Would lower migration help our traditional working class?

Migrants have been under scrutiny for many years and are often blamed for the decline of a country. It is, therefore, no surprise that ethnic minorities are yet again being blamed for the lack of opportunities of white working-class men. Some share the view that working-class men have been neglected by the Government and that migrants, and encouraging diversity, have been made a priority within this country. The attention on fighting discrimination against other minorities such as women and ethnic minorities have impacted white working-class male as they have not adapted to the cultural change of their contemporary society.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner has stated that migrant families culture towards education is different to the culture of British families. Angela being from a working-class background herself has acknowledged that “our culture” (The British culture) is different and that is the reason why working-class boys are not doing so well. Some may disagree with her point however; Ms Rayner clearly has some knowledge on being working class as the now 36-year-old MP once was a working-class girl who would have been written off if she did not receive the necessary support from the welfare state.

Stephen Paul Manderson also known as rapper Professor Green, recently aired his documentary on white working-class men who feel angry, demonised and forgotten within their own country. Stephen followed three working-class men and their journey in the first episode. Stephen who was brought up on a council estate in Hackney had a lot in common with the men in the documentaries, nonetheless did not shy away to challenge anyone when he was not in agreement with some of the statements made.

He first met up with 20-year-old David from Bolton whose parents have both died when he was only 16. David has spent the last four years in homeless hostiles, he is dyslexic and has never been taught to read or write. David is also taking medication for his anxiety due to his parents dying. The fact that there was no support offered to him to read his letters indicates that more time, effort and money needs to be invested into creating a solid safety net for individuals who are a victim of their circumstance. Towards the end of the documentary, David was in fulltime employment, in a new relationship and proudly admits to no longer living on benefits. Despite him trying to turn his life around, it must be extremely difficult for him to build a steady life with no parent and a Conservative government who turns their back on the poor.

Stephen continues his journey and meets with 17-year-old Lewis from Eastleigh who grew up in social housing like any other working-class boy. As Stephen meets Lewis for the first time, he was shortly taken back by Lewis’ middle-class persona, accent yet, a very similar working-class background to Professor Green himself. Neither of Lewis’ parents attended University. Nonetheless, 17-year-old Lewis fought back the culture of low expectation and although Lewis was often singled out for being smart, his great work ethic landed himself a place at Cambridge which will certainly give him many more opportunities.

The last person Stephen met up with was 29-year-old Denzel from Canvey Island. Denzel had big ambitions and many ideas. Unfortunately, ideas he often could not execute. Denzel seemed somewhat indecisive on what to put his mind to. He did not take the opportunities when it came to him. In this case being working-class did not hinder him from providing a great living for himself but rather his poor decision making. On Channel 4 news, Stephen stated that Denzil had ideas, but often did not execute them. He continued to state that many working-class families have this sense of you got to support yourself, as he talks about a boy who wanted to become a Doctor but did not pursue it because he had to leave school to work to take care of himself. This can be related back to Angela Rayner’s point on the different attitudes towards education in different cultures. Most migrants leave their country for another to start a better life for themselves and to access an education that may not be accessible in their own country. Immigrant parents, therefore, instil the importance of being educated in their children. This may also be the reason why it may seem like ethnic working-class minorities have more opportunities when migrants have come here for a purpose and that purpose is to achieve.

Of course, Brexit was mentioned in the documentary by Dave, a friend of 20-year old Steve. Steve seemed frustrated as he outlines that the many foreigners in his local town of Bolton make white working-class men feel demoralised. Professor Green clearly was not in agreement with his statement, however, gently allowed Steve to express himself. Steve highlights that he was told if Brexit did not happen, 65, 000 more Turkish families would have migrated to the UK and would have a guaranteed roof over their head, in which Professor Green asked “are they? I don’t know that to be true”. Professor Green allowed Steve to continue, “I have slept on the streets, I have not seen one Asian person and one black person” says Steve.

Steve blatantly does not feel like he belongs in his own country. He believes that migrants are to blame for his low position in society. Although, many migrants would disagree as they have fought to rebuild this country as much as white Britons and work hard once they are here, many white working-class individuals have the same opinion as Steve. The reality is not every working-class male is a failure. Individuals like Lewis and Professor Green worked hard to create a better future for themselves and although some are victims of their own circumstances, it is possible to fight the system that is set up for working-class individuals to fail.

Migrants who often work for the minimum wage and or less are not to blame for the lack of opportunities for working-class men. The Channel 4 documentary “British Workers wanted”, shows two leave voting women trying to recruit Brits to join their recruitment agency because many Europeans were leaving the country because of Brexit. This documentary showed many white Britons refusing to work for the minimum wage, take up cleaning jobs or to simply just turn up to work. In contrast, many eastern Europeans were willing to work for £7.50 or even less despite knowing that it was not sufficient for an amount of money. The two ladies were highly disappointed with the responses of the people from their own country. With eastern Europeans willing to work for 7.50 but going home because of Brexit and the brits not willing to work for that money the future of the agency is in jeopardy.
Who is to blame? The government and its’ past failures to set up a stable system which supports the vulnerable the most. As Professor Green has said, “It didn’t matter if you were black or white, we were all working class’ and this statement is simply the truth. Whether you are White, Black or Asian if you are working class, you will all be at the bottom of society. Therefore, one minority group is not to blame for the lack of opportunities of another minority group.

Heidi Boahen

Heidi was born and raised in Germany and moved to the UK at the age of 14. She has a degree in Sociology and Social Policy and a Masters in Human Rights, Culture and Social Justice. She believes in rights and equality for all. She is also currently working for an MP in the Labour Party within the House of Commons.

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