Assimilation, Multiculturalism, Anti-Racism and
The governments that have shaped policy since the 1960's have adopted
various strategies to attempt to deal with the issue of migrant communities
to this country. These are:
With the arrival of the African Caribbean and Asian migrants, the
assumption of the governments throughout the 1950s and into the 1970s
was that provided their children were given support with the English
language in schools, the migrant population would; learn 'to become
like us'; that is, they would be assimilated.
The assimilationist model was based upon an inadequate understanding
of the social psychology of group identity; and in particular of the
resilience of ethnic identities in context where the minority community
is marginalised and faces hostility. When a minority community begins
to adopt the cultural practices of the dominant ethnic community and
is still rejected by the majority population, then assimilation is
hardly a viable political or cultural option.
Given this scenario, it seems hardly surprising that the xenophobia
and racism present in the majority populations should have reinforced
any tendency of the minority communities to attempt to retain their
unique ethnic values and culture.
Responding to the failure of assimilation, multiculturalism emerged
as a policy which allowed for the recognition of ethnic diversity in
Britain. Multiculturalism has provided a framework within which ethnic
diversity may be recognised by policy makers; and respect for different
cultures may be encouraged between individuals. It has, however, been
severely criticised for its failure to address inequalities of power
and resources between the majority and the minority populations.
Thus within multiculturalism the identity and need of the minority
ethnic communities have tended to be determined in a political process
where their difference has been the perceived problem. Through the
late 1970s and into the mid 1980s multiculturalism was critiqued by
members of minority ethnic communities, who deeply resented its implicit
paternalism. Perhaps after the early 1980s, anti-racist strategies
emerged as an alternative to multiculturalism.
This model of recognising the conflicts of interest within multi ethnic
Britain and of addressing systematic processes of inequality within
British institutions was never widely acceptable. It developed the
insights derived from the concept of institutional racism which informed
the 1976 Race Relation Act, and made visible that 'nice people' may
be involved, through their routine professional practice, in generating
discriminatory outcomes. As a model for responding to the inequalities
and discrimination within multi-ethnic society, anti- racism was a
direct challenge to this members of the indigenous dominant white community
who felt comfortable with Britain's tolerant credentials. This started
considerable debate in the political and governmental circles. It attracted
a range of critiques from many on the left and from minority ethnic
communities who found it strong on rhetoric and weak on delivery.
we see a reversal of the policies of the 70's 80's and 90's. With
the increasing development of international political unrest, asylum
seekers and refugee situation taking the forefront of local
and national media attention
and the growing terrorist fear since the attack of september 11th
a new policy has emerged – that os community cohesion.
publication of the Cantle report,
titled Community Cohesion, defines the government's strategy for
maintaining order in those towns in northern UK where riots had
taken place in Summer 2001. In December 2001 Home Secretary Blunkett
announced that the government was considering an oath of allegiance
for immigrants and that English language tests would be introduced.
Blunkett's provocative comments signalled that, from the state's
point of view, the 'multiculturalist settlement', which has dominated
race relations thinking in Britain for two decades, is no longer
working: The old multiculturalist formula of 'celebrating difference'
- itself a response to the riots of the early 1980s - is to be replaced.
full discussion of the implication of this click