As a black immigrant in Britain, my response to Obamaâ€™s US presidential victory was a resounding indictment on British moral, social, cultural, racial and political backwardness in a world that is renewing itself daily with dynamic idealism. Immediately after the US election, when America proved itself as a land of the possible— a land of the dream–British newspapers plunged themselves into self purgatory of awesome kind. In a remake of rent-a-mob, editors were able to smoke out self appointed black leaders into debating the idea of a future black British Prime Minister. They want to know if the â€˜historical Obama coupâ€™ could happen on this small island. Expectedly, their arm chair analysts and opinion makers rested their predictions on hopelessness, impossibility and pessimism. From the Westminster village, the comments of Adam Afriyie, Sadiq Khan and Shailesh Nara all MPs for their respective constituencies, were laced with defeatism.
Why this pervasive dark mutterings of hopelessness of a future black Prime Minister in Britain? To answer this, we have to open the heart of Britain to analytical surgery to know why this country is averse to a black premier. This piece will demonstrate that black British premier is a delusion, a delusion ably supported by quite disturbing hubris of a decidedly English kind.
The English people are peculiar and they live in a society reeling with penkelemes! Apology to Adelabu, the quibbler, who gave us penkelemes from peculiar mess. They are innately conservative—in manners, attitude and social outlook. Their monarchy is a class-ridden bastion of stifling tradition, dehumanising hierarchy and it is hideously white English. The monarchy holds the British society together as the custodian of its tradition and heritageâ€”many of which are Anglo-Saxon! Unlike America, Britain thrives on aristocracy, class system and craven deference to nobility. There are hereditary titles, peerage, conferment of honours and several class distinctions. Lordolatory is part of the English creed and their children are brought up to respect the peerage as the Englishmanâ€™s second bible. Hardly can you find a black man who is distinguished by his hereditary title, regimental tie, Savile Row, green willies or tartans.
Also, the idea of blacks in British history and tradition is a recent construct and historians have deleted even the smallest contribution of blacks out of their history books. For centuries Britain had been living a lie. She had been living a conflictual existence of projecting a vibrant image of multiculturalism, fairness and tolerance but in her undertow, the country is an oasis of whiteness.
Britain had always been in denial. And this denial has infected the so called fictive â€˜Middle Englandâ€™ so much that it cannot locate a new vocabulary of inclusion for the millions of its non white population. First, second and third generations of Blacks and Asians are still perceived as immigrants rather than Her Majestyâ€™s subjects or citizens.
White Britain still holds on to the evil permutation of self-made gentile like Norman Tebbit: would you call a dog a horse because the dog was born in a stable? Obviously, a dog would remain a dog regardless of place of birth. In other words, being born British does not make you a citizen but an immigrant born in Britain! Would Obama have made it to the White House if he had been so regarded from birth? Would non-white Americans have a future fighting chance if their citizenship is in question? Tebittism still runs in the psyche of average Englishman. Can you see the first English peculiar mess?
Greg Dyke, a scion of the true Brit, an incorrigible Establishment hand and former honcho of BBC once indicted the world famous broadcasting station of being hideously white. Dyke forgot to mention also that the corporation had gone Asian. In the BBC, blacks are invisible as newsreaders and presenters. They are unwanted as producers, reporters and editors of news. But blacks are in the backroom as cooks in the canteen, cleaners and delivery â€˜boysâ€™. Few miles from BBCâ€™s White Cityâ€™s head office is the House of Commons. If BBC is hideously white, the British parliament is obscenely more so and shamelessly racist and patriarchal. British parliament is a treacherous, white dominated enclave. Of the 600 MPs, only 15 are non white. Permit me to say that I hate the term ethnic minority. The London Metropolitan Police has been tarnished as institutionally racist. There, the higher you peep into its greasy hierarchical pole, the whiter it becomes. To buy into the spirit of tokenism and alleviate its depressing whiteness, three Asian officers are now deputy/assistant commissioners of police. In fact one of them, Tariq Gaffur, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, has just collected Â£300,000 as out of court settlement for racial discrimination. Blacks are still barred from its inner sanctuary. There are no Collin Powells in the British Army. No Condoleezza Rice in its Foreign Service. Another English peculiar mess!
For the past decade the Sunday Times has not featured a single black millionaire in its April Rich List edition. Here there is no P-Diddy, Beyonce, Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Samuel L Jackson, Jay-Zee and Stevie Wonder. There is dearth of black faces in business, politics, law, medicine, pharmacy, entertainment, film and banking. There is no quickening in British soul. It is not a place where an area boy can emerge as head of the London Underground in 20 years. But in America an area boy with gut could remake himself and head the New York Metro in 20 years. Britain is a gradualist and deeply racist society with deeply entrenched consciousness of Europeanism and hierarchy rather than assimilation and oneness. Here you are still judge by the colour of your skin for higher posts.
When America embraces unifying patriotism, Britain celebrates fragmented nationalism. Perceived as outsiders, millions of non white British people still find comfort in their countries of origin. This loyalty has been tested in cricket and football matches. For instance, British born and bred Jamaicans are naturally disposed to support their home cricket team when pitted against the British team. The same sentiment resides in British born Nigerians when the Super Eagles meets the England football team. The Norman Tebittâ€™s prognosis of immigrant natural bias here finds self fulfilment! Can you still see Englishmanâ€™s peculiar mess?
For blacks, Britain is not a place of the big dream. General Collin Powell, former US Secretary of State, once said that he was lucky that the ship that transplanted his great, great, grand parents did not drop anchor in Liverpool. His prescient was right. He must have seen the present state of black British and their backwardness and immobility. For him to have been born here, according to his reckoning, he would have become a bus driver! Unlike America, Britain is not a melting pot. Britain is still European in temper, attitude and projections. It is still being defined by its Graeco-Roman and Judeo Christian heritage and ethics. Royal Albert Hall still opens its door to mainly white audience on Saturday soiree of Vivaldi 4 seasons. Alhaji General Kollington Ayinla, Baba-no-shaking, the Alatika supremo can take his isu dudu ni isu awe o odudu kora to the seedy, dark alley of Peckham. Blacks in Britain are still wetbacks on plantation reserve eking out living as office cleaners, bus drivers, parcel couriers, site security officers, cab drivers, hospital porters, rubbish clearers, boiler technicians, night train cleaners, receptionists, janitors, akiri ja number– night traffic warders, CCTV manipulators, hairdressers, barbers, doormen and nightclub in-toilet serviette dispensers. The City where the high flying jobs are aplenty are reserved for the well heeled, well connected, well jawed spoilt brats using social network and class to full advantage. It is no secret that the English have difficulty believing that black people can be clever, intelligent, middle class and patriotic. They have given up hope of ever seeing our Shakespeare, Beethoven and Thomas Addison.
We have a different scenario in America. Of course there is worrisome human suffering and direct racism with all its pain and density in America. But at Times square and from coast to coast, you could still find a wonderful collection of black whizz kids as investment bankers, lawyers, economists, investment analysts, editors, 5 star writers, publishers and fund managers. Blacks are in the Ivy League universities as heads of departments. Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Columbia universities are dotted with black intellectuals of world renown. Oxford, Cambridge and Leeds universities are still grotesquely white. Blacks populate NASA. They are brain surgeons. Blacks head media houses. They have pages to their names in Forbes 500 and are employers of labour. They run corporations and advice US President and State Governors. Blacks head police forces across US and are also top brass in the Army, Navy and Air Force.
The peculiar mess in English soul would not allow a black man to even become London mayor. Ask Derek Laud for the inside story. There you go another peculiar English mess.
In America, there is enviable, soul satisfying solidarity among blacks. Fine, this racial bond was forged through the bloodthirsty course of their history and over 400 years of slavery, segregation and racism. What else could bind if not man-made adversity?
In Britain, blacks live fragmentally with different tribes eying the other disapprovingly and with idiotic air of imagined superiority. There is yet no glue to hold together the scattering humanity of black British. There is even an unexplained but bizarre social and cultural comparison among blacks who migrated to Britain from other parts of the world.
For instance, there is an unspoken hostility between Jamaicans and most African immigrants. To them, Africans are ugly, poor, dirty, uncivilized and badly de-socialized with thick accent. Even among Africans, there is animosity especially against Nigerians from virtually all Africans. There is a kind of self-flagellating eternal disharmony among black British. How can we have a black British Prime Minister when blacks in Britain have no rallying Negro spiritual like, â€˜We Shall Overcomeâ€™? When there is no positive refrain of â€˜Yes, We Can!â€™ Another peculiar English mess.
Who do we think we are? There is no discernible black leader or hero who calibrates the universal yearnings of Black British as an entity and as a race. There is no Louis Farakan. There is no Jesse Jackson. There is no Nelson Mandela, Che Guevera, Fidel Castro and Robert Mugabe in this island of scones and afternoon tea! Paul Boateng, our first black Cabinet Minister and a supposed leader-messiah has been sequestered to South Africa as Her Majestyâ€™s Ambassador. A way to keep his restive set-me-free spirit quiet! Other hopefuls like Trevor Phillips, David Lammy, Adam Afriyie, Lady Scotland, Baroness Amos, Dianne Abbot, Shaun Bailey and Dawn Butler have been mollified with glorified administrative posts. Even Derek Laud, the old darling of the Conservative party, the first black Master of Foxhounds put the odds of a black British Premier roughly at par with John Prescott winning the Nobel Prize for physics. Lord Taylor of Warwick, the black Conservative peer, has become conspicuous by his absence on national debates. Bill Morris, the avuncular, fire spitting former leader of the trade union and Herman Ouseley former chair of the Race Relation Commission are in retreat, no, retirement. Frank Bruno, former boxer and society big buffoon has been cut down by English peculiar mess. He has been booed into the mental home to delight other inmates with his â€˜heheheheâ€™ cracker. I cannot for all my fantasy million imagine any black man in Britain calling for a million man march in Hyde Park. That will be upsetting the Queen!
Even most of the old guerrilla combatants who made Brixton and Broadwater Farm in London and Moss Side in Manchester un-policeable are old, impoverished and wrestling with the demon of credit crunch. In this British peculiar mess of black fragmentation, would an Obama-like hero ever emerge? Although there is a suggestion that Chuka Umunna, the half-Nigerian, half-Irish Labourâ€™s parliamentary candidate for Streatham has the looks, pedigree and electoral appeal to do a counterfeit Obama across the Atlantic. With Umunna, is the English saying that black people are no longer electoral liabilities in this Isle? On Umunna, I will keep you posted. Another peculiar English messfor you!
All said, the most intractable enemy standing in the way of a future black British Prime Minister is the Asian factor. The English have gone for the Asians big time. Asians 70â€™s cultural timidity has been replaced with confidence and brashness that transcend into arrogance. Now, in the unlikely event that we want to upset the Queen by running for the post of the British premier, would Asians as a powerful block support a black candidate? Would they support a black man who they see through their despicable cultural lenses and caste system as being ignoble, lazy, useless, mugger, outcast and unworthy? To them Obama presidential victory in America is still a fiction.
And what better way to distil their collective racial feeling toward blacks than what Shazia Mirza, a female British comedian had to say on Obamaâ€™s shock election victory. â€˜I didnâ€™t believe it. Even now itâ€™s amazing thereâ€™s a black man in the White House and he didnâ€™t BREAK INâ€™. The subtext of her jocular but deeply offensive stereotype encapsulates the universal opinion Asians harbour against blacks—that we are thieves, burglars and muggers.
Believe it or not, the English have always preferred Asians to blacks. Already Britain economy has been handed over to the Patels from East Africa and the Sub Continent. That aside, when we juxtapose all the contending paradigms, pound for pound, can we ever favourably compete with Asians for the tenancy of Number 10? The statistics of our incompetence to compete will chill your bone. We have more Asians than blacks in Britain. Lord Swraj Paul, an Asian, is the richest man in Britain. Laxmi Mital, an Asian, owns the most expensive home in Britain. They parade millionaires in Sunday Times Rich List year after year. Compared to their population, they are over represented in the glittering professions like academic, medicine, law, pharmacy, banking, media, teaching, retail, health care, estate agency and IT. They have also infiltrated majority of British think tanks. You will find them in Institute of Public Policy Research, Policy Exchange, Demos, Soundings, Compass and Fabian Society. They own more mortgages than blacks. They are the richest immigrants in Britain. They are blatantly, aggressively ambitious to dominate business, culture and political life of Britain. Not to be outdone, the English palate has known no rest after it tasted curry masala, an authentic eighth wonder of the world from Southern India. The population of their rebellious youths in British jail is lesser than blacks. More English peculiar mess for you.
Are we not hemmed in? Can we emerge unscathed from the deadly landmines scattered along the prime ministerial road leading to 10 Downing Street? Looking at the above reality checks and taking into account Britainâ€™s political, social, economic and cultural barometer, the hottest ticket to the Prime Ministerial seat in todayâ€™s Britain is decidedly Asian. Barack Obama was lucky. His Luo father made the most profound decision of his life by rejecting Britain for America. By now, Obama would have been a mere London inner city duff solicitor on a nine to fiver with fading jackets, worn out shoes, hire purchase BMW and a mortgaged three-bed house as his earthly possession.
He would have been a Fabian subscriber due to his left-leaning politics. His destiny would have been submerged under the weight of British peculiar form of racism, class snobbery, glass ceilingnitis, same-race disunity, poverty and worse of all, Asian antipathy toward black progress in Britain. Someone whispered that the heir apparent, Prince Charles, does not want his mum to be upset. The Queen, a crashing snob, has no plan to welcome an awkward looking, lowlife, once-seen-as-monster black British Prime Minister enjoying tea with her in Buckingham Palace. We are classless and too full of ordinariness to ever belong to that seminal circle of souls who sup with the Queen. Indeed, despite her love for the Commonwealth, there is not a single black face in the inner circle of her Court. Not ever! Sorry, we are not Americans. A black British Premier…No please, we are English. Who will clear this chimerical mist?