By Kehinde Andrews
‘The European Common Market is for Europeans; it excludes everyone else. In that case you don’t call it racism; all the numerous blocks and groups and syndicates and cliques that the Western nations have formed are never referred to as racist.’ Malcolm X, 1964.
In the run up to Thursday referendum we’ve seen a lot of debates at about whether the UK should stay in or out. I’ve been struck by a feeling of resentment to the EU from Black communities, with there being a strong feeling that it does not work for us. We should not be surprised, the EU is an exclusive club for the benefit of Europeans, a White, Christian project at root.
British migration policy has always been racist, but the free movement of labour from Europe at the same time as a regressive squeeze on immigration from the Commonwealth is like rubbing salt in an open wound.
The damaging effects of EU signed trade deals on developing countries underscores the problems with Europe. James Cleverly, Tory MP has tapped into this sentiment to argue that “I cannot understand how anyone who is African, or of African heritage, or who cares about Africa and her people, or cares about anyone trapped in poverty in the developing world, can, with a clear conscience, allow this situation to persist.”
Realities like that make it plain that the EU is a racist project; a collection of European states who act in their interests to enrich the continent. At its core the EU is a continuation of the same colonial relations that have defined the West. This truth makes a mockery of the idea that Turkey, with its 75 million non-White Muslims will ever be fully included.
As problematic as the EU is, however, the alternative being offered by the Leave campaign is far worse. Britain has always been at the forefront of racist projects, from slavery, to colonialism and even now in the EU. It is a complete fantasy to expect that upon leaving the EU, the nation will suddenly awaken to its moral purpose. The Leave campaign is anchored on anti-immigrant sentiment and a yearning for the days when Britain was ‘great’, when she was not a nation, but an Empire. Leaving the EU may well mean that Britain will strengthen ties to the Commonwealth, but have we forgotten already what these ties are based on?
Commonwealth migrants are not going to suddenly be embraced with open arms in the event of Brexit. The driving force behind the Leave campaign is to reduce immigration. When Britain has become toxic for White migrants, you would have to be out of your mind to believe that Black migrants will be welcomed. We were only invited in large numbers in the first place because of a labour shortage caused by the Second World War, and they have been trying to close that door ever since.
It is certainly true that EU signed trade deals and polices are devastating the developing world, but Britain will never to sign any trade deals with poor countries that do not exploit them. The nation was one of the key architects of colonial economic policies that the first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, said had ‘an Alice in Wonderland craziness about them’. Britain is built off and sustained by impoverishing the developing world. The last thing any African or Caribbean country needs is more direct involvement with the country.
We need to wake up. If you plan to go to the polls and vote leave because you think that it will make life better for Black people, then you need to stay at home on Thursday. No decision that Britain has ever made voluntarily has been to improve the lives of Black people. The question for us always what it is the least worst option on the table.
The vision being offered by Gove, Trump Boris and Farage is to re-dress Britain in the clothes of Empire. There is a place for us in this picture, but it is the role of the subject in colonial times. The consequences of Brexit will be to unleash a further lurch to the Right, which will only damage our communities in Britain. Any negative economic consequences of Brexit will be felt first and hardest in Black communities, as they always are. Getting into bed with Gove, Trump Boris and Farage won’t lead to waking up in the morning after the drunken night before feeling a bit of shame and regret. Falling into bed with those three is the kind of mistake that ends up with you locked in the basement of a serial killer. The EU is not going to solve any of our problems, but Brexit will certainly make the ones we already have a whole lot worse.
The solutions to our problems are to build the necessary unity, collectives and institutions so that we can shape our own destinies. Unfortunately, we are a long way from that day and therefore we have no choice but to engage with the realities of our situation. That sometimes leads to uncomfortable and contradictory decisions. The EU is racist, but we must vote to stay in it. Brexit, and all that comes with it, will make our lives and work in Britain harder. Don’t get into bed Gove, Trump Boris and Farage.
Harambee OBU endorsed Remain in the 2016 EU Membership Referendum.