Britain, ethnicity seems to signify an allegiance to the country
of origin and implies a degree of choice and a possibility for change.
This highlights two observations.
the emphasis on choice and change could easily lead to a naive
view that the 'absorption' or ‘assimilation' of newcomers
or migrants is only a matter of time. A related implication is
that the responsibility for continued patterns of disadvantage
is to be laid at the door of those who stubbornly refuse to change
- to adopt 'our ways'.
second aspect concerns the tendency for the term 'ethnic' to
refer only to those who are thought of as different from some
assumed indigenous norm. In this connection it is interesting
to note that the sole category in the ethnic classification system
utilised by one a police force was - 'Ethnic'. Talk of and ethnic
'look' in the world of fashion is only one example of the way
white British people are apt to see ethnicity as an attribute
only of others - something that distinguishes 'them' from 'us'.
One might perhaps add that the apparent denial of their own ethnicity
(which is, perhaps, more properly seen as an English, rather
than a British phenomenon) also seems to be associated with distinctively
English people are apt to conceptualise themselves as individuals,
while outsiders are seen as members of groups. The greater the degree
of cultural difference between themselves and others, the more likely
they are to see 'groupishness' as a characteristic of the behaviour
and motivations of those others. In these circumstances the attribution
of ethnicity to others may become part of a process of denial of
legitimacy to claims on resources by those concerned. Also the political
and popular discourse often uses the term 'ethnicity' in ways which
suggest distinctions based primarily upon physical markers such as
skin colour and not infrequently, and erroneously, as a surrogate
for biological race.