The word is out
Excellent. Word is out at last. Via Hari Kunzru.
Somehow the idea of culture has got very confused in the UK. Multicultural politics once provided a light in the post-imperial gloom…However, as biological racism has faded away, a form of cultural racism is taking its place, often propagated by left-liberals who consider themelves, um, whiter than white on issues of diversity. Underlying much of the current hot air about “respect” and “offence” we find implicit the idea that as BME’s…we’re somehow more determined by our culture than our flexible white co-Britons…Our more serious conversation has to be with the communitarian politicians who feel happiest when dealing with us in groups. Instead of asking us as individual British citizens what we think or feel about contentious issues, our views are too often inferred from a dialogue conducted with so-called “community leaders”, who are frequently self-appointed, and almost always cultural conservatives, with every incentive to take offence on our behalf in order to preserve their own access to funding and influence. This odd coupling of white liberals and brown conservatives has produced a form of multiculturalism in which culture appears as fixed and fragile as a dried flower…This ossified form of multiculturalism creates casualties within the ethnic minority communities its proponents believe they are protecting. Women, homosexuals, religious, social or political dissidents and artists must all contend with a political environment in which their freedoms are considered less important than the “representative” power of community leaders, who will zealously wield the weapon of offence when their authority is challenged.
Via Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.
Too many wretched years have been wasted under communal political management which skilfully divided and relabelled black and Asian Britons to disable progressive politics…I can’t remember when unelected religious and community leaders, politicians and institutions decided the religious identity was primary and that the broad black political movement was dead as was any claim to multiple identities and complicated allegiances. But they did and it was without our consent. Once human rights and equality activists mobilised to stand up for all victims of racism and the internal oppressions within groups, particularly violence against women and children. Our compassion and action were not rationed, colour-coded or preserved for our own kind…We believed in universal standards and rights which are enshrined in the UN Human Rights charter. Citizens were autonomous individuals with not creatures owned and controlled by rigid traditions…Today the enemy of equality, freedom and justice is as likely to be within. Broken up into simple tribes which compete for attention and resources (who is the most oppressed of us all?), commonalities are negated, differences fetishised. Religionists – Muslim, Catholic, Hindu, Protestant- want not parity but special and exceptional treatment and unacceptable influence over policies. The responses of Salma Yaqoob and the Muslim Council of Britain to our manifesto make those demands without a blush.
During the past decade, a group of self-appointed representatives has sprung up, including the Hindu Council UK and Hindu Forum of Britain; the Network of Sikh Organisations, the Sikh Federation and Sikh Human Rights Group; and the Muslim Council of Britain and Muslim Association of Britain, all claiming to speak on behalf of all Hindu, Sikh and Muslim citizens…For a start, there are problems specific to the structure of these organisations. They tend to reflect a narrow range of predominantly conservative opinion. They generally ignore non-religious, liberal or progressive opinions and yet claim to represent everyone of their particular faith. Any criticism, from the outside or within, is portrayed as an attack on the religion itself, making it more difficult to hold the groups to account. Worse, they largely consist of first-generation, middle-aged men who are out of touch with second- and third-generation Britons.
And women. Well – excellent that the word is out. Good voyage to you.