Sunday, May 20, 2007

Deeply disturbing use of word "indigenous" by Margaret Hodge

I am not entirely sure why Margaret Hodge is making controversial remarks about housing and immigration. She is Secretary of State for the Department of Trade and Industry, not a Home Office minister. Of course, she is an MP for a constituency where this is a big issue, but even so, it seems strange that she is making such a statement.

The remarks attributed to her on Radio Two included the word "indigenous". Indeed, her article includes this passage:

We should look at policies where the legitimate sense of entitlement felt by the indigenous family overrides the legitimate need demonstrated by the new migrants.

I am deeply disturbed that a mainstream politician is using the word "indigenous" in such a debate. It is part of a code used by the BNP. It basically means "white" to those who are racist. But there are those of many races, which are not generally white, whose families have been in this country for decades or even centuries.

21 comments:

  1. Agreed, Paul. Surely even Labour can find a better way than this to keep their voters from turning to the BNP?

    I started writing a post on this yesterday too, but got inadvertently sidelined by the housing problem generally.

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  2. The left have always been as ready as the right to sink into racism. Hayek's Road To Serfdom made this point, and was denounced by labour MPs as being written by a foreigner.

    Unions of course oppose immigration because it threatens their power.

    Xenophobia is a trait which taints left and right, only the liberals tend away from it almost all of the time.

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  3. Good point - thanks Tristan

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  4. "there are those of many races, which are not generally white, whose families have been in this country for decades or even centuries."

    There are those indeed - only not very many of them. They're indigenous too. What's the problem ?

    Is that word reserved for First Nations Americans or Aboriginal Aussies ?

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  5. Hodge uses indigenous to mean people of all races whose personal roots are here.

    The BNP use indigenous to refer to the indigenous peoples of Britain - the English, Scots, and Welsh. It's not a 'code' for White - it's a perfectly straightforward and correct use of the word 'indigenous', utilised no doubt, to point out the hypocrisy of those who recognise native rights for Africans, Amerinds and Asians while ignoring said niceties for Euros.

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  6. It's not obvious why the phrase have been in this country for decades or even centuries is any less racist than indigenous. Surely they mean the same thing (apart from your reading between the lines as it were).

    There are two models of welfare entitlement. The first is the contribution model, which held sway in the 1940s and 50s. That assumed that a person acquires right to say unemployment benefit, housing or health care because of and in proportion to their (or their parents) contributions to the community funds used to provide that service.

    The second model is a rights based model which assumes that people have a right to services because of need. In this model a person coming from say Nigeria to London can claim free hospital treatment precisely because they need it. Contribution doesn't come into it. A person migrating to this country acquires a right to council housing because he/she is de facto homeless which places their needs higher than say a white couple living with mum. No one has jumped the queue, the queue is based upon need.

    Margaret Hodge, in using the term "indigenous", is basing her argument on the first model. You, in using the phrase "in this country for decades..." do the same. Your phrase implies that you accept the argument that time served equals entitlement. Clearly both phrases suggest that people who have lived here longer have greater entitlement; in both cases that tends to be white people.

    Instead of trying to second guess what people really mean, why don't you drop the racist argument entirely?

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  7. The problem, Laban, is that Hodge doesn't make that clear and is therefore pandering to racists.

    Salty, you say "Hodge uses indigenous to mean people of all races whose personal roots are here." so could you kindly point me to the text in the article where this is made clear. I have read through it twice and cannot see such a clarification.

    THe definition of indigenous in dictionary.com is "originating in and characteristic of a particular region or country; native (often fol. by to): the plants indigenous to Canada; the indigenous peoples of southern Africa."

    Salty, you actually use two definitions for "indigenous" in your comment, which clearly illustrates my point. The word is open to misinterpretation and Hodge did not make clear what she was referring to, thereby pandering to racists.

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  8. Frank, I haven't called anyone a racist. I have said that Hodge's use of the word "indigenous" is disturbing because she does not, despite what you say, clarify in the article what she means by that. She is therefore, intentionally or unintentionally pandering to racism.

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  9. I'm not defending Margaret Hodge. I'm saying that you and she are using the same argument.

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  10. You have failed to address my point that your argument and Margaret Hodges start from the same model. let me therefore address yours concerning the supposed varied meaning of "Indigenous".

    Even the BNP acknowledge that the "white races" of the UK originate from earlier waves of migrates. ie the Celts, Saxon, Jutes, Vikings, Normans, and Huguenots. They do not distinguish between them for the purposes of entitlement. These people they call indigenous. They class later waves of immigrants who came in the 1950s till today as non-indigenous and they include Poles and other east Europeans. Clearly their cut off for entitlement is measured in hundreds of years. Yours, based upon your phraseology, seems to be based upon decades. Your complaint boils down to Margaret Hodge not defining her cut-off to be the same as yours, not that there is a cut-off at all.

    If you insist upon a model of entitlement based upon length of time in the country, then you will inevitably favour white people over black.

    I conclude therefore that you differ from the BNP, not in principle, but in degree.

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  11. I actually wrote "there are those of many races, which are not generally white, whose families have been in this country for decades or even centuries." The fact that I used the phrase "there are those of many races which are not generally white" is crucial and answers your points. I stand by everything I have written - I never called Hodge racist and I don't do that now.

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  12. "Your complaint boils down to Margaret Hodge not defining her cut-off to be the same as yours, not that there is a cut-off at all."

    No, my complaint boils down to the fact that Margaret Hodge used the term "indigenous" which is likely to be interpreted as defining the cut-off based on race.

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  13. The fact that I used the phrase "there are those of many races which are not generally white" is crucial

    This is a bizarre argument: you seem to be saying that the principle requirement to distance yourself from racists is to merely assert "Oh I don't mean just white people" or "by the way indigeous includes black people". This is words not deeds. You do not demand Hodge's policy changes, just that she present it better. In other words feelgood posturing.

    Any policy that priviledges people who have been in this country for some time over people with greater needs that have just arrived, is inevitably going to benefit white people more than black. A policy that produces an unequal outcome is indefensible and if those unequal outcomes are over racial lines then the policy can be called racist. You cannot get out of the argument by saying "But the policy treats black people who came in twenty years the same as a white person who came in twenty years ago" or even that a "black Zimbabwean arriving today gets rejected just like a white Zimbabwean arriving today". Such arguments disguise the fact that non-whites are more likely to have greater need and be more numerous and therefore more likely to suffer by such a policy. Policies based upon contribution are therefore racist.

    So here's a "puzzler" for you. We take it for granted that the NHS is currently rationed (ie not unlimited). Two indigenous people come for treatment. "A"'s need is judged greater than "B" and they win the place for treatment. "A" gets killed in a road accident before treatment but a third patient "C" with identical illness and prognosis is found except that they have just arrived from Africa. Who gets the treatment - "B" or "C"?

    Statistically "B" is more likely to be white and "C" black, but either might be wrong.

    If you favour "B" you tend to penalise black people.

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  14. "This is words not deeds. You do not demand Hodge's policy changes, just that she present it better." - Frank

    Please see my other posting on the matter. I agree with the director of Shelter and Michael White's summary. Immigration is not the issue. The issue is the supply of housing which has been woefully managed by Labour.

    "The fact is that the Labour council's points system does give preference to people with local links; that the real local problem is the cumulative shortage of new social housing to replace that lost to the Tory rent-to-buy policy which Labour has not rectified since 1997." - Michael White

    "Any policy that priviledges people who have been in this country for some time over people with greater needs that have just arrived, is inevitably going to benefit white people more than black." - Frank

    No. According to the National Statistics office, 7.9% of the population UK citizens are from a minority ethnic group. In places like London this is much higher.

    The BBC reported in 2003:

    "Two areas of Britain have more black people and Asians than white people for the first time ever, newly-released results of the 2001 census for England and Wales have revealed.
    White people made up 39.4% of the population in Newham, east London, and 45.3% in Brent, north west London, according to the latest figures of the £200m survey. "

    Any fair system will reflect the ethnic make-up of the local population.

    The NHS queuing system is supposed to be managed on medical needs (although I have heard about a "postcode lottery" dependent on where you live and therefore which NHS Trust you come under). If you have evidence to the contrary I would be interested to read it.

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  15. Paul, you quote me: Hodge uses indigenous to mean people of all races whose personal roots are here - and ask, "so could you kindly point me to the text in the article where this is made clear. I have read through it twice and cannot see such a clarification".

    Hodge's article was clearly about making a distinction between citizens and 'new migrants', most of whom, she says, are economic migrants. Everybody who read it knew this - including you. Your decision to base your moral-status-display/complaint on her questionable use of 'indigenous' has comically backfired because Frank came along with an even more holier-than-thou attitude.

    Frank doesn't think citizens should have more rights than non-citizens, especially if the racial make-up of a country does not perfectly match the racial make-up of the demand to immigrate and use its social-services by foreigners – at which moment such a policy automatically becomes 'racist' in Frank's eyes. All you can offer in response is: "Any fair system will reflect the ethnic make-up of the local population" – precisely what Frank calls 'racist'!

    For Frank, locals and citizens can have *no rights at all* until the demand for said rights by aliens is measured and then they have only the same rights as would-be-citizens of the same racial background. Frank is an anti-racist who thinks race is more important than anything else!

    I agree with you in principle Paul - a principle identified correctly by Frank – but I say also that it would have been fair to the pre-Windrush Brits if the govt then had limited the right to immigrate to Britain, and to use our social services, to people who were a broad racial and ethnic match for the native population – incidentally, exactly what the population itself desired.

    So I'm a lot more 'racist' than you Paul, in that I really do believe in the justness of equality of rights for indigenous peoples happening to be white as for black, brown, or yellow peoples. So I think, like the UN, that we should 'welcome' - even today - the native British peoples mobilising in their ethnic interests and seeking self-determination as distinct peoples.

    Treating whites as deserving of equal respect in all matters is the ultimate test of 'racism' Paul. Your limited egalitarianism seems 'racist' to Frank, but unless you go the whole hog and really treat white peoples as equal to non-whites, you'll always be an anti-racist-racist to me.

    www.pcpd.org.nz/ddrip/ddrip.pdf
    http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_cescr.htm

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  16. So, Nick, you are also "Salty" are you?

    As Michael White in the Guardian observed:

    "In her (Hodge's) case only the coded word "indigenous" was deemed offensive, just as David Blunkett was chided for repeating Mrs Thatcher's 1978 use of "swamped" in regard to schools and doctors' surgeries. The British Sociological Association has a list of racially sensitive words which is constantly evolving."

    The BSA describes the use of the word "indigenous" in the British context as "not a helpful term as it would be difficult to identify the indigenous British..."

    So it is not just me who observed this.

    "Any fair system will reflect the ethnic make-up of the local population" That isn't racist. In parts of the country that will result in a very non-white mix, quite rightly. Frank seemed to think this would never happen.

    The problem with your argument is that the only really indigenous peoples in Britain are descendents of the Beaker folk. I don't think there are many left. The phrase should certainly not apply to Anglo-Saxons, who are very recent arrivals here, compared to the time the Aborignes have been in Australia, for example, which is an example of the use of the word "indegnous" in its truer sense according to the dictionary and the British Sociological Association.

    I believe that all peoples of this country should be treated equally regardless of their colour.

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  17. 'Indigenous' is not a difficult term to understand. The English people are indigenous to Britain - Sikhs, Somalis and Spaniards are clearly not - but we can all point to the place on the map where they are indigenes. Your time-scale threshold is merely an evasion.

    These two statements are mutually contradictory:

    "Any fair system will reflect the ethnic make-up of the local population" That isn't racist. In parts of the country that will result in a very non-white mix, quite rightly.

    and

    I believe that all peoples of this country should be treated equally regardless of their colour.

    And you do not respond to my point that if any 'fair system will reflect the ethnic make-up of the local population' an injustice was done to the pre-Windrush Brits that ought to be repaired.

    (I have settled on saltynick :) )

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  18. What is perhaps most interesting about Hodge's article is that it comes close to acknowledging that the majority, indigenous peoples of Britain have legitimate collective interests that politicians ought to consider.

    It has become normal - even compulsory - to solicit opinion and support from organised minority ethnic lobbyists, while attacking as 'racist' or 'facist' (sic) any sense of ethnic solidarity among white people as whites, or among the English as an ethnie. This, the only truly institutional racism in British public life must be ended.

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  19. I have to say, I'm not fully convinced that Hodge's use of 'indigenous' was as reprehensible as you claim.

    As I noted in today's post connected to this story, she was undoubtedly fishing for words in a mine-infested sea – had she used ‘native’ she would have been both correct and crucified. Immigration is now inseparable from race, and the debate suffers from the same tortuous linguistic manoeuvring that spawned the mocking expression “politically correct.”

    She had to use some word to sum up the non-immigrant population, and I suspect that no matter what word she used, it would have been swiftly added to the British Sociological Association’s list of contraband words.

    Her suggestion that housing should be allocated on the basis of length of residency rather than need may not be palatable or even justified, but it is an expression of the concerns of (at least some of) her constituents. It should be contested on its (lack of) merits, rather than dismissed as pandering to xenophobia.

    In fact, the problem is the allocation of housing on political rather than economic criteria. The government should help people find – and perhaps help them pay for – private housing, rather than build its own houses and parcel them out like a munificent benefactor.

    Such a reform would make it less obvious who the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ were in such a system, and would enable government to quickly respond to changing need (which they cannot do with limited social housing stock).

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  20. Tom, thank you for your comment here and I have read your excellent article on the Frank Field interview and I will comment on that.

    "for using the word ‘indigenous’ to distinguish between recent immigrants and people born in the UK"

    The problem is that "indigenous" doesn't mean "people born in the UK" under any definition - the dictionary one or the BNP one. You ask what term she could have used. Couldn't she just have said "people born in the UK". "Indigenous" is a well-known BNP word for "white", they and their supporters use it all the time.

    I actually agree with your solution s of LVT and housing benefit as part of the answer.

    It is interesting that in Jon Cruddas in Hodge's neighbouring, constituency he has led an approach based on getting more government money for housing based on improved use of statistics, rather than racialising the problem, and they beat back the BNP in contrast to what happened in Hodge's Barking.

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  21. A very late return, Paul - but some new data emerged a week or two back.

    You write : "there are those of many races, which are not generally white, whose families have been in this country for decades or even centuries."

    We can get an idea of the numbers of those 'not generally white' from the recently released 1954 Cabinet Archives.

    "David Maxwell-Fyfe, the home secretary, reported that the total of "coloured people" in Britain had risen from 7,000 before the second world war to 40,000 at the time of writing, with 3,666 of those unemployed, and 1,870 on national assistance, or benefits."

    Kind of puts the 'nation of immigrants' spin into a realistic perspective.

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