Race in Britain II

Mauritius Tmes 60 Years

The Briton believes instinctively in freedom and has no hatred in his heart or mind for the coloured person

By Peter Ibbotson

Some sections of the British press have been trying to create the impression that a mass invasion of Britain by coloured people is taking place. Nothing could be further from the truth. In April this year, the total population of Britain was over 50 million; the estimated coloured population was a mere 190,000.

Far from the coloured immigrants all being from the West Indies or Africa, there are large annual immigrations from India and Pakistan. Recently, West Indian immigration has fallen, whereas from India and Pakistan it has risen considerably. However, the governments of both lands have taken measures designed to restrict emigration from their countries to Britain.

It is important to realise why coloured people come to Britain. True, there is the psychological link between the countries of the Commonwealth; Britain is the “mother country” even to those who have never seen it. But the West Indies have traditionally been an area from which workers have emigrated in search of jobs. West Indians helped to build the Panama Canal. West Indians before the war went in thousands to the USA, and in lesser numbers to Venezuela, to the oilfields. But these openings have now been stopped up, so they have turned to Britain. Says the November 1958 issue of African and Colonial World (a monthly devoted to consideration of colonial and Indian affairs, and obtainable from Nalanda): “The basic reason for West Indians and other Commonwealth citizens coming to this country is because of the economic conditions in their own territories. There is widespread unemployment and underemployment throughout the West Indies, India and Pakistan — something like 15 per cent of the workers of Jamaica have no jobs to go to.” (That is a rate of unemployment comparable with that in Mauritius.)

Even so, only 130,000 people entered the UK as immigrants in 1956 — the Iatest available figure. And that total includes people from every place. In the same year, however, as many as 150,000 people left the UK permanently. Thus, UK emigrants exceeded UK immigrants by some 20,000 — in other words, the people who left their jobs and homes in the UK outnumbered those who entered the UK to take up jobs and enter homes! In 1957, more Britishers left the UK for Africa (Rhodesia, Nyasaland and the Union) than Africans entered Britain. More people emigrate from Canada each year than from the whole of Africa. And over 60,000 immigrants from Ireland enter the UK each year — twice as many as from the colonies and protectorates

Earlier I quoted African and Colonial World on the topic of why colonials come to Britain. The London Daily Mirror, on the same topic, had this to say on September 3: “Jamaica is the big money island where jobs are few and pay is poor. The £30,000,000 bauxite industry employs fewer than 5,000 people. The luxury tourist business, earning £10,000,000 a year, has jobs for only 5,700. One out of every five Jamaican workers is permanently out of a job. And there is big seasonal unemployment among those who do have a job. Pay is as low as this — an unskilled hand in the cigar business earns £2 11s for a 53-hour week. A van driver gets £4 15s. A Grade One railway foreman gets 5£ 10s. Unemployment pay does not exist. The Jamaicans come here for work.” The Mauritian equivalents of these three rates of pay quoted would be Rs 34.35 for the cigar worker; Rs 62.35 for the van driver; and Rs 72.35 for the foreman.)

Treating the Jamaicans as typical of the West Indians in the UK, the Daily Mirror asked six questions. Are they wasters? Are they criminals? Are they heathens? Are they stealing our women? Are they stealing our homes? Are they stealing our jobs? To all, the answers were “No”. In three years, Jamaicans sent home over £10,000,000 worth of postal orders to their dependants and relatives in Jamaica. The Institute of Race Relations in its recent pamphlet Colour in Britain referred to the West Indians’ frugal and thrifty habits. No Jamaican may leave the island without police clearance; those with criminal records cannot leave. Half the Jamaicans now coming to Britain are bringing their wives, and many who came alone in the past have now been able to pay the fares for their families to join them. Three out of five Jamaicans are members of a church or church group. Many live in houses which white people would not live in. Many have, by practising thrift, bought their own houses or have undertaken in renovations in rented accommodation. And lastly, many have gone into jobs where there was a shortage of labour — so that they weren’t taking a white worker’s job from him.

A dispassionate analysis of why coloured people come to Britain, and of the numbers involved in the annual immigration of the coloureds into Britain, makes one realise that the anti-coloured feelings have no logical, tangible basis. (It is not only workers who come to the UK for employment — professional people cannot live in their own territories so they too come to Britain. In Forest Hill we have a West Indian dentist who has been over here some years and has a large practice; but he couldn’t make a living in Jamaica, similarly there are several Mauritian dentists practising in Britain. They too could not make a living in their own country — the people cannot afford dental treatment, and the colony cannot afford a health service and provide free dental care for those needing it.)

Why therefore did the Notting Hill riots at the end of September suddenly flare up, in a country which had a long tradition of race tolerance?

To begin with, Notting Hill is an area of London with a long tradition of a shifting population. It adjoins Paddington, a centre for coloured immigrants where all the available accommodation had been taken, so that Notting Hill was an overspill area. There the coloured people formed the hard core of virtually the only substantial permanent population in Notting Hill. As the coloured people came to the area, non-Britishers bought up large old houses and let them off to coloured people at very high rents without any restrictions on overcrowding. Some of this accommodation had a bad reputation; some of the houses thus bought up and let had previously been used as brothels. In any case, much of the area where these houses were situated was an area where (i) organised prostitution had flourished; and (ii) there was a criminal community.

Employment was no difficulty. Most coloured people in the area were respectable workers; there was a very small minority which, however, earned a bad name for the whole community — a flashy, wide boy, near-criminal minority which included a number of actual criminals, including a few men living on the immoral earnings of organised prostitutes. But until July 1958 there was no violence offered against the coloured people; and when it began, it was a teddy-boy gang which started the trouble. In July 1958 some 15 teddy-boys imagined that they had been insulted by the coloured owner of a café. They attacked and damaged the café and got away untraced. Two weeks later they returned and used sticks to break up furniture and crockery; this time 6 were arrested and later fined £ 40 (over Rs. 525) each. After this incident, the local teddy-boys decided that coloured people generally were a proper target for attack: and they moved into Nothing Hill after an abortive attack (involving window-breaking) on a coloured man’s house in Shepherd’s Bush.

On the night of August 23-24, “a coloured man was attacked at a public house in Notting Hill by some white men, who struck him with dustbin lids and broken milk bottles. They escaped without trace. At one o’clock that morning milk bottles were thrown at the windows of two houses occupied by coloured people in Bramley Road… Between three and five the same morning, in various parts of N. Hill, six West Indians were attacked and badly injured by teddy-boys welding iron bars. Nine youths were arrested… It was they who were later sentenced to terms of imprisonment of four years each. They were stated in court to have admitted that they were ‘nigger-hunting’, by which they meant looking for coloured men ‘to beat them up’.” (Quotation from the pamphlet Colour in Britain, by James Wickenden, published by the Institute of Race Relations.)

The following week, more rioting occurred, and it went on spasmodically for nearly a fortnight. The coloured minority was criticised in sections of the press for defending itself against the attacks of the hooligans and teddy-boys; the whole Notting Hill affair was seized upon by irresponsible political parties and groups as an excuse to demand the exclusion of coloured people, or immigration quotas, or deportation of the coloured people. But the Government refused to limit immigration from the colonies; it announced its refusal after the Labour Party had firmly rejected any suggestion of restrictions on immigrations when it (after the next general election) becomes the next British government.

It is clear from the evidence available that the Notting Hill riots were due to hooligans, they sprang from the original attack on the cafe in July. People were attracted to Notting Hill by newspaper reports of the riots; but it is also clear that many of the newspaper reports were sensationalised and inaccurate. A handful of people were involved in the attacks on the coloured people; but the great majority of Britishers were sympathetic towards the immigrants who had been subjected to attacks. And it was felt that the jail sentences of four years passed on the nine youths, who unprovokedly attacked and wounded the six West Indians with iron bars, were well merited. It is clear too that that there is in Britain no substantial body of people actuated by racial discrimination against their fellow-men. A few hysterical Fascists may go about painting “Keep Britain White” slogans on walls; but they are not typical of the average Britisher. There is in Britain no organised racial prejudice as there is in Mauritius or in the French colonies in Africa. The Briton believes instinctively in freedom and has no hatred in his heart or mind for the coloured person.

5th Year – No 224
Friday 21st November, 1958

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