Monday, April 06, 2015

The melting pot, and the Tebbit "cricket test" in modern Britain

"Take a pinch of white man
Wrap it up in black skin
Add a touch of blue blood
And a little bitty bit of Red Indian boy

Curly Latin kinkies
Mixed with yellow Chinkees
If you lump it all together
Well, you got a recipe for a get along scene
Oh, what a beautiful dream
If it could only come true, you know, you know

What we need is a great big melting pot..."

Blue Mink's song "Melting Pot" dates back to 1969 a time when a solution to lack of racial harmony and tolerance was seen to be greater assimilation of non majority communities in society. The admirable starting point was the obvious, but not always believed or accepted, premise that under our skins we are all the same. Nearly 50 years on the melting pot idea has not vanished. Take this from David Cameron: 

"Our [British] values have a vital role to play in uniting us. They should help to ensure that Britain not only brings together people from different countries, cultures and ethnicities, but also ensures that, together, we build a common home...We are making sure new immigrants can speak English, because it will be more difficult for them to understand these values, and the history of our institutions, if they can’t speak our language...We are bringing proper narrative history back to the curriculum, so our children really learn our island’s story – and where our freedoms and things like our Parliament and constitutional monarchy came from...Britain has a lot to be proud of, and our values and institutions are right at the top of that list. It’s not just important to promote, understand and celebrate these things for their own sake; it is absolutely vital to our future. And that is why I’m absolutely committed to doing  in so."
Fair enough you might say. But what about the cultural heritage, language and traditions of the immigrant  communities? Are they not worth preserving as well? If I was of, say, Indian heritage and a Hindu I would, perhaps, want to maintain my religion and that heritage. Does it make me less British if I worship in a temple and speak Hindi at home ? Clearly no British citizen should act in a way that is contrary to the mores of the majority of British people. But that "common home" Cameron speaks of does not have to be uniform and monocultural. If a second or third generation immigrant wishes to assimilate and adopt a lifestyle indistinguishable from that of his white Anglo-Saxon neighbours that's his choice. But is that in some way more admirable than the individual who prefers to retain his heritage lifestyle, language, religion and dress? Providing in doing this he stays within the law I would say not.
There are elements of the "melting pot" in multicultural Britain, but there is also plenty of continuing cultural diversity as well. And if a young third generation Indian, born and bred in Bradford chooses Virat Kohli as his cricketing role model rather than Joe Root does it matter? Of course not. 


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