Monday, 22 June 2020

Are Asians 'third-class citizens' in the UK?

A very good friend of mine, Jeevana Fernando, wrote this on his wall: //'You know more than me, being in a country where most of the Asians are living as third class citizens.'// he was addressing one of his friends who lives in UK.

I fully agree that Sri Lanka's tourism board is trying to do whatever it can to revitalise post Covid-19 tourism for the island. Their proposal of providing PCR tests on arrival and then after 7 days, for a price, is the correct approach. Tourists can freely visit their desired locations in the country. Very commendable. However, while replying to his friend, Jeevana mentioned that Asians are living in the UK as third class citizens.  I wonder if he is correct, and if most of my South Asian friends would agree to his opinion?
Personally, I think the United Kingdom is one of the most tolerant countries in Europe. Having said that, I have been visiting Germany for the past 25 years and, apart from only one occasion flying with Lufthansa, I have never felt any racism from Germans either. On that flight, one eager flight attendant repeatedly asked my German wife whether she wanted to move her seat. She perhaps thought that a white, blond and blue-eyed woman should not sit next to me. That was the last time we used Lufthansa and it was in 1997.

We cannot deny that institutional racism and other problems exist in the UK. For that matter, part of the Black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani population are known to be more discriminated against when being considered for job opportunities. But these discriminatory practices are more widespread in the rest of Europe than in the UK. Even in Sri Lanka, there have been so many discriminatory practices against other ethnic communities; I have even heard of discriminatory practices against ones cast.
I was once called 'Paki' near where I live, when I was walking with my daughters down Hertford road. This was from some white or Eastern European teenagers who lived in the council blocks nearby. I take it that they were perhaps more disadvantaged than me, and jealousy kicked in. That happens. 

I do not want to take away any of the spotlight from the Black Lives Matter movement, as black people are the most disadvantaged in UK and Europe. However, that does not mean they are living in abject poverty. Here in London, you can see plenty of black ladies and gents driving 4x4s and expensive BMWs or land rovers, whilst living in tower blocks. Most of them have decent jobs; there are  teachers, doctors, judges, singers, famous footballers, etc. Having said that, we should acknowledge that there is a lot of indirect racism aimed at them, as F1 champion Lewis Hamilton mentioned the other day.

As far as I know, there are only two classes in UK. One is the class that owns the biggest businesses, land and capital. The other class works for them. All of the aristocracy (Lords and Ladies to you, my friend) belong to one class, and rest of us are in the shit class, whether you are South Asian or not.

Mr Jeevana Fernando should come and pay a visit to white working-class areas in the UK. They are living in council houses, and their job opportunities are not great. That's why, even though some of them were Labour supporters, they have voted to leave the EU. Then again, the UK has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe at around 4.5%.

To be honest, does Jeevana think Sri Lanka hasn't got any class divisions? Sri Lankans can't even buy a decent car without dishing out around £10-15,000 GBP for an old banger, while we can buy a decent Mercedes Benz or BMW for half the price. In Sri Lanka, only politicians, aristocratic government bureaucrats, engineers, doctors, and provisional councillors are allowed to import cars at reduced prices. Then they resell them at exorbitant prices to second-class John Does. What an injustice. In the UK, no one prohibits us South Asians from buying decent houses, cars and holidays. Sorry Jeevana, I cannot agree with you.

I'd like to hear the opinions of my fellow South Asians, as well as my white English friends on this subject. Some of my white English friends supported Sri Lanka when the 2004 Tsunami struck the island. Generally, we have faced problems at the workplace from immature white folk, who engage in subtle racism, such as accusing us of 'stealing' work placements or, alternatively, blocking us from higher positions or demanding twice as much effort and education to prove we are qualified. But the majority of them do not behave like that. This resentful minority exists in most countries, including Sri Lanka.

Cartoon by Avantha Atigala 

P.S. - I do not have any problems with the SLTB proposal to bring back the tourist to the country and also the excellent response to Covid 19 pandemic by the GOSL and the health authorities of Sri Lanka.

Jeevana's original post:
//'First of all I have to say that I am ashamed of myself being a classmate of you Collins Delwita. Sri Lanka is struggling to restart Tourism of the destination in a manner which do not affect the health and safety of general public of the country. You know more than me, being in a country where most of the Asians are living as third class citizens, have 14 days of mandatory quarantine for people who arrive from overseas, where Sri Lanka do not imposed for Tourists . Still you are complaining about the restrictions on tourist to use public transport, if do so the ability of identification of Covid 19 Clusters get loose which tends to be the start of a second wave. With your Social Media posts, you are trying deteriorate the image of the Tourism Industry of Sri Lanka even among the prospective tourists within your circle. Please do not mortgage your self dignity for a political party and betray your Mother Land.'//

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