Are we more racist than we’d like to admit

euI read with interest over the weekend stories in ‘good’ newspapers regarding the EU immigration laws. These reputable rags were getting slightly sensationalist about the ‘massive influx’ of Roma people, and the pressure they would put on benefits, public services, jobs etc. A closer look at some basic stats makes me question this whole thesis. Net migration is around 170k – that’s 0.3% – our population grows faster through reproduction than immigration. So the whole notion that immigration puts an unbearable strain on ‘the system’ seems like economic nonsense to me. Added to this is the fact that the overwhelming majority of immigrants get jobs, pay taxes, and contribute to a growing economy (the pie can grow!) and I start to wonder what really drives these media stories. Could it be, if we took a long hard look in the mirror, we would find that actually we’re all a little suspicious of the ‘other’ or ‘outsider’. We all naturally gravitate toward ‘people like us’ and struggle with those we perceive to be different. That’s true of class, so why not ethnicity. Ever since the Tower of Babel it seems that tribalism is one of the ways we seek security. It was only 40 years ago that Enoch Powell delivered his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, which bought thousands onto the streets in vitriolic protest against immigrants. Has the human heart changed in that time? I think not. I think we all have to examine ourselves and be honest enough to admit that this is not a problem in our past – it’s a problem in our hearts. We’ve just become adept at masking it. Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that there isn’t a healthy and robust debate to be had on economics and border control. I’m just saying we ought to have a hermeneutic of self-suspicion on the issue lest our ‘righteousness’ is a mask for sin.

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