Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

British National Identity Among Ethnic Minorities

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British National Identity among Ethnic Minorities Identity is something many of us don’t think about, but it is the main force behind our daily decisions. Britishness is defined as the state or quality of being British. This means that Britishness involves habits, behaviors, language, culture, and symbols that are common, recognizable, and iconic to the United Kingdom. Sometimes however, it is hard to define Britishness because it cannot be defined as one thing, like many identities, it evolves and transforms ever so often.

British identity has been a subject of many debates since the 1960s, prompted initially by “the loss of empire, then by the rise of the welfare state, postwar black and Asian migration and entry into the European Community, and more recently by the devolution of power to Scotland and Wales” (Parekh, 1). “Some claim that the most challenging minority integration in contemporary society is immigrant-origin non-white communities” (Maxwell, 2), but this is becoming a false claim. The British national identity has been on a decline with more Britons claiming their identity as English, Scottish, Irish, or Welsh.

This however, is not true for ethnic minorities in the UK. Headlines around many newspapers read “Ethnic minorities are now more likely to feel British than white people” There was a study done by the Institute for Public Policy Research that resulted in 51 percent of blacks and Asians describing themselves as British compared with just 29 per cent of whites. Data shows that in 1996, “52 percent of respondents to a poll said they saw themselves primarily as British. By 2005, this had fallen to just 44 per cent. The IPPR study said that Scottish and Welsh devolution had damaged British feeling” (Daily Mail).

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Professor Platt stated that “Given the current anxiety around immigration and concerns that it is challenging a unified national identity, it is interesting to find that minorities in fact hold stronger British identities on average than the majority, we also see that they frequently manage dual identities, rather than opposing one to the other. Among the majority, individual country identities such as Scottish or Welsh can be held alongside a British identity, but in many cases seem to substitute for it” (CLS).

Many believe that the desire for minorities to integrate into society is not enough to create a sense of belonging and ultimately the feeling of Britishness. “The desire to be integral to society has to be reciprocated too, in terms of the opportunity to belong to the national community, as well as in terms of socio-economic inclusion. So the long-term intergenerational decline in racism in British society is also an important and necessary condition for integration and patriotism” (Katwla, 1). Minorities in Great Britain are very active in British society.

Katwla claims that “there is a strong pro-integration preference among minorities – for civic and political participation, democracy and the rule of law, and most recognize the importance of the English language for social, economic and civic inclusion. ” The acceptance about being British could also be because of the shared history between Britain and the immigrant’s home country. In places such as India and Africa, the empire was deeply rooted into their history. Katwla goes even further to say that “The issue is not just claiming a voice in helping to shape a common future.

It is also about reminding ourselves that complicated and contested though it certainly was, we have shared more history than we think. You can look for and find British Muslim patriotism in reports from the First World War trenches, and not only in the last few years. ” There is however, a negative side to this, as the ethnic minorities are claiming a British identity, many white Britons are claiming another. There is a growing fear that the rise in English national identity is also a rise in hostility towards cultural diversity. So some express the fear that a return to the traditional “blood nations” will leave the ethnic minorities as the last Brits standing, rallying around a flag that indigenous Brits have deserted” (Katwala). There is a weaker sense of British national identity among white Britons. This presumed decline in Britishness can be seen as “resulting from one or both of two processes, on the one hand, the English appear to be becoming more “English” at the expense of being British. Secondly, the Scots are seen as becoming more Scottish.

And a consequent decline in Britishness is assumed” (Bechhofer, 252). Devolution has contributed in the decline of a British national identity. “The largest marginal effect by a large distance is the effect of being born in Northern Ireland – this reduces the probability of reporting a British identity by 24%. It is almost certain that this is driven primarily by Northern Irish Catholics among whom there remains a strong demand to be part of Ireland and not the UK and who think of themselves as Irish rather than British” (Manning, F79-F80).

Many white Britons are not claiming a national identity and it seems that, for white Britons, the local identity is more important than the national identity. For minorities, it is easier to identity with the national identity because there are no negative connotations associated with it. The British identity allows for the foreigners to keep their home identity which they can maintain their ethnic identity. “British is a label that unites all peoples living in Britain today regardless of color, creed, and nationality” (Bechhofer , 256).

Immigrants who become UK citizens are much more likely to report a British identity and the take-up ofcitizenship might be influenced by a number of factors. “First, there are a number of practical advantages to citizenship – one has the right to work and vote in the UK and one can travel into the country without the need for a visa… Apart from the practical advantages, there may be more emotional advantages to adopting a British identity. In particular we hypothesize that immigrants may be more likely to express a British identity if Britain compares favorably with the country from which they came” (Manning, F93).

Minorities in Britain have also assimilated into the culture of being British. “There is a large amount of variation across country of birth in the fraction of immigrants reporting a British identity. For those from Slovakia it is less than 5%, for those from Malta more than 80%. But there is, for the most part, a simple explanation for these very large cross-country differences – the average amount of time spent in the UK” (Manning, F84). It seems that the longer the person stays in the country, the more they will think of themselves as British, Britishness just seems to grow on people. Benedict Anderson defines the nation as ‘an imagined community’ that is territorially limited and united by a ‘deep, horizontal, comradeship’ between its members. Adam Luedtke defines social identity ‘an affective (emotional) state of belonging in a social group…that stems from extended socialization, and is not easily changed. A ‘national identity’, therefore, is the emotional state of belonging felt by citizens towards, and within, the ‘imagined community’ of their nation” ( Kerr, 1).

Over the decades there has been an overall decline in the proportion of people who define themselves as British and nationally characterize themselves as Britons. On average, a higher proportion of non-white ethnic minorities tend to call their selves British and relate to the British national identity. In conclusion, assimilation into the British culture has brought about a strong identity for ethnic minorities. The opposite is true for the white British population.

On average there has been a decline in claiming the British national identity and this decline can be pointed to devolution taking place around the United Kingdom. Works Cited BECHHOFER, FRANK, and DAVID McCRONE. "Being British: A Crisis Of Identity?. " Political Quarterly 78. 2 (2007): 251-260. Academic Search Premier. Web. 26 July 2012. "Centre for Longitudinal Studies. " - CLS. ESRC, n. d. Web. 26 July 2012. <http://www. cls. ioe. ac. uk/news. aspx? itemid=2080>. "Ethnic Minorities More Likely to Feel British than White People, Says Research.  Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd, 2007. Web. 26 July 2012. <http://www. dailymail. co. uk/news/article-436928/Ethnic-minorities-likely-feel-British-white-people-says-research. html>. Katwala, Sunder. "Why Do Non-white Brits Feel That Little Bit More British? " British Future. British Future, 30 June 2012. Web. 26 July 2012. <http://www. britishfuture. org/blog/why-do-non-white-brits-feel-that-little-bit-more-british/>. Kerr, Steve. "The Decline of British Identity. " E-International Relations. E-international Relations, 13 Apr. 2012. Web. 0 July 2012. <http://www. e-ir. info/2012/04/13/the-decline-of-british-identity/>. Manning, Alan, and Sanchari Roy. "Culture Clash Or Culture Club? National Identity In Britain. " Economic Journal 120. 542 (2010): F72-F100. Business Source Premier. Web. 30 July 2012. Maxwell, Rahsaan. National and Minority Identification among Non-whites in Britain: Where Is the Tradeoff? Publication. University of Massachusetts, Amherst Department of Political Science, n. d. Web. 26 July 2012. <http://www. ecprnet. eu/MyECPR/proposals/reykjavik/uploads/papers/1008.

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