Sunday, 11 December 2011

The racist attack on Rhea Page

Nearly everyone in Britain, by now, will be aware of the actions of Emma West - her racist rant having earned My Tram Experience over 12 million hits on YouTube. Less people will be aware of Rhea Page, beaten unconscious by drunken Somali women who were screaming "kill the white slag."

The reason that the two have received different levels of coverage, at least according to the far-right, is because of an ingrained bias against white people in "politically correct" society. The BNP have now championed West's cause, saying that although "the language used by Emma was not the most eloquent," she was only "sp[eaking] out about the multicultural mess created by our masters." After all, "she was alone with her small child surrounded by people that were not her own and she was frightened."

I don't buy this as a justification for a minute. The people around her, regardless of the colour of their skin, were just going about their everyday lives and did nothing to warrant being subject to a torrent of racist abuse. And let's not beat around the bush - if you're pushed into a "fight or flight" choice on the sole basis that you're near to people whose skin colour is different to your own, that is racism.

That said, she didn't deserve to be arrested for what she said. Had she physically attacked or harassed someone that would be a different matter. But a racist rant is, however unpleasant for those on the receiving end, just words. The response to such actions - as many did - is to argue or shout back, to tell her to shut up, but not to lock her in a cell. Especially since, as I've noted before, such views as hers are becoming more widespread not because the far-right is getting more popular but because the working class is under attack and the mainstream media are diverting our attention to an "other" in the form of immigrants and non-whites as a scapegoat for it.

This adds weight to the message of the fascists, who claim that "we are slaves to the multicultural nightmare that is unfolding before our eyes." Far from stamping out racism, it vindicates a sense of victimhood that the far-right feed off.

Then you have what happened to Rhea Page. Let's make no bones about this - it was a racist attack. Those four women set upon her because of the colour of her skin and beat her so viciously that her boyfriend was powerless to stop them. Yet the judge accepted the mitigation that they "weren't used to alcohol" and gave them six month suspended sentences. I'm sorry, but in what way does not being used to alcohol mitigate beating someone unconscious? Yet they walked away with six month suspended sentences.

The two mitigating factors offered by the defence* were that the four "weren't used to alcohol" and that there was "unreasonable force from the victim's partner." However, as the defence themselves said in the case of the latter, "it doesn't justify their behaviour." Nor does not being used to alcohol mitigate beating someone unconscious.

I don't buy that Britain is somehow in thrall to political correctness. You don't have to look far to find the media reporting similarly lenient treatment of violent white people - for example, see here and here. Not that this makes it right, not at all, but it certainly challenges the notion that this is the result of a "politically correct" judge.

There are also a number of reasons that Emma West's rant became a YouTube sensation overnight whilst the attack on Rhea Page didn't. The first one being that we're talking about the internet - where 24 million people watched a fat kid playing at Star Wars - and more people are inclined to watch stuff which will make them laugh or shock them than something utterly horrific. It's easy to watch some woman rant and spew bile whilst gasping in shock, but not so easy to watch someone receive a violent kicking. Even in movies, people will watch the cheesy action movie than the gritty portrayal of life on the streets.

Again, this is not to say that there isn't an element of selective outrage. Again, it's easier for middle class liberals to look down their nose at the racist commoner than it is to seriously address the issues in our society. But whilst this may represent a certain section of the media and of the soft left, it does not follow that the government is in thrall to anti-white racism or anything like that. As I've said the ruling class merely benefit from any "us and them" mentality not aimed at them.

That is why those of us whose anti-fascism is rooted in class politics cannot afford to lose perspective here. The most obvious point of which being that whilst Emma West's vitriolic rant may be shocking, it was not a crime. What happened to Rhea Page was - a vicious and unprovoked racist assault.

Preventing individual acts of racist violence is not something an anti-fascist organisation can practically do. Such incidences can be reduced by changing attitudes and challenging racism where possible, but we are not police forces. Anti-fascism is about confronting organised fascist and racist organisations - which includes groups like Muslims Against Crusades as well as the BNP, the EDL and their various splinter organisations.

But when incidents like this arise, we should be able to show the clarity that the liberal and soft left don't. That is, we condemn all acts of racist violence - no matter who the perpetrators are.

*I've been pointed to this Factcheck article which asserts that "the role of the victim's boyfriend was the one which impacted on the judgement," rather than the point about alcohol which the media have focused on. I've amended the post accordingly, though it doesn't alter the overall point.