Lithuanian, Romanian - what's the difference?

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‘Lithuanian, Romanian, what’s the difference?’

By Paul Wojnicki


There was racism on TV in the 1960s in 'Till Death Us Do Part'. Now there is a lot of racism again in Britain. (Paul Townsend under a Creative Commons Licence)

Paul Wojnicki says how bad it is that people accept racism in British society.

‘The government should bring back military service,’ a policeman recently said to me. ‘It would soon make all the Polish people leave.’

I was shocked. It was the first time I’d met him. And part of his job it is to investigate hate crime and racism. But I shouldn’t have been shocked, because I hear this type of racism all the time: in the street, at work, in the supermarket and even from family and friends.

A man who used to be my manager once made a generalisation about the ‘Lithuanians’ we were watching on CCTV of a crime.

‘I think they look more Romanian,’ I said.

‘Lithuanian, Romanian, what’s the difference?’ he said.

‘Er, about 1,000 miles,’ I said. ‘That’s like saying Norwegians and Greeks are the same.’

‘But they’re all here for the same thing, aren’t they?’ he replied, smiling.

I didn’t ask what that thing was. George Carlin (an American comedian) said, ‘Never argue with an idiot. They will only make you become an idiot too and be better than you because they have so much experience.’

If I were working in an industry that immigration affects, I might be able to understand the hatred a bit. It’s probably not easy to earn less money because another person is happy to do the job for half the money. But I work for a local authority with one of the country’s largest police forces. Everyone thinks diversity and equality are very important in our institution, but no-one is worried about being racist about eastern Europeans.

In the last few years I’ve often heard police officers and council officials (who don’t know my surname and that I’m married to a Slovak) say:

‘Most of them are criminals.’

‘They don’t want to learn our language.’

‘They’re here illegally.’

‘They’re only here for benefits.’

‘They’re here stealing our jobs.’

The last two worried me most because the same person said them. ‘Which one?’ I wanted to shout. ‘They can’t be here for our jobs and our benefits!

But then I remembered George Carlin - don't argue with idiots.

I think people have accepted hatred of eastern Europeans in 21st century Britain; so police officers, council managers and shop assistants make racist comments to people they don’t know.

People have been talking about anti-Semitism in the news recently; but I have never heard anyone say negative things about Jews. I have heard many negative comments about eastern Europeans.

You don’t need to look for long on the internet to find this. If you type ‘Polish driver’ and any newspaper into a search engine and you’ll find how important it is that the driver was Polish.

I’m shocked that people are allowed to be so racist. Imagine if a national newspaper had these headlines:

1) Jewish driver does U-turn on M6 before driving the WRONG WAY down the road (because he didn’t have money to pay toll)

2) Black driver jailed for death crash

People would say the newspaper is racist, but all I’ve done here is change the word Polish to Jewish or Black. I cannot understand why the ethnicity of these drivers is in the headline – the only thing it will do is make people hate Polish people.

It’s not as bad as Der Stürmer newspaper in 1930s Germany, but it is clear that these people are not welcome. Maybe journalists, or editors, don’t feel this way about eastern Europeans, but they know what the readers think. Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, said in 2004: ‘My job is to edit my newspaper, to have a relationship with my readers, to show the opinions of my readers and to defend their interest.’

And they do show the opinions of their readers. More than 500 people wrote comments about a story about ‘Four Polish burglars, drunk and on drugs’ in the Daily Mail in January. One comment was: ‘Four Polish burglars... why is it good to have open borders?’

So it’s not surprising that more than 1000 people wrote comments to the Daily Mail website after the recent news that Britain’s population has grown by around half a million people because of immigration from eastern Europe. One comment was: ‘Mr Farage, please take our country back. Shut the gates.’

I’m sure that these people believe that there are big posters all over eastern Europe promising a perfect life living on British benefits. And I’m certain that they are all good people who hate racism and anti-Semitism. The Daily Mail had a story recently about people shouting negative things at a Jewish man as he walked through the streets of Manchester and Bradford. More than 1,000 people wrote comments. Most people were shocked. The most popular comment was: ‘I’m so ashamed that this country has such nasty people.... but not surprised, unfortunately.’

The man in this story had done nothing illegal – he’d only walked down the street. But most of the immigrants (who the paper said the same day have increased our population) have also done nothing illegal.

They’ve only come here to find work.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).