However, I thought instead that I’d ask the question ‘who is Bradford?’ After all the UAF and fellow travellers have laid claim to being Bradford and I’m not really so sure that they are – in any meaningful sense – ‘Bradford’. Indeed, away from the City Centre (albeit just a hop, skip and a jump away) a separate ‘peace’ event was help on Infirmary Fields in Manningham.
So who is Bradford? Is it the collection of people – artists, performers, local politicians and assorted (mostly middle-class public sector) people who laid claim to the title? Or is it people across the city who just did what they always do on a Saturday – go to the supermarket, watch the television, maybe take the kids to play cricket, rugby or football? I really don’t know but I guess that the sentiment expressed by “we are Bradford” is best understood through the negative juxtaposition with the EDL – what Bradford isn’t is racist.
Yet – setting aside the very public display of bigotry we saw yesterday – anyone with his ears open would recognise the casual racism is very much part of Bradford. Whether it’s the old man I know who regularly refers to black footballers as “coons” or the young Kashmiri cricketers I hear speaking in racist and disparaging terms about Bengalis. Or the good Asian friend who uses the term ‘jewed’ to describe his loss in a property deal. None of these people would have been anywhere near yesterday’s demonstrations but they are very much part of Bradford.
For what it’s worth, I don’t believe those laying claim to ‘being Bradford’ are any more representative of the City than were the brayingly repulsive EDL thugs. And I do not find UAF to be an especially appealing group with its focus on direct action, confrontation and “the streets”. Plus a divisive ‘if you’re not with us you’re against us’ attitude to those of us who refuse to get involved with organisations run by an extremist, ultra-left, anti-democratic political movement.
So who is Bradford then – assuming we really want an answer to what is a pretty daft question? It’s all of these people – black, white, old young, male female, gay, straight, fascists, the loony left and the grumpy old man party. And some of Bradford is racist – not in a ‘beat you up’ kind of way but in a pre-judging, misunderstanding and ignorant way. We cannot wish away this fact through willy-wagging celebrations of ‘multiculturalism’ – especially when so many of the City’s residents live comfortably within their monocultural bubble. And these people don’t wish to be shoe-horned into some form of faux cultural sharing.
Racism is stupid. But its existence isn’t removed by punishment nor can we just wish it away in some form of middle class multicultural group hug. Nor should it be used as a vehicle for promoting extremist politics – whether of the nasty right or the unpleasant left. The solution – if there is one – lies in shared experience not in laws, punishments and the seeking out of new sins.