White, English-speaking? Come on in. Poor, Asian? Get lost. It's time we addressed our prejudices towards migrants
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 5 February 2009
in order to help us understand the immigration debate – attempt to define instead a 12-point Hierarchy of Welcomehood, starting with those for whom Brits are most happy to roll out the carpet.
1. Americans: They're wealthy, speak perfect(ish) English, and we know all about their superior culture because we consume it 24/7. (I won't mention African Americans – who, if the experiences of Diana Ross, Snoop Dogg, or Busta Rhymes are anything to go by, might not be viewed by our immigration services in quite the same light. We've yet to discover if they'd let Barack Obama through without a strip-search.)
2. Other white English-speaking nations: you know, South Africans, Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders. They all look up to the Queen, and if you go back enough generations they're just like us Brits, really.
3. Northern European non-English speakers: they may not speak English fluently, but they're very hardworking, and very clever – they all speak about five languages – and they're as rich as us, too
4. Southern European non-English speakers: they're fun, full of passion, provide a bit of exotica lite, and they're not that much poorer than us. But with their siestas they tend to be a bit lazy; and hot-headed too.
All the above are, for the most part, welcome; and we're so comfortable with them that we rarely if ever perceive them as immigrants. After the Lindsey protests, though, category 4 is in danger of being relegated.
*5. Irish: The one exception to the western European rule. Nine centuries of anti-Irish prejudice, and their position as a colonial outpost for most of that time, has embedded itself into English culture so much that, though they're almost as wealthy as Brits, they are still not one of us.
6. Eastern Europeans: Poor, and can't speak the language. And they can't be as good as us, because they do the jobs we Brits don't want to do.
7. East Asians: From wealthy and/or powerful nations (China, Japan, Korea). Hardworking and intelligent (see the school results for those Chinese children born here). Still, though, they've got a different culture, and a totally alien language. And even the husband of our Queen doesn't like their eyes.
8. South Asians (from non-Muslim countries): Hardworking and intelligent, like east Asians, but here in greater numbers, so a bit more threatening. They keep to themselves; have their own language, culture and religion. Different food, different smells, and you wouldn't want one as a neighbour.
9. Latin Americans: Not been here very long, and not in large numbers, so haven't worked out a good reason to dislike them yet. But relatively poor, and don't speak the language, so will probably end up being a drain on the system.
10. Caribbeans: Jamaicans; yardies; muggers; black-on-black gun crime; ghettoes; need we go on? We love Bob Marley, though. And they play cricket.
11. Africans: war, famine, HIV, corruption. I mean, we gave them the chance to run their countries themselves, and look what a mess they made. Oh, and Robert Mugabe.
12. Arabs, and Asians from Muslim countries: Are you crazy? You just need to see their names to know they're terrorists. You, drop everything! Put your hands up! Don't make me pull the trigger, by breathing or something!