Comment is free: Thinking outside the ticked boxes
In 2001 a new category of identity was introduced in the census: “mixed”. Thousands of Britons were no longer required to tick “other” or align themselves exclusively with the more established groups recognised by the state. The census results made it apparent that labelling people simply as “black”, “white” or “Asian” hid far more about the nature of Britain’s population than it revealed.
The author of this article, Kay Hampton, writes,
My own identity spans three continents and five cultural and ethnic identities from which I take something that is of value to me. The result is that I have interchangeable and interlocking identities that I adjust and develop to suit how comfortable I feel in time and context. I am African in South Africa, Indian in India and in the UK sometimes British and, more often than not, Scottish. Ultimately I appear “Asian” and am often mistaken for “black”, but am made to feel an outsider when asked where I come from. Surely, it is more important to focus on where I am going.
This always was a mongrel nation, though many are apparently unaware of it. In the US, DNA ancestry testing has revealed that “black” people have “white” genes, and vice versa. White racists have been shocked to discover that they weren’t as “pure” as they’d thought, and black people have learned that white slave owners contributed their DNA to the family’s gene pool.
This seems relevant to the “communities” issue in the UK. While many British people are mixed-race, they don’t fall into any distinct ethnic category. The “communities” that politicians so often refer to are more likely to be based on religion than on ethnicity; in other words, they are freely chosen. If you choose to associate with a group of people who all play golf, or don’t eat meat, or simply avoid mixing with those who don’t share your interests, why should you expect any special privileges, such as “consultations” with government officials?
And even if the so-called “communities” were based on ethnicity, do they merit special attention? No. That would be racist segregation. I look forward to the day when the word “community” is only used to describe people who live in a geographical area, such as my village. There are community activities, such as the community woodland scheme on land donated by a local landowner. We have community concerns, such as the provision of affordable housing for local young people. Otherwise, we’re a diverse mix, in terms of attitudes and interests. We don’t expect or want special privileges. Neither should self-selecting groups based on religion that are referred to as “communities”.