Not everyone in Kent is a ‘racist’
There is something more complicated at play
Google is a wonderful thing. It places the sum of mankind’s knowledge, an easy means to find references, and answers to all of our questions, just a quick search away.
Google can also be used for entertainment value. Some like to search for their friends or themselves, digging up old Bebo pages in the name of group chat banter. You can also use Google’s ‘Autocomplete’ to find the most common searches for various things.
And you can also find other, unpleasant things. For example, imagine my horror when the Independent published its stereotype map of Britain, marking the counties with their most popular search term, and I saw the result for my beloved Kent.
According to Google, the most common search about Kent is people wondering why we’re so racist. This needs addressing.
I will admit that Kent does not have a perfect record on racism. The 2011 census revealed that 93.7 per cent of the population is White British, which is per cent above the national average. To add some context, I didn’t have a black person in my year at my distinctly Middle Class Kentish Grammar School™ until sixth form.
We also have UKIP to answer for, which targeted Kent heavily in the 2015 election. The world owes us some thanks for not letting Farage actually win a seat in the Commons, but they won a lot of votes in the local council elections (racism and xenophobia are completely different things, right?).
Kent is a relatively unique proposition. The majority of its population is people over the age of 45. And this increases the incidence of people born in a time ‘When Racism Was Okay’ (as if racism somehow were ever really OK) being the voices of the Kentish people. It also goes some way towards explaining our ridiculously Conservative voting history.
The wealthy people in Kent cling desperately to our ‘Garden of England’ title. They wear tweed and flat caps, and are always going to vote for someone like Farage who drinks pints and seems like a ‘chap who speaks his mind’ if they think it will bring back The Good Old Days.
At the other end of the social spectrum, Kent was hit hard by the death of the British coastal tourism. Some of the most affected areas (like UKIP-run Thanet) are now underprivileged and run-down, and it’s in places like these where a desire to scapegoat people tends to result in a dislike of minorities.
Now for the good news: not everybody from Kent is a racist, although our under-exposure to minorities makes us seem backwards. A Kentish person meeting someone from an ethnic minority is like a battery chicken being shown grass for the first time: confusing at first, but we quickly learn to love our new environment.
Racism in Kent is undoubtedly still a problem which needs addressing, but the same can be said for most post-industrial areas of England where politicians are willing and eager to exploit xenophobia for votes. Kent just gets picked on because of its weirdly polarised society and low minority population.
The next time you meet someone from Kent, try not to assume the worst. Odds are they’re a decent person beneath all the tweed. Sometimes they just need a helping hand.