Monday, September 24, 2018

Understanding race hate

A new economic paper by Facundo Albornoz, Jake Bradley and Silvia Sonderegger, all from Nottingham University, explains “The referendum revealed that anti-immigrant sentiment was more widespread in the UK than was previously believed. Following the referendum, people who had so far concealed or repressed their private views for fear of appearing politically incorrect felt empowered and started adopting a behaviour more in line with their true preferences.”

They discovered that the biggest spikes in hate crime tended to occur not in areas that voted strongly for Leave but in majority Remain areas. A one percentage point increase in the Remain vote of an area was associated with a 0.5 per cent increase in the level of local hate crime. Why would that be? The researchers hypothesise that latent xenophobes in Remain areas had been influenced by local norms about acceptable behaviour. The surprise effect of the national result was thus greater, making them more likely than those in Leave areas to act on their worst impulses. The “normalisation” of bigotry by mainstream political discourse in broadcast studios and conference halls can translate into violence and intimidation on the streets. It’s notable that there was a similar spike in hate crime in the US after Donald Trump’s surprise election victory. This followed a campaign, of course, in which he had, among other things, called for a “shutdown” of all Muslim immigration and labelled Mexicans as rapists.

 One theory is that the white majority in the UK is economically and socially neglected due to an official fixation on multiculturalism and diversity – and that this has created a “white grievance” which has been fuelling right-wing populism. Encourage people to believe they belong to a sprawling “white” group with a “legitimate majority grievance” and they are liable to start behaving as if race is the key political dividing line, rather than issues such as, for instance, income inequality or social class, turning Britain into a country l where politics is a dominated by ethnicity.

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