Thursday, July 30, 2009

Racism in Jersey in 2009

I suppose what I find shocking about racism in Jersey in 2009 is the way it issues forth from the mouths of people whom I know well - or believed that I did - people with whom I associate, work, do business, socialise; that it comes from older people who are naturally shell-shocked with the changes that have come upon their island in the past few decades I can understand, but to hear racist attitudes spouting from 16 year-olds, who have recently been granted the right to vote? It makes me wonder what our expensive education system is doing to inculcate tolerance, fairness, and, au fond, intelligence in our young people. It makes me wonder what we have learnt from the lessons of the holocaust when people can rise up to protest against the renaming of a shabby backwater of a street, a street with few residential addresses and only a handful of businesses, and seize upon all manner of excuses to defend their xenophobia.

But we’re not racist, they protest. Why we know Portuguese people ‘and they’re quite nice, really’ - this is verbatim, from last night’s Parish Assembly; ‘though I wish they wouldn’t talk to each other in their own language when they’re serving us.’ Ironic, that ... And here’s a call logged on my answerphone this evening - the caller gave her name but no number so there’s not much I can do to seek to show her the error of her ways, to convince her - if that would be possible - of how darkened her mind is:

“I’ve just heard on the news that it’s been approved that we now have a Route (sic) de Funchal, and I just wanted to voice my disapproval and absolute horror at that appalling decision. I think it’s a disgrace, an absolute disgrace, we are local people, this is Jersey, if we wanted Portuguese we would go to Portugal, we don’t have a St Helier in Portugal and why the hell should they have a Funchal in Jersey. I really think you should think long and hard before you make these irrational decisions, and upset half of the island. You’ve had people most I would imagine were unemployed Portuguese while the locals are busy trying to work to support this island. I think you need to think long and hard Mr Crowcroft, you’re Constable but the time will come when you will need our votes, and you won’t be getting mine if you continue down this vein.”

Make what you will of that. Or compare it with an email I received earlier the same day from a young man who was at last night’s Assembly:

“First of all I would like to let you know that I am pleased the proposal was approved last night to rename the street. I am also aware that before this could have got to the stage of being presented to the Parish Assembly last night, there was a lot of work involved, which means that there were a lot of people like yourself who were of the opinion this should be done and supported you all the way. For that I am very grateful and pleased.

I went to the meeting last night expecting to find some opposition and prepared for the possibility of people not approving the proposal. I thought people would not like to lose the street's name and all the bother associated with a change of address.

After a while of listening to people with objections against this change, I felt some genuine worries, however most the people I felt they were purely racist and many of them used what could be seen as genuine reasons/ objections, but I couldn't but feel that they were purely describing their true motivation.

Less than half way through of the debate, I really felt so disgusted and humiliated. I wished I had not gone to the meeting, I didn't think I would be able to stay until the end. I really felt there was a lot of hostility and a particular group of narrow minded people who kept claiming they were not racist, but their attitudes denied this.

Last night, I was pleased that the proposal was approved and thought that all the feelings caused by the racist comments I had witnessed would go away and would make me feel better by the approval of the name change. I was wrong, this feeling only lasted a couple of minutes, as I walked out of the Parish's doors I felt humiliated again and like these people had put me back in my place. I even got to the conclusion that no matter how hard I would try, I would never be able to mix in and be a part of the community.”

Despite the victory of 21st century inclusiveness, fairness and open-mindedness that last night’s Parish Assembly represents, the hurt caused to this parishioner at the same meeting is enough to make me weep. I have not felt so disgusted with the behaviour of my fellow islanders since it was reported to me that a person or persons lay in wait for a gay couple to exit a town take-away, in order to hurl them through the windows of a shop in Bath Street on 16th July (St. Helier Day). To date no prosecutions have been brought.

You may rest assured, parishioners who are disgusted by my desire to promote the naming of Rue de Funchal and to raise the profile of our Portuguese community, that I will continue to do all that I can for this community. And I will also do all that I can to make sure that those whose narrow-mindedness and ignorance leads them to mock, abuse or injure homosexuals get shown the pitiful error of their ways.


Anonymous said...

Well you amaze me Constable - where have you been for the last few decades?
Prejudice in all its forms is obvious enough at all levels of society in this little island and the failure to implement proper anti - discrimination laws says it all.
Have you joined Deputy Hill's Human Rights Group yet? If not, why not?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

There are always going to be oddballs, and the size of the meeting's turnout isn't very representative of the public in general, so don't be disheartened. You can't expect absolutely everyone to be 100% informed, wise and reasonable. Meetings, surveys and phone-in attract whingers and the out of step. You need to be very wary of that in politics!

However, that same unrepresentative aspect means that the meeting's decision should be called into question. To decide something so contentious with so few people present can't be that democratic.

Anonymous said...

It makes me weep even more that alleged abusers have NOT been accountable for the years of abuse they subjected children to. How come you are more concerned about intolerance towards homosexuals than peodophiles roaming your streets???????????????

Anonymous said...

I wasn't at the assembly but I was appauled by several racist comments broadcast by BBC Radio Jersey the next morning. Bearing in mind how carful the BBC edit anything to do with HDLG, they didn't seem to apply any such vetting criteria to local racist oppinions. I thought the BBC was being irresponsible and fueling the racist problem.

Anonymous said...

So Simon - why are you so selective with the comments that you publish? If you disagree with a view you press the delete button just like your friend Sen Stuart. How will you ever promote a proper discussion on that basis?

With regard to James Street and all that silly fuss, since nobody seems to know who James was, why get excited.

The naming of Jersey Streets is a very sad reflection upon this Island's obessession with respectability and status. Where are the strets or monuments in memory of local heroes like Abraham Le Cras or Dennis Daly or Pierre Voisin? We all know that Constable Pierre Le Sueur has his monument for crushing the 1847 starvation riots - but where is the monument to the brave rioters who were banished from the Island just for fighting to feed their families?
Where is September 28th 1769 Street?

Thousands of very brave privateer crews sailed out of Jersey and laid the foundation for our wealth today but who can name even one of them? Just across the water St Malo is proud to be Corsair Citie with streets and statues to the honour of Surcuof and Trouin - but what schoolchild in Jersey even knows what a privateer was? And how about our smugglers? Of course they don't fit in with our image as a finance centre but they are a fact of Jersey's history and who can name a single one?

So far as the Ingouville family is concerned it is a bit ironic that he is half remembered as the property developer by street names and Georgetown but it would be nice to acknowledge the VC awarded in 1855 rather more openly and why is the family's involvement in shipping and shipbuilding in North and South America and probably the slave trade too, to be so easily forgotten?

If Street and Place names are to have any sigificance then why not use them to properly remember truly important events and people otherwise just call them Acacia Avenue and suchlike and erect anonymous statues of nothing in particular.

Its all very well remembering British heroes like Nelson but Hardy also deserves a plaque and MInden may well relate to Le Geyt but Pierre Arrivee also died here in Jersey at the battle of Jersey in 1781 and who now remembers him?

Of course the Ingouville name is extinct now in Jersey but if there is any point in recording history and putting everyday markers around our Island to give us gentle reminders - then let us widen the scope a bit. What a pity theres was so much racist fuss but what a pity too that a specific Madeiran person was not named for James Street or some other Street in Jersey. Yet another missed opportunity.

TonyTheProf said...

Schools can well be breeding grounds of scapegoating. The "team" spirit ethos, so beloved of educators, also has a darker side, that pupils get excluded because they are odd, different, don't fit in (as a parent of children with aspergers, I've seen this often enough). So I'm not surprised that 16 year olds can be racist. I remember even when I was at school that older boys used to grumble about Freddie Cohen at Victoria College because he was Jewish, didn't go to the Christian school assembly, and therefore was different, an attitude that disgusted me even then.

I was extremely fortunate in that my parents were friends with the Regals and we used to go on their boat and to their house (this was Stephen Regal, the Jewish leader's parents, and Stephen was often there too), and as a result I grew up with a deep respect for all their customs and beliefs (I still think Jonathan Sacks writes some of the best books on contemporary social issues).

My son, anyway, says when I asked him "what do you think of Portuegese people?" that he "thinks they are great". He has been fortunate in that at Rouge Bouillion, there is a mix of different ethnic groups, and has grown up with them as school friends, no different from anyone else. So I think there is good grounds for hope.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Jersey has always been rife with racism, even if it is mostly concealed from view.

Don't blame the kids, though! They have learned how to treat "outsiders" from the older generations.

Portuguese farmworkers were often treated worse than dogs, when I was a child. Sharing large filthy rooms with nothing in them but dirty mattresses on bare floors. Some wealthy farm owning families have a lot to answer for.

Anyone treating humans this way now, could expect to be jailed for it. Was it really legal back then?

Portuguese people were banned from entering many local places, such as bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Rarely would you see them turned away at the door, because they knew the rules and wouldn't bother with the humiliation of it.

They deserve far more respect for putting-up with Jersey and British people's attitudes, than the trivial renaming of a street.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Thats rich coming from someone who voted in favour of giving 16 year olds the right to vote. You Crowcroft are only the Guardian of St. Helier you are not the owner so stop kissing the immigrants butts and leave the street namesw alone.I know you won,t have the balls to let this one get on the screen

Manfred von Richthofen said...

Sad history...

Sad People...

Portugal and UK are in CE? Right?

If many and many people come from UK, i live now in my Madeira Island, if have "THE SAME " ????

But, the people live in Madeira Island are pacific and friend of the people of all world!

Only in Jersey!

PS - I send this SAD history to BBC NEWS and CNN

Madeira Island

Manfred von Richthofen said...


For me in Madeira Island, is important to take a decision about the English people live in Madeira.

The SAME Treatment ?!

This comments on this site is NAZI thing´s!!!!

In Madeira Island

Anonymous said...

i knew you wouldn,t publish my comment your nothing but a nazi dictator

Daren said...

Simple question?

If God,Jehovah, Mohammad, Buddha or any other deity didn't want any of us to be gay straight, bi etc. black, white yellow or any other color, why did he/she make us this way?

Ashburton said...

Sorry, M. le Connetable, but renaming James Street - not the most salubrious or savoury street in the parish - was a strategic error.

Now that the parish has set a precedent for naming thoroughfares after ethnic groups, may we expect to see an "Avenue Pologne", or a "Boulevarde des Ecosses"?

If we are to rename streets in St Helier, events and people in Island history should be commemorated.

This is NOT racism, but rather common sense.

Leah Holmes said...

It would of course be helpful to know why the man considered the comments to be disguising the people's 'true motivation'. Racism (actually this issue could only be about xenophobia), like many such attitudes is often perceived where it isn't. That aside, it does seem that some particularly racist comments were made at the meeting, although it could well be fewer than this article would imply.

Of course racism does occur (it is perpetuated by both Jersey-born AND immigrants of whatever nationality, probably in equal measure), but NO-one should guess others 'true motivation' if it is not stated. It is always best to ask for clarification. This is true in many areas of life when you think someone is against you, get clarification before assuming, or you are equally guilty of a 'crime'.

Many people are genuinely upset at other nationalities not receiving a similar honour and no reason has ever been given for this. Others are just against change, period! Some are against being lied to (i.e. the two reasons stated would have meant Bad Wurzach or somewhere like Italy receive such an honour first). Some simply do not like the Jersey residents (Madeiran included) being used for political gain.

Nature would have it that such a meeting is likely only to be attended by those who have extreme opinion (for OR against), since most of us are busy individuals. As such, the small turn out should mean that the majority of the island were not particularly bothered, this is a positive thing, coverage of which could have bettered Jersey's relationship with Madeira, but instead the Madeiran AND Jersey press have decided to highlight racism and bring the island down in the eyes of the world! The press (of course) neglecting to mention that some of the Madeirans in Jersey are also guilty of racism.

It is best to remember that EVERY nation has its racists and I have (within Jersey) witnessed it from Madeirans, Polish, Brits, Kenyans and South Africans alike so can we realise it is a HUMAN problem (not specifically a JERSEY one) and target it as such? Anything else will fail.

Forget race, forget occupation, forget wealth, forget religion, forget what sports team you support, forget dress sense, forget what school you went to, just for goodness sake educate your children that ALL people are equal, ALL are worth giving an equal chance, some you'll like, some you won't but not pre-judging on ANY matter of 'difference' is the key!

People are not stupid and do not like to be treated as such, nor should they be treated as such! Politicians could do the island real favours by shutting up or by asking the public before carrying out publicity stunts of any sort.

Robert said...
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Beaumont said...

As I mentioned on 'This is Jersey', I’m not at all surprised by the racist comments. Jersey is an island completely based on status and prejudice. This is why we have a quallies system, so we can create huge social divisions of a ‘them and us’ scenario. Anybody with 'no quals' is an absolute 'low life', and isn't worthy of being treated like everybody else. This is why prejudism is so rife here, because are raised to believe they are superior to outsiders. I am born & bred Jersey, and I strongly believe all qualification requirements should be scrapped.

Daren said...

I, like quite a few other people I have spoken to since, fully intended to vote against this proposition. However I was so appalled by the totally disgusting racist attitude of a small minority that I voted in favour. When asked after the meeting why I didn't abstain in stead I could only quote Edmund Burke "All that it takes for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing"

Anonymous said...

Dear Constable,

I am writing in reply to the comment left on your answer phone: ‘You’ve had people most I would imagine were unemployed Portuguese while the locals are busy trying to work to support this island’

To read this it really is very upsetting if you think of how many Immigrants, not only Portuguese, but other nationalities as well, have worked over the years and still work on this Island, some of them working really hard and most of them working anti-social hours, getting paid ‘peanuts’ only to do the jobs that most of the locals can’t be bothered to do. Yes, because if it weren’t the immigrants working in Jersey, who would work on farms, restaurants, hotels, etc…

With this in mind, and with the fact that it’s hard enough that this people are away from their countries and away from their families while working on this Island, please stop with these racist comments that only come to upset everybody and cause anger

Anonymous said...

Racism has reared its head again in Jersey after those murders. A deeply racist island society.