Take a look at this video – in just three minutes it says everything that needs to be said about the problematic way in which we have constructed human identity – Three Beautiful Human Minutes by Asger Leth – YouTube

It shows just how our multicultural policies have failed to recognise that the ethnic, faith and other boxes have created stereotypes and caricatures that deny our  common humanity.

It is not an entirely new idea, the publication of  ‘You Can’t Put Me in a Box’ in 2010 (see under community cohesion resources for 2010) pointed out the absurdity of the boundaries that we have invented for ourselves. But we still fall back on crude categorisation of people as ‘black’, ‘white’, ‘Christian’, ‘Muslim’ and many more such boxes. I have written elsewhere about the need to move away from the ‘groupist’ philosophy of multiculturalism towards a much more intercultural approach, but we have a long way to go.

At the present time, one of the worst offences is the way in which we categorise ‘Muslims’. This is not just the use of this  in academic, policy and more general parlance, but it is institutionalised through the UK’s Prevent strategy. Both the last Government and the present one have only seen Muslims through the lens of their Muslimness and failed  to engage with them as people with ordinary and everyday concerns. The last Government at least had their community cohesion strategy and whilst it struggled to keep this separate from its counter terrorism policy, the present Government has no form of engagement outside of Prevent. The stereotype is thus reinforced – and more worrying used to stir up fear and hatred.

Let’s hope that Ministers (and policy makers generally) are convinced by this film, when so many words have failed!

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Dame Louise Casey’s year long Review of Integration is published today – the 5th December 2016. In a long and wide ranging report, Casey proposes a number of new measures as well as reinforcing man y previous recommendations.

The Full Report and the Executive summary can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-casey-review-a-review-into-opportunity-and-integration

Here are Ted Cantle’s intitial comments:

 Ted Cantle on The Casey Review

Louise is an unlikely civil servant: straight talking, who does not mince her words – the Casey Review of Integration tackles controversial subjects very directly. There is a danger that we will get caught up on some of the controversial detail and miss the point – Casey has firmly put community cohesion and integration back on the agenda. And rightly so, society is more divided, hate crime and intolerance are on the rise.

Areas with large Muslim communities may feel that they have much more work to do, as the Review does focus a great deal of its attention on them. For example, the reference to English language classes clearly builds on David Cameron’s proposal to target Muslim women. At the same time, the reference to the need to safeguard children in ‘unregistered schools’ and ensuring “women’s emancipation in communities where they are being held back by regressive cultural practices”, are clearly largely linked to Muslim communities. Other references to segregation, isolation and inequalities, are even more direct.

However, just last week a new report ‘Unsettled Belonging’ by the Policy Exchange suggested that a strong focus on Muslim communities may no longer be justified. The largest opinion poll of British Muslims found an “essentially secular character of most Muslim lifestyles. In terms of their everyday concerns and priorities, British Muslims answer no differently from their non-Muslim neighbours”. In other words, their main concerns were the ‘normal’ issues facing Britain today: NHS/hospitals/healthcare, unemployment second and immigration.

‘Unsettled Belonging’ also made the point that many others have made over the last ten years: that “the authorities must be clear about separating those activities that aim to promote social cohesion and those that are designed to prevent terrorism”. Casey is wise to avoid this controversy – given that the present Government and the previous Labour administration failed to recognise this problem. It will be for local authorities to re-make the relationship with Muslim communities in each local area and to try to square this circle.

By the same token, the Casey Review could have given more attention to the White ‘host’ community. Minorities have been the focus of most previous policies and we have tended to forget that integration demands support on both sides of the divide. Little attention has been has been given to the views and needs of the established community over the years, though Casey does, however, recognise that the ‘unprecedented pace of change’ has been too fast in some areas, but is less clear how to address this problem. The growth of populist parties, the rise in hate crimes and the fall out after Brexit suggests that this is rather urgent.

Casey recognises that “some communities are becoming more divided”. This confirms the recent report by Eric Kaufman and myself, ‘Is Segregation Increasing in the UK’  which found rising  polarisation between white and minority communities in urban areas and again points to the need to address this very directly. The question is ‘how?’ Casey suggests a number of areas.

Firstly, she suggest that young people have to mix more out of school and that schools have to do more to give children a wider view of the world, through a new British Values curriculum to “build integration, tolerance, citizenship”. Dame Louise rightly notes that teachers’ skills in this area will have to be developed and the effectiveness needs to be tested in the school Ofsted inspection. But the Review does not really deal with the primary problem: school segregation, especially as this is known to be increasing.  A programme to establish more mixed schools  would be more effective as children would naturally learn about each other. Dame Louse does not go this far. She recognises the problem of “some children’s experience of school marked by segregation” which was the very reason the review was set up by David Cameron[1] :

“it is right to look again more broadly at how we can move away from segregated schooling in our most divided communities. We have already said that all new faith academies and free schools must allocate half their places without reference to faith.

The Casey emphasis is on ‘out of school’ mixing, which will have to be carefully engineered and carried on indefinitely. Though she does hint at the need “for radical change and a new approach across all schools” and to “focus on de-segregation”, the only firm proposals are “to encourage a range of school provision and projects to ensure that children from different communities learn alongside those from different backgrounds”.

Local authorities now have the chance at least to reassert a strategic role in school provision. It is not possible for Whitehall to manage schools directly and local government must be prepared to intervene – if necessary by naming and shaming – where schools neglect the impact of their admissions and either create or reinforce segregation. But will local authorities be given the chance and the resources to take this on?

Casey also wants to see “a spirit of compassion and kindness”. This may be mocked by those that have slipped in to acceptance of an aggressive and offensive discourse without any concern for the consequences. But politicians will have to respond first – especially as the EHRC recently asked party leaders to end the ‘divisive language’ in their parties. Casey does not leave this to chance and recommends a new ‘oath of public office’ to uphold the “fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith”.

Local authorities will now have a new and important role in community cohesion: this will be based upon a tricky balance between supporting and challenging communities to accept the reality of a diverse and shared society. Moreover, community cohesion is not to be left to chance and Casey proposes a series of performance indicators and targets for local authorities, as well as area-based plans and projects to take forward all of the recommendations. Councils will not welcome additional cost pressures, though will be heartened by the proposal that future funding should better reflect population growth and change.

Dame Louise has put forward a serious analysis of the problem and developed a broad range of measures to tackle it. In some areas, she has not gone as far as she might –and probably wanted to – but has hinted at ways they could be developed. But it remains to be seen if the Government will have the good sense to accept Casey’s recommendations, let alone extend them.

[1] Prime Minister’s Speech 20th July 2015, Birmingham

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Let’s end the blame game on segregation

With the Casey Review on integration and segregation expected any day, the author of the last major government report on this subject describes reaction to his latest work.

Writing about segregation doesn’t win you many friends, as Louise Casey is about to discover. My latest article (with Eric Kaufmann) ‘Is Segregation Increasing?’ for Open Democracy, has been no exception. There are many on the left who are ready to pounce on any suggestion that segregation is a problem, or that it might be growing. They seem to believe that this is tantamount to accepting that multiculturalism has failed in some way, and I have even been urged by senior academics to just keep quiet about any problems.

Meanwhile, some on the right either want to heap blame on ethnic minorities who ‘do not want to be/aren’t capable of being British’, or to denounce anyone that has the temerity to suggest that integration involves white people too.

Even people on the centre ground tend to be uncomfortable with a discussion of segregation. Terms like ‘white flight’ and ‘self-segregation’ tend to imply blame, but even though Eric Kaufmann, my co-author, and I did not use such terms, it seems hard for most people to respond without some feeling of culpability, or the implication that racism is an unsaid undertone to the whole debate.

Actually our article made it clear that integration is generally improving and there are many parts of the country that seem to be successfully learning to live with difference. But beneath this general trend, there is a clear process of polarisation of white British and minorities in many of our towns and cities.

Why do we focus on the divide between the white British and minorities?

First, the history of post-war race relations has been built around this basic division. Race relations legislation from the 1960s onward was established largely to protect minorities against racism and discrimination from a white host community who were being asked to accept an equal relationship for the first time. In other words, racism was defined by this basic relationship. Of course, racism has been evident to some degree within and between all groups, but the primary divide has subsisted over the years – and still does.

Second, minorities themselves have generally accepted and supported this divide, even though it implies a degree of homogeneity and shared interest among minorities themselves that scarcely exists. This is embodied in the term Black and Ethnic Minority (BAME) which groups all minorities together and sets them apart from the ‘white community’.

Third, the current debate is clearly (and unfortunately) still framed around the white British majority and immigrants from across the world. The antipathy to large scale immigration has grown considerably over the last ten years or so and remains one of the most significant electoral issues. This is not a black vs white debate, as witnessed by the strong opposition to the (mainly) white migrants for Eastern Europe.

Immigration has been fundamentally about all minorities and notions of identity featured heavily in the Brexit debate, often under the banner of ‘give us back our country’. In the very real sense that this applied to limit migration of them, it did not distinguish particular migrants and indeed, the Government’s target is to reduce immigration across the board. And in the same way, the surge in hate crime following the Brexit referendum in June went across the many different ethnic and minority communities.

And our study did identify some clear – and yes, worrying – trends. We found that the white British communities had declined in large number in many towns and cities, including London and that when they re-located they seem to avoid moving to the more diverse areas. Minority in-movement generally replaced the white out-movement, leading to increased polarisation.

The pace of change was also surprisingly high. Some people have been very keen to suggest that this exposes the white British community as the villains of the peace – Yasmin Alibhai-Brown went as far as tweeting that ‘this might be the first time ever that the white ghetto mentality has been called out’. Our paper set out to establish the trends, however, not to attribute motives or blame. That research remains to be done. I suspect that when it is done, it will show a complex and nuanced picture – just as the increased clustering of ethnic minorities has many causes.

Indeed, I hope that our paper will help to develop a more sympathetic approach to the concerns – and fears – of all communities. Just as it may be the case that some ethnic minorities may feel safe and comfortable in areas where their community is dominant, so perhaps the white British may also feel that certain areas are ‘for them’ and also favour the amenities and support systems that reflect their needs.

But there is a very fine line between ‘ethnic clustering’ and exclusive segregated areas and it will take a refined and intelligent approach to support the former without bolstering the latter. And the way to avoid such a tricky operation is to try to understand why mixed communities are apparently less desirable to some people.

It is very easy to dismiss negative views as ‘racist’ or ‘ignorant’. It is more than possible that some will be exactly that, but it seems to me that the pace of change is a more significant factor – something that I argued in my review of ‘parallel lives’ in 2004 – and little has been done to help accommodate that change emotionally, nor to consider the impacts on personal and collective identity.

Resources are also seen as an issue with concerns that the growth in population has not been matched by growth in public services and facilities, perhaps especially housing. Competition can have a corrosive effect on communities but so too can just the perception of competition and unfairness: we need to do much more to determine the reality on the ground.

So in my view, there is a now a real need to both recognise the problems and promote mixed communities, by nudging and nurturing the process. And whilst there are negative views, actually many people are receptive already – the recent Pew Centre research shows more support for diversity in Britain than for many other nations.

Surveys also consistently reveal that people do not want divisive selection in schools, underlined by  a recent Populus poll  – but we all need the confidence to move towards integration. And confidence can only be gained by talking about these issues more openly, especially providing a narrative of why change is taking place and where it is leading for both minorities – and the ethnic majority. But most of all, developing a vision of what sort of society we want and making sure that the voices of hate and division do not prevail.

http://www.integrationhub.net/lets-end-the-blame-game-on-segregation/

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Fourteen years ago I reported the ‘parallel lives’ found in our Northern towns. Segregation in schools, workplaces and residential areas has hardly improved and in some cases been further set back, according to the new Demos ‘integration hub’ which provides a comprehensive analysis area by area. Local authorities can now examine the trends within their boundaries. At the same time, councils  have to recognise that the advent of virtual networks can both promote more openness or just reinforce closed communities. Many will be concerned – especially in the light of the Prime Minister’s recent comments on extremism – as segregation leads to a partial view of the world, tends to make people fear others and allows prejudice and intolerance to go unchallenged. Local authorities need to see this as a threat to their community relations.

Schools remain the area which offers the greatest potential to change – young people are open to new ideas, if they are given the opportunity to hear them. However, the advent of free schools, academies and the extension of faith schools, means that many schools have been given licence to operate in isolation from each other, developing their own admissions policies which  allow them to target separate communities without considering community cohesion. Local authorities have all but lost their strategic role for the education service and it is left to groups like the Fair Admissions Campaign to expose the manipulation of the school admissions code, which has itself been found to be inadequate. Little wonder that the Demos Integration Hub is able to report that ‘In 2013, over 50 per cent of ethnic minority students were in schools where ethnic minorities were in the majority (and over 90 per cent in London year 1). This compares to over 90 per cent of White British pupils who are in majority White British schools’.

One of the most surprising developments is that schools are no longer expected or entrusted to provide education ‘fit for modern multicultural Britain’ despite this Ofsted pronouncement – for example the Greater Manchester, the police have taken it upon themselves to provide ‘resilience training’. Perhaps this is the time for councils to start asking searching questions of schools about both their admissions and how they are encouraging mixed communities and good relations (schools are still under a duty to promote community cohesion even though Ofsted do not inspect on this). A more pro-active role might have prevented the Trojan Horse affair, whatsoever the truth if the allegations.

More generally, local authorities also need to use their influence to challenge employers, schools, voluntary organisations and faith groups to ask them how they are fostering  good relations and to recognise that the consequences of the lack of contact between groups  is intolerance of others and the continuation of prejudice and extreme views about difference.

It remains to be seen if the Government will help them with this task, previous policy initiatives led to very little of practical value and the Prime Minister’s speech in Birmingham was strong on rhetoric but gave little hint of a change in policy and practice.

Demos Integration Hub is found at   http://www.integrationhub.net/module/education/

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‘From Wales to Westminster: undermining the appeal of Far-right Extremism’

A Wales-based youth organisation has found a new way of working with young people to stem the rise of far right ideology and extremism.

The ‘Think’ project is the brainchild of Swansea-based youth organisation the Ethnic Youth Support Team (EYST) and actually sets out to have those ‘dangerous conversations’ with young people about race, immigration, asylum, and extremism – and through these conversations helps young people to think for themselves.

‘In the past, we have been content to just denounce these extreme views as ‘ignorant’ and ‘racist’’ say leading experts Professor Ted Cantle (ICoCo) and Professor Paul Thomas (University of Huddersfield), who have authored a report on the project. ‘Now, for the first time, we know we can challenge extreme views through the direct engagement pioneered by EYST. All local areas need to learn from this success – and help young people counter the appeal of racist ideology and bigotry’. The report was formally launched at an event in the House of Commons on 18th March 2014.

Speaking about the project, Lyn Brown MP who has sponsored the event has said: “We need to encourage people away from extremism if we are to build a cohesive society. The Think Project with its clear focus on young people represents a sound and positive foundation on which we can build strong communities that celebrate their rich and diverse heritage”

The project has been supported to date by the Welsh Government and the Big Lottery Innovation Fund, but its potential to be taken further and to play a key role in how the UK responds to the growth of support for far right ideas has been identified.

The Think Report is now available on line

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Groundbreaking new research maps the segregating impact of faith school admissions

 

The Fair Admissions Campaign has today published groundbreaking research into the extent of religious selection in state schools and its effect on social and ethnic inclusiveness. Launched in map form, for the first time it scores how religiously selective, socio-economically inclusive and ethnically inclusive every mainstream state secondary school in England is. Users are able to see profiles for individual schools, compare and rank different schools in their area and nationally, and see how segregated different denominations, dioceses and local authorities are. It is hoped that the tool will prove useful to parents, schools, and individuals concerned about segregation in school admissions. It can be viewed at http://fairadmissions.org.uk/map

 

The research combines data from five main sources and hundreds of admissions directories. The map details the proportion of pupils each school is allowed to religiously select in its oversubscription criteria; how many pupils at the school are eligible for free school meals by comparison with its local area; and how many speak English as an additional language.

 

Key findings include:

 

  • Comprehensive secondaries with no religious character admit 11% more pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected given their areas. Comprehensive Church of England secondaries admit 10% fewer; Roman Catholic secondaries 24% fewer; Jewish secondaries 61% fewer; and Muslim secondaries 25% fewer.
  • There is a clear correlation between religious selection and socio-economic segregation: Church of England comprehensives that don’t select on faith admit 4% more pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected, while those whose admissions criteria allow full selection admit 31% fewer.
  • 16% of schools select by religion but they are vastly overrepresented in the 100 worst offenders on free school meal eligibility and English as an additional language. They make up 46 of the worst 100 schools (and 67 out of 100 if we exclude grammar schools) on FSM eligibility and 50 of the worst 100 (55 if we exclude grammar schools) on EAL.
  • The most segregated local authority as a result of religious selection is Hammersmith and Fulham. While 15% of pupils nationally are eligible for free school meals, the segregation between the religiously selective schools and other schools is almost double that (27 percentage points).
  • The map represents the first time any data has ever been published on the degree of religious selection by faith schools. We estimate that 16% of children at state schools (or 1.2 million) are subject to religious selection criteria. Compared with 5% of state secondary places in grammar schools and 7% of all places in independent schools, this means that state-funded faith schools are the biggest source of selection in the education system.

 

 

Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE said, ‘This new research confirms what some had already suspected – that religiously selective schools not only further segregate children on religious and ethnic grounds, but also are skewed towards serving the affluent at the expense of the deprived. Crucially, the research also shows that the more a school is permitted to select children by faith, the greater the extent to which it is likely to socio-economically segregate. The data poses some very awkward questions for the state funded faith school sector, and especially for Church schools, many of which were set up with a focus of providing education for the poor.’

 

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, commented, ‘Today’s findings make clear like never before the devastating effects that faith-based admissions have in segregating communities along socio-economic and ethnic lines. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently commented that Church of England schools are moving away from religious selection. We are yet to see if this is true, but at the same time believe it cannot come true soon enough. In any case, the scale of the problem demands not voluntary effort by religious groups but legislation – government should act now to make these divisive effects impossible by removing the possibility of religious selection in state-funded schools.’

 

 

Supporting Statement by Professor Ted Cantle CBE, The iCoCo Foundation

 

Almost twelve years ago to this day I launched the Community Cohesion Review Team’s report (known as  the Cantle Report)  into the 2001 race riots. This considered the causes of the race riots in the summer of that year and I coined the phrase ‘parallel lives’ to describe the way in which different communities had become segregated and lived in fear and ignorance of each other. Communities were divided in housing, schooling, workplaces and in cultural terms and had little contact with each other. The Team were particularly anxious to bring communities together and made 73 recommendations. These included urging all schools to ‘consider ways in which they might ensure that their intake is representative of the range of cultures and ethnicity in their local communities’.

Despite great work in some schools over the years, pupil segregation has been getting worse. A national study in 2004 confirmed that sufficient progress had not been made and this has been confirmed by my own local studies. But now, twelve years on, the Fair Admissions campaign’s research shows an even more unfortunate picture – segregation by faith and social class has been added to that of ethnicity. And the worst culprits appear to be the very institutions that claim to bring us together – faith schools. Furthermore, the situation is one of continual decline as more and more faith schools, with free and independent admissions policies, are established to balkanise children’s education. Rather than learning about each other, schools are creating more and more boundaries which tell pupils that they have such inherent differences that it is not possible to share the same classroom!

Under Archbishop Justin Welby, the Church of England has begun to recognise the problem, though his interview with Ruth Gledhill of the Times last month in which he claimed that Anglican schools were moving away from selection on the basis of faith, was immediately contradicted by his own press office. And the Archbishop will have to fight the protective grip of so many individual schools and admissions authorities that are proud of their school ethos and performance, even if it is built on division and exclusion. Justin Welby is, of course, almost alone amongst faith leaders in his concern and the schools administered by most other faiths are presently far less open to pupils of other faiths and non-faith.

The UK is just about the only country to permit, let alone promote, school admissions based on parental faith. And the admissions system is designed  to foster competition between communities at a wider level, by demanding that parents ‘re-discover’ their faith for a few years, attend a church they have long since left, even by gaining extra points for various church duties including by volunteering to arrange the church flowers. Faith leaders not only connive with this hypocrisy, they attempt to revel in the pretence of an unique identity, in which minor differences are heightened – the complete antipathy of a shared humanity which is the essence and fundamental belief supposedly shared by all faiths.

The Fair Admissions Campaign has a simple aim – that all state-funded schools in England and Wales should be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. David Cameron promised us an end to ‘state multiculturalism’, but here it is, solidly embedded in our school system. Ending such practices has to be the only way forward in a multi-faith society in which diversity is continuing to grow. And faith organisations, so quick to advocate the principle of ‘non-discrimination’ in other goods and services,  must surely now recognise that only by ending institutional discrimination in schools we will begin to bring about a reduction in the communal enmity and violence which is bred by segregation.

 

(The above Supporting Statement also appeared in the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ on 3rd December 2013)

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Beyond Gatekeeper Community Leaders ‘Making Diversity Less Divisive’ 
Published by Municipal Journal 1st August 2013

Local authorities and other public agencies have been complicit in disempowering ethnic minority communities by supporting a series of self-appointed community leaders who act as the ‘gatekeepers’ of their communities.  In many cases, this process has been well intentioned and represented an attempt to ‘reach out’ to communities which they knew little about. However, the negative impact has been profound and at a time when diversity is the new normal, it is time to move on and develop more intercultural  approaches.
Some local authorities were well aware of the way in which the self- appointed community leaders had become self-serving. They were nevertheless happy that they kept control of their communities, being an easy conduit for all communications. It became accepted by community members that if you want to know what is going on, or to get access to the corridors of power, you would have to go through your own community leader. Community members were not encouraged to advocate on their own behalf or build up their own knowledge and skills – they were in a dependent relationship. Of course, better community leaders were willing to adopt more of a ‘gateway’ style but their status – and frequently their salary – depended upon maintaining their position of power.
Local authorities – and particularly some elected members – also found that ‘gatekeeper’ community leaders can suit their purposes too. They dispense with all of the messy intra-community politics. One dominant view is much easier to manage. And sometimes political deals have been done to deliver the votes from most members of that community. The promise of funding, a new project, or community centre may well be enough. As Kenan Malik puts it community leaders’ have achieved their positions largely because the state needs such people to do business with’. He goes further and, drawing upon experience in Birmingham, Kenan suggests that ‘the logic of such identity politics (is that) it undermines the possibilities of social change by subordinating political goals to the demands of ethnic identity’ – this is real disempowerment.
It perhaps took the Prevent agenda to make local authorities realize that treating one group (in that case the Muslim communities) as one identity was a mistake. In fact some local authorities protested about the way in which the Government had used Prevent to turn British Muslims into a ‘suspect community’. But, the Government approach prevailed, largely because they had the money to dispense and were apparently happy to treat Muslims as one homogenous group. And the irony of the Prevent agenda was that it reinforced the role of religious leaders and bolstered their credentials rather than contesting extremist views and giving voice to diversity.
And this ‘homogenising’ of minorities still takes place through the funding and support to single identity groups. Again, Kenan Malik destroys any notion that any one person could possibly represent one or more minority interests, but we also need to bear in mind that most community leaders are usually male and from the older generation. Not only is the diversity within groups in terms of ethnicity and faith often unrecognized, but is further compounded by gender and age.
Further, minority councillors and officers are often typecast because of their heritage and it is assumed that they will represent the views of their community. Unlike majority councilors and officers they are not expected to reflect the aspirations of all residents in their area. This typecasting can push them into a gatekeeper role and again minority communities are disempowered.   Single identity politics not only denies the diversity within groups but also helps to create boundaries, reinforcing divisions and heightening differences with others – inevitably a threat to community cohesion.
Local authorities now need to have a much more sophisticated understanding of the composition of their communities. They need to ensure that they hear many voices and get beyond the usual suspects and ensure that they are helping ‘gateway’ community leaders to flourish and undermine the dependency relationship of the
gatekeepers. it also means no longer channeling representation and service provision through single identity or umbrella minority organisations as this has meant that the officers and members responsible for mainstream provision  are less likely to adapt their services to that diversity and abrogate responsibility to the specialists.
We need to move on from the multicultural policies which we have been stuck with since the 1960s and develop the concept of interculturalism, with policies which are appropriate for the era of globalization and diversity.

Ted Cantle CBE  is professor at The iCoCo Foundation
Follow Ted Cantle on Twitter: @TedCantle

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Multiculturalism became very bogged down by the politics of identity. In its commendable rush to try to prevent assimilation and preserve heritage, it ‘essentialised’ identities into narrow and  fixed conceptions of who we are. It has not been able to cope with plural identities – mixed ethnic, faith or national identities, let alone multiple concepts which also take account of sexuality, disability, gender and other ideas. It also cannot cope with the idea that peoples ideas about themselves might change over time. That’s where interculturalism comes in.

Peoples ideas about themselves are in any case changing faster than academic theories and are becoming more intercultural. ‘Mixed race’ is already the fastest growing minority in many European countries and now – remarkably – an EU survey (see link below) has revealed that only 30% of young Europeans state that they feel exclusively citizens of their country (against approximately 38% from the older age group). This supports the need for national identity to be re-framed (see my Open Democracy article) in a separate blog.

Plural identities are not a threat to notions of national, faith, ethnic or other singular forms of identity. These are welcome changes that mean that people can now begin to see across boundaries, interact and empathise with others. Insistence on singular forms, with hard boundaries, is what has caused a ‘them and us’ world of divisions, based on stereotypes and prejudice.

Link to press release and survey details europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-462_en.htm

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The Guardian On Line has published my ‘expert’ advice on how to hold communities together in time of crisis. This focuses on the role of local government

m.guardian.co.uk/local-government-network/2013/may/27/woolwich-crisis-community-cohesion

….but as the present Government has all but abandoned community cohesion programmes and cut back resources so dramatically, it remains to be seen whether this will be listened to

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This new article published by  Open Democracy on 16th April 2013 examines the changing nature of national and global identities

The state remains a very powerful force in the lives of many people and is the most significant unit of democracy in the developed world. For many, being a citizen of a particular state, having absorbed the traditions and cultures, being subject to its laws and economic regulation and taking part in the polity, a sense of belonging is still very evident. But the role of the state has changed profoundly in recent years and it is under threat from above and below. Consequently, national identity has also been weakened and is now just one of a number of significant ways in which people think about themselves.

 

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Interculturalism - Community Cohesion