By William Dove
January 12, 2012: Now that Britain has become a country with an unhealthy obsession with race and racism, as shown most recently by the ridiculous outrage over some nonsensical tweeting by Diane Abbott, it was nice to see in the Guardian an aspect of this issue which is almost never raised, namely that of racism towards Chinese and East Asians living in Britain.
Actress Elizabeth Chan complained that Chinese Britons such as herself are "virtually invisible in public life", that she had to endure people making strange kung-fu noises at her and that she had been denied roles which were deemed to be for white characters only.
She also noted that while TV in her youth provided a reasonable number of black and South Asian role models not a single Chinese or East Asian was to be found.
These days I suppose young Chinese growing up in Britain do at least have Gok Wan and the girl from Harry Potter to look up to but there is no denying that there does seem to be a lack of East Asians in prominent places in society.
Friends and relatives of an East Asian background have told me of how they have had to endure being called "Chinky" and such like while also getting the feeling that they are not being taken seriously perhaps in part because of their often weaker English skills.
What is also clear is that what some disparagingly call the "Race Relations Industry" seems to be concerned with just a few races in particular rather than in the status of all the races present in the United Kingdom.
For instance despite the fact that we have and have had in this country black and South Asian cabinet ministers and MPs not only are there no East Asian MPs at present but there has, so far as I am aware, never been an MP from an East Asian background.
Yet one never hears anti-racism campaigners call for more East Asian representation or for "all Chinese shortlists". Instead they seem to rather enjoy spending their time trying to segregate black Britons from the rest of the country by talking about something called the "black community", as something seperate from mainstream British society.
Does this "community", which apparently contains everyone from the Archbishop of York to the killers of Ben Kinsella, have a set of shared values? How does one join it or leave it if one wants to? When we hear talk of "problems in the black community" as we did after the riots (in which hordes of white people took part and which not a few black police officers attempted to control) are we talking about the Archbishop or other elements within this so called community? As Bim Adewunmi pointed out, the people chosen to represent the "black community" often seem to be ex-gang members, which must surely be offensive to the many black Britons who have never had anything to do with gangs.
Unlike in America most black people in this country are here because they or their not too distant ancestors came here by choice. This is also true of the large numbers of people of East Asian descent in the country. Despite this there is an overwhelming emphasis on the fortunes of black people with some regard thrown in for South Asians.
Instead of obsessing over one or a few ethnic groups we should have a society in which racial discrimination is outlawed and where people of all races are free to succeed or fail on their own merits rather than being told that they are victims of a racist society or that members of another race are attempting to, for example, "divide and rule" them. While black Britons do no doubt suffer racism in different forms from time to time, the fact that there are plenty of successful black politicians, businessmen, doctors, journalists and so on would suggest that white oppression is not (thank goodness) the force it once was.
We should also have a society in which people are able to withstand the power of words with tolerance.
As an Englishman when I go abroad I'm often told by foreigners things like "You must like the rain because it reminds you of home". This is not quite as bad as being called a "Chinky", but it is still mildly annoying and based on racial stereotypes. I always respond by saying "Oh so it never rains in the rest of the world?".
Jokes about the rain are of course not the worst forms of verbal racial abuse. John Terry recently got into trouble for allegedly calling Anton Ferdinand a "F****** black c***". Now it is a matter of opinion that Mr Ferdinand is a "F****** c***" but it is a matter of fact that he is what is generally regarded as "black". Strangely though it was the word "black" which was considered most offensive, presumably if Mr Terry just called Mr Ferdinand an "F****** c***" that would have been mere banter.
Mr Terry should not have to face charges for inserting the word "black" into a barrage of obscenities. On the other hand the "racist tram lady" Emma West should perhaps face charges for disturbing the peace and maybe for her threatening behaviour.
What was interesting about the West incident was that while she raged against "F****** Polish" and "F****** brown people" she was told by another passenger that she had "F*** all to say" and that "You're f****** waking my baby up". This response was praised by a government minister who apparently felt that liberal use of the F-word in a public place is reasonable behaviour so long as the word is not accompanied by words like "Polish", "brown" or "black".
It may be unpleasant at times, but proper tolerance means having to put up with things we don't like.
Never again do I want to hear of someone being arrested for singing "Kung Fu Fighting" on the grounds that it's offensive to Chinese (when I heard that story my first thought was that at least they were not singing George Formby, whose series of songs on the career choices of a fictional "Mr Wu" might be somewhat un-PC nowadays) and nor do I want to hear of people being denied their full potential because of racial discrimination.
Sadly I fully expect to hear more instances of both kinds of folly.