PART 8 in the excellent ten part series from Professor Alf Baird.
PART 8 ETHNICITY
‘It is said of one experience that it is one of the most agonising possible . . . that of leaving the soil of your native country forever, of turning your back on your heritage, being torn away by the roots from your familiar land. I have not suffered that experience. But I know of an experience equally agonising, and more irreversible (for you could return to your home) and that is the experience of knowing, not that you are leaving your country, but that your country is leaving you, is ceasing to exist under your very feet, being sucked away from you as it were by a consuming, swallowing wind, into the hands and the possession of another country and civilisation.’
(Welsh philosopher J.R. Jones, as quoted in Billy Kay’s The Mither Tongue)
We hear a lot nowadays about minority groups. Within the overall UK population context, the Scots may be defined as a minority ethnic group. An estimated 1.6 million Scots speakers now represent a linguistic minority group in Scotland, which also means that the majority of the country’s population today are Anglophone; this is an important factor when we consider that a key influence of our national identity and culture is the language we speak. Within the UK, Scotland’s ongoing, rapid and uncontrolled demographic change coupled with a low birth rate (see paper no. 3 on Demographics) further implies that the Scots could potentially become a minority people themselves in Scotland.
Long associated with the study of ethnic minorities, ethnic oppression has shifted from meaning the exercising of tyranny by a ruling group to signifying the injustice people suffer due to the everyday practices and norms of a society. Over time, oppression can become a widespread, systemic injustice that creates and maintains systematic disparities affecting the wellbeing and development of individuals and groups.
Ethnic oppression is essentially to do with power that is primarily held by the ruling elite group and oppression consists of the unequal distribution of systemic power. In Scotland, an Anglophone institutional elite wields power over Scots, and Scots-speakers in particular, this reflecting what Professor Michael Hechter termed a cultural and ethnic division of labour within the UK Internal Colonialism model.
Ethnic oppression may take different forms but primarily involves prejudice and discrimination directed at a people or group on the basis of their membership of an ethnic group. Ethnic discrimination against the Scots includes stereotyping and denigrating Scottish people (e.g. by the British MSM, and by institutions) primarily because they are considered (by an Anglophone elite) to speak a supposedly ‘invalid’ Scots language. This also relates to the persistent negative stereotyping of Scots speakers typically played out within the dominant British cultural context and meme amidst a supposedly ‘superior’ Anglophone linguistic hierarchy and cultural hegemony.
The essential backdrop to this oppression is that Scots are prevented, by the ruling Anglophone elite, from being taught their own Scots language in school – kep fraelairnin oor ain braw mither tongue – which is itself one of the most typical and obvious forms of ethnic discrimination within the broader aspects of colonialism (which includes cultural assimilation) endured by an oppressed people.
The Council of Europe Report on implementation of the Charter for Regional and Minority Languages has repeatedly raised the matter of the omission of Scots language teaching provision in schools with the UK Government and its devolved administration in Scotland, yet still the language remains ignored and its speakers left marginalised and reducing in number year on year. This is important in the context of independence because it is indigenous language which provides the foundation for development of a peoples’ national identity and culture, and is what gives them their national consciousness. The Scots language also distinguishes Scots speakers from Anglophones, the latter comprising Scotland’s dominant ‘governing class’.
A monolingual English language requirement as primary condition of employment (in particular for professional and managerial positions) and also for residence in Scotland (as part of the UK ‘area’) whilst rejecting and ignoring any indigenous Scots language requirement, serves to sustain and reinforce ethnic oppression of Scots; this practice ensures continued discrimination (against Scots speakers) leading in turn to social and economic inequalities becoming institutionalised within an ethnically stratified society, the latter inevitably favouring and prioritising the ruling (Anglophone) group and its predominant (English) ethnicity.
Historically, Anglophone elites running Scotland’s social institutions incorrectly regarded Scots’ language speakers to be simply speaking ‘bad English’ and held the view that Scots is not a ‘valid’ language, hence the lack of teaching provision in schools. This is ethnic prejudice and a discriminatory perspective that remains fixed even today within Scotland’s Anglophone dominated institutional hierarchy. Anglophone elites therefore dominate Scotland’s cultural high ground and control the linguistic ‘battleground’ against who they view as their linguistic and cultural inferior,that is the Scots language speaker; this reflects a colonial attitude.
Consequently, ethnic Scots remain marginalised and lacking in opportunity, with many destined to live a life of poverty and inequality, held back from socio-economic progress, intellectual development, or achieving higher office in their own land. As Scotland’s social elite structure is Anglophone dominated this means it is linguistic differences which distinguishes Scots speakers from the dominant Anglophone elite hierarchy; such an outcome is an intended consequence of linguistic imperialism, the latter forming a core element in colonial power structures.
The existence of an Anglophone and mainly unionist elite hegemony running Scotland’s social institutions is therefore no accident; rather, an Anglophone elite is a fundamental pre-requisite of continued British colonial power and control exerted over Scotland and its indigenous native (i.e. ethnic) people. This represents institutionalized ethnic oppression which ensures that Scots speakers are for the most part excluded from taking leading positions within Scotland’s social institutions. This outcome also reflects the dominance of cultural and linguistic imperialism policies as a necessary part of (British/English) trans-national nationalism and the political ideological drive towards a ‘one nation Britain’, its resultant enculturation and hence ethnic discrimination faced by the Scottish minority within a domineering UK polity.
A lack of socio-economic opportunity, persistently high poverty levels and limited educational attainment are consequences of institutionalised Anglophone domination and discrimination against Scots, and Scots language speakers in particular. The longstanding advertising of Scotland’s professional and managerial posts primarily outside Scotland in the London metropolitan press and hence recruitment of a mainly Anglophone elite drawn from within a larger and far more heavily populated neighbouring country amounts to ethnic discrimination in a specifically Scottish context. Ethnic discrimination against Scots is therefore a significant form of institutionalised oppression prevalent in Scotland.
Further, ethnic discrimination and oppression of a people results in ‘InternalizedRacism’, also known as ‘Appropriated Racial Oppression’. From this we see manifest the psychological condition popularly referred to as the ‘Scottish Cultural Cringe’; this is a condition which relates to how some Scots negatively view themselves and their own Scottish culture and Scots language compared to the dominant ‘superior’(Anglophone) culture and language. Here, the Scots language and therefore Scottish culture are considered ‘inferior’ within the British Anglophone elite hegemony context.
Institutionalised Anglophone linguistic oppression has instilled in Scots speakers a ‘schizoid element into the national psyche’ (Purves 1997); this ensures that many Scots deny and denigrate their own language in preference to developing a false (i.e. Anglophone) persona, in the interests of personal socioeconomic advancement. In postcolonial literature this outcome is referred to as ‘mimicking the coloniser’, and is especially (and inevitably) prevalent among the bourgeoisie class.
Related adverse health aspects of Appropriated Racial Oppression are considerable. Ethnic oppression seriously impacts the mental health of oppressed ethnic minorities and leads to the internalization of negative ethnic stereotypes about themselves and others like them (e.g. those who hold the same culture and speak the same ‘invalid’ language. Such impacts include a lack of self-worth, inhibition of socio-economic development, and the fact that racism and ethnic discrimination are stressful long-term events suffered by an oppressed group. The condition also manifests itself in shame, embarrassment, depressive symptoms and low collective self-esteem.
There is a lengthy history relating to Anglophone promoted negative ethnic stereotypes and discrimination of Scots language speakers, not least within Scottish educational institutions at all levels, the British MSM, industry, government, and within the justice system. This results in an oppressed people developing a ‘colonial mentality’ which involves denial and/or downplaying of the reality of discrimination or any past history of racism; for instance, wars, clearances and mass displacement, ongoing cultural and linguistic discrimination, and institutionalised oppression may be accepted as somehow ‘deserved’.
Appropriated Racial Oppression therefore represents the internalization of negative stereotypes of one’s own racial/ethnic group. Internalized oppression is reflected in members of ‘subordinate’ groups experiencing greater social and material deprivation, the latter clearly widespread within the ethnic Scots speaking community, far less so the Anglophone community in Scotland.
In what is effectively a colonially manufactured environment, Scots speakers’ acceptance of negative stereotypes means they do not consider themselves to be ethnically oppressed; this is despite the reality of their lack of opportunity, exclusion from key areas of Anglophone dominated institutional management and limited access to resources within their own land due to colonialism. Moreover, Appropriated Racial Oppression may be so deep and internal in those who are oppressed as to be rigid and unchanging; here we may consider this aspect in relation to the often rather rigid nature of the Scottish ‘No’ voter, according to opinion polls, more especially post 2014.
The Scots-speaking Scot is therefore forced to adapt his or her language to become more Anglophone (i.e. ‘conformity’) in order to progress socially and economically within the dominant Anglophone cultural and linguistic hierarchy. Those Scots who are unable to ‘conform’ (i.e. unwilling to cast aside their own culture and language in favour of the imposed ‘superior’ culture and language) suffer accordingly. In this sense conformity may be likened to a change in one’s national identity, which is closely connected with the process of ‘assimilation’ in colonialism.
The prevalence of high levels of Appropriated Racial Oppression among an ethnic group therefore helps explain why significant numbers of Scots remain firm in the rejection of their own Scottish identity in any meaningful sense, for instance by voting against Scottish independence and hence blocking the creation of their own Scottish citizenship, nationality and self-governance. A hypothesis here might therefore be that Scots suffering from higher levels of Appropriated Racial Oppression will be more likely to vote against independence.
As in many other ethnic and socially stratified societies there are aspects of apartheid (institutionalised racial segregation) evident in Scotland. This is characterised by a longstanding, sustained and now increasing Anglophone elite settler occupation, the latter with an emphasis on specific sectors of employment in the economy and a focus also on specific areas of residence, and in the demand for private schools and ‘elite’ universities in Scotland that tend to ‘serve’ primarily the Anglophone elite community. Such developments may be contrasted with the mass historic displacement and British state incentivised removal, via emigration, of much of the indigenous working-class Scots (and Gaelic) speaking population over the last two centuries and more.
Clearly, an imposed monolingual English language requirement coupled with promotion in rest-UK of higher status employment opportunities in Scotland has made settlement (in Scotland) an attractive proposition, mainly for people from England, according to the census. Here, the significant colonial imperative associated with imposing a dominant culture and language and the organised movement of peoples becomes evident.
The presence of a dominant Anglophone meritocratic elite hegemony in Scotland running the nation’s institutions therefore serves to foster and strengthen Appropriated Racial Oppression of Scots, and Scots speakers in particular; such a development also obscures the ways in which institutionalised discrimination and bias in favour of a particular meritocratic elite becomes normalised and contributes to inequality among ethnic groups.
The predominant racism or ethnic issue in the context of Scottish independence and indeed affecting Scotland more generally, is not therefore colour race, the latter more prevalent in England due to its quite different population mix, nor is it anti-English sentiment; rather, racism in Scotland primarily and extensively occurs as a consequence of colonialism and the resulting ethnic oppression of Scots is due to the imposition and institutionalisation of a dominant Anglophone meritocratic elite in what is a socially and ethnically stratified society; an added feature of this (colonial) racism is the development of Appropriated Racial Oppression (or internalized racism), a psychological condition with multiple adverse health impacts which is suffered by oppressed peoples.
Both aspects of ethnic discrimination and hence oppression therefore reflect and depend primarily on a colonial environment which by its very nature and purpose is opposed to (Scottish) independence. A common feature here is therefore the institutionally imposed cultural and linguistic differences between a dominant Anglophone elite hegemony and Scots language speakers. This reality also reflects the fact that peoples in self-determination conflict tend to be linguistically divided.
This means that the key ethnic and racism factors influencing, and in turn,determining prospects for Scottish independence are:1. Colonialism, which always involves prejudice and racism levelled against the oppressed subordinate indigenous native (i.e. Scottish) people and in particular their language and culture, and which may also develop into fascism, as reflecting a cultural and ethnic division of labour due to the imposition, prioritisation and domination of Anglophone elite institutionalised control, and;2. Appropriated Racial Oppression, in which colonialism inspired racism is internalized by the oppressed (Scottish) people who, due to their colonial domination and development of a ‘colonial mindset’, view their subordination, oppression, exploitation and lack of opportunity as deserved, which it is not.
Here we are reminded of what colonialism is and that it should be viewed as what Cesaire, Memmi, Fanon and many other postcolonial writers established: as a ‘disease of the mind’ brought about due to the forceful domination by, and a belief and ideology in, ‘a superior order’, resulting in severe psychological and physical health impacts as well as numerous and widespread negative practical outcomes for an entire oppressed indigenous native people, their culture, society and their country.
The Scottish Cultural Cringe, is the inevitable outcome of Appropriated Racial Oppression; this results in large numbers of Scots who question and doubt even their own national independence and liberation and exhibit a lack of confidence inrunning their own nation’s affairs, and who believe their lack of opportunity is due to their own inadequacies, including their supposed ‘invalid’ language which many seek to cast aside and replace.
The reality, however, is that ethnic oppression of the Scottish people, and the lack of opportunity and inhibited access to resources in their ain laund is brought about through cultural and linguistic imperialism and colonial exploitation. It is the exercising of this imperial and colonial ‘power’, through an imposed (Anglophone)linguistic power base and dominant cultural hegemony, which gives an oppressed people a colonial mentality and which serves to divide the Scottish people into two main groups; one for and the other opposed to independence.
These findings regarding ethnic oppression and racism affecting the Scottish people reflect the longstanding colonial nature of Scotland’s oppressive political reality which, even today, is still obscured and misunderstood under the pretence of a UK‘union of equals’, which is a political charade. It is in this context that the removal ofethnic oppression constitutes the underlying rationale for the motivation and human right of a people seeking decolonisation and hence independence in their quest to overcome their ethnic oppression and exploitation in their own land.
Once again Alf explains crucial factors like the Scottish Cringe but most important he provides an explanation how it is developed and maintained over many centuries. How it is used to divide the Scots nation, to the eventual detriment of all but in the favour of the colonial power. The more so in that it is a disguised oppression, not obvious until it is revealed in an article like this when the reader can identify the key points from their own life experiences of living and working in Scotland.
Like so much in this excellent series it forces the reader to think about all this in a much deeper and interesting related manner which can only promote a much better understanding of the not obvious barriers than hinder us in our fight to achieve Independence.
What worries me about all this, as I have stated before, is that these problems are not widely known or appreciated. We therefore have a very big job to educate our people about these factors, not easy when so much of our media is controlled and operated by the neighbouring country who are also the colonial power in the first place.
So where to start, because start we must? I would suggest we do so by encouraging, no insisting, that our elected representatives read Professor Alf Baird’s book Doun Hauden. To encourage them to do so we should persistently raise the issues raised in the book in writing and request their views in response. When they get enough letters they will have no option but to read the book in order to fulfill their role as a MP or MSP.
For sure they will learn much in the process, as I have, and hopefully it will make them better and more knowledgeable warriors in our fight to secure Scotland’s place as a free, independent nation.
This has been an excellent series and in the next couple of weeks with the final chapters we will get to the “pointy end”. Speaking for myself I can’t wait!
I am, as always
YOURS FOR SCOTLAND.
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