In yet another article comprising equal parts codswallop and delusion, the Daily Mail has marked out several ‘no-go areas’ in Britain, where white people apparently cannot venture without risking their safety. The Daily Mail puts this down to the Muslim populations in these areas, and the enforcement of strict ‘rules’ that make white people unwelcome.
Of course, this is not all down to the Daily Mail. The article’s authors draw on a book by Ed Husain which alleges very much the same thing, and lists all the areas in Britain which are supposedly heavily swayed by Sharia law and therefore inhospitable to non-Muslims.
Who we blame here isn’t really the question, though. The article has been published, with all its wild assertions intact. And it’s now up to us to unpick it.
There are going to be plenty of people who take the Mail’s article at face value. There are also (and this is a tricky thing to acknowledge) going to be some white people who agree with the article’s claims based on their personal feelings and experiences. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there are areas where white people are unwelcome, but that white people may have experiences of feeling ‘unwelcome’ in certain locations. There is a crucial difference.
Many people from ethnic minority backgrounds, myself included, will be quick to point out that there are places in which being a non-white person makes you stick out like a sore thumb. Many of us will also be able to think of times where we have been in places which have actively been hostile towards our presence. As a 12 year old and the only non-white student at a dance studio in my local town, I was greeted by the dad of another girl as he walked out of the room with a pro-BNP chant. I was alone and without my parents, and I can remember feeling terrified and at the same time wanting to melt into the floor. None of the other parents would meet my eye. I’d say that was a pretty hostile space.
The question of whether there are spaces that are hostile towards white people does rely on a proportion of white people feeling and believing that such spaces exist. I tend to be of the opinion that the sort of open hostility I experienced as a twelve year old is not something that greets white people, certainly not in the same way that it does individuals from a non-white background. However, I’m not sure that the extent of any hostilities – real or perceived – is actually the important question here.
Because the Daily Mail’s article isn’t just about white people feeling unwelcome. It’s about them being ‘replaced’ – a neat and semi-whitewashed version of the undoubtedly racist great replacement theory.
This theory posits that the white population in European nations is being ‘replaced’ by non-white people – and that there is a wider conspiracy in place working to make this happen. While the Mail’s article steers clear of mentioning even demographic change, and does not at all reference such a conspiracy, the kind of hysteria conjured up in the article is of a similar strain to that excited by the theory.
Most significantly, the reason for the angst caused by the theory is the idea of white exclusion – the idea that the ‘replacement’ of white people is ultimately going to lead to the marginalisation of the white people who remain. This is never an overtly stated part of the theory, but it is inherent in its originator’s ideas. The term ‘great replacement’ was coined in 2012 by French writer Renaud Camus, and he used it to describe what he saw as a process of ‘reverse colonisation’ that he claimed was threatening ‘white’ culture.
The idea of ‘reverse colonisation’ tells us everything we need to know. The only reason that the idea of the ‘great replacement’ – and of the distinct but connected idea of ‘no-go areas’ for white people – holds so much sway is because of the fear it engenders. And this fear only exists because deep down people across society have a far greater appreciation of the horrors of Britain’s colonial past than they would often like to admit.
Because it is only by acknowledging that British colonial rule was abhorrent that the fear of reverse colonisation is legitimised. A kind of double-think occurs here; many of those who are (falsely) terrified by the idea of ‘no-go areas’ for whites are the same people who would implore us to honour Britain’s colonial past. But the notion of colonisation has been used time and again to target people who fear becoming a marginalised racial minority. Memorably, UKIP once issued a flier using an image of a Native American chief and alleging that he now ‘lives on a reservation’ because he ‘ignored immigration’. As strong as the fear of being replaced is the fear of being maltreated, much as British settlers abused the indigenous communities in their former colonies.
But of course, no western nation is currently being colonised. The fears people have of becoming a marginalised minority are stoked and nurtured by outlets such as the Daily Mail. And in turn, people are whipped into a frenzy that stops them from seeing the situation rationally. Instead of a diverse community, they see a loss of ‘white’ culture; instead of acceptance and integration, they see ‘replacement’.
The Daily Mail’s appeal to hysteria has naturally raised some eyebrows, and invited some ridicule, but it is not an appeal that can be scoffed out of existence. It plays on deep seated prejudices to give rise to fear. And this fear is not something that can abate on its own – we are going to have to face it and talk about it head-on.