Saturday, 24 March 2007

Ethnic women and work

For along time it was thought that women from ethnic backgrounds were underrepresented in the workplace due to cultural reasons, such as the ‘unwritten rules about work’ that prevented them from getting into work. But a new report has recently found that discrimination in the workplace is the main cause for under-representation in the workplace.

The report, Moving On up: Ethnic Minority Women at Work, has found that Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black Caribbean are the worst affected.

It is more than just cultural barriers that prevent these women from getting into the workplace, in some cases those groups of women can be overqualified for the position.

The report suggests that government policies need to tackle the situation with more practical solutions support with the cost of childcare and more advice and choice at school and in later years.

Even though the government has become aware of Britain’s increasingly diverse culture it is still not dealing with the problems that people from ethnic backgrounds are faced with in day to day life.

The under-representation of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black Caribbean women in the workplace need to be tackled by employers to become a more diverse workplace.

Being a young British Asian I do feel the need that there are opportunities available to me but I will miss out on because of the discrimination that young ethnic women are faced with. This doesn’t make me any less determined just more aware of the things that I may have to face later on in life.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Dual Identities

What does having a dual identity entail?

Dual identities have become part of British society. Having a dual identity myself, being British Asian, I place more emphasis on the British aspects of my life. I'm not saying that my Asian background does not influence my life, it does but in different ways, such as the cultural aspects. I find myself having the best of both worlds. People living in Britain from different backgrounds and cultures are able to enjoy and celebrate both identities without feeling left out.

So why is it necessary for the government to make people from other backgrounds feel that it is necessary for those people to give their cultural identities and adopt a more "British" one in order for integration to occur?

Gordon Brown recently suggested that people would have to prove their Britishness in order for them to be considered a British citizen. I feel that this is unfair as there are people born and living in Britain who have very little knowledge or are ignorant about British culture. The questions that arise from this are what kind of questions will be used to "test Britishness"? I feel that if those same questions were posed to current British citizens they may not be able to answer them anyway so what hope does it give to those who would like to be considered for British citizenship?

click here to read more about identity in Britian

Thursday, 1 March 2007

What does multi-culturalism mean to others?

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality has called for multiculturalism to be scrapped. But does anybody actually agree what multiculturalism means - and is it a good or bad thing? BBC News Online asked a range of thinkers for a short definition.

PROFESSOR SIR BERNARD CRICK Chair of the 'Life in the UK' report which led to the new citizenship tests.

"I see no incompatibility between multiculturalism and Britishness. Britishness must be part of multiculturalism. In the report I chaired advocating language and citizenship education for immigrants, The New and the Old (2003), we said:

"Who are we British? For a long time the UK has been a multicultural state composed of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and also a multicultural society... made up of a diverse range of cultures and identities, and one that emphasises the need for a continuous process of mutual engagement and learning about each other with respect, understanding and tolerance."

In other words, dual identities have been common, even before large scale immigration.

We further wrote: "To be British means that we respect the laws, the parliamentary and democratic political structures, traditional values of mutual tolerance, respect for equal rights..."
But Britishness does not mean a single culture. Integration is the co-existence of communities and unimpeded movement between them, it is not assimilation.
Britishness is a strong concept but not all embracing."

RUTH LEA Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, a centre-right think tank.

"There are two ways in which people interpret multiculturalism.

The first one is the more common way and that is every culture has the right to exist and there is no over-arching thread that holds them together.

That is the multiculturalism we think is so destructive because there's no thread to hold society together. It is that multiculturalism that Trevor Phillips has condemned and, of course, we are totally supportive.

There is another way to define multiculturalism which I would call diversity where people have their own cultural beliefs and they happily coexist - but there is a common thread of Britishness or whatever you want to call it to hold society together.

And that is clearly what I would support because you do accept that people have different cultures and you accept them. It a positive acceptance not a negative tolerance."

LORD PAREKH, professor of political philosophyChair of the 2000 report, 'The Future of Multi-ethnic Britain'

"Multiculturalism is sometimes taken to mean that different cultural communities should live their own ways of life in a self-contained manner.

This is not its only meaning and in fact it has long been obsolete.

Multiculturalism basically means that no culture is perfect or represents the best life and that it can therefore benefit from a critical dialogue with other cultures.

In this sense multiculturalism requires that all cultures should be open, self-critical, and interactive in their relations with other each other.

This was the basic message of my report on multi-ethnic Britain (The Future of Multi Ethnic Britain, Runnymede Trust 2000). As we argued in the report, Britain is and should remain a vibrant and democratic multicultural society that must combine respect for diversity with shared common values."

KAREN CHOUHANChief Executive of The 1990 Trust, a black-led human rights organisation

"Multiculturalism is not dead, in fact it has been reasserted by government policy in the form of 'valuing diversity'.

Neither is it incompatible with an appreciation or knowledge of British cultures. To suggest otherwise is to turn back the clock on race debates thirty years.

To understand multiculturalism is to appreciate that it means many different things.

To some it is merely sampling different cultures, such as a carnival or a mela [South Asian festival]. To others, it is the road to challenging structural inequalities.

One of Britain's strengths is its diversity. Our political system is founded on different values. White British culture itself is incredibly diverse. But we cannot have cultural diversity without tackling inequalities.

We need to do is move forward with a serious debate about how far we have to go in tackling race discrimination in every corner of society, not move it back by forcing everyone to be more (white) British.

Most minority ethnic communities have made substantial contributions to the making of Britain and have made huge efforts to learn British history and language, and engage in civic society despite encountering social exclusion and racism in practically every area of public policy and practice.

Let's not lose sight of this, or how far we have to go. Tackling racial disadvantage is the best way to engender a sense of belonging, being valued is a two-way street."

Interviews by Cindi John

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Multi-culturalism- A learning process

I believe that learning about the people we live with in a society is essential and should begin from an early age. Implementing understanding and knowledge in children at a school age is important as it allows them to know about the different kinds of people that exist in our world.

Some people in older generations believe that people should stick to their own knid, but our society is forever changing and views are always changing, and now more than important to mix with different people.

As a country, for a long time, we have not been a single faith society, but a multi-faith society. Single faith schools in the UK are not necessarily a bad thing, but it is vital for those schools to educate the students about the different faiths and cultures. Restricting ourselves to knowing about only one faith or culture will inevitably lead to greater ignorance resulting in more segragation and marginalisation.
Multiculturalism, racism and class in Britain today

Submitted on 12 February, 2007 - 20:45 :: Anti-Racism Solidarity 3/106, 9 February 2007

By Camila Bassi

Three phases mark the history of multiculturalism in Britain. The first starts after the period of immigration from the Commonwealth in the 1950s and 1960s.
The newly emergent black and Asian populations occupied certain labour market positions, lived in particular areas and faced particular forms of racism. People from Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Caribbean were some of most oppressed and exploited sections of the working class (they had the worst working and housing conditions). In general terms, they have remained there and been at the sharpest edge of racial tensions.

During these decades a New Right discourse emerged, famously summarised in 1968 by the then Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South-West, Enoch Powell, in his "Rivers of Blood" speech, depicting Britain as swamped with uncontrollable waves of immigrants which were throwing the country into impending doom. It was in this context that A Sivanandan (from the Race and Class journal) says multiculturalism first began to be used as a political policy and term (the phrase has other origins). This first phase (from the 1970s onwards) was, he says, partly a counter-Powellism built through grassroots, united anti-racist struggles and was based on a genuine respect for Britain's diverse cultural groups.

From the early 1980s an official stance emerged which said Britain's racial tensions were a result of disadvantage faced by ethnic minorities, fuelled by the consequences of individual prejudice. The Home Office commissioned Scarman report into the 1981 "race riots" offered such a conclusion and, to a degree, paved the ideological way for the local government appropriation of multiculturalism.

This new orthodoxy of citing ethnic minority disadvantage and individual prejudice - the underpinning rationale then to an appropriated multiculturalism - diverted attention away from the issues of class inequality and institutionalised racism, and rather conveniently left the bourgeois, predominantly white, status quo both out of sight and reach.

By the 1980s Britain had followed in the footsteps of Canada and Australia (countries that had first initiated policies of multiculturalism in the 1970s). Incidentally, the approach typically followed by the rest of Europe was that of encouraging national minority groups to assimilate to the national identity.

This then was the heyday of multiculturalism - when local governments promoted a celebration of cultural diversity, which was and is effectively devoid of anti-racist politics and which has opened up select aspects of discrete ethnic minority cultures to the capitalist market (aka "the united colours of capitalism").

But let's not be too crude here. The local government funds which did become available for specific ethnic minority initiatives were often a positive thing. Still, the consequence of such funding has been to pit one self-defined ethnic minority group against another, breeding resentment within the non-white populations and resentment from a by-standing white ethnic majority. Local government multiculturalism began a process that marketed and depoliticised cultural diversity, and which focused on getting a series of "communities" and "community leaders" to join the ranks. Fundamentally, it has shifted us away from being people affiliating to one another, first and foremost, on the basis of being workers.

In the 1980s, layers of the left (in part infected by a postmodern identity politics) came to embrace multiculturalism as a tool for social progress. One of the most well-known examples of such a leftist approach is that of Ken Livingstone: from his early days in the Greater London Council to his more recent exploits as the Mayor of London (hosting the sexist and homophobic Islamist cleric, Al-Qaradawi).

However, other sections of the left have long opposed multiculturalism on the basis that it ignores the socio-economic conditions that foster racism, decentres anti-racist politics and descends into a crude, apolitical cultural relativism. Trying to uphold the "tradition of the Enlightenment" some on the liberal left regard multiculturalism as going against its principle of the universality of humankind. Socialists too are in favour of a universality of humankind - not to be mistaken for a forced cultural homogenisation, but a coming together of people (previously separating themselves on the grounds of ethnicity, "race" religion, nationality and so on) on the basis of their class. Indeed an international workers' culture would entail a far greater degree of cultural differentiation, more fluid cultural differentiation, as opposed to the fetishisation and solidification of cultural difference that multiculturalism engenders. Multiculturalism does, of course, also have its critics on the right; the Conservative Party, for example equated it with "political correctness gone mad" and a threat to national identity and cohesion.

The most recent phase of multiculturalism is still unravelling and, to some extent, signifies a new dual existence of continued lip service to "cultural diversity" alongside that of calls for assimilation to the national identity. A number of things happened in 2001 which prompted a government policy shift away from multiculturalism toward that of assimilation: the riots in the northern cities of Oldham, Burnley and Bradford; the Home Office commissioned Cantle report; the media hysteria over asylum seekers (echoing the earlier New Right discourse of Britain being "flooded"); and, of course, 9/11. The Cantle report summoned up the language of "community cohesion", and concluded that the problem of Britain's "race relations" is one of barriers between different cultures and a lack of civic pride, and that the solution is one of bringing Britain's ethnic minorities into the fold of its national institutions.

Similar to multiculturalism, "community cohesion" bypasses the very roots of racism, poverty and class inequality. The subtle difference between the two being that whilst the former suggested that Britain's "race relations problem" was borne out by ethnic minorities suffering from too little opportunity to express their cultures, the latter supposes that ethnic minorities have been given too much cultural expression and that this, in itself, has led to racial segregation. This new parameter of the debate has realigned populist "race" pundits, for instance, Trevor Phillips (the chair of the Commission for Racial Equality) calls for the multiculturalism project to be abandoned on the basis that it has bred separateness. The latest policy offering by David Cameron's Tory Party (a Policy Exchange report which attacked multiculturalism and promoted "community cohesion") is in the same vein. Now Sivanandan (a staunch critic of multiculturalism in the 1980s and 1990s) defends a form of multiculturalism in the face of what he describes as government talk of integration which in reality, he says, spells assimilation, monoculturalism and nativism.

Ethnic Minorities

People in society have become marginalised, where certain groups of people depending on the colour of their skin tend to live in certain areas of the UK.

This is more apparent in London, where groups of people have been segragated in relation to the colour of their skin. This isn't necessarily down to the coour of their skin but more about finding people of their own kind and creating a society out of that.

So who's at fault for this divide between people? The ethnic groups themselves or society in a larger sense for pushing people away?

The British government is forever making promises to promote multi-culturalism by introducing policies. But introducing policies will not automatically mean that people will become more tolerant or understand different cultures better.

We need to learn about each other and the cultures that we come from in order to truly become a multi-cultural society.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007


Segragation is ever more eminant in the UK. White and black, and black and asian conflict groups have formed in the UK.

Are we more tolerant of people with different cultural backgrounds?

Or do we as a society alienate people and create divisions in other parts of our social lives where we are reluctant to integrate?