Britain’s strange white-on-white bigotry

by Joey deVilla on June 29, 2016

If I told you that the largest immigrant group in the UK were the targets of the wrath of triumphant British nationalists in the days after Brexit, you wouldn’t be surprised. But you might be surprised if I told you that this minority looked like this…

uk polish immigrant 1

…and this:

uk polish immigrant 2

“With an estimated headcount of 850,000,” writes Adam Taylor for the Washington Post, “Polish citizens are the largest group of foreign citizens in the country.”

Poland joined in the EU in 2004, when 10 countries were added to the union. Polish citizens gained the ability to move to and work in any EU member, which included the UK (in case you forgot, the UK is the combination of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, but not the Republic of Ireland). Since then, about 2 million Poles have emigrated to EU countries like Germany and Ireland, but many headed for the UK.

polish plumber slide

Slide from a presentation on human migration. Click to see the source.

Along with this diaspora came the derogatory term “Polish Plumber”. First used — quite unsurprisingly — by the editor of Charlie Hebdo, it encapsulates concerns about the cheap labor suddenly unleashed upon Europe with the sudden addition of many eastern Europeans to the market. The stereotype isn’t all that different from the North American one about dark-skinned people undercutting the prices charged by dyed-in-the-wool locals. The use of the term “Polish Plumber” is widespread enough to have earned it a Wikipedia entry.

“They took err jerbs!” isn’t a battle cry that’s limited to the U.S.; it’s used in the UK as well. Consider this ad by UKIP (the UK Independence Party, whose leader, human trash fire Nigel Farage, you may have seen in the news lately):

ukip ad

This ad was controversial for a number of reasons, including the fact that the unemployed worker in the ad is an Irish actor. Remember, American friends, he’s Irish, not British. There’s a difference:

british isles

A number of Polish families in Cambridgeshire found these racist laminated cards in their mailboxes recently, written in both English and Polish:

racist cards

The Polish community center in Hammersmith was hit with xenophobic graffiti:

posk attack

Immigrants from Poland aren’t the only victims of this white-on-white pile-on:

anti-romanian bigotry

…and the bigotry isn’t even limited to a specific country of white people anymore, but a whole damned continent:

xenophobic reservation

I’m afraid it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew Molyneux June 29, 2016 at 8:02 pm

On behalf of my fellow Brits, I’d like to apologise for the unseemly and undignified events of recent days. I assure you that normal service will be resumed once we’ve had a nice cup of tea and a lie down, and launched those xenophobic twatbadgers into the sun.

Joey deVilla June 29, 2016 at 9:49 pm

It’s not all that different here in the U.S. — every place has its bigots — it’s just that white-on-white bigotry is a little unusual for us.

Kaleberg July 3, 2016 at 12:46 am

There have always been a lot of Poles migrating to the UK. 10% of the pilots in the Battle of Britain were Polish. I don’t think the bigotry is being directed against Poles as such. The bigotry is against any newcomers coming in and making a tight job situation tighter. Thatcher totally restructured UK industry which meant massive layoffs, and as usually happens, no one does anything for those laid off or their communities. It has been nearly two generations in which everyone not living in London has been living in a stagnant or declining economy. Remember, nine out of ten of the poorest areas in northern Europe are in England, and that was policy, and immigration wasn’t making the wretched situation any better.

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