Far from ending prejudice, political correctness has expanded the pool of people discriminated against: it now includes everyone. That, at least, seems to be one result of the chaos of lengthening immigration queues: white passengers have been detained by officials at Gatwick simply because of their colour.
John Vine, chief inspector of the UK Border Agency, says in a report this week that when dealing with flights from the Caribbean, official policy involved “detaining white passengers purely to avoid potential race discrimination complaints when there was an intention to question black passengers”.
This tactic points to our increasing malaise in facing racial sensitivities. It is a dilemma that makes officialdom either sink its head in the sand or skirt around issues. The same nervousness contributed to the near-wilful blindness of the authorities when accusations of sexual abuse by British Pakistanis in Rochdale first emerged 10 years ago — cases that resulted in convictions this week. The fact that the abused girls were deliberately targeted by men from an ethnic minority made this a can of worms no one wanted to open.
I’ve been racially profiled in several countries — in Britain, America and, most of all, India. And I have no problem with the process.
While in the West, I’ve noticed that officials make a point of hiding the racial aspect of their inspection, checking white passengers too. Indians have no such qualms. Flying out of Mumbai, I was assiduously searched no less than three times after I passed through the scanners — even at the very door of the plane. On each occasion, white people strolled by unquestioned.
I didn’t mind in the least because I wanted to arrive back in Britain alive rather than be blown out of the sky. India has suffered horribly from terrorism and as a young brown-skinned man travelling alone, I knew and accepted that those fitting my description were more likely to be jihadis than, say, the elderly kaftan-clad white woman who sat beside me on the flight home.
The same happened after bombs went off in my neighbourhood in Delhi. For days, I couldn’t get into a bar or restaurant without being frisked, while white people walked straight in. But in India, no one would be accused of racism for this; in Britain, many would cry foul, even though the inconvenience to me was only slight. After all, the plane didn’t leave any earlier for the white passengers.
One of the Gatwick officials is quoted as saying that there was a “problem” when they realised the one passenger they wanted to intercept was the only black passenger on the flight. Several white people were then detained, to avoid exciting the lawyers and professional race-wallahs who would seek advantage from a discrimination claim.
Meanwhile, the rate of absconding by immigrants in the UK has risen. Terrorism remains a threat. And the resources on our borders are so stretched that the lines at passport control make a Soviet queue look prompt. Political correctness is one more added burden.
I look forward to a white person making a racial discrimination claim one day. The authorities’ embarrassment will be exquisite — and might just offer clarity on our tortuous attitudes to the issue.