• Oliver Taylor

Black and Blue: my life in a conservative county

Updated: Mar 16

Map of Lincolnshire's parliamentary constituencies, and the look of horror of Black people following the election.

Following Stormzy's election, well, not yet, and certainly not if Sajid Javid has anything to do with it. Back in December 2019, when asked in an interview if Britain is still racist, Stormzy replied: “definitely, 100%,” Sajid tweeted back saying Stormzy is "100% wrong." Windrush wrong? Grenfell wrong?

Where were we? The stormy election in December when the Conservatives won back the Lincoln constituency with its shining prince Karl McCartney with a double punch of 3,514 votes. Karl lost the same seat in 2017 to Labour's Karen Lee by 1,538 votes; he said it was 'bloody brilliant' to beat her this time.

Karl's win gives the Torys back control of all Lincolnshire's seven parliamentary constituencies, which they also had all control of between 2010 and 2015 (Lincoln was a bellwether seat for years until 2015). The Torys also upped their majority in Lincolnshire with their vote up by 47,127 votes on 2017, a 23.5% rise.

"When the Blues win, and you're a progressive, low-income, multi-generational, Black or Brown immigrant, you remember how F'd you are."

Talking of Karl, he was recently exposed and apologised for his sympathy for Tommy Robinson, who could? He retweeted a post in May 2018 by Gavin McInnes, who founded neo-fascist group Proud Boys, in which it was claimed: "Tommy Robinson is in jail because he dared report on Muslim paedophiles."

WTF? And, he also shared a letter by Tommy Robinson that read: “I’ve always said I’d sacrifice my life tomorrow if it would end the Islamic takeover of our beautiful land.”

The tweet came after Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was jailed for contempt of court by broadcasting footage of defendants accused of sexual exploitation at Leeds Crown Court.

AND he also shared messages from Katie Hopkins in which she supported Robinson and said he had been unfairly imprisoned for exposing Asian rape gangs.

AND he was also found to have retweeted far-right conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson on multiple occasions, as well as Voice of Europe, a radical right website.

He has apologised, yet hasn't denied it? There's no excuse, that's no okay Karl.

When the Blues win, and you're a low-income multi-generational immigrant minority, you remember how fucked you are. It's a bit like being a Black or Brown guy during the dreaded hours following a domestic terrorist attack, e.g. in London; for those few hours/days you're painfully aware, that to the public, especially to the law enforcement, you look like a potential terrorist, despite your innocence.

Living in Lincolnshire, knowing that nearly 50% of people voted for white supremacist far-right sympathiser (let's call it what is) Karl McCartney, says a lot about the people who voted for him, and therefore a lot about the people who I live with here.

If the current political climate isn't enough to convince anyone of Lincoln's love for racism, a recent YouGov survey stated that 53% of Conservatives thought the British Empire was "something to be proud of". The same poll also states that 54% of Conservatives said that countries colonised by Britain were "better off for being colonised."

Trumpisma and Brexit Word Association

I imagine the minority experience in a Blue County here is similar to the minority experience in a Republican state in the US. They're synonymous, and more or less word associated. I imagine playing a political version of word association, where a US word is associated with a UK word, and that I would get among the answers for:

Conservative = Republicans

Boris = Donald

Brexit = Trumpism/Paris Agreement/Mexican Border Wall/Muslim Travel Ban

Eastern Europeans = Mexicans

White Supremacist = Trump

Populism = Racism/Immigrant Hate

Stop and Search = Police Brutality/Stand Your Ground Laws

The Blues have been, at best, bystanders to the inhumane treatment of Black people for centuries, particularly during the abolition of slavery. G. M. Trevelyan writes in his book 'Illustrated English Social History' that "Wilberforce confessed with "chagrin that the high-and-dry' conservative party then prevalent among the Church clergy obstructed the anti-Slavery cause or were at best indifferent" (Volume 4). They had an anti-black plan then, and they have one now, not much has changed.

Hey, look diversity!

One might think, with Blacks in the conservative party cabinet - in fact, the youngest, most ethnically diverse female-friendly office ever - that one could be sure of the Conservatives', especially Johnson's, adoration for Blacks? What with two ministers: James Cleverly (Minister without portfolio) and Kwasi Kwarteng (Minister of State) surely they aren't racist?

It's all optics. Black Tories have not got the interests of our community at heart; instead, they've got their ambitious self-interests at the forefront. Asian Tories are the same. Take Priti Patel used as the poster girl; she's there, as conservative MP Crispin Blunt confessed, to appeal to British Asian voters.

Black Face of Authoritarianism

Almost always and consistently voting for stronger enforcement of immigration rules by James and Kwasi (and Karl) respectively, might not be anti-immigrant, but it is really. Over Christmas 2014, 20% of all entrants coming from Jamaica were refused, and families from Africa were routinely being denied entry, even to attend children’s funerals.

And all general the MPs voting against laws to promote equality and human rights might be non-discriminatory. Still, it is really when the Tories plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and protections for employees (which will undo much of the limited gains in the equality legislation over the years). It's very much what you call the suppression the human rights of large groups of people.

As Kehinde Andrews writes, "we need to be clear about the relationship between the Tories and Black progressive politics: the two can never mix." Even more so Black tories, who put their self-interests before the interests of the Black community. All they do is sanitise the image of the party and making it seem more seductive and accessible to the Black community. Like the tin man, there is no substance. They serve as junior partners in forms of authoritarian governance.

Black Lincoln

According to the 2011 census* Lincoln was 0.7-0.8% Black which equates to 748 Black persons, and Lincolnshire was 0.4% Black, which equates to 2,531 Black persons. In 2011, out of the whole of Lincolnshire, a mere 2.4% was non-white, i.e. people of colour (Lincoln Research Observatory).

While out of the whole of England and Wales, Black people alone (not including other people such as Asian, Arab, and Mixed) make up more at 3.3% (Gov.UK - 2). This means proportionately there are more Black people that makeup England and Wales than there people of colour that make up Lincolnshire.

I was hoping I wouldn't get started in London where there over 1 million Black people. Just as a reminder there are only over 3,000 Black people in Lincolnshire, and London (1583 square km) is four times smaller than Lincolnshire (6959 square miles).

Local people do bang on about how the university has changed the city–bringing in people from diverse backgrounds; however, when you look at the stats, it's more speculation than fact. For example, in 2018-2019, the total number of Black people, that is staff and students, at the University of Lincoln was... 480 people (413 students and 63 staff). That's 2.6% of the total's university population, which is almost the same as the Black percentage of the national population at 3% (so credit to the university for representation there). However, the uni population makes a dent of the city population barely: adding up to 0.4% of the total population of the City of Lincoln and the University of Lincoln combined. 0.4%? Yeah, the university is not bringing in lots of Black people into Lincoln and changing the face of the city. We can say the university's changing, and we can not say it's changing the look of the town.

'one of the most toxic features of the spaces with no diversity is moral blindness - and how they also teach you to be blind, so you excuse inappropriate remarks and even overtly racist behaviour.' - Nina Camera

Failing Diversity

My university education best illustrates the marginal reality of living Black in a Blue County. I failed a module as part of my BA at the University of Lincoln. This was in 2010/11, the year when the Blues won the general election, and in the city, there was no overall party control of the council. It was the only module I flopped throughout my whole degree, where I was the only Afropean (everyone else was white) in the class. The module was called, of all things, Diversity, Difference and Exclusion– exclusion from passings my module! I mean of all the modules that I could fail, I fail the module that pertains to me and my 'different' presence in a non-diverse exclusionary academic space lol. To top it all off, Lincoln's leader (a white man) of the City of Council taught the class (and he was Labour!). A man I'd think would ensure the only person of colour taking the module would pass the first time. Let's face it, for the only PoC to fail a module on diversity and inclusion says more about the diversity and inclusion of institution than about the student. The utter irony of it all speaks embarrassing levels of volume about Lincolnshire.

When I retook the module, the take-home exam was entitled:

'The great thing about Britain is that it matters more where you are going than where you come from' (David Cameron, 2006). Assess the validity of this statement.

To pass, I was expected to go to lengthy one-to-one meetings with an academic tutor, who essentially guided my writing. In terms for the essay, the essay question was a quote from a speech given by David Cameron, the Tory PM at the time, who's family had benefited from slavery; and I was told to include a citation given to me by my academic tutor from Immanuel Kant. In Rethinking' Mixed Race', Parker and Song write for Europe's most famous philosophers such as Kant 'the emergence of 'mixed-race' children was an ominous symptom of the gentle deterioration of the nation, and the human race itself.' Moreover, in an essay, Kant as an Unfamiliar Source of Racism, Robert Bernasconi writes that Kany was happy to divide the world into 'bad' races (non-white)  and the 'good' races (white) And thought mixing would degrade the good.

I had no ideas about the racist histories of both men at the time; we did zero Critical Race Theory on my social science course! I had no idea of the moral blindness that infected everyone around me in Lincolnshire, including the university. Nina Camera, a contributor to Afropean, shared with me that, 'one of the most toxic features of the spaces with no diversity is moral blindness - and how they also teach you to be blind, so you excuse inappropriate remarks and even overtly racist behaviour'.

Talking of more Nina, I wrote this feature in part to express the integration fatigue of living in white-majority spaces, and Nina's writing has helped me to realise that I'm in a preliminary space longing for a liminal space. In Nina's illuminating Liminal Space series, she highlights the experiences of people who have decided to leave an environment which did not reflect their story for a liminal space 'between the known and the unknown', to put their past behind them and create a new beginning somewhere else

*Unfortunately, the next census has not yet taken place and will take place next year.


2. https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/uk-population-by-ethnicity/national-and-regional-populations/population-of-england-and-wales/latest

3. FOI–information requested and received from the University of Lincoln for 2018-2019, for total Black student and Black staff population in persons and percentages, and the totals of ethnic student and staff populations in percentages.

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