Internalised colonial subservience creates Tory politicians like Suella Braverman
Much like the recurring spot on my chin that keeps rearing its ugly head, Suella Braverman refuses to go away. And just when you think she couldn’t outdo her fascist-adjacent views, she goes ahead and does just that.
This is, of course, part of a deliberate strategy to garner support from right-leaning voters. The more incendiary the speech, the greater the impact. Never has Britain seen a home secretary quite so brazenly anti-migration – and considering Braverman came on the heels of Priti Patel, that’s saying something.
Some people might find it surprising that despite Braverman’s Asian ethnicity and immigrant background, she speaks against immigration with such vim and vigour. But I would argue that the immigrant background of politicians such as Braverman and Patel, as well as Kemi Badenoch, Kwasi Kwarteng and Sajid Javid, is the very reason they feel the need to go above and beyond.
''Last week, Braverman claimed: “Multiculturalism makes no demands of the incomer to integrate”. And yet she is a product of the same multiculturalism which caused her to integrate so well that she’s now being compared to Enoch Powell of ‘Rivers of Blood’ fame. Irony is dead and six feet under.''
We often hear that children of immigrants or minorities must work twice as hard. So it follows that, in overcoming the barriers of their background and their appearance, politicians like Braverman and Patel must out-racist the racists.
There is, of course, a process to this. First, distance yourself from your parents’ culture and community. Second, find a rich white spouse. Somewhere along the way, enter politics and get ahead by scapegoating the underdog.
Last week, Braverman claimed: “Multiculturalism makes no demands of the incomer to integrate”. And yet she is a product of the same multiculturalism which caused her to integrate so well that she’s now being compared to Enoch Powell of ‘Rivers of Blood’ fame. Irony is dead and six feet under.
In reality, the fact that Braverman is where she is today, espousing the very politics she holds, is proof in itself that multiculturalism hasn’t actually failed. For proponents of multiculturalism, who drew on it as a utopic solution to the accommodation of diverse communities, the whole point was assimilation. For these proponents, a multicultural society, despite what the name might suggest, was quintessentially British. This meant that while there may have been room for diverse immigrant communities to co-exist, there was no space for them to thrive.
Immigrants and/or black people could only succeed under the model of multiculturalism that Braverman is now attacking. A model which has demanded whole-hearted assimilation into the British way of life. A model implemented by policing dissent and systematically squashing radical anti-racist, anti-facist and anti-imperial movements. The ‘British Values’ pushed by diversity and inclusion schemes are little more than a stick with which to beat immigrant communities.
I’ve been trying to think of historical comparisons to the phenomenon we see in the likes of Patel and Braverman today. Colonisers created a hierarchy by placing Asian subjects above black ones, and some Asians foolishly internalised this as a way to seek validation and protection. Maybe this internalisation has transcended generations, through values if not DNA.
Because how else would someone explain the willingness – nay, the sheer gusto – in Braverman’s viciously anti-migrant stance? It is a thorough internalisation of the idea that in order to succeed, it’s essential to be on the side of those with power. Not just appear to be, mind you, but to actually, completely be on their side – even though you are essentially an outsider.
In their subservience to the colonial masters, some people may liken politicians like Braverman to Uncle Tom, the protagonist in the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This isn’t entirely accurate, however, because Uncle Tom’s subservience was mostly motivated by a need to survive and a desire to protect his people.
Whereas Braverman, Patel, Javid et al are motivated entirely by the desire to further their own interests. A better analogy than Uncle Tom are the anti-feminist women described as ‘pick-mes’, who will happily argue against the interests of women in order to gain favour with men. Although with political pick-mes, the stakes are a lot higher. And as long as they have no scruples, the potential pay-off is huge: wealth, fame, and untold power.
In her keynote speech at the 2023 Tory party conference, Braverman claimed that previous UK governments failed to deal with immigration because of being “far too squeamish about being smeared as racist”. We live in an age where people on the right love to complain about ‘political correctness gone mad’ and how white men can barely say anything against anyone without being cancelled.
And so, saying all the things white men supposedly couldn’t get away with, along comes Suella Braverman like a weak-chinned knight in shining armour. It doesn’t matter that the dehumanising language she uses against migrants has precedent in history - and with horrific consequences. All that matters is that turning powerless groups of people into enemies is a sure-fire way to win the populist vote.
It’s also no secret that Braverman’s far-right posturing is part of a desperate bid for the possible position of party leader. The naked ambition of politicians from immigrant backgrounds, laid bare like Braverman’s woefully inadequate skincare routine, is therefore probably the best explanation for their utter disregard for oppressed, marginalised, and powerless groups of people.
Afroze Fatima Zaidi is a writer, editor and journalist. She has a background in academia and writing for online platforms.
Follow her on Twitter: @afrozefz
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