25 May 2011

Racism is Unacceptable - when directed at a Minister

I am reposting a blog which appears on isthisjersey.com. It is written by someone else, but I feel it merits reproduction here:
Chief Minister, Terry Le Sueur, rightly denounced the racist abuse targetted towards
Planning and Environment Minister, Freddy Cohen -
but where is the Discrimination Law that had been promised?

Racism is nothing new in society. What matters is the relationship between racist sentiment and the state.

When Mikhail Gorbachev heard that the Ukraine, a Soviet Republic was separating from the union to form an independent state, his skepticism was expressed with his remark that they would probably return to their old ways, best summed up under the slogan, “Death to the Jews and the Poles”.

To listen to the Chief Minister give a sanctimonious speech about racism in the States today, showed, once again, the gall of the Jersey political elite. One of his ministers, Senator Freddy Cohen, had received racist communications, including a death threat. Interestingly, BBC Radio Jersey journalist, in her report of the day in the States, could not bring herself to call the beast by it true name. Anti-Semitism is not in the vocabulary of our Liberal minded radio station.

When one of the Ministers is subject to anti-semitic abuse, the Chief Minister makes a statement, yet for years the racism experienced by Poles, Romanians and Portuguese, never gets a mention. Not that government is going to do anything about it – like introduce laws against discrimination or racist activity.

Racism is frequently encountered at all social levels in the island. It is of course something that those with right-wing opinion hold close, and not surprisingly it is very prevalent. It is the Poles and especially the Portuguese, who somehow rank lower in the racist hierarchy, that are singled out because they form significant minorities. In the nineteenth century it was the French immigrant workers that were the subject of racist abuse. The “Mafeking Riots” of 1900, led to violence in French Lane (Hilgrove Street), necessitating the use of troops from the garrison to maintain order, as a patriotic mob attacked persons and property.

Twice a year our rulers pay lip service to memory of the victims of militarism and fascism in the form of Holocaust Day and the Liberation Day remembrance for forced workers at Mount Bingham. Many wreaths are laid by Ministers and dignitaries but none speak about the need for legislation to protect human rights and protect citizens against discrimination based on race or colour.


  1. TOM GRUCHY says

    If you want to see prejudice in practice and racism in the making just go along to a Planning meeting - such as the current review of the Revised Draft Island Plan - and hear and witness what goes on.

    People don't give a damn about 10,000 working residents of Jersey without housing rights but they moan like hell if the view from their own window is "spoilt" by some remote housing or other development.

    Line in the sand? What is it really all about?
    Who will have the guts to champion the rights of the 10,000 in this year's election or challenge the absurd "save the green fields" Island Plan?

  2. Tom Gruchy on his site refers to the States Member who refuses to do any work during States holidays.
    Who is this Member Monty ? You must know surely, is it you? The public is entitled to know.

  3. I grew up in a school culture in which the Portuguese were not only looked down on as second class, they were routinely called "porkos", which is a very racist term of abuse. Whenever I've heard it, often said without much thought, I've always thought that here is a prejudice that was not tackled back then or now - which politician has brought that to attention? Where is the special report in the accredited media about that?

    I think this was fed to a degree by the inability of many Portuguese people to understand English, and St Thomas Welcome Centre has been instrumental in providing English classes; that certainly helps integration and mitigates against racism. Also, I think the more cosmopolitan aspects of Jersey, such as the celebrations of different peoples - the Portuguese food fair, in this respect, has also helped break down barriers.

    But what will undoubtably fuel racism at the moment is the high level of youth unemployment. When people come into the Island from elsewhere, and take up jobs that local youth could easily do, that is going to cause unrest. It is the kind of matter than fuels a French politician like Le Pen, and I am only thankful that Jersey has as, yet, not thrown up such a politician here, because speaking to people, I note an increasing resentment against the outsider.

  4. Thank you for your comments. I will respond to the Tom de Gruchy-related post regarding States Members leave, as this throws up various different and interesting matters. Regarding your comments, Tony, I think you are quite right, and I would like to pursue answers on Governmental policy directly with the Chief Minister.

  5. mr tadier and tonytheprof
    what you both seem to forget is the racism that allso comes from the portuguese the english the polish towards the jersey people all racism is bad but please it dose not all come from jersey people as tonytheprof seems to think. and yes there is increasing resentment in this island but i think more towards the states. martin

  6. I was moderately pleased to hear Thought for the Day this morning - the RC dean was quite clear about how pervasive the racism against Portuguese continues to be (albeit he linked the issue with the perceived sense of "Christians are cranks", which isn't the same problem)

  7. Isn't Senator Cohen Caucasian and thus is of the same race as the majority of Europeans? So how can this be racism if we are all, generally speaking, the same.

    Are we saying that a Mongoloid or Negroid person made the insult?

    The Beano is not the Rag

  8. Anon, you make an interesting point about the nature and definition of 'Race'. In one hearing, I challenged the Home Affairs Minister about the definition of race, when it came to the Discrimination Law that we are no longer going to have. I asked him if he agreed with the consensus of current scientific (anthropological and philosophical) thinking that race does not actually exist, that it was, rather, a convenient construct for biologist of a certain era to categorize humans (often crudely) for whatever purpose.

    The liberal philosopher A. C Grayling of University College London has written much on the subject of race, making similar comments to the above.

    In this particular case the point is moot. Traditionally, one refers to the Jewish 'race', but of course, like many communities and nations, they are made up of many differing ethnicities. If I can hark back to my Sunday School days, I recall the Jewish (and Muslim) people were originated from nomads (Abram) and later on, many different nationalities were 'admitted' into the fold.

    It might be more accurate to say that Senator Cohen was a victim of Religious persecution; but this is clearly a grey area - creed and identity being so closely linked that even secular Jews may still think that the religious traditions are important from an 'identity' point of view.

    Of course, I would offer to say that it is only when we dispense with the out-moded labels of race and religion that we will ever eradicate racism and religious persecution at all

  9. "Anon, you make an interesting point about the nature and definition of 'Race'. In one hearing, I challenged the Home Affairs Minister about the definition of race, when it came to the Discrimination Law that we are no longer going to have."

    NICE ONE MONTY, thinking on your feet :)

  10. We don't have to sit back and wait for this hopeless government to introduce anti-racism laws. We can force the matter.

    Jersey is supposed to introduce "race hate" laws under CERD (The UN Convention against Racial Discrimination) and has promised the UN that it will do so. There are obligations too under UN CCPR and CESCR. This government and the UN needs challenging...

    An awake Deputy could raise this matter in the States and with the UN - if only we knew of such a Deputy.

    Furthermore, back in the dark days when Gary Matthews was a Deputy the AG at the time wrote that it was not necessary to enact anti-racist laws at all in Jersey but could rely upon certain UK enanctments! How about that - prosecute people for being racist in Jersey even before the law has been enacted locally! From memory, it was on the basis that this amounted to a kind of common law and was a universal standard that had to be complied with.

    If only we had a Deputy like Gary today who could pursue this matter afresh with our current AG. In fact, if only lots of things...

    TOM GRUCHY says

  11. The Jersey housing system is racist and should be abolished. But no politician has stood up and called for this. Why?