“You clap for me now”: a poignant video about immigrant “coronavirus helpers”

April 17, 2020 • 9:30 am

I saw this video on Twitter yesterday, and was really moved by it. I looked for it on YouTube and luckily found a Guardian version I could embed here.

The poem, “You clap for me now”, is by Darren James Smith, and refers to immigrants in Britain, who, previously subject to xenophobia, are now being applauded for their work during the pandemic. Pointing out this hypocrisy, the poem and video are both angry and sweet—and if they don’t make people examine their attitudes about immigrants and immigration, I don’t know what will.

Unfortunately, the Spectator excoriates the poem and the video for being “self congratulatory,” but I don’t think it is. I think it’s clever and thoughtful. After all, it’s undeniable that a lot of people in the UK (and in the rest of Europe and the US) don’t like immigrants, and yet now applaud them for their “heroism” during the pandemic. Some work voluntarily, knowing the risks but wanting to help. Others are involuntary heroes: they have to take low-paying jobs that are dangerous and involve contact with the public.

In any case, the Spectator can shove it.

The beginning is nice, analogizing the fear of the virus and of immigrants. According to the video’s notes, it was produced by Sachini Imbuldeniya.

38 thoughts on ““You clap for me now”: a poignant video about immigrant “coronavirus helpers”

  1. Yes, just get back out there on the golf course and keep mowing. The Cheeto is playing through.

    1. Indeed. With a small number of honourable exceptions (eg Nick Cohen, Isabel Hardman), The Spectator has very many nasty, little-Englander types on its writing staff. And don’t get me started on the readers…

  2. Laid on a little thick, but very nice. I expect it makes a lot of people squirm. Which, of course, was the point.

  3. “After all, it’s undeniable that a lot of people in the UK (and in the rest of Europe and the US) don’t like immigrants”

    I can only speak for my own country, the UK, but I do deny this. Yes, like every country we have an irreducible minority of racist idiots, but the UK is overall one of the most integrated, tolerant and welcoming societies on Earth. There is hardly anyone here who wants to stop immigration completely, but very many (like me) who want to regulate and limit it to levels we can comfortably absorb. The vast majority of Brits recognize and appreciate the contribution made by generations of immigrants to the cultural and economic life of the UK, including the large numbers who work in the health service. When we clap on Thursday evenings, we’re already applauding ALL of them, whoever they are and wherever they come from. There was absolutely no need for this divisive, hectoring video to be have been made. It’s just a piece of race-baiting from people who cannot resist injecting identity politics into everything, even a national health emergency.

    1. I suspect that many Brits wouldn’t agree with you, and I’ve certainly heard TONS about racism from my Indian friends who live in England. And then of course there’s a fair dollop of anti-immigrant sentiment behind Brexit.

      But I’ll let the Brits here discuss your comment. I do NOT think the video is “race-baiting”.

      1. I think the British, and Europeans in general, have little problems with immigrants, but they do have a problem with the ‘exceptionalism’ of imported Islam.
        Not just the Rotherhams, but the Colognes and Swedens. Whole areas were eg. a Western (native) woman cannot walk without being molested (Paris, Brussels, etc.). Most of you USians have no idea yet how bad it is in some, well, numerous, places.

    2. “After all, it’s undeniable that a lot of people in the UK (and in the rest of Europe and the US) don’t like immigrants”

      I can only speak for my own country, the UK, but I do deny this. Yes, like every country we have an irreducible minority of racist idiots, but the UK is overall one of the most integrated, tolerant and welcoming societies on Earth.

      You deny that a lot of people in the UK don’t like immigrants, but your follow-up statement, that “the UK is overall one of the most integrated, tolerant and welcoming societies on Earth” could be entirely consistent with that sentiment. We *could* be the most integrated, tolerant and welcoming society on Earth and still have a lot of people who don’t like immigrants.

      Attitudes to immigration are complex, but if we use foreigners or people of other races as a proxy for immigrants, we clearly do have a lot of people who don’t like immigrants. A study by the Runnymede Trust reports that 26% of Britons consider themselves very or a little prejudiced against people of other races. By any count, that amounts to a lot of people in the UK not liking immigrants. In addition, more Brexit voters self-report as prejudiced than non-Brexit voters, so the move to regulate our borders by leaving the EU is correlated with antipathy to immigrants.(http://natcen.ac.uk/media/1488132/racial-prejudice-report_v4.pdf)

      Further evidence is provided by the UN special rapporteur on racism:

      Speaking at the end of her mission to the UK, Prof Tendayi Achiume pointed to a Brexit-related growth in “explicit racial, ethnic and religious intolerance”, including extreme views that have gained ground in mainstream political parties of the left and the right.


      So while you may be among the majority who want to control immigration while loving immigrants (and kudos to you), there must be a lot of other people in the UK who simply don’t like immigrants, until a pandemic strikes and they realise they need them after all. Pointing out that hypocrisy is an excellent initiative.

      1. I think there are a lot of people in the UK who don’t like immigrants in principle but treat them exactly as they would natives in practice.

        My parents would be an example. They voted for Brexit, but their window cleaner (Lithuanian) and their builder (Polish) are the nicest people in the World, apparently.

    3. I am entirely with you,Dave. It’s the Guardian, for heaven’s sake!

      I’ve read the Guardian pretty much since it left Manchester in 1959. It and the then New Statesman taught me moderate left-think.

      Now it’s wokeness repulses me. Daily. Wokeness, note, which is generally found diststeful hereabouts. Yet this terrible video is deemed OK?

      You are quite right, we are a tolerant people. No right wing group has ever gained any serious foothold here. UKIP, etc? How many seats have such enterprises ever gained in Parliament? They are expressions of frustration, in my view, agianst the dominant wokeness. Yet they still get little support.

      Contrast the US and Trump.

      The great injustice re the NHS is that we are not training sufficient personnel for our needs. So we steal them from poorer countries, where they may be less well trained. No one ever seems to notice this.

      What we should be doing as a rich country (as should the US, etc), is training medical people and sending them out to help the rest of the world.

      1. Yes, I deem it okay. And I think you’re dead wrong in calling it a terrible video; in fact, although I am not a fan of wokeness, I reject your implicit criticism of me for deeming it okay. There are plenty of Brits who dislike immigrants, just as there are plenty of Americans. You and Dave are just wrong in saying all Brits are fine with them. And I have Brits on the thread (and elsewhere) that will say you’re wrong, as well as Indian friends in England that experience racism a lot.

        If you think that anti-immigrant sentiment had nothing to do with Brexit, I feel sorry for you. And, if I were you, I wouldn’t pursue this further, for obdurate ignorance is an offense on this site.

  4. I think it’s clever and thoughtful.

    As do I. It should take its place alongside other such cris de coeur of human dignity and equality as Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” (which was itself a variation on the Brit abolitionist motto “Am I not a man and a brother?”).

        1. I’m reading a terrific novel called Governor of the Northern Province by Randy Boyagoda, a Canadian of Sri Lankan heritage. The book features a former West African warlord and current convenience store operator outside Ottawa and a smalltown local girl, naive but politically ambitious, who, when asked by the local librarian did they not at least read Romeo and Juliet in Grade 10 replies: “No, Miss Spillway. Only the one about the Jew who went around asking people about his prick and blood and pound of flesh.”

          1. There’s a joke to be made there about a hemorrhaging half-kilo schmeckle, but I’m gonna stay too classy to make it. 🙂

  5. Allow me to disagree with Dave. Yes the UK seems to have done a good job of integrating diverse peoples. Yet, the video should remind us all, particularly in the United States, of the persistent bigotry towards immigrants. Here we need look no further than the White House. The poem/video did not seem hectoring to me, but a brave and honest reminder of what we all want to be mindful of always.

    1. The US has been plagued by a recurrent strain of know-nothing, nativist xenophobia going back almost to the day the Mayflower landed on Plymouth Rock. Trumpism is its most-recent recrudescence.

      1. It really isn’t. We are not a racist nation.

        The (woke) Guardian video is entirely anecdotal. And deliberately divisive. So here is an anecdote of my own.

        A while back there was a new young woman in my local store. ‘Can I ask where you are from?’ This, note, is a microaggression, and taboo. On the other hand, she had demanded ‘How old you?’ because I was buying a beer (I am 75).

        So, an opening into personal information: She came, she said, from Nepal. ‘Really? Where the Gurkhas are from?’ ‘My father was a Gurkha.’ ‘I went to school with some Gurkha boys, back in 1957. My Dad was in the Army.’

        I did and he was. And so conversation flowed and we became pals. Despite my microaggression, which neither of us had ever really heard of.

        Anecdotal, but a truer truth than the woke Guardian will ever manage. Why? Because we had no agenda. Just people being nice to each other.

        1. You seem to confuse whether Britain is a “racist nation” with the thesis of the video that many immigrants experience racism, which is true. Your anecdote is along the lines of “some of my best friends are black/Jewish/Hispanic”, and does nothing to dispel the thesis of the video.

          Your last paragraph doesn’t at all establish that your anecdote is a “truer truth” than the Guardian’s. I am no fan of wokeness, but you are asserting that anti-immigrant sentiment is virtually nil in Britain. That’s a palpable falsehood, and, as I said, you’d best get off this subject.

  6. Reading the comments here, I’m reminded of that old Certs commercial:

    Blonde #1: “Certs is a candy mint!”
    Blonde #2: “Certs is a breath mint!”
    Male announcer: “STOP! You’re BOTH right!”

    A comment above notes the problems in European cities, and I’ve seen it myself in Paris, in particular. It seems as though we can’t discuss the issue for fear of being thought racist or anti-immigrant, yet we can be both pro-immigration AND worried about immigrant non-assimilation, when backwards ideas are brought to the new country & preserved in immigrant enclaves, leading to inevitable clashes.

    There are good & bad citizens, including good & bad immigrants. We want good citizens, wherever they come from, and it’s reasonable to be concerned about the effects of immigration on our communities.

    I’m both moved by the video, and concerned where I believe it’s warranted.

  7. I loved the poem and the video. It made me cry for all of those/us who have been immigrants and, therefore, unaccepted.

    We are all immigrants, or the progeny of immigrants. Whether the earliest so-called human beings moved from one part to another of Africa and, then, out of Africa, we have spread all over the world. We have modified throughout time in numerous ways to acclimate to the conditions in which we lived, or live, making us different in appearance (skin color, hair color and texture, slim vs. broad noses, etc.) and the malfunctions of our bodies (e.g. sickle cell anemia, lactose intolerance, etc.) When my Protestant ancestors left France, Holland, Germany, England hundreds of years ago for North America, they were all immigrants; hated, forced to live in bad housing in what we would now call ghettos, getting the worst jobs and poorest pay. Over time, they were accepted as citizens and the next wave of immigrants were unaccepted and mistreated, as they had been. All of these were looking for a better life.

    In re England: whatever the first residents of the peninsula or island that is now known as England were, Picts or Celts, they were invaded by Angles, Saxons, Norse, and Normans to make up the polyethnic mix of those called English. I appreciate the “pepper” that has
    since seasoned the “salt”.

    1. Those Saxons were too big with their big feet coming to the British Isles & displacing the Picts. 😀

  8. I think the best comment on the video is that of Titania McGrath:

    “This important video reminds everyone that just because we’re in the midst of a pandemic we mustn’t stop calling everybody racist.

    There’s no better way to achieve unity at this difficult time.”

    That is the spirit. Make us all hate each other, even when we dont’.

    1. Really? That was Titania’s typically incisive contribution was it?

      Christ, she/he is getting more unbearable by the day.

  9. If the writer of the poem is an immigrant, the poem is self-congratulatory. If he isn’t, the poem is patronizing. As a working-class immigrant, I would have refused to participate in that video. But I understand that the people that like the video have the heart in the right place.

Leave a Reply