…Mother of The Free
A question I was recently asked and something that has, although perhaps indirectly, been on my mind for years. Is there a link between patriotism and racism?
Those who would have England solely populated by white English (Or Britain by white British) turn first to the flag as a symbol of their “vision”. It is a dilemma for some to decide whether they are English or British so for now I will assume that they (we) are both. England is my country of birth and it is a part of the Union of GB and NI. We will not, at this time, extend this to debate whether we are also European! UKIP would have a view there I assume!
I know there are many who shy away from the flag of St George because of this association. Indeed I recall reading of a Magistrate who allowed a pub to have and extension to celebrate St Patricks Day but refused the same pub a St Georges day “late one”. That pub, I believe, was in England. The reason, as far as I can surmise, must be linked to the racist card.
For many many years this type of thing has made me shy away from my country’s flag for fear of being labeled, albeit unjustifiably, as one of those. I cut my teeth in this subject in the days of The Anti Nazi League and in those days the flag was the clear “badge” of the National Front. I had friends in those days who were undoubtadly patriotic but like me shied away from the flag. Indeed the first time, at least as an adult, (and I have been one of those for some time now) I can recall wearing a Union Flag was on a London 2012 t-shirt. I thought long and hard before doing that as well. Conversely I will wear an England rugby shirt (with small flag of St George on the sleeve) without worry and with pride. The same cannot be said for a football shirt mostly, now I think about it, for the thugish links rather than racism and partly, in truth, because I am not that keen on the game any more!
Years ago I knew someone who would constantly give the Alf Garnett view of “Blacks coming here and taking our Jobs”. The best friends of that same person were his next door neighbours, an Indian family for whom, for some reason, the Garnett principle didn’t apply. I didn’t think to ask why. The Garnett attitude, albeit fictional is a classic example of the way some people link patriotism and racism and, especially at that time (up to the late 1970’s), was often mirrored in real life.
In modern times many of our most successful sports stars were born of immigrant parents, indeed a good number were actually born overseas. Despite this there is apparently racism around, in football for example. Although, like the National Front of the 70’s and 80’s, sports racism appears to be directed at black players. People seem to forget that a good number of our best cricketers and rugby players are from places like South Africa. But they are white. That’s just ignorance. Racism but not patriotism.
If Mo Farrah, as a man born in Africa, can now carry his adopted country’s flag with such pride surely I can bite the bullet and join him? He, and many like him, have have embraced patriotism so why can’t I?
Do I need to change my outlook? I get most upset when England loses a rugby international or a cricket match. However I don’t always support English/British club teams in competition against overseas teams. Clearly I have at least one patriotic bone in me but I still cannot shake the fear, and I guess that’s what it is, that wearing a flag will label me.
Having been thinking about the original question while writing and I would say that Patriotism isn’t really a form of racism. The two clearly don’t need to be mutually exclusive. It is just sometimes used by a small minority as an excuse or reason for hatred.
As for me personally: I’m not sure I can change now, it’s been too long. So I guess my newly purchased flag will have to be returned…
…that or therapy.