We are on the verge of publishing our Annual Report and this document includes our Chairman’s Report which I’d like to share with you. It was written by our Chairman/Trustee, Alan Warren. I would love to hear your opinion on what Alan has to say so please leave a comment in the section below.
In 1968 Enoch Powell, a senior Member of Parliament, made a formal speech against immigration and race relations legislation warning us that:-
- A Britain made up of different ethnic backgrounds was unachievable. Instead we would see “rivers of blood”- violent civil war
- Britain was “a nation busily engaged in building up its own funeral pyre”- that Britishness would be destroyed
The speech was very powerfully reported and helped to intensify programmes to integrate communities, combat racism and redress racial disadvantage. And, as part of this, we were asked to declare our ethnic background from categories offered on forms.
Some fifty years later we see that immigration into Britain has continued from many different parts of the world so were those fears justified?
We have seen outbreaks of civil unrest and inter-racial violence but not yet the apocalypse that was forecast.
It is now commonplace to see people from overseas backgrounds in prominent positions in Britain and the Mayor of London has parents who were born outside the UK. Equally people with overseas backgrounds feature prominently in British life and in workforces. Of course this does not mean that we have achieved equality or eradicated disadvantage. Racial attacks have increased recently and there is still evidence of disadvantage. For instance in London 40% of the population is from ethnic minority groups but only 14% of the London police service (police.uk website). And 25% of the prison population is non-white compared to 12% of the general population (House of Commons Briefing Paper April 2017). So there’s more to do but it is clear that the UK has had considerable success in integrating its citizens with overseas backgrounds and equally they have succeeded in British life.
So has Britishness been destroyed? It doesn’t feel so. People coming into Britain have done so to become British and to commit their families to a British future. The British nation can claim to have been the most influential on earth and this global history is now more fully reflected in the backgrounds of our people. It has enriched us.
Our future is created by us and we cannot allow the dangers of ethnic diversity, such as civil unrest and racial violence, to win out. The lesson so far is that intervention helps us make progress.
Celebrating British life
The diversity of our national population can enrich us only if it is conducted in a way that makes it available to all our population. Without this it is ghettoised and divisive. We must continue to celebrate the benefits of the wide backgrounds in British life.
We must recognise that people are still disadvantaged because of their ethnic background. This is hurtful, wasteful and divisive. Sometimes disadvantage takes the form of active prejudice and must be opposed. Sometimes people are disadvantaged by not immediately understanding British systems and they need help to make progress. We must continue to give support and help people to make the changes they need to succeed in British life.
Ethnic monitoring has been helpful but we need a rethink about what we mean by ethnic background. Now that this background is, for many people, several generations back and those sources of immigration are from more parts of the world, reliable categorisation is hard to define. Our ethnic background is not our identity and it does not define us. What do we want to know when we ask people this question? What if people see themselves as just British.
Cohesion in our Community
We now face a new danger in our ethnic diversity. Racism as a political weapon. In the racist murder of Drummer Lee Rigby and the racist terror attacks on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge we are seeing deliberate attempts to incite racist civil war. The perpetrators are selected for their ethnicity and open in their actions. The victims are chosen for their skin colour and the locations are picked for their national emblematic prominence. The same strategy that was used successfully to destabilise Iraq. The revenge racist attack on Finsbury Park mosque shows that these tactics can have some success in the UK.
We look to the past to learn the lessons; we look to the present to understand our options; and we create our future through the choices we take. It has never been more important to work positively to help ethnic diversity succeed.
As a charity we are always looking for funding and are grateful to our existing funders who support our work. We live in challenging times and generating sufficient income on an annual basis is becoming more critical to our survival and this is where we need your help. Any donation you make (you can also set up a direct debit) will go a long way in reducing isolation and helping disadvantaged communities thrive in British society. Thank you for your support and to make a donation please go HERE.