By Laura Pidcock
As an anti-racism education worker with Show Racism the Red Card I frequently facilitate workshops with people who are frustrated, angry, misinformed and are passive recipients of information; a potentially dangerous and potent combination. Many of these people are drawn to the EDL’s arguments; some have taken part in their demonstrations.
As a society we must force ourselves to understand what would push somebody to be involved in a movement like the EDL, to attend their meetings, to take to the streets and to believe that there is a need for such a group. Our consideration of such a social phenomenon must not be based on ‘othering’ or judgements of the individuals taking part but with what our societal structures, institutions and processes have done to facilitate such a situation. Whilst this may be a controversial statement, be patient with this argument.
Each of us has a ‘world view’; our world view is made up of our most deeply ingrained beliefs; beliefs that are most resistant to questioning or amendment. These beliefs become embedded and influence how we interpret our daily experiences and interactions. This process is usually subconscious and we tend to reject information that conflicts with our world view almost automatically.
If our world view has been constructed by The Daily Mail, The Sun, Facebook, passport patrol, border force, if we have never been taught to question, if we have no confidence in politics and our education has been vacant of political content, if we are told that our unemployment is a direct consequence of increased immigration and that Muslim people are the only ones with the potential to be extreme or commit horrendous acts of terror, then it becomes more understandable that the EDL would be attractive. They offer a brotherhood or sisterhood, something to feel valued for and something to be involved in, irrespective of their massively flawed arguments, alcohol fuelled meetings and racist ideologies.
To protest or not to protest?
In demonstrating against the EDL we are setting out clearly that our towns and cities will not be overtaken or passively met by extreme groups. Protesting sends out a signal to all minority communities that there is solidarity against racism; it is ensuring those in the EDL know that they are not speaking on behalf of their communities but only on behalf of themselves. For these reasons I think it is right that people are willing to protest and use their energy to communicate these important messages to the EDL and other such groups.
Protesting can however have unintended consequences, supporters of the EDL know that there are people out there who do not like them; they feel alienated, many feel marginalised (two push factors which probably contributed to their involvement in the EDL in the first place) and therefore whilst taking part in the counter demonstrations we must continue to see these people as human. Vey often, when tensions are running high, when extremely unpalatable things are being shouted about minority communities in our country, it can be easy to dehumanise and employ the same, grand sweeping generalisations, which ultimately legitimises their supposed cause. Shouting “Nazi, scum”, “Scum bags”, “kick the Nazi’s off our streets” provokes conflict and lessens the value and the power of the original reason for protesting. Namely that we have no tolerance towards violence, aggression and racism in our town’s and cities. The way to really get these people off our streets is to educate them against being such passive recipients of information, to relieve them of the burden of prejudice, to support them in rejecting the emotive but simplistic arguments of Tommy Robison (leader of the EDL) and to open their eyes to a new reality which is critical, and informed, which allows them to use their energy for good and ultimately makes them feel part of a system rather than oppressed by one.
Good luck to all protesting in the 12th of October in Liverpool!
Laura Pidcock is an Education Worker for Show Racism the Red Card. You can follow her @LauraPidcock237