YOU CANNOT BE AN ETHNIC MINORITY FOREVER!
Written 12 APRIL 2002
The words ‘ethnic minority’ conjure up a special image –an image of a people who are weak and vulnerable, a people who are in need of help and sympathy. This image is pretty accurate for people who are settling in a new country whether they are economic migrants or people who are escaping persecution. The host community feels duty bound to help and support the new arrivals and the media and other institutions gradually but vigorously pursue areas of discrimination or injustice towards the new comers. With the passing of time the new arrivals begin to gain confidence and they begin to revive their culture and religious practices and this is again seen as enriching and politicians praise the contribution that the new arrivals are making. Gradually the numbers of ethnic minorities grows into millions and though they may form only up to 5% of the total population there would be neighbourhoods, boroughs and towns and cities in which they would be almost 50% of the population and there would also be a new generation of children growing up in the country for whom the word, ‘migrants’ would have become redundant. This is the point at which the, ‘settled minorities’ are at the moment in this country. These, ‘settled minorities’ have been in this country for 25 to 30 years if not more and I contend that they should not be looked upon as, ‘ethnic minorities’ any more but as British people albeit of different racial origin. They are no longer weak or vulnerable, they are confident, successful and have imbibed the salient features of what is accepted as ‘Britishness’. For me it means supporting England in football, having no objection in letting my children attend Church services or singing hymns, of being aware that while we have rights we also have responsibilities to the nation that we have made our home. The joys and sorrows of this country have to become our joys and sorrows. Majority communities not only in the UK but everywhere have a right to expect that the loyalties of its fellow citizens are to the country that they have made their home. They also expect their politicians to have enough courage to name and shame a particular group of people if their actions are causing concern and offence to others. When a majority begins to feel that it is a minority and that just because they are a majority they are somehow in the wrong then there are bound to be problems. There are parts of the world where the so-called ethnic minorities are economically dominant, there are other parts of the world where they are seen as a vote bank by vested interests and paradoxically these vested interests, while acting as their champions, do them the biggest harm because they become a hurdle in the successful integration of these people in the mainstream. After having settled in a new country one must not continue to be distracted by the politics of the, ‘mother’ country because by doing so one is doing justice to neither. This is not to say that one must severe all ties with the mother country. One has to realise that if the feeling for the mother country is so intense that it has taken over your life then it is best to go back there. Communities that are consumed by the events in the mother country fail to tackle the many serious problems that they are facing in their home front and lag behind in all fields. The idea of an oath of allegiance proposed by the government is a step in the right direction. I believe the term, ‘ethnic minorities’ for communities that have been here for over a quarter of a century is irrelevant and ld be should be dropped. Before I came to this country I was a Kenyan Indian and now I am a British Indian and my loyalties are where my home is and I am ready as we all should be to put back into the society that has given us so much!
Nitin Mehta MBE