A married couple in Rotherham, United Kingdom was caught completely by surprise last week when their three foster children were taken from them by local social workers.
By all accounts, they were a highly successful foster home and were stable, positive role models for the children. The husband is a retired Royal Navy reservist who works with the disabled, and his wife is a qualified nursery nurse.
What was their crime? Being a member of the wrong political party.
The Telegraph reported that the family in question, who asked to stay anonymous, were given a surprise visit by a social worker who informed them that the three children would be removed from their home.
Their office had apparently received an “anonymous tip” that the foster parents in question were members of the UK Independence Party (Ukip), one of Parliament’s primary conservative/libertarian parties, and that the party’s “racist” policies made the parents unfit to care for their ethnic-minority children.
Many in the UK have cried foul. Nigel Farage, Ukip’s leader, as well as many other non-Ukip politicians have decried the incident as a gross abuse of governmental power.
Others have observed that Rotherham’s local government is controlled by the liberal Labour Party, and that political motives may have played a role.
Since the story broke, others have come forward with their own stories about discrimination due to their political affiliation with Ukip.
Some have defended the decision. Joyce Thacker, the Rotherham council’s strategic director of children and young people’s services, released a statement on Saturday saying that Ukip’s policies opposing multiculturalism made it right for the children to be removed.
Thacker’s conclusion, however, is a false one that has become all too common in a global political climate where disagreement on complex and important issues is over-simplified into “hatreds.”
In the United Kingdom’s case, multiculturalism is a highly charged issue. Like other states in the Eurozone, policies in the past few decades have trended toward forms of pluralism and multiculturalism that emphasize and encourage cultural differences while discouraging any form of assimilation or cultural integration.
These policies have successfully encouraged large numbers of religious and ethnic minorities, but at the cost of large divisions within the UK’s own population.
Self-segregation of those ethnic minorities into isolated neighborhoods or communities is commonplace, and is especially pronounced among immigrants from Islamic nations.
This situation has converged with another phenomenon: Europe’s native birthrate has been in decline at a rate of only 1.6 children per family, instead of the more adequate replacement rate of 2.1 children.
Considering those two realities, many western scholars including Harvard’s Niall Ferguson have argued strongly that native European populations will be rapidly replaced by immigrants within a matter of a few generations.
Further, those immigrant populations have been given virtually no encouragement to adopt European cultural and political norms within their own communities.
Ukip’s policy positions, which include a five-year freeze on permanent immigration to the UK and a winding down of the radically multicultural policies that have discouraged integration (among others), were created in response to this reality. Their aim isn’t to harm minorities, but rather to encourage all UK subjects to participate in the mainstream society and political life.
Rather than work through the logical and academic processes that went in to the creation of those policies, Ukip’s opponents in the Labour party and other parties have responded with a much more self-referential, and much less critical approach.
Stark multiculturalism and pluralism has been deemed in many liberal European circles as the policy of choice in the context of immigration and minorities.
This emphasizes the protection of various cultural groups over any national or societal mainstream, and assumes there should be very little judgment between competing cultural or societal norms.
Policies that run counter to this set of assumptions are assumed to be harmful to those minority groups because they might prioritize a national norm over the minority norm.
Thus, Ukip would “harm” minorities because it values integration and cosmopolitanism over the more radical forms of multiculturalism that have led Europe toward its imminent cultural crisis.
Ukip is “racist” because it “hates” minority groups in the UK. And, therefore, an innocent Rotterham family is unfit to take care of its three foster children. But perhaps a more moderate conclusion can be drawn from this situation.
Society is fast becoming unable to handle political differences without resorting to charged accusations of racism, sexism or bigotry of some form. In terms of political discourse, we are no better than squabbling children.
If this trend continues, it could doom our ability to make any serious use of international — or national — politics to create a better world.
David Giffin is a second year Masters in Theological Studies student at Candler School of Theology from Charleston, Ill.