Also, if America pulls out of the project, all that money will have been wasted anyway.

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/uk/why-are-uk-rail-fares-so-expensive-9678640.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/generalelection/trident-debate-there-are-16000-nuclear-missiles-in-the-world—but-who-has-them-and-does-britain-really-need-its-own-arsenal-10164387.html

Supporting Corbyn is not naive

Baseline testing for four year olds

Your four year old does not need a baseline assessment.

Both the Labour and Conservative parties currently say that testing four year olds will be in your child’s best interest. Phrases like “bespoke education” and “every child is unique and we need to know how” are thrown around and on the face of it, they sound nice.

But let’s think about what it really means. Your child has just arrived in school. She is possibly away from home on her own for the first time. The challenges she faces are the biggest in her life so far. Over the next few weeks she must learn how to learn, how to listen to instructions given to a group and understand that she is included in that group, how to follow a new set of routines, how to negotiate a complex set of relationships. This is before she even begins on the academic skills she is expected to master.

You will want her teacher to be attentive to her, able to respond to difficulties, to notice when misunderstanding or confusion are happening and correct them. You know that the most important thing during this very first experience of school is that your child is happy and settled.

Base line testing as soon as children arrive in schools stops any of that from happening. While the teacher is testing other children, what will your child be doing? Who will be noticing her difficulties? When your child is about to be tested, how will you be able to explain to her that she doesn’t need to be worried? How will you stop yourself from worrying?

Your child’s teacher already knows that she prefers football to dressing up. He knows that you have taught her how to hold a pencil properly. He is a trained professional and knows that the children in his charge are far more complex and vital than a set of statistics gathered so that the government can make a numerical prediction at four years old about their chances of success. Baseline testing won’t make him a better teacher, or your child a better learner; all they will do is make both your child and her teacher miserable.

We already expect the Tory party and their Victorian attitudes to happiness in childhood to be perfectly sanguine about the misery this policy will cause, but Tristram Hunt of the Labour Party is equally committed to it. I believe, however, that the Labour Party may be persuaded to change their minds were parents to voice their concerns.

If you believe, as I do, that baseline tests are not in your child’s best interests, please let Tristram Hunt know. You can email tristramhuntoffice@gmail.com, tweet https://twitter.com/TristramHuntMP or write to his campaign office at 88 Lonsdale Street, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 4DP

Baseline testing for four year olds