NEWS | Sunday, 11 November 2007

Immigrants, hip-hop culture and ‘the way we are’

Bianca Caruana

Hip-hop culture may have won the hearts and minds of Maltese youth, but the music, fashion and mannerisms spawned in violent African American ghettoes has done little to change their attitude towards foreigners.
If any proof were needed that Malta was unprepared for the sudden influx of irregular immigrants over the past decade, a study conducted by MA graduate Sue Falzon has amply illustrated the ever-present and growing issue of racism amongst the Maltese people.
Records have shown that over the past five years, more than 2,000 immigrants have made their way to Malta every year. The five detention centres run by the national security forces are brimming with asylum seekers, mostly Africans, awaiting the processing of their refugee status applications. Sometimes this can take up to two years, although immigrants cannot be detained for more than 18 months. The centres are often overcrowded, and facilities are insufficient to cater for the needs of the several hundred immigrants detained at any one time.
All this has been said before, but what makes Falzon’s study original is her attempt to explore the attitudes of people toward the illegal immigrants in relation to hip-hop music. This style of music is largely considered to be the primary form of expression used by African Americans to narrate life in violent ghetto conditions, and has become a powerful vehicle for political expression by artists such as Eminem, among others.
The study focuses on 20 youths who frequent Havana, a Paceville nightclub renowned both for the style of music played and the variety of ethnicities generally present. A number of the youths questioned during the study openly admit to being racist and say that although they feel the way they do, they do not actively show their feelings whilst out on a night of clubbing. It was interesting to discover that although the youths identify with hip-hop, those who claim to be racist can see no underlying inconsistency in their beliefs.
According to Falzon, the segregation of immigrants from the rest of the community has contributed to racism in Malta, which relies on uneducated stereotypes about the immigrants generally originating from Africa and the Middle East.
Falzon quotes academics such as Dr Carmel Borg and Prof. Peter Mayo, who argue that Islamophobia, defined as an irrational fear and prejudice of Islam and Muslims, is a prominent feature of racism in Malta. One of the respondents seems to agree, saying that whilst everyone seems to be overreacting to the waves of illegal immigrants hitting our shores, no one seems to worry about the number of European immigrants also making their way here.
As another respondent puts it, “Malta is considered to be one of the most religious countries, however once beliefs are threatened by Islamic believers or Muslims, religion flies out of the window and racism takes its place. Blond haired, blue-eyed people, on the other hand, are welcomed here with open arms.”
As long as they do not fit into the “dangerous”, “dark” or “terrorist” stereotype, immigrants are safe from the vile words slurring from unwelcoming people not prepared to allow those who do not conform to their ideologies to live on “their” territory.
It was pointed out during the study that the same Maltese who admit to being racist, do not find any difficulty in admitting enjoyment when abroad and mingling with people of different races. The problem arises when they consider that since the island is small, its resources are scarce and should not be shared with those who are not Maltese.
Resources seem to include that of labour with the majority of the 20 youths interviewed feeling that immigrants are occupying more jobs than the Maltese. What is forgotten, the study points out, is that most of the jobs being taken on by the immigrants are jobs which the Maltese do not want to do.
A lingering fear seems to be that of Malta reflecting the current situation of illegal immigrants in the United Kingdom. Illegal immigrants there amounted to around 600,000 in 2007, many of whom are still at large. Another concern in relation to the UK is the cultural influence being imposed by the large number of immigrants making their home there. The Maltese fear that their culture may be at risk of disappearing or changed in such a way to suit the immigrants, as seems to be the case regularly reported by British sharing their views and the media.
“I have English friends who cannot bear the idea that they are living in a country which is no longer theirs with so many black people around. God forbid Malta becomes like that. Malta is ours and should be exclusively ours. It is our country.”
Such views have made their appearance in a less than subtle way with the recent formation of two right wing political movements: Imperium Europa and Alleanza Nazzjonali Republikana. Imperium Europa, led by Norman Lowell, openly proclaims a “radical racialist” agenda. Alleanza Nazzjonali Republikana, on the other hand, opposes multiculturalism and seeks to restrict immigration, whilst also claiming to adhere to traditional Christian values. It has since been absorbed in the newly formed political party, Azzjonali Nazzjonali, led by Dr Josie Muscat.
Of the study’s 20 respondents, none seemed interested in or considered joining these right wing movements. However, there were just two people who were involved in anti-racist activities.
“I think the best campaign against racism is the ‘every day’ campaign and one must always make themselves heard by speaking out to anything that they disagree with.”
Falzon said, “The stranger is not ‘the wanderer who comes today and goes tomorrow,’ but is instead the ‘person who comes today and stays tomorrow’ but is never integrated into the community.
“Since most respondents consider racism as a negative trait, most agree with anti-racist education to reduce the chance of viewing immigrants as strangers. Some recognise that this will help the Maltese prepare themselves for a more multicultural future.”

Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click here


Go to MaltaToday
recent issues:
12/03/08 |
09/03/08 | 05/03/08
02/03/08 | 27/02/08
24/02/08 | 20/02/08
17/02/08 | 13/02/08
10/02/08 | 06/02/08
03/02/08 | 30/01/08
27/01/08 | 23/01/08
20/01/08 | 16/01/08
13/01/08 | 09/01/08
06/01/08 | 02/01/08
30/12/07 | 23/12/07
19/12/07 | 16/12/07
12/12/07 | 09/12/07
05/12/07 | 02/12/07
28/11/07 | 25/11/07
21/11/07 | 18/11/07

14/11/07 | 11/11/07
07/11/07 | 04/11/07

MaltaToday News
11 November 2007

Hunters sue student for libel… over illustration

Retrial for Jean Agius as case annulled

Times journalist tells Dimas hunters want to be ‘close to birds’

Hairdressers duped by bogus trainers

All the saints are marching in at Mater Dei

Robert Arrigo asks Mugliett to withdraw Sliema plans

Mario Azzopardi’s call to arms: ‘We need confrontational

Keep cows off WWII airfield, MEPA warned

Police force turns down tattooed candidates

Immigrants, hip-hop culture and ‘the way we are’

A round of applause for Happy Paws, 4,000 animals neutered!

Negative reaction to immigrants from councils, says minister

Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email