Friday, 7 December 2012

Racial Discrimination in Jersey

I heard Francis Le Gresley talking about the recent survey which looked at racial discrimination:

Part of this comment was on the recent social survey for 2012, which had a 59% response rate from households, which isn't bad, but which I wouldn't describe as the survey did as "extremely high". My statistics books have "extremely high response rates - e.g., 70 percent or above". Fairly high would probably be a better designation. But that's just the mathematician in me being picky!

But the sample has been improved - "statistical weighting techniques have been used to compensate for different patterns of non-response from different sub-groups of the population". This means that the sample effectively is stratified so that different responses are given different weights according to the last census. For a simplified example, if you had a response of 1,000 replies, of which 10% were over 65, but you knew that the population in the census gave 15%, you would adjust age related findings proportionally so they matched the census. That's a sound statistical technique.

On discrimination, it notes:

A quarter (25%) of adults reported having been discriminated against in the previous 12 months. For nearly one in ten (9%) adults the discrimination was on grounds of age; a similar proportion reported discrimination on grounds of nationality. The most frequently cited place at which discrimination was reported to have occurred was in the workplace (entered by 36% of those who reported being discriminated against), followed by in States departments or parishes (27%)

But later on when it is expanded, it is worded slightly differently and more expansively:

Respondents were asked if they felt they had been discriminated against in Jersey over the past 12 months on a range of grounds such as age, marital status or religion. A quarter (25%) of Islanders reported at least one occasion of discrimination over the previous 12 months. For nearly one in ten Islanders (9%), the discrimination was on grounds of age, and a similar proportion reported discrimination on grounds of their nationality

One in twenty (6%) of those born in Jersey or elsewhere in the British Isles reported being discriminated against in Jersey on the grounds of race/nationality in the previous 12 months. However, a much higher proportion of those born in Portugal or Madeira (37%), Poland (28%) or other European country (21%) reported having been discriminated against in Jersey on grounds of race or nationality in the previous 12 months.

Amongst those who reported instances of discrimination, the most frequently cited place where it occurred was at work (36% of respondents who reported being discriminated against in the previous 12 months said that it had happened at work), followed by States departments or parishes (27%) or when applying for a job (23%).

It is notable that both age and race discrimination both come in highly at 9%, with those aged 16-34 and those aged 55-64 were the two groups with particularly high proportions reporting being discriminated against on the grounds of age, at 12% and 13% respectively. Maybe we need to address age discrimination next as well.

On the race issue, it is notable that while 36% comes out at work, 27% comes from states departments or parishes, and 23% applying for a job, with 19% buying goods or services.

What isn't so clear is the nature of the perceived discrimination, which is where a survey tends to fall down. A lot can come down to perception. I can think of two statements one of which I think betrays a racial bias, but the other does not, and which i have heard being made. Both relate to immigration, which is perhaps not surprising. It is well known that at times of high unemployment that people tend to look for scapegoats, and race easily becomes an issue.

To complain that Polish people are coming to Jersey and taking jobs from locals is, I think, an implicit form of racism. It is, however, an attitude that is becoming more prevalent, and it may include people of other nationalities such as Portuguese.

But if I said that English,, Scottish, Irish, Polish, and Portuguese people were coming to Jersey and taking jobs from locals of whatever geographical origin, that would I think be an argument which could stand outside the scope of racism. Why? Because no group is being singled out. And that's certainly what is needed with the matter of immigration, a decoupling of it from any racist agenda, which, of course, can be difficult. People may have concerns about immigration, but the racists are always out there, waiting the drum up support for anti-immigration by igniting fears about immigrants who are different in some way.

The key factor in racism is the singling out of a particular group or groups in the population, and it is easier if they stand out in some way, which is why the Jews have often been the subject of racism, as have in Jersey the Portuguese. When I was at school, I remember hearing (and being rather disgusted with) other students making racists comments about Freddie Cohen, who stood out as different, along with the Catholics, in not attending school assemblies. I think that racism in schools back then was probably worse than today, or at least more explicit.

Polish people stand out too - their English may not be perfect, and if they wear name tags in shops, their names betray a distinctive spelling, e.g. Monika rather than Monica . English people coming to Jersey do not stand out in the same way, and hence they don't get picked on in the same manner. They can't be easily identified, and racism thrives on easy identification, which is why in the past, Jewish people have been known to Anglicise their names and hide their origins.

And that's where the immigration factor comes in - a shop assistant may be effectively singled out by their name tag. It's not a Star of David, but the requirement to have it there, and especially if it displays a surname as well, is saying to the public at large - "I am not local", especially if Polish, because the Poles are the most recent immigrants. Perhaps that practice should be reviewed. There will be second or third generation Portuguese people who have now made the Island their home, so that's not perhaps so obvious.

However, there is still a lingering resentment even among people I know, who I think should know better, about people of Portuguese origin. Back in the 1970s, there was a term of abuse - "Pork" - and while that may not be used publically, I know that some people use it among themselves. It has actually found its way into the Urban Dictionary, which doesn't say much for Jersey attitudes:

Racist name for a person of Portuguese origin. The racial reference came about in the Channel Island of Jersey in the United Kingdom. It was brought on upon immigration of people consisting of a Portuguese heritage coming to Jersey in the late 1980's. Racial issues and hatred had arisen in Jersey when the population number of Portuguese immigrants came to a high. It is now considered a harmful word to the community in Jersey whether of Jersey nationality or Portuguese nationality. Another racial name with the same equivalence and meaning is "pork and cheese".

And if you begin with insults about someone of another race, as happened in Ruanda, you may easily open the door to more violent kinds of response to immigration.

I think the social survey shows that there is no reason to be complacent, but it would be useful to speak to people who have suffered discrimination to get more details about exactly what occurred. As it stands, it is a good pointer to further research, but like all statistics, suffers from the reduction to number.

We can gauge some of the attitudes when Simon Crowcroft in a blog posting highlighted how widespread racism when a road was renamed Rue de Funchal 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?

A commentator on the BBC Website got it right when he said:

The funny thing is apart from a few proper inbreds the true Jersey bean doesn't exist. It would be interesting to see exactly how many Jersey families haven't been 'watered' down by English, Irish, Scottish, Portuguese or French people.

And that's so true - G.R. Balleine wrote a piece on "Jersey Surnames" in the 1940s Bulletin, and he noted that a number of names are "place of origin" surnames, that is surnames given to people from the location that they came to Jersey from - in other words, immigrants!

If a man arrived in the island from outside, it was natural to describe him by the place from which he came. Langlois was the Englishman, Le Gallais and Le Gallon the Welshmen (Galles is the French for Wales); Le Breton came from Brittany, Norman from Normandy, Le Poidevin from Poitou, D'Avergne from Auvergne. The Briards' native home was La Brie, the corn-growing plain east of Paris. The Briards, the inhabitants of that district, were proverbial as particularly astute peasants-" ruse comme un Briard." The Perchards were from Perche, the horse-breeding county south of Normandy, the Groizards from the lie de Groix, off the coast of Brittany. The De Caux hailed from the Pays de Caux, round Yvetot. Billot is a district near Lisieux. " Comme la noblesse de Billot " is a saying for proud poverty. The Du Heaumes probably came from the Pays de Houirne, south of Falaise, the Sams from the Pays du Saire, east of Cherbourg. The first Bree may have been a Breton, for Wace calls them " les Brez."

A glance at the map of the Cotentin, the Norman peninsula that juts north along- side of Jersey, reveals the home of many of our families. From Mont Orgueil we see the port of Carteret, whence the De Carterets came, and the Cathedral spires of Coutances, from which the Coutanches took their name. The Pirouets sprang from Pirou, where the Jersey cable goes ashore, and opposite Rozel is La Haye du Puits the probable home of the De La Hayes (unless they came from La Haye Pesnel near Granville). Siouville, Chanteloup, Biard and Perier are place-names in the Cotentin and surnames in Jersey. Pinel is a village near Cherbourg ; while a httle south is Pierreville, where the De La Perrelles may have originated, for in 1274. they spelt their name De Perevilla. There are two villages named Ste Croix, from either of which the De Ste Croix may have come, and three hamlets called Gruchy, one of which produced the De Gruchys, unless they sprang from the larger village of that name near Caen.

Outside the Cotentin but still in Normandy we find Aubigny, Quetteville, Bouelle, and La Baasle, the hometowns of the Daubignys, De Quettevilles, Boielles, and Baals. Houlbec, the beck in a hole, a river in a ravine, is a Scandinavian name found in many parts of Normandy, and by one of those streams the Houillebecqs must once have lived. The Venables came from. Venables, a village on the Seine, the seat of the Veneurs or hereditary huntsmen of the Norman Dukes. At least two of our old farnihes have place-names from. north of the Channel, the Hamptonnes from the town that we now call Southampton, and the Hottons from one of the English Houghtons, perhaps the one near Northampton or the one near Leighton Buzzard.

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