Much of the Western world has been plunged into a global debate about race and police brutality in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, in Minneapolis. That conversation will benefit from the perspectives of many different people who share a common goal of building a better future for our shared communities. So, let me share my truth – my truth as a migrant who bet his life on building a better future in the Isle of Man. My decision to migrate to the Isle of Man has been vindicated by the wonderfully warm welcome that I have overwhelmingly received.
Of course, racism is still an on-going challenge. If we are going to combat racism, we should be honest and truthful about where we have come from, where we are now, and where we are going. We can then figure out how best to move forward.
Racism has left a dark mark on the history of humanity. In pre-historic times, wars were fought on the basis of (literal) tribalism, with such brutality that it is difficult to comprehend. Similarly, the middle ages saw nation states fight wars based on religion and ethnicity with lesser intensity and lesser brutality than in ancient times – but still in a manner which would be fundamentally repulsive to modern minds.
Throughout the world, racism was undoubtedly worse in the past. People were lynched for being black in the US, and the stain of mass murder in racial conflict remains a stain on the history of Australia. Even people of the Isle of Man had connections to the slave trade. Many evils were perpretated on the world in the name of white supremacy and wrong-headed ideas of racial rankings. This applied to the native inhabitants of the new world in obvious and horrific ways. It also applied to later migrants – the slaves of the US, and the union-driven racism to keep Asian labourers out of Australia through the White Australia policy in the early 20th century. Fortunately, the Holt Liberal Government ended the White Australia policy in 1966.
My Josem ancestors were literally murdered in some of the most horrific forms of racism that the planet has seen in recent centuries. Indeed, today, my cousin leads one of the world’s leading museums to the horrors of genocidal racism. Such museums play a key role in helping young people learn the horrors of the past, so that we are not forced to repeat them.
These days, the USA and Australia has migration policies that do not have any substantial racial discrimination component*. The UK (and therefore the Isle of Man) is, belatedly, introducing a new, racially-neutral, immigration policy with the end of its preference for European citizens (who are, of course, predominantly white). The UK is beginning to join other progressive nations of the world in judging people not on the colour of their skin, but on the content of their character and their capability to contribute to the country.
While credible measurement of Manx attitudes to racism and immigration is hard to come by, the fact that up to 1,500 people (or 1.7% of the entire Manx resident population!) may have taken part in an anti-racism demonstration suggests widespread attitudes against racism. There are, of course, people who say stupid things (especially on social media) which is racist and intolerant, but it is impossible to imagine a similar turnout of people protesting in favour of racism. This is good, and a reflection of the broadly tolerant and welcome attitudes of the people of Mann today.
Looking at the attitudes of the people of the United Kingdom (of course, the Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom, but given the cultural connections, there’s likely to be some relationship) we can see that the people of the United Kingdom are amongst the most favourable towards immigration:
In addition to comparing attitudes to other, peer communities, some records of racist attitudes exist. One such quantitative study conducted in 2008 found a reduction in racist attitudes when asked about working with ethnic minorities:
Of course, there is no suggestion that racism today has been eradicated. There is more to be done – but the solutions are already deeply embedded in our nations with their Anglo-cultural heritage and our Judeo-Christian cultural foundations.
The United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, Australia and the USA inhereited a solution to the legacy of racism – the same principle that was first introduced by Judaism 6,000 years ago, and carried on by Christianity in our modern Judeo-Christian culture: the principle that every human is made in the image of God, and that every human is deserving of equal dignity and has equal value. Our cultural ancestors came up with that idea, and spread that idea throughout the world, and we should be proud of that. The first place in the world for that to become an enduring part of the law was in the United Kingdom with the Magna Carta. That heritage was then enshrined in subsequent Bills of Rights, and the constitutions of both Australia and the USA.
The great anti racism campaigners of the USA – from Abraham Lincoln to Frederick Douglass to Martin Luther King all recognised that the foundational documents of the USA were aspirational documents. They each recognised that the idea that all men are created equal is a goal to strive for.
Lincoln’s Gettysburg address makes exactly this point: that all men are created equal, but Lincoln also recognised that there is a great task remaining before us. “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal… It is for us the living,… to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us… that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”
Similarly, Frederick Douglass, who himself was a freed slave, recognised that the solution to racism and the solution to slavery and the solution to oppression of every form is to treat people with equal dignity, equal worth – “Right is of no sex, Truth is of no color, God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren,” he said. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech spoke explicitly about recognising that there was unfinished business in race relations – that the American constitution was a promissory note that he was there in Washington to cash that cheque.
Of course, yes, there is unfinished business today – in Australia, in America, in the UK and even the Isle of Man. Our nations are not perfect – but we should also be proud of the great strides that we have made relative to the past, and relative to other nations. Let us keep working on that unfinished business by being better people in our daily lives, and to continue aspiring to a better future where all humans are treated with equal dignity.
*The last racially discriminatory part of the American migration program is the diversity visa lottery, which President Trump and others have been trying to abolish. It is a very small part of the American migration program which has a lottery on a per-country basis – the green card lottery. Since it is administered on a per-country basis, applicants from small countries with low demand to migrate to USA (eg, Luxembourg or New Zealand) have an easier chance of winning a lottery slot, while applicants from big countries with high demand to migrate to the USA (eg, India or China) have a much harder chance of winning a lottery slot. It was introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy, the brother of John F Kennedy, to give benefits to people from Ireland.