Please Don’t Racialise Wee Lachlan Brain

Thanks to a timely job offer from McDonald Hotels the ordeal of the Brain family from Dingwall has been brought to an end, and Scotland rightly celebrates this small victory over fortress Britain’s draconian immigration policies. We have watched on in tenterhooks as Kathryn and Gregg Brain, along with their seven-year-old Gaelic speaking son Lachlan, have been pulled through the immigration wringer under the threat of forced deportation to Australia. We have been frustrated with how even the interventions of our First Minister and the Scottish Government have been shown to be subject to the whims of London rule, and now, thanks to this job offer, our wee Lachlan and his family can stay.

Quite out of the blue, however, the Guardian has decided to racialise this “feel-good immigration story” with an article written by Lola Okolosie, suggesting that the attention it received and the outcome would have been different had the Brain family not been white and of “Anglo-Saxon origin.” All of a sudden we are blind-sided, and left feeling perhaps a little ashamed of ourselves.


Okolosie is dead right. She brings up the hyper-aggressive television culture of UK Border Force and the outright vilification of not-so-white people seeking new lives and fresh opportunities on our shores. She is also spot on when she comments that being sent packing back to the security and comfort of Australia is a damn-sight better than being forcibly deported back to a post-colonial nightmare – the likes of Eritrea, Nigeria, or South Sudan – to a whole host of frightening human rights violations, and where escape is regularly the difference between life and death.

Yet there is something not quite right about Okolosie’s otherwise perfectly correct observations on the deep contradictions apparent in the Brains’ story. Let’s start with her assumption that Lachlan and his family received preferential treatment because they are white Anglo-Saxons. We’ll that’s just not true, is it? The Brain family came to Scotland under a scheme – heavily advertised by the Scottish Government in Australia – designed to repopulate the Highlands with people of Scots Gaelic heritage. That would be the, largely deported and historically victimised, indigenous people of the ethnically Gaelic Highlands; a people – like many in Nigeria – who felt the sharp edge of cultural contact with white Anglo-Saxons.

When she makes the claim that they came from the “other side of the planet” she isn’t being entirely honest – or perhaps she’s not too well informed. In this regard it is interesting that her article neglects to mention the specific programme under which the Brain family came back to Scotland, preferring to run with the incidental fact that the original entrance visa was for study.

Somehow, because this family are white, the assumption is made in her article that they deserve a welcome, and it goes on to criticise what we have done to those “we seem unwilling to welcome.” A couple of things stand out here. First, there is the more than necessary who-is-this-we? She reminds us of the nastier realities of Brexit; how it has brought to the fore our acceptance of only those foreigners we like – the white ones – and to hell with all the rest, and, second, that “we” have done this as a country. Up here in Scotland “we” are not part of the same country she lives in down in London. Okolosie lives in England, and we live in Scotland. Both are countries in their own right, different nations with very distinct characteristics. Both of our countries are part of the same crumbling state – but that is quite another thing.

The British state, so completely dominated as it is by England and London’s agenda, is exactly the brutal, racist Brexit nightmare she describes, but it goes beyond ridiculous for someone writing for the Guardian to tar Scotland with the same brush. Doesn’t she read the papers? In our country – Scotland – we couldn’t have been clearer in our rejection of Brexit and the despicable racism and xenophobia that lay behind much of the Leave campaign. Yet now our country is faced with living with the consequences her country chose for us.

She doesn’t stop there either; she goes on to guilt us over the plight of the less-than-white Syrians who are dying in their droves in an attempt to get to the safety of Britain. This isn’t the Guardian, but we’ll break the news anyway: 56 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster MPs voted against UK airstrikes in Syria and against any form of British qua English aggression in that poor country. Where south of the border – in her country – racially motivated violence has mushroomed since the Brexit referendum, all forms of racist violence have been in sharp decline in Scotland for the past ten years. Moreover, and very much on the Syrian crisis, the independence movement in Scotland – the same movement that has been so committed to the Brain family – has been at the forefront of efforts over the whole of the United Kingdom to force Westminster to open the doors to the victims of its neo-colonial proxy war in Syria, and to be a place of welcome for all people seeking refuge from racial and political violence.

So, upon reflection, Okolosie’s analysis of the Brain family’s situation in Scotland is entirely misguided. Throughout the independence campaign in this country it has been repeatedly made clear that being Scottish is not about colour, religion, political opinion, sexual orientation, or what have you. Scottishness is the particular quality of the people who live here or who identify with Scotland. We can be more than sure that had Lachlan be as brown as Ali Abbasi, the Pakistan born champion of Scots Gaelic, we would have still fought tooth and nail to keep him here.

The Butterfly Rebellion
Jason Michael
Ayrshire, Scotland

2 thoughts on “Please Don’t Racialise Wee Lachlan Brain

  1. Unfortunately the bias of Theresa May (on whose watch these awful immigration laws were perpetrated) is universal rather than selectively racial. My son (white anglo) was separated from his wife and family for a full twelve months even though they had all been in Scotland quite legally for almost four years, had made a home here AND HIS SON WAS BORN HERE! His wife is American (white anglo) had returned to the US to nurse her father in his last days. Her visa expired in the couple of months she was there but she had been told that there would be no problem renewing it once she was ready to return home. However, when she tried to renew her visa after his death, she was told she must now comply with all the new regulations so she, her daughter and baby son effectively became vagrants in the US for the YEAR it took to get everything sorted out and provide the 12 months of evidence needed to comply with the new rules. The immigration situation for those outside of the EU lacks humanity and any degree of common sense and is blindly geared to exclude ANYONE without either wealth or influence.

    Gillian Davies


    Gregg Brain

    Lola writes, describing us as being “of Anglo-Saxon origins”. I could make the generalisation here that perhaps we all look alike to her, but she would probably be offended, and so she should be. Similarly, she might be offended if I unthinkingly described her as being of Jamaican stock, something she has refuted previously in print.

    Unfortunately, she never took the trouble to ask us before putting this falsehood to print. What makes it more troubling is that she presents this argument as though it were a new idea, when we have publicly corrected the record on this issue previously. Once again, I’ll chase this red herring down for any who care to read it.

    Under South Africa’s Apartheid regime, I would not have been classified as ‘white’. By extension, neither would Lachlan or Kathryn. I anticipate that Lola might say we *look* white, which would put her in the role of arbiter of my race, rather than allowing me to make that identification. In taking this choice from me, she would have had support from South Africa’s P.W. Botha.

    A quick look at the Australian Chinese Ex-Services Monument in Sydney shows my name, along with five members of my family. They served in Australia’s armed forces, together with many others with Chinese ancestry. I was happy for my name to be included on this monument in the hope that it might encourage others to serve.

    I also remember as a very young child spending time on the knee of one of my great-grandfathers, Henry Shoo. According to family lore, Henry’s father left Guangzhou in Southern China ‘to seek his fortune’ (code for economic migrant), and came to Victoria’s goldfields in the 19th Century.

    Despite Lola’s written views of my family, my ancestry has little Anglo or Saxon heritage. My background is substantially celtic; Scottish, Welsh and Irish – and Chinese. Kathryn’s ancestry is (paternally) Scottish, and (maternally) Irish, Spanish and Scandinavian (both her mother and brother had black hair and olive skin).

    Lola also seems to want to have it both ways: She says that immigration debates don’t seem to centre on Antipodeans of Anglo origins, despite, by her own (mistaken) perception, entering just such a debate. She says that she cannot recall members of the “sorry places on our planet” being adopted in the way we have. With respect, she is either not reading the news much or her memory isn’t what it could be. I don’t watch X-Factor, but I’ve heard of Gamu Nhengu. I know about Olivier Monongo, and Beverly Vaanda Kanjii. If I was presenting myself as a pundit with an opinion worthy of community consumption, I’d look it up.

    And all of this is completely beside the point. By buying into this fictional construct called ‘race’, Lola is unfortunately helping to perpetuate everything that is ugly about it. She could instead ask whether Karachi-born Ali Abassi was as dear to gaelic-speaking hearts as Lachlan. She should perhaps ask Ireland’s Shannon Ware whether the Ballinskelligs population considers him and his family to be Irish, regardless of his melanin count. And then she could ask what it is about celtic culture that manages to bypass so much of the racism she so rightly despises.

    And then, finally, there is this: we have been told that we wouldn’t have got the same help if we were Chinese (!), or African. There have also been comments that Nicola Sturgeon would have done more for us if we were Somali pirates, or similar. As can be seen, we have been criticised by both ends of the racialism debate. This serves as fairly conclusive evidence that these criticisms are more projections of the author’s own bias, rather than a reasoned analysis of the situation.

    The bureaucracy is broken, and not fit for purpose. It was just as fixated on kicking out Lola’s perceived ‘white, anglo-saxon’ family as it has been for families with other skin tones. Race aside, it desperately needs to be fixed, so it can better serve the national interest for the entirety of the UK.

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