I love old films; even the crazy Spaghetti Western ones. There’s one scene which always grips me with suspense (no matter how old I am) and that’s when the two main characters have a Mexican stand off.
They meet a High Noon, intensely out stare each other, look angry as hell and slyly reach for their guns without breaking eye contact. The first one to show the slightest movement, but isn’t quick enough to get their gun, gets killed on the spot.
I can’t help but think that, mentally, we find ourselves in a Mexican stand off-style situation post-Brexit.
With the future of the UK hanging in the balance, it’s understandable that many people are currently feeling a sense of unease and insecurity. Nowhere has this been more evident when speaking to young people and British born ethnic minorities.
The backlash and fear that many anticipated is now happening; days after the result was announced we saw that the number of hate crimes being reported to the police had risen by 57%.
Then of course, came the deniers and voices of people saying that such hate crimes were ‘made up.’ I wish the latter were true, but the fact is that when one is racially abused or experiences racial abuse, only they know what it feels like.
Social circumstances have changed; but the psychological experience of leaving one’s country and coming to another hasn’t.
I certainly didn’t expect myself and two young Chinese women to be called ‘dirty f*cking immigrants’ on my way home from work last week. I didn’t call the police. I didn’t get angry and start a fight with the man who’d said it. I looked at him and felt nothing but shock.
Until last week, I hadn’t experienced racism for being Asian for over 12 years. But I was determined to not stay quiet and had my experience written here in The Telegraph by Anita Anand.
We are seeing more and more experts, TV presenters, journalists and papers begin to analyse this spike in racial abuse/attacks.
But the angle which interests me the most is a Mexican stand off between ‘good’ immigrants and ‘bad’ immigrants. Nowhere is this compare-and-despair situation more evident than with British Asians/South Asians and newer immigrants.
Now we have a Mexican stand off between ‘good’ immigrants and ‘bad’ immigrants.
I’m not too sure how we define ‘good’ and ‘bad’ when it comes to talking about waves of immigration to the UK, because humans are so much more complex than simply being ‘good’ and/or ‘bad.’ But there appears to be an unspoken definition as to what a ‘good’ immigrant does versus a ‘bad’ immigrant.
A ‘good’ immigrant does what my family did: you come over, you have economic worth, you build your life here, you already speak a good level of English, you contribute to the system and you integrate (or in some cases assimilate) into British society.
A ‘bad’ immigrant does the opposite and this is what makes people angry . Even individuals who themselves were immigrants 30-40 years ago!
This is what confuses British born ethnic minorities even more. How can an older generation of Asians who arrived as immigrants in the UK play such a large role in demonising newer waves of immigrants?
There are many answers to that question, but one which has continued to fascinate me, is that this particular generation has fundamentally changed the way it views itself. They do not regard themselves as immigrants anymore because they’ve lived in the UK for so long, they speak very good English, hold a British passport, believe themselves to be like the English and are now an integral part of British life.
This was never about outdoing one another in terms of how/why we came to this country.
In their eyes, they did everything by the book and struggled very much to get to where they and their kids are now. And along that journey, they were exposed to horrific racial tensions (the Brixton riots, murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Bradford riots etc), which shaped them into the people they are today.
Despite experiencing so much social, mental and emotional distress, it’s a total surprise to younger Asians to see this level of apathy.
It’s as though they ultimately don’t want to seen as immigrants or the child of immigrants. They are British through and through (whatever that means!). This is then contrasted with my generation who celebrate being children and grandchildren of immigrants, the Empire and are keen to explore that side of our identity both digitally and in real life.
Right now, regardless of nationality, status or economic background, we are having a very dangerous Mexican stand off which we cannot afford to participate in.
The only move we have left now, is to drop our guns and unite for whatever the future will bring, because it will affect every single one of us. And we need to be ready for whatever comes.