Our racially diverse society has problems with integrating minorities but there are enough success stories to remain optimisticby David Goodhart / July 16, 2015 / Leave a comment
Ethnic Identity and Inequalities in Britain edited by Stephen Jivraj and Ludi Simpson (Policy Press, £19.99)
A new England is being born in the suburbs of London, Leicester, Slough, Birmingham and many other towns and cities. These are places where nobody would be surprised to hear that 30 per cent of all primary school pupils in England are now from ethnic minority backgrounds.
The Anglo-Indians, Anglo-Africans and Anglo-Poles who are growing up in these places are in many ways a success story—a tribute both to their own aspirations and the openness of British society. They are in general outperforming the white British majority in the education system and some groups, above all the Indians and Chinese, are joining the middle class and to a lesser extent the elite in large numbers.
These minority Brits, the product of two waves of post-war immigration (post-colonial from the 1950s and then post-1997), were never fully embraced by British society. The racial discrimination of the early decades is well documented but law, politics and time have done their work and many of the old obstacles have been swept away.
The many migrants crossing the Mediterranean who are heading to Britain are testament to that new openness. They are also attracted by a somewhat older openness: the unbureaucratic market economy ushered in by Margaret Thatcher. There are thought to be 45,000 Dutch Somalis living in Britain partly because they do not need the diploma and the fluency in Dutch that is required to start a business in the Netherlands.
Along the way, “they” have in the main become more like “us”—the majority of people from ethnic minorities call themselves British, do not have a minority religion and speak English as their main language.
That, of course, is not the whole story. The sheer speed of change—the non-white population of England and Wales has grown from about 7 per cent to about 17 per cent in the past 25 years—has left many feeling unsettled. And the size and concentration of some minority groups has made it easier to live “parallel lives,” especially in the Muslim community. The inevitable tension between the new diversity and the common norms that glue together a decent society remains unresolved.
The multiculturalism that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s—saying “you can come here…