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ETHNIC IDENTITY: THE NON-NATIVE BRITISH

The long centuries of contact between the peoples of the four nations of the British Isles means that there is a limit to their significant differences. With minor variations, they look the same, speak the same language, eat the same food, have the same religious heritage (Christianity) and have the same attitudes to the roles of men and women.

The situation for the several million people in Britain whose family roots lie in the Caribbean or in south Asia or elsewhere in the world is different. For them, ethnic identity is more than a question of deciding which sports team to support. Non-whites (about 6% of the total British population) cannot, as white non-English groups can, choose when to advertise their ethnic identity and when not to.

Most non-whites, although themselves born in Britain, have parents who were born outside it. The great wave of immigration from the Caribbean and south Asia took place between I950 and 1965. These immigrants, especially those from south Asia, brought with them different languages, different religions (Hindu and Muslim) and everyday habits and attitudes that were sometimes radically different from traditional British ones. As they usually married among themselves, these habits and customs have, to some extent, been preserved. For some young people brought up in Britain, this mixed cultural background can create problems. For example, many young Asians resent the fact that their parents expect to have more control over them than most black or white parents expect to have over their children. Nevertheless, they cannot avoid these experiences, which therefore make up part of their identity.

As well as this ‘given’ identity, non-white people in Britain often take pride in their cultural roots. This pride seems to be increasing as their cultural practices, their everyday habits and attitudes, gradually becoming less distinctive. Most of the country's non-whites are British citizens. Partly because of this, they are on the way to developing the same kind of division of loyalties and identity that exists for many Irish, Scottish and Welsh people. Pride can increase as a defensive reaction to racial discrimination. There is quite a lot of this in Britain. There are tens of thousands of racially motivated attacks on people every year, including one or two murders. All in all, however, overt racism is not as common as it is in many other parts of Europe.

 


Date: 2015-01-02; view: 1484


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IDENTITY IN NORTHERN IRELAND | RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL IDENTITY
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