Over the years I’ve had many conversations with friends from all over the world about white privilege (and yes, seen it all too clearly in my own life). In the past two years I’ve also seen evidence of what I would call ‘British privilege’ (it is not exclusively British of course – and, indeed, spread unevenly through the British Isles – so perhaps it would be more accurate to call them Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, to quote Lewis Carroll and Angus Wilson). Here are some examples, with no further comment, just to get things off my chest. For more excellent examples of these kind of liberal blindspots and microaggressions, see Americanah.
What is your evidence for saying that the general discourse against foreigners has worsened in the last two years? Do you really think that people are less tolerant now? I haven’t seen any examples of that. If you don’t like it here, why don’t you go somewhere else?
Do you really get that question ‘Where are you from?’ I have to say, I’ve never had anyone ask me that. (From a blonde woman with an English-sounding name). You must be exaggerating. Anyway, there is nothing inherently bad about that question. It just shows genuine curiosity, people want to find out more about you.
The UK has always been interracial and tolerant of all the different ethnic groups throughout our history. The only reason we have now started turning against our Commonwealth brothers is because we are trying to make up for the immigration we cannot control, the one from the EU. We have to allow all those people in, so instead we are putting all sorts of barriers up for those whose immigration we can control, like the poor people from the Commonwealth. That was never the case before.
There are so many empty houses in Spain – why do you think no one from the UK is going there under this freedom of movement? I’ll tell you why: because the UK is far too generous with its benefits, so it’s more likely that the Spanish are coming over here.
I am vegetarian, I am careful about recycling, I no longer use plastic straws, I care deeply about dolphins and sharks and other animals. I travel all over the world and love finding out about other countries and cultures. I am very much against racism. But… We’ve had to accept far too many people from the EU who are not qualified and our infrastructure simply cannot put up with it. I mean, just look at what has happened in Germany with all those refugees they have let in.
Where are you from? OK, but I meant, with a name like that, where are you originally from? Or where are your parents from? That is so interesting! Do you ever go back there? Do you still have family there?
What would we do without immigrants? I mean, our whole NHS would collapse without all the doctors and nurses from abroad. They certainly need to continue to allow valuable people like that into the country. It’s just those others doing unskilled labour and driving down wages who are a problem.
I don’t understand why people want to come to this miserable, rainy island with all the potholes and crowded trains and all that. I would love to live in the sun and on the beaches of many of those countries.
On a lighter note, here is the answer when I ask people in the UK what they think those coming to visit or stay in their country find most difficult to adapt to:
The weather? Queuing? What do you mean – unmixed taps? I’ve never had a problem with that!