Originally published in the Huffington Post in September
Footage has emerged on YouTube of a non-white staff member at Selfridges refusing to serve English Defence League leader (EDL), Tommy Robinson, and an associate. The EDL is a fascist street-movement in the UK, diminishing greatly in the last twelve months, with dwindling demonstration numbers and public relations mishaps.
Just last week the EDL ensured a Love Music Hate Racism gig in Ipswich, organised by a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl, had to be cancelled after threats of violence. When they’re not buying trousers from Selfridges they’re opposing music nights celebrating multi-culturalism. Life for the average EDL member is clearly fantastic. Or if you’re Tommy Robinson, glorious incidents occur such as attempting to enter North America illegally and getting ironically deported as a fledgling illegal immigrant.
The staff member at Selfridges should be commended for his actions. There needs to be maximum opposition to fascism. Whether that’s turning up for a protest, denouncing the EDL online as the Nazi scum they are or refusing to sell them designer underwear, to take a phrase from a far more down-market store than where Tommy Robinson shops, ‘every little helps’.
Twitter has been awash with confused comments in support of Robinson’s efforts to get the Selfridges staff member sacked. Some choice gems are a paraphrasing of, “but isn’t it fascist, what the staff member did, refusing to serve Tommy because of his beliefs?” These people seem to equate not bagging someone’s items because they’re a racist with a system of oppression based on racism. Anti-racism and racism – they’re actually opposites (the clue is in the word ‘anti’). Anyone would think that six millions Jews weren’t murdered under fascism and were actually only banned from upmarket clothing stores. There is a fairly large distinction.
Others rely on cries of, “but it’s company policy to serve everyone!” Ah, terms of employment, the new “I was only doing my job”, said by every extermination camp guard, Gestapo member, or typist of the Auschwitz departure timetable. Actually there is no obligation to serve someone as a staff member. You simply cannot be refused service on the basis of gender, sexuality, race, disability or religion. You can be refused service for being rude. Or if you’re Tommy Robinson, an individual that wants the staff member at the till, his parents, siblings and children, to be discriminated against. That’s quite rude.
Workplaces are inherently political. This goes beyond customer service, to the very heart of what it means to live in society. Workplaces are not outside society. So, when we say racism and fascism should be challenged throughout society, we mean at work.
If you agree that the staff member should be supported, please email email@example.com telling them you now think more of their store values and commend the young man caught on video, showing Tommy Robinson that he won’t be treated like everyone else because he isn’t like everyone else. Robinson is a fascist and I hope all Nazis get refused service everywhere they go, even in clothes shops, in order to highlight intolerance based on race/sexuality/religion won’t be tolerated. Though, the entire EDL in dressing gowns at their next demonstration might make me regret such a scenario.