As part of reading through a script, and of course in absorbing various events around the world, I have been thinking about integration. The script I am working through is forthcoming from my list at Bloomsbury Academic and currently has the title “Constructions of Migrant Integration in British Public Discourse: Becoming British”. It is by Dr Sam Bennett and it’ll have the HB ISBN 9781350029200.
The book is complex. The point rattling around my brain at the moment is rather less so : it is do with one aspect of what Bennett spends quite a while talking about and defining. This is ‘migrant integration’. I guess what strikes me is the racial imbalance of the thing: the Othering of the immigrant of colour.
It’s long been wryly pointed out (less wryly now there is so much, life and death even, at stake, and with humour post-Brexit) that an Indian over here in the UK is an ‘immigrant worker’. A (usually) white British national in India working there is part of the ‘ex-pat’ community. The same applies in Hong Kong, Moscow, in Cairo, you name it.
A Brit living in Spain, talking no Spanish and drawing down on their health service and municipal benefits is an ‘ex-pat’. A Spanish financial services worker in London is a ‘European migrant’.
And of course there is the plurality of cultural identity that these people are allowed to hold (or not hold, depending on where you are from and where you are now living). A white American whose ancestors hailed from Donegal or the Highlands are allowed to be as fully Irish or as Scottish as they want to be. Embrace the Tribe! Bang the drum. If you are from India, or Africa, you are stubborn if you hold onto your cultural roots and eat saltfish instead of cod fishcakes. Your goal should be to assimilate. To be waving the Irish flag on St Patrick’s Day is a jolly jape because the Irish are ‘just like us’. The flag of Nigeria adorned on a national holiday is viewed with suspicion – these people are ‘not trying hard enough to integrate’. Either that or its the famed ‘chicken tikka’ conundrum. That is–
Brits will embrace the food, the pakora, the samosas, the spices, but not the people that bring them or the smells of the cooking or the ‘odd’ customs. They love a piss up at an Indian wedding but draw the line at loud bhangra from a passing car .
These people are not trying hard enough to integrate…