SRtRC talk with comedian, columnist and SRtRC Hall of Fame member, Ava Vidal
“I think that a lot of what you hear is this attitude of acceptance; people just want to sweep it under the carpet which I think is just as bad as acts of racism are. That seems to be the attitude of today and its something which I think is very pervasive."
Ava Vidal is a comedian, columnist and writer. She is a big supporter of Show Racism the Red Card, a member of the campaign’s Writers Against Racism and Stand Up Against Racism initiatives and a SRtRC Hall of Fame member.
Ava writes a regular column for The Telegraph which often examines issues of equality.
In part two of the campaign’s interview with Ava, we had the opportunity to ask her about immigration and the findings of the recent British Social Attitudes survey.
One of the other prominent issues SRtRC is facing in the classroom is the blaming of immigrants for a whole range of problems in the UK. What are your views on the rise in anti-immigration sentiment?
“I have written on this subject too in my Telegraph column. I believe that people need to rediscover their humanity. These are people that you are talking about. They have lives and they just want what everyone else wants; to have a decent, peaceful life and to earn enough money to be able to provide for their families.
“Once again, I think that politicians and the government are playing an active role in encouraging anti-immigration sentiment, take those horrible ‘Go Home’ vans for example.
“I also think that what happened to the MP’s cleaner was awful (Columbian national Isabella Acevedo worked for Conservative Minister Mark Harper) she was deported at the end of last month and I believe that she was made a scapegoat. He was given a new position during the latest cabinet reshuffle and she has gone, her whole life has been absolutely ruined.
“People use the word ‘immigrant’ as a dirty word. I am a descendent of immigrants and immigrants have done a lot for this country. There wouldn’t be an NHS if it wasn’t for immigration; it would have fallen apart years ago. Whenever you hear the topic being discussed all you ever hear is people claiming that all immigrants do in the UK is ‘come and claim benefits’ and that is simply not true at all. It makes me sad.”
Isabella Acevedo was arrested at her daughter’s wedding by seven security guards – that can’t be right can it?
“That was disgusting. I saw the interview with her and the poor woman was humiliated. She had worked hard to save for that wedding and the whole thing could have been handled in a much more decent, humane way if those in authority had so chosen.
“Personally, I don’t believe in detention and deportation as it stands, you only have to look at Yarls Wood and the conditions there; these people are being abused. I know someone who took out a freedom of information request which revealed that seven members of staff had been sacked for having sex with ‘inmates’ – these people haven’t actually committed any crime but they are being taken advantage of when they are at their most vulnerable – its disgusting and one of the most shocking things about is its that so few people seem to care. I think that has a lot to do with the narrative surrounding immigrants.”
The National Centre for Social Research recently released the latest British Social Attitudes survey which appeared to show a rise in people who were prepared to self-label as prejudiced with regards to ‘race’. Do you think racism is on the rise in the UK?
“I think that the discourse has shifted. The rhetoric has shifted and I don’t think we are any better off at all. I think that racism has become more insidious; the fact that these attitudes exist has become harder to prove and harder to highlight, although I mentioned that social media has ‘shone a light’ on some of this behaviour.
“How can it be that someone like Jeremy Clarkson can make these awful, racist comments? That accusations of racism can be upheld by Ofcom but yet nothing is done about it?
“I think that in this country when you complain about racism, you get more of a hard time than the actual person who is being racist. Stan Collymore has been told that the abuse he has suffered is just ‘banter’, ‘it’s just a joke and if you can’t take a joke then you shouldn’t be in the public eye’.
“I find that people are prepared to argue with you for hours about how you should feel and react in the face of racism. I remember that I tweeted something about plans that the BBC release for an all-black female comedy show which they intended to call ‘Chocolate Chicks’. All I said was ‘I am just going to leave that right here…’ (meaning I don’t even need to make a comment, this just speaks for itself) and there was this guy who was tweeting me for hours telling me that I just needed to accept it, never mind that in my opinion it is sexist as well as racist.
“I think that a lot of what you hear is this attitude of acceptance; people just want to sweep it under the carpet which I think is just as bad as acts of racism are. That seems to be the attitude of today and its something which I think is very pervasive – the attitude that ‘oh you are talking about racism so you are helping to prolong it’ or ‘you are the one that is creating division; if you didn’t talk about it then it would go away’.”
Come back tomorrow for the concluding part of our interview with Ava.
Read part one of Ava's interview here