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THE reports of increased racism towards people of Chinese and Asian descent in Britain during the coronavirus emergency in recent weeks shows how we must always be vigilant in standing up to hatred.
The rising racism we have seen here in Britain, and across the US and much of Europe, in recent years could increase further in the period of the coronavirus crisis if we do not both firmly oppose it and build an alternative approach to politics, based on our values of community and solidarity.
The current situation is of course not helped by President Trump referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” regularly on media screened around the world, and it is right that there is once again international outrage at his xenophobia, which has fanned the flames of hatred — and encouraged the far-right — on so many occasions since he became President.
Here, the recent spike in racism towards our Chinese community and others — who contribute so much to help our economy, culture and society — comes on the back of years of the Tories building a “hostile environment” to migrants and those perceived to be migrants.
The brutal nature of this “hostile environment” approach was exposed by the Windrush generation scandal.
Following the domestic and international outcry at this shameful episode, the government then claimed they would learn the lessons and change direction. But in reality this approach continues and the government remains wedded to a reactionary and divisive approach which helps legitimise racism in our society.
In fact, far from learning the lessons of the Windrush scandal, with the development of its new immigration policy Boris Johnson’s Tory government has decided to turn the screw even further and is planning to further strip the rights of migrant workers.
And its proposed new approach to immigration is not the only example we have seen of this government’s reactionary approach in the few months since it was elected in December.
Firstly, we saw the Tory government vote down the Dubs amendment, cruelly attacking the rights of unaccompanied child refugees.
Then we saw the government seek to press ahead with a flight to Jamaica to deport some black Britons who have lived here since they were young children, including a significant number convicted of minor, non-violent drug offences, and others who may well be citizens from Windrush families.
We have also seen ever-increasing concern about the levels of Islamophobia that exist in the Tory Party, which is another area where attitudes on the hard right of British politics clearly mirrors the approach and views of Trump and his supporters.
This increasing use of anti-migrant and xenophobic rhetoric by Trump, Johnson and other right-wing leaders internationally is a classic case of divide and rule, aimed at turning workers against each other.
The volume of this rhetoric has been turned up in recent years to deflect attention from the devastating effects of the Tory government’s policies, and under Boris Johnson’s leadership all the signs are that it will increase further.
This scapegoating must be confronted directly and we must celebrate our diverse and multi-cultural society.
The left and the labour movement as a whole must show an uncompromising commitment to anti-racism and standing up for the rights of migrants and refugees, firmly understanding that an injury to one is an injury to all.
As part of this, it is vital that Labour remains a firmly anti-racist party under its new leadership and we never return to the days of the Labour Party proudly selling mugs that boasted we would put “controls on immigration.”
Today’s scheduled annual demonstration organised by Stand up to Racism to mark UN anti-racism day has rightly had to be postponed due to the coronavirus emergency, but it’s vital that our campaigning against scapegoating and in rebutting racist myths continues.
Please get involved with Stand up to Racism’s online events today, help build a national movement in the months and years ahead, and give them your ongoing support.
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