July 31, 2015
On Tuesday the Guardian carried a piece by an Asian which was originally called “Please, no more smug articles by white people leaving London.” The Guardian seems to have lost its nerve and renamed it “London’s super-diversity is a joy. Why would you ever want to leave?” – but you can still see the original title in the URL bar. So riffing on the ”Diversity is a code for fewer white people” memes this Asian, who is called Aisha Mirza, seems to be looking beyond that, once whites are fleeing in their 100,000’s, as they are from London, then diversity gets a promotion and is called ”Super Diversity”. Super Diversity, Aisha tells us, was a term coined by somebody called Steven Vertovec.
London is super-diverse. Steven Vertovec coined that term in 2005 to describe a kind of rare and messy diversity that I have never seen anywhere else – a space where so many different cultures and so many different experiences of those cultures exist in such close proximity. I like the idea of super-diversity, but it is still only another term made up by a white man to describe brown people in London. For me, London is the smell of Pakistani cooking through the window of a Haringey council house, it’s the reggae coming from my neighbour’s garden and it’s a primary school newsletter translated into 11 languages.
I definitely do not wish to push the idea that London is some sort of racial safe haven. We have got so, so far to go, and so much racism and abuse to drag from underneath the carpet, and that is why I need to be here. The smells and the songs are familiar here, and I am in close contact with people who look a little bit like me and are angry about the same things. I can exist, for the vast majority of the time, without being looked at and without reacting to that look, without questioning myself, and without being the only brown person in the room.
I feel the comfort of London peel away whenever my train pulls out of King’s Cross and the threat of overt racism is increased. A few years ago, I walked into a pub in Cornwall with my then boyfriend, who was white. A man at the bar asked him “What’dya bring that in here for?” referring to me (and before you go into overdrive searching for an alternative meaning to his statement, let me save you time: it’s because of the colour of my skin). Outside London, I am put immediately into a position of defence. This is something my white counterpart will never understand. That is why when I read the headline: Live in London? No thanks, I’m happier in Bath, I couldn’t help but laugh. Good luck to you, and the majority white population that will greet you there.
If you want to leave London, or you feel you have to, then go my sweet friend. But please, not another smug, reductive article about fleeing this capitalistic nightmare for somewhere you can work three days a week and grow your own vegetables. Not another article that ignores so much about what a place like London, a place where black and brown people live and have claimed spaces, brings to some of us and that is not attainable elsewhere.
So what Aisha is getting at here is, she, as a non-White, feels more secure and at home with other people who are non white, but when White people display the exact same tendency toward ethno-centrism as she does they are closet racists and deserve scorn and sneering articles about them running to live a Hobbit type existence in the leafy, and still White, Shires. Aisha also mocks the White Flight cliche of running off from the diversity while by making excuses of ”Better schools” and ” fresh air”, knowing full well that if white families stated the truth boldly ”I’m getting the wife and kids out of here because it’s a Third World slum and we hate it” she and her army of non-White interlopers, as well as the entire establishment, would destroy that white person for being racist.
Aisha’s final paragraphs are dripping with hatred:
Go back to the home counties. Go, and here’s what will happen. A few months into your new life you will realise that you haven’t seen a black person in a while, but you will still describe your new city or village as diverse to anyone you speak to because there is a Chinese restaurant and a cluster of guest workers. Sometimes you and your friends will discuss diversity while you’re drinking wine together in the garden but most of the time you will forget about it. Your beautiful white children will go to schools full of beautiful white children and the rest of the world will validate you and them forever. That is not the way I experience the world and it is not the way I want to. That is not the way my body moves through it.
I’m staying behind with the women who are fighting this government for accessible social housing in the places they grew up and know the taste of. We need to fight for better realities in London. Fleeing the only place we can call home is not the answer.
In actual fact London is not the only place you can call home, for an Asian who prefers to be around non white people Africa and Asia are what Steven Vertovec might call ”Super Duper Mega Diverse” they both being inhabited by billions of non-White people, it is White people who are fleeing the only place they can call home and they won’t be safe forever in the Shires either, their schools are already being deemed ”Too White”. White people miss not seeing brown and black faces in the same way they miss mosquitoes or Delhi Belly after a trip to Aisha’s part of the world.
Here is your true home, Aisha, just look at the Super Mega Diversity, and just imagine how safe you and all of the non whites will feel…