In revisiting older theories on racialisation processes, and in particular the racialisation of crime, I am academically curious about this subject, but at the same time, given that I am what is often referred to as ‘a brown body’ (Patel, 2016) who has felt the venom and impact of racism, I am concerned at what fate lies in wait for me: a brown-bodied (and a dark-skinned one at that) woman of south-Asian heritage – especially within recent times whereby Brexit has once again made it logical and acceptable for some to openly abuse all those considered to be ‘non-White’. I am British, but am always challenged and devoid of its privileges. I am thus, not (nor ever able to be) a ‘true Brit’ – not least because the brown-body does not fit into the racial logic of ‘true Britishness’. Indeed, in recent times – an era marked by terror attacks and child sexual exploitation cases, to be brown (which is always then equated with Muslim-ness), is to be considered anti-British and a security threat, and has been met with numerous attempts by criminal justice agents and their allied services to heighten surveillance, control and ultimately the remove all those considered brown. As I discuss in my forthcoming book, ‘Race and Society’ (Patel, 2016), those who differ racially from the ‘host’ nation are always perceived as ‘immigrants’ of some sort – they can’t be anything else but ‘immigrants’, and illegal ones at that. Craig (2007, cited in Law, 2010: 119) notes how racialised “immigrants have been characterised as ‘cunning’, ‘loathsome’, ‘unprincipled and likely to ‘swamp’ British culture”. A quick scan of the international press on any given day illustrates the staunch fear and hatred with which immigrants have come to be universally viewed. Indeed, many of these sentiments were common place in campaigns on the UK’s recent referendum on EU membership.
As a criminologist though, I am also interested in the way in which race-hate based criminal behaviour also becomes racialised, with offending behaviour carried out by some groups being considered as a rational and excusable response to some other more dangerous threat. That offending behaviour is therefore perceived as non-criminal, or less criminal at least. I argue (2013: 41) that this is because ‘White bodies’ are able to re-assign labels of problem, racist and deviant, largely because of their normative, moral and superior status – a privileged position emerging from centuries of practices in which whiteness has remained unchecked. This reinforces the normality of their racist ideology. In particular, those supporting Far Right ideology, place emphasis on positive approaches to a national identity – which goes hand in hand with a pro-white ideology, and cultural pride, rather than on an anti-black view and motivations of hate (Berbrier 2002). This is a claim made about one Far Right group, the English Defence League, who have been ‘selective’ in its discrimination (Copsey 2010), by carefully harnessing existing culturally racist views within mainstream society, and then going on to re-frame them within discussions about ‘human rights’, ‘English culture’ and the threat of ‘Sharia law…..being adapted and enforced in England’ (English Defence League 2012). I have argued (in Patel, 2013) that this careful re-presentation of Far Right values and beliefs allows for any direct accusations of xenophobia, racism and fascism to be refuted to such a degree that some may now refer to the English Defence League as a social populist mass movement (Allen 2011; Sheffield 2011).
For more on these issues, you can read Tina’s book, ‘Race and Society’, which is published in early November 2016. A copy can be pre-ordered at: https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/race-and-society/book242912
Tina Patel Senior lecturer in Criminology
Allen, C. (2011). Opposing Islamification or Promoting Islamophobia? Understanding the English Defence League. Patterns of Prejudice. 45(4), pp. 279-294
Berbrier, M. (2002). Making Minorities: Cultural Space, Stigma Transformation Frames, and the Categorical Status Claims of Deaf, Gay, and White Supremacist Activists in Late Twentieth Century America. Sociological Forum. 17(4), pp. 553-591.
Copsey, N. (2010). The English Defence League: Challenging Our Country and Our Values of Social Inclusion, Fairness and Equality. UK, Faith Matters.
English Defence League (2012). Mission Statement. [Online]. (Retrieved April 2012) (URL: http://englishdefenceleague.org/about-us/mission-statement/)
Law, Ian (2010) Racism and Ethnicity: Global Debates, Dilemmas, Directions. Harlow: Longman.
Patel, T.G. (2013) Ethnic Deviant Labels within the ‘War on Terror’ Context: Absolving White Deviance. Ethnicity and Race in a Changing World, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp. 34-50. http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/data/ip/ip021/docs/Vol_4_Iss_1.pdf
Patel, T.G (2016) Race and Society. London: Sage. Forthcoming – November 2016.
Sheffield, J. (2011). “Bye-Bye Fascists”: A Critical Analysis of the English Defence League. Internet Journal of Criminology. [Online]. (Retrieved April 2012) (URL: http://www.internetjournalofcriminology.com/Sheffield_A_Critical_Analysis_of_the_English_Defence_League_IJC_Aug_2011.pdf)