How do we fight the anti-immigration propaganda?
August 5, 2009 7:06 AM   Subscribe

I'm sick and tired of all the downright racist, anti-immigration rhetoric being bandied about in the UK and I want to do something about it. What can I do?

It seems I can't go a day without hearing, reading or seeing something about how immigrants are overrunning the UK. The government milks us for money and gives us next to zero rights, the natives do nothing but complain, and, quite frankly, it's getting on my nerves.

I AM one of these so-called immigrants and I'm TIRED of it. I would like to organize something that really punches the message that the economy relies on us home. I was thinking that a national day-of-protest similar to the one organized in California some years ago would be ideal. I think a day with smelly toilets, no service, no cleaning, no taxis, etc would probably make a lot of people take stock of the situation. However, I don't know how to begin organizing such a thing to make it successful or where to look.

Also, how much trouble this can get me into?

I'm open to ideas.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Realise that there are tens of millions of 'natives' in the UK that are in favour of immigration and the benefits it brings. Any action you need to take needs to incorporate them into your movement, rather setting it up as an "us" vs "them" scenario, which will just encourage more polar thinking and a hardening of positions.
posted by modernnomad at 7:11 AM on August 5, 2009 [5 favorites]

I know shockingly little about modern UK politics, so I can really only speak about what's worked in the US. Over here, what's made the biggest difference (not that immigration issues and racism are by any means over and done with) is greater civic engagement by immigrants, mostly in small-scale grassroots campaigns.

The California May Day walkouts were incredibly impressive in Southern California, but I'm not sure how they would have worked elsewhere in the US. The largest big-umbrella ethnicity in Los Angeles is Hispanic of some sort (Wikipedia puts the Hispanic population of LA at 48.5%, compared to 29.3% non-Hispanic whites). Basically, numbers were on the protesters' side, even if only a fraction of the population participated. It meant entire schools in the Los Angeles area were shut down because students walked out in support of their parents. The infrastructure of Southern California literally cannot function without its immigrant and first-generation population.

I'm not sure that's the case in the UK, where the overwhelming majority of residents are white. A strike could actually be counterproductive. It's probably a better bet to get involved in an immigrant advocacy group, support immigrants and first-generation candidates for local government, or run for some sort of office yourself. The most reliable, if slowest, way to deal with racist talking heads is to prove them wrong.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:31 AM on August 5, 2009

If you do organise something, gissa heads-up on it. I feel you for exact reasons and am in.

A fun(ny) one would be if all the immgrants walked out of working in the balti restaurants in Birmingham for a day... but eastern Europeans walking off the farms in Scotland, Australians walking out of the pubs in London, would have similar effects. Being white does not mean you are necessarily treated any better here, especially if you have an identifiable accent.
posted by Cuppatea at 8:13 AM on August 5, 2009

Help the immigrants that you support. Be a friend to them. Advocate for them. Help them to advocate for themselves. Get close to their community groups and offer assistance to help them when they meet resistance from other sections of the community (and help to challenge, in appropriate ways, those who don't wish to integrate and so provide grist to the mills of anti-immigrant campaigners).

The more that you help them to contribute, the more obvious their contribution is across your community, or society as a whole, and the less possible it is for anti-immigrant types to make a case.

I don't think you'd get far with your protest idea. Where I live the vast majority of immigrants work in the service sector, especially tourism and leisure, both of which are getting hammered by the lack of spending power right now. The last thing their employers need are walk-outs, and both in terms of public perception, and their employment prospects, such action could probably do more harm than good.
posted by dowcrag at 8:31 AM on August 5, 2009

*waves from Italy*

Hullo, I'll be watching this thread with keen interest, as I'm pretty tired of straniero/a being bandied about as an epithet.

That's actually become a personal windmill of mine, since I usually get the "oh but you're American, so you're ok" line. I point out that I am still a straniera, and there is no "American Get Out of Jail Free" card when it comes to laws regarding immigrants. Depending on the person/situation, the discussion usually snowballs from there.

I like to illude myself that I've made a few people stop & think about casually tossing around stereotypes and crap laws the current government has pushed through.

That's doing something on a micro-scale, and I'm sure something you might be engaging in as well. It's a starting point, and good for getting some insight as to "the other side's" thought processes.
posted by romakimmy at 8:36 AM on August 5, 2009

Guerilla marketing? What if you printed up anonymous flyers with messages on them that say witty, sarcastic things about ppl who are anti-immigration and posted them around (or something like that)? I don't know if that's against the law, but it might level up the rhetoric, get people talking, etc. Small stickers to stick to the bus stop or leave a non-sticky paper rectangle with a pithy slogan on a seat on the subway.
posted by anniecat at 8:41 AM on August 5, 2009

I'm an englishman a week away from marrying a french woman, so I'm possibly a little biased on this front - but not everyone is a racist/anti-immigration in this country, and some of us welcome the culteral and economic benefits that immigration brings. I'll certainly admit though that there are a number of people who don't, and that there's a certain section of the press, such as the Daily Fail, that stokes their fears regularly to boost their circulation.

Part of it is fear; when you're leaving on the ragged edge financially, and you're afraid that your job or your social housing or your benefits will be 'taken away' and given to someone that hasn't lived here very long, and is prepared to work for less than you, they feel afraid and angry, regardless of how realistic that fear actually is - and that fear translates to anti-immigration rhetoric.

With regards protest, I'm honestly not sure how much difference it'd make; 2 million people marched through london over the iraq war, with many more in other cities on the same day. It made not the slightest bit of difference to Government policy. The fuel strikes were similarly ineffective in the long run. Labour has shown very little regard for what people actually want.

In the end of the day, a protest is just a bunch of people turning up and deciding to work together, so what you need most is a method for people to work together, communicate, and organise. You'll also need to publish what you're up to, get the word out, and start making concrete plans for action. Be prepared to start small, and work upwards - you'll find it hard to get the press to cover you at first, if at all. At the very least, you're going to need community organisers, mobile phones and a website and email mailing list. I'd contact the Stop the War coalition to see if they had any advice or tips for you, as they are best organisation I can think of that got ordinary people motivated to protest in large numbers. Liberty, the civil-rights organisation would also be good people to talk to as they've plenty of experience in fighting civil injustices, as would Amnesty International, who regularly lock horns with the government over immigration policy.

Ironically enough, I'd also talk to the MP in your area; many of them are decent sorts (really!), and do take an interest in their constituents, and may well be able to help you set up a lobby group. You don't say whether you're an EU immigrant or not which matters as EU immigrants have far greater rights on access to british institutions. Some MPs, such as George Galloway, are notably pro-immigration.

Definitely don't make the mistake of making it us vs them though; at the last census, 8.3% of the population was born overseas, so you'll want to work with the pro-immigration natives to at least some extent.
posted by ArkhanJG at 8:47 AM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

With regards the downside of such action, bear in mind you will draw police attention and infiltration if you grow to any size; as the heathrow protestors discovered, protestor is equivalent to terrorist these days in official eyes. Also bear in mind the recent comments by Alan Johnson (home Secretary), where he says that immigrants with a history of protesting will be denied British citizenship, as part of this new points system they're bringing in. So if you're thinking of settling here permanently, it may well have negative repercussions for you personally to get involved with protesting - which is completely insane, but alas that's the current Government I'm afraid. Whether the tories will be any greater friend to immigrants is unknown, but based on past history and their 'managed migration' rhetoric, I'm guessing no.
posted by ArkhanJG at 8:54 AM on August 5, 2009

I suppose, given all the great advice that has been mentioned here, that you should also realize that a certain percentage of the population anywhere is idiotic.

That's just my $.02.
posted by kldickson at 10:01 AM on August 5, 2009

I have had these frustrating conversations with the Daily Mail/Express members of my family moaning about how immigrants are the root of all ills.
What they fail to notice is that since I'm a Brit married to a Canadian, living in the US, they have live immigrants in the family....gasp!

Immigrant unfortunately seems to be used a lot as a code word for Muslim in the UK, akin to the use of Obama's full name as code for Muslim in the US. Don't get me started on their response to the news that there might be a mosque built in my hometown, grrr.

Go for it, I'll be supporting you from Texas.
posted by arcticseal at 11:34 AM on August 5, 2009

If you are looking for a more radical (as in getting to the root) suggestion, you might be interested in finding or starting a local group of Antifa.
posted by nestor_makhno at 11:44 AM on August 5, 2009

Talk to people if they make comments to you, change their minds.

I am English but Im second generation, I am white, lower middleclass, university educated and work for the government. I LOVE when someone mentions immigrants this or eastern europeans that just quietly mentioning that I am eastern european and that you shouldnt just assume that just because a Roumanian did a bad job tiling their bathroom that all immigrants and their families are lazy and stupid and should 'go home'.

I have to have alot of this kind of chat at my work.
posted by Neonshock at 2:33 AM on August 6, 2009

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