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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 April 2006, 21:30 GMT 22:30 UK
Anti-Americanism 'feels like racism'
Christian Cox
Ms Cox says she lowers her voice on the Tube to avoid confrontation
Christian Cox, a US citizen living in London, wrote to the BBC news website to express her concern about the amount of abuse she receives because of her nationality.

She says the level of anti-Americanism she has experienced "feels like a kind of racism".

"I don't want anyone to feel sorry for Americans, or me, I just want people to realise that we are dealing with hatred too."

Read some of your comments at the bottom of this page.

Typical British pub banter is one thing, says Christian Cox, but the "pure hatred" she says is directed at her for being American is really starting to wear her down.

The former model moved to London a year ago, where she is setting up her own business, and has been surprised at how some people have reacted to her nationality.

Ms Cox, 29, says she has been called, among other things, "terrorist", "scum", "low life", and feels that she is constantly being held to account for the actions of President Bush and for US foreign policy.

This is despite the fact that she doesn't agree with the war in Iraq and didn't vote for Bush.

I think you are the poorest people I have ever met in my life
American critic

However she adds: "Bush is our leader and I respect that. It's a bit like the way you feel about your father. You don't always agree with him, but you would defend him."

She has travelled widely in other parts of Europe, Mexico, Canada and Australia but says this is the first time her pride in her country has been challenged in such a vitriolic way.

"People would make jokes about Americans but I didn't experience the pure hatred I have had since I came to live here.

"I appreciate that British people often don't understand why I have so much pride, they think it's brainwashing.

"And I do think some people in the US need to be more educated about what's going on in the world.

"But some people just fly off the handle without even talking to me - it's as if they had been waiting to run into an American all day to let their feelings out," she says.

To avoid confrontations she says she lowers her voice on the Underground and in pubs.

But in one incident an older man asked her directly if she was American.

"When I said yes he said: 'I just want you to know that I think you are the poorest people I have ever met in my life' - meaning we were low-life.

"I said I was sorry he felt that way, but that I disagreed."

The man started shouting obscenities at her group. The row developed into a brawl and Ms Cox suffered a black eye as she tried to pull two people apart.

"After that I cried for two days, then booked a flight back to the States. I felt so hated, I needed to be with people who loved me."

Some friends now advise her to tell people she is Canadian, to deflect potential abuse, an option she calls "sad".

'Culture shock'

However it is advice that teacher Francesca Terry, 28, who grew up in Seattle, recognises.

She has lived in London for four years and is married with a daughter.

"I was aware before I moved here that when you travelled abroad it was always better to say you were Canadian if you could get away with it. But we treated it more like a joke."

She was subjected to verbal abuse in the first year or so in Britain, but things calmed down particularly when she had her daughter and stopped going out to pubs so much.

"When I first came here it was part of the culture shock. I felt really naive, I had thought I would go unnoticed here.

"I would go out and I'd just get picked on by people taking pot shots. I just didn't speak when we went out. What shocked me was that people would just say the rudest comments."

But she adds that she has a close group of girlfriends from the US, many of whom say they have not had similar experiences.

She says she is still cautious when she's out and about: "If people ask where I'm from I say 'the States, but the part near Canada'."

"I feel bad about saying that, but it is out of a kind of guilt, I just don't want to get into it with people. When I do, I tell them these are not my choices. I understand my president makes bad decisions, but that's not me."

The US embassy in London declined to comment on the story.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinions received.

It is so sad to meet bigotry in any form
Lynda Blackwod, Shetland Isles
I am Scottish and proud of it. I spent fourteen years living in the USA, I married a dual national. Whilst I lived there I met many individuals who became my friends but I also met many arrogant, ignorant individuals who knew nothing about the world outside of the USA. It is so sad to meet bigotry in any form, but it is on both sides of the "pond", being a Scot I have met the same when I lived and worked in England, sad but true.
Lynda Blackwod, Shetland Isles

I am American and have lived in the UK since 1988. I have not experienced anything but warm hospitality and acceptance by the British. I certainly find Londoners to be some of the most tolerant people on earth. May I suggest that Ms Cox simply get out of the pub because the best time to witness the British (or Americans) at their worst is when they are drunk.
Kay Konop, London, UK

I'm an American who has lived in London for over 6 years and suffered no ill treatment like Ms Cox has described from Britons or from Europeans. Most of the time if there are comments they are about American politics or behaviour. A large percentage of the time individuals are more interested in finding out about life in America. As a Hispanic American I have felt more welcomed and respected living and working in Europe than I have in my own "home" country.
Alicia, London

Living in London changed my perspective on the world
Robert, Chicago, IL, USA
When I lived in London, I never met the same type of hostility that Ms Cox has experienced. Only once did I feel that someone made an inappropriate remark to me concerning the actions of the US government. For the most part, my experiences were positive and I found that I could easily discuss politics with my British colleagues - regardless of whether or not we agreed. However, at the same time, I have to say that living in London changed my perspective on the world and helped me to see a much larger picture that most Americans will never know by simply following the news in the US media.
Robert, Chicago, IL, USA

All of us, by identity, carry the flag of our own countries. But, people forget that that doesn't mean we are all agree with our administrations. If we can vote them in, we can also vote them out! What worries me is when a person has to lower her voice to hide her identity. That's just reflects how tunnel-visioned we remain.
Mel Shore, USA

Hatred against Americans is not rife here. I've worked with and know personally many Americans and I know them to be charming, courteous people. I've heard no complaints from them, but then they've been here longer than Christian Cox and aren't trying to attract attention for their new business.
Julie, UK

I'm an African-American who has been living in London for a year now. I've yet to experience one iota of in-person prejudice or harassment. Then again, I'm living in Hackney. Most people feel sorry for me - even though Hackney is the most wonderful, diverse, culturally rich places I've been in London! I think the root of Ms Cox's difficulties are rooted in both her power and privilege. Even unconsciously acted upon - it is still read by others as arrogance.
Christina Springer, London, UK

I am an American living in Bradford (Muslim population 300,000, American Population 1) So perhaps I'm in a good position to comment. I have noticed anger towards America increasing over the last few years, but I have never felt that I was treated badly, or as a walking representative of disastrous American foreign policy.
Richard, Bradford

Anti-American sentiment clearly runs high in the UK, but there can be no defence of people abusing Ms Cox. But why would any intelligent person blindly defend the actions of another? Bush is no benevolent "father figure" worthy of unquestioning love, he is a politician, and the man who orchestrated the invasion of Iraq. The line between "national pride" and the tacit approval of Bush's actions are blurred in her comments. Until Ms Cox can reconcile this conflict perhaps it would be best if she continues to "keep her voice down".
Gavin Scott, Edinburgh, UK

Anyone that abuses a person because of their nationality is guilty of racism regardless of which nation that person comes from
David McLean, Liverpool, UK

As a Muslim studying abroad I can sympathise with her. However, she has only suffered a black eye and had hurtful words thrown at her, whereas I have family members who are now buried six feet under in Basra due to her government's actions.
Ahmed, UK

I had no idea that the British people felt that way about Americans. It is difficult for others to understand that in any country (yours, mine) the people are not the voice of the government. Why do people insist on taking their anger out on the citizens?
Brucine Lukaart, Michigan, USA

I think the English also love America and feel connection with it
Tom Hewson, London, UK
I know exactly what she means. I have lived here for more than 20 years and there is no question it exists. However, over time I have to see it less as hatred and more sibling rivalry. I think the English also love America and feel connection with it. I can't say the constant little digs don't hurt sometimes, but all in all I love England and compared to how other races fare here, we don't do too bad. (Try being French... or dare I say of coloured skin from India or Pakistan)
Tom Hewson, London, UK

If you want a cheap joke, nothing is easier than to take a swipe at Bush or America. Many British comedians that should know better are aware of this. In my opinion, most people who feel inclined to say such things are generally ill-informed on political matters, and such comments are an attempt to hide their ignorance.
Dan Jones, York

I am Japanese and have lived in this country since I was three. I have experienced various kinds of verbal taunts and racist remarks all throughout my life. It sad that two grown women are focusing in on their experiences as if they were unique. They should understand that to be a foreigner in any other country will invite those jingoistic and hateful to target them no matter what. If a three-year-old girl could make it, so can they.
Saki Baba, London

There are millions of Americans who are disgusted by the actions of their government. As Brits we should be careful not to cast stones because we elected Mr Blair, and if one country had it in its power to prevent the war in Iraq it was ours.
Ben Gould, London

It's very unfortunate that individuals should be singled out like this purely because of where they come from. But I would say to Christian Cox, don't defend Bush if you don't agree with him, and don't express unqualified pride in your country which is - like ours - great, but flawed, and you might get a better reception from most Brits!
David Ewen, London

I would agree that in general Americans are a loathsome, naive, petulant bunch, but then the fact that we in Britain allow ourselves to be so influenced by them makes us 10 times worse.
Craig Eastman, Liverpool, UK

If you suspect your 'Canadian' is actually American, ask them to name three provinces (excluding Ontario). Or ask them what the capital of Saskatchewan is. You'll soon know. (We don't like the either, by the way.)
Jim Connolly, Toronto, Canada

I've been in a few tense situations since moving to the UK, but nothing on the level of the harassment Ms Cox has had to endure. I usually defuse the situation by saying "Yes, I'm an American - and I'd like to apologise". You can always ask them if they've ever voted for Tony Blair. Treat such people like you would any other rude person - get away from them. There's a time and a place to discuss how you as an expat relate to your country: in a pub with an angry stranger probably ain't it.
Rose Judson, Birmingham, UK

I can understand how upsetting it is for people such as Ms Cox. However, I think Americans need to be educated in such a way that equips them better to travel without appearing to treat to rest of the world like an extension of Disneyland. I frequently hear patronising, insensitive comments made by American tourists who are tarnishing the reputation of their compatriots.
Tom Watson, Rome, Italy

If you are English and go to live in Scotland you are likely to get exactly this kind of treatment. It is pure racism.
Oliver, UK

I'm an American living in Belgium and it shocks me to see that Americans probably receive more "racist" comments in Europe than the immigrants we so often read are being discriminated against. My grandfather fought here in WWII and sometimes I think of the irony that it is their freedom he secured than makes me feel so insecure in Europe.
Charles, Brussels, Belgium

I don't defend my father when he is wrong, only when he is right, only a fool would do otherwise. How is Bush to learn if even those who didn't vote for him become his apologists.
John Sinclair, Dundee, UK

As a Brit living in the US I receive only good things about my country and am proud to say I am British as people are even nicer to me because of it. Therefore I find it very sad that my country cannot offer the same courtesy to Americans in England.
Stephanie Cottrill, Miami, USA

Although I disagree with US politics and foreign policy, I would always be friendly and welcoming to Americans in our country. Any Americans who are feeling offended in the UK are welcome round my house for a traditional steak and kidney pudding and some nice English ale!
Martin, Chesterfield, UK

How about interviewing an American that supports our president instead of making a point of interviewing two Americans that apparently feel they have to make concessions by saying they disagree with him? Your story makes it seem as if the anti-American anger is justified but simply misdirected away from the president.
Allen T, CA, USA

Is it any surprise that Americans get held to account for their country's rapacious and evil foreign policy? As individuals every American I have met in this country have been perfectly nice but your government's actions condemn you all. If you don't like it then you need to campaign harder at home. I would be ashamed of being English abroad at the moment, because of the actions of OUR government. And just think, if Americans are hated this much in the UK what do you think the opinion of the Arab and Persian world might be?
Chris Blackman, London, England

It is little wonder that there is such a dislike and misunderstanding of Americans and American foreign policy when you consider the thread of anti-Americanism that runs through almost every related story that the BBC presents. Who do you think you are?
Eddie Chalmers, Dundee, UK

I am married to a British national and did a posting with the Canadian High Commission in London from 2000-2004. I suffered verbal abuse on a few occasions when people thought I was American. It got to the point where my husband asked that we not talk on the Tube into London and I wore a Canadian Maple Leaf lapel pin.
Pam Saunders, Singapore

Ms Cox is perhaps a tad naive to take the abuse she receives so personally. Americans are easy targets right now and thanks, not in small part, to the British press it's easy for people to target one US national for the others' actions. But it's not just Americans who get this, prejudice is rampant in this country. For example, I live in Wales and I've seen English people here being beaten up for being English.
Andy, Cardiff, UK

My American relatives visit the UK frequently. When here they go to pubs, restaurants, stores, historical sites etc and never once have they been subjected to criticism or insults. So one is led to ask, "Is this reported abuse of Americans a London phenomenon?"
PW, East Midlands

As a Seattleite living in London I often find that I can get away with pretending to be Canadian as well. And I do. I am ashamed to be American. I didn't vote for Bush and I don't support the Iraq war and I feel American foreign policy is abhorrent. But I also find that people will assume I'm a thick headed, right-wing, McDonald's loving, anti-Islamic, fundamentalist Christian, intolerant, homophobic idiot. That couldn't be further from the truth, but I never get a chance to show people who I really am.
Emilie Dingler-Meek, London, England

Christian Cox should have confidence in her country and treat the people who express such anti-American remarks with the contempt they deserve. She must expect criticism, but not insult - and she must say that she is American and proud of it, and walk away. Arguing with bigots is a complete waste of energy.
Mike Fox, London, England.

I feel no pity for Americans working abroad - they get to see first hand what their foreign policies are doing to the rest of the world.
Ian Anderson, Aberdeen, UK

Cry me a river. How much American tolerance and openness do Iranian visitors to the US experience these days? We can't pick and choose the aspects of our national image we want to be identified with. This extreme form of individualism - 'I'm only responsible for what I myself did, not what my government does in my name' - is precisely the sort of thing which gives Americans such a bad name.
Scott, Stirling, UK

As a rule, any opinion expressed in a British pub should be ignored.
Andrew , Montreal, Canada

Ms Cox shouldn't really be surprised in the current climate. More and more people are coming to realise the US administration is the biggest terrorist organisation in the world. Unfortunately, their citizens will increasingly take the backlash, even though many of them are against US foreign policy - just as many Muslims are against such atrocities as 9/11 and Bali.
John Lockett, Burnley, UK

I am shocked and disgusted at the people on this board, in particular Scott in Stirling and Ian Anderson, who condone this vile behaviour. Perhaps they wished the USA hadn't interfered in WWII? When you visit America they are the most welcoming of hosts and very friendly towards us Brits. Furthermore when America follows isolationist policies the rest of the world complains they don't do enough. I'm sure the Bosnian Muslims would like to thank America for pushing NATO to take action in the Balkans when the rest of Europe turned a blind eye.
Alex Taylor, Bolton, UK

I have a question for my esteemed British cousins - what is it that 'America' is doing that you yourselves are not? We invaded Iraq. So did you. We invaded Afghanistan. So did you. We support Israel with money and weapons. So do you. We have nukes. So do you. Our military is deployed in other people's countries in order to make them do what we want. As is yours. The more I think about it, Britain is about the least qualified nation on earth to condemn 'American' foreign policy.
John, Los Angeles, USA

Craig Eastman's comment "that in general Americans are a loathsome, naive, petulant bunch", ironically indicates the very thing Americans are accused of elsewhere in this discussion - being insular and having stereotypical views of the world. Has Mr Eastman ever strayed far from Merseyside. Perhaps he should visit the USA?
Dave Taylor (British), Seattle, USA

I think some Americans intentionally mis-read negative comments about Bush as being anti-American and then whine about it. I love my country and am as pro-American as one can get, but I hate Bush and what he has done to my nation's reputation around the world. People are not anti-American, they are anti-Bush and that is NOT the same thing.
Randal S. Los Angeles, USA

Interesting that some people can portray them selves as other nationalities to avoid dealing with situations. Sometimes I wish I had the same luxury and was able to change colour.
Ahmed, London, UK

I honestly think its all about the tone and volume. Americans are always WAH WAH WAH on the train, in the restaurants. You can hear them a mile off. Its as irritating as when someone is talking on their mobile loudly in a train. It gives the impression they are better than everyone else. What I would advise Americans to do is to talk less, listen more, and talk more softly. Don't get me wrong, I love Americans, I never generalise, but I have met many arrogant ones and it is such a shame they give this impression.
Stevo, London, UK

I am very sorry to hear how Ms Cox has been treated. I think that kind of behaviour amounts to full on racism and should be treated as so. We have to understand that everybody is an individual and not to stereotype. I am a Asian Muslim in England, but it would be wrong to hold me responsible for the actions of a few. I most likely hate the London bombers more than a white English person, as those bombers have given my colour, motherland, and religion a bad name. I hope Ms Cox does not experience any more hassle.
Jahan Khan, Whitechapel

I can't tell you how sad this story made me. I have been an Anglophile all my life. My fondest dream is to spend time in the UK. I respect your people and culture so much. I am descended not only from England, but Scotland, Ireland and Wales as well! But I am to suffer abuse for it, because I was born in the US? I guess I have to go on loving the dream of England and not make the trip. By the way, I didn't vote for Bush. As a veteran, I would find it very hard to say I was from Canada. Chin up all you Americans in the UK. Maybe you are just running into the loony few? I hope so.
Jana Palumbo, Georgia, USA


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