To what extent did British Post-War Immigration Policy pacify or appease racism in society

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  This dissertation will examine in detail the extent to which Britishpost-war immigration policy was used to pacify or appease racism in British society. As point of reference the following definition of racism is used: the overt and covert determination of actions, attitudes or policies by beliefs about racial characteristic saccompanied by racist theories (Abercrombie, Hall & Turner, 2000,p. 286). Racism in Britain was partly due to wishing to keep foreignersout especially non-whites and also ignorance of the cultures of theBlack and Asian people that had been part of the British Empire andoften held British passports. In 1948 the Atlee government surveyed public opinion about views on race and found that many whites believed that coloured people were promiscuous head hunters gifted at witchcraft and black magic with several wives each, surely an indictment of the British education system. It is no wonder with preconceptions like that there was always a sizable minority of whites who favouredrestricting immigration and others that all non white immigrants andtheir British born children or grandchildren should be repatriated(Eatwell, 2003, p. 331). As shall be discussed in detail the British immigration policy during the post-war period has been changed from the open door policy towards all Commonwealth citizens to a tightening of immigration controls arguably if not always explicitly to restrict the number of non whiteimmigrants into the country. Governments are the key decision-makerson immigration policy and providing they have complete control overlegislation can encourage or restrict immigration whenever they want to. British governments are no exception to this, although they can beinfluenced by social, political and economic considerations. For much of the post-war era British governments were free to change immigration policy in any way they saw fit. However governments are susceptible to public opinion and prevailing social attitudes be they progressive orregressive in nature (Evans & Newnham, 1998, p. 242). The immigration of Blacks and Asians into Britain was not a new phenomena experienced for the first time after 1945. In fact immigration had happened on a small scale for hundreds of years yetremained hardly noticed by the majority of the British society. Blacksand Asians had come to Britain for various reasons including the slavetrade, being members of the merchant navy and the Royal Navy or thesearch for better lives and jobs. Britain had dominated the slavetrade by transporting African slaves to the West Indies and theAmericas before abolishing the trade itself in the early 1800s. Theslave traders did not seem to have a racist motive in catchingAfricans; they just went for the people they could catch most easily.The legacy of the slave trade and the empire was that the white Britishtended to regard themselves as being better than the Black and Asianpeople they ruled. The slave trade had certainly helped to fundBritain’s economic and imperial expansion and meant Britain’s imperialsubjects would the have right to British citizenship. With Britishcitizenship came the right to immigrate to Britain whether on apermanent basis or just for a temporary stay. Before 1945 the people ofthe new Commonwealth did not lack the rights to immigrate to Britainjust the desire or the incentive.

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