RACE RELATIONS IN BRITAIN TODAY
Immigration After the second world war, due to Britain’s shortage of labour (mainly in manual, low-skilled jobs) and to the necessity to rebuild the country, the British government invited Commonwealth citizens (= citizens of the former colonies of the British Empire) to settle in the UK to fill those vacant jobs and to participate to the reconstruction effort.From the 1940s to the 1960s, immigrants came from the three main areas of the Commonwealth: 1. the Indian sub-continent: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh -> they are commonly called ‘Asians’ (normally, unlike France, the Chinese are not counted as “Asians”). These groups are characterised by their strong and ancient cultural traditions, which include: strong religious affiliations (either Hindus,Muslims, or Sikhs), strong family structures (arranged marriages for example), the persistence of linguistic, culinary and dress traditions (languages such as Hindi, Punjabi are all present / Asians both from the Indian sub-continent and, later, from China have made a great contribution to the restaurant trade so much so that curry is the n°1 favourite Br itish meal / traditional dress is worn everyday)2. the West Indies or Caribbean islands: Jamaica, Trinidad, Tobago, St Lucia, etc. 3. African countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Sierra Leone, etc. Both West Indian and Africans came from cultures that were already creolized (creolization = métissage culturel): English was the official language in their countries and most of them were Protestants. Later, from the 1970s onwards, new generationsof immigrants came to the United Kingdom. Unlike previous generations, they did not originate from the Commonwealth. Instead, they came from the Far East (China, Vietnam, Cambodia), the Near-East and the Middle-East (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, later Turkey, Cyprus), or more recently, Northern Africa. A lot of these settlers were actually fleeing persecution at home and seeking “political asylum”;they were the victims of an oppressive regime or of ethnic cleansing in their own country (this was the case in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia or Iraq). Their settling down in the UK added to the multicultural dimension of the country, and especially of the country’s main cities. Whereas in 1958, 80% of the immigrants had come from Commonwealth countries; in 1995, only 20% were Commonwealth citizens.More recently, a lot of Eastern European citizens came to the UK after their countries of origins joined the European Union (Poland, Czech Republic, etc.) in 2004 and 2007. Even though these new immigrants are white and historically belong to the same European culture as the United Kingdom, their arrival has triggered a fair amount of resentment among the British population (sometimes, amongpeople who are themselves of immigrant origin!) and have had to face problems of integration. Today, according to the 2001 Census ethnic minorities represent 8% of the overall British population (which is above the European average of 4%): Most people of ‘ethnic minority’ background live in Britain’s large cities such as London, Birmingham or Manchester; London being the most important of them all.Very low number of ‘ethnic minorities’ in rural Britain. In fact, London is the most multi-cultural city not only in Britain but also in Europe: 40% of the London population is non-white, and in 2 boroughs of London, more than 50% of the population is of ‘ethnic minority’ background; finally, in a borough of East London, 137 different languages are being spoken every day. Multiculturalism Britainprides itself on being multicultural. In fact, ‘Multiculturalism’ is a concept that the British claim they have invented. The idea behind a multicultural model society is to allow each separate cultural and ethnic identity to prosper / develop / thrive in their own terms and to be treated on equal terms, yet to require of them / demand that they respect some common social and political rules. This...
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