In my last post I was suggesting that American viewers of Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed’s The Long Goodbyemight assume that it depicted the true state of race relations in Britain, at an essential, if not a literal level. This hunch appears to be borne out by an interview I discovered in The Hollywood Reporter, where the journalist describes the film as “A terrifying look at an everyday nightmare for certain marginalised communities” (“Riz Ahmed and Director Aneil Karia on Making ‘The Long Goodbye’: “It’s a deceptively difficult thing to Nail”” 31/01/22)
I hope such cataclysmic terror isn’t the “everyday” truth for Britain’s Asian communities. I don’t think it is. It would surely be impossible to live with that level of extreme anxiety, day to day.
Of course, there are some terrible, violent racists, in Britain, who hate and fear Asian people. Of course, there are some prejudiced white policemen who make biased judgements and can even infect the whole working practices of their organisation with racist assumptions, as they gain seniority. Of course, there is institutional racism, which, when demonstrated statistically, can show how much more difficult it is to excel if you are a person of colour.
What there isn’t (yet) is an explicit, intentional collaboration between these factors, so that organised paramilitaries, openly supported by the organs of the state, can enact a systematic programme of genocide in broad daylight.
There isn’t even anything approaching that in atmosphere or public rhetoric. No matter how cowardly, prejudiced, and miserly we all are, neither the government nor the police, nor the people of Britain would tolerate that, at this point in our history. Each would feel too threatened by the lawless violence of it all; none currently feel threatened enough by ordinary British people of minority heritage.
I am decidedly anti-nationalist and have no illusions about the “virtues of the British character.” This is the nation that pretty much single-handedly invented rapacious modern capitalism and imperialism, although the U.S. has learned to excel us, and to claim British people were born with certain democratic qualities would be deeply racist.
Of course, our cultures and societies profoundly condition our thinking and our assumptions, and not all are equally benign. The current British ethico-political belief system is founded in liberal humanist principles: however hypocritical we are, we like to think we believe in the equality, the rights and freedom of all individuals whatever their race or creed. Examples of ethnic cleansing from around the world suggest we could be persuaded to accept murderous regimes, but from this starting point it would take time to prepare us.