Note: Hat-tip to The Electronic Intifada for some of the factual material included here
The British government’s blatant attempts to exploit the murder in France of the Charlie Hebdo staff and the other killings associated with it are both sinister in their implications, staggeringly hypocritical, and virulently racist in their own right. While Theresa May talks about the need to ‘wipe out anti-semitism’, David Cameron condemns the liberal Pope Francis as being too soft on Muslims who are outraged by pornographic depictions of Mohammad in Charlie Hebdo, and issues his own Downing Street encyclical on the ‘right to be offensive’ to Muslims (but not to Jews, obviously).
This reflects official practice: Muslim-baiting in this country has state-sanction, but not just bigotry against people of Jewish origin per se (which is reprehensible, but very marginal today), but also meaningful criticism of Jewish/Israeli racism against Arabs and Muslim people, or expressing appropriate, even though non-violent, anger against Israel and those who support it’s crimes against Arabs, is to be stigmatised and persecuted.
Down with all racial hierarchies!
There is a major contradiction at the heart of modern capitalist ideology today when it comes to questions involving the social construct of ‘race’. One pole of the contradiction is that advanced capitalist governments in the West are increasingly insistent that racism is a thing of the past, that unlike their predecessors, they are opposed in principle to racism, and that racism is against the essence of liberal capitalist meritocratic ideology. This strain of bourgeois ideology depends on an abstract model of a market economy where someone’s money, no matter their colour or origin, is as good as anyone else’s, and anyone can enjoy the rewards of the ‘hard work’ which supposedly enables capitalist ‘success’.
But while this ideology is propagated, massive racial inequalities persist, hierarchies remain and are unyielding for nearly all ethnic minority populations. It is still true that particularly non-white minorities in all the advanced capitalist countries all suffer from disproportionate rates of unemployment, low-pay when employed, precarious employment, lack of access to quality education, disproportionate levels of ill-health and greater difficulty accessing quality health care. Such minorities are also disproportionately subjected to police and state violence, to deaths in custody and at the hands of the police in general.
In the United States, where America’s first black President is in his second term, the recent protests against the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Missouri, have once again underlined that for American blacks, despite Obama and all his works, racial oppression very much remains and continues unabated. The Missouri case is one of so many over so many years and decades; it is telling that even now such things can explode into significant struggles. If society had really changed for the better in some fundamental sense, as the ideologues of capitalism claim, then there is no way that such major conflicts could erupt between large sections of a traditionally oppressed minority and the forces of the state.