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Monday, July 30, 2007

Coconuts

Now, I know it’s terribly unimaginative to attack the BBC these days, but I couldn’t help but notice this lovely piece of creative newswriting. (Tediously, I’m going to have to repeat it in full here for my point to be clear).

A study has apparently been carried out by the BBC in which they wanted to explore the sense of ‘Britishness’ felt by ethnically Asian Britons.

Or rather, they were looking to write a piece about how alienated Asian people feel in Western society.
This would then allow lazy BBC hacks to attack the government’s foreign policy and its position on Iraq and Afghanistan.
It would allow them to write reams and reams of pointless copy criticising what they clearly want to falsely imply is Briton’s unforgiving, intolerant and racially and religiously bigoted society.
Moreover, it would allow them to suggest - once again – that it is Asian Britain’s sense of social alienation that is squarely to blame for the rise in numbers of young Islamic men wanting to commit mass murder on public transport, and nothing at all to do with their exploitation by fundamentalist Islam.

Unfortunately for the BBC’s biased agenda, what they found was that a significant majority of British Asians do, in fact, “feel British”. Indeed, 84% of British Asians stated that they were “satisfied with life in Britain and almost half thought they have more opportunities here” [than where, the survey doesn’t deign to mention].

Oh dear.

But never fear – if the facts don’t fit, we’ll just misrepresent them! Hurrah!

So, rather than the reasonable and accurate “Majority of British Asians are happy with their place in British society”, we get this: “Many Asians ‘do not feel British’”.

Well done, BBC!

'Many Asians 'do not feel British'

More than a third of British Asians do not feel British, a BBC poll suggests.
The research among the under-34s for the Asian Network found 38% of the UK residents of South Asian origin felt only slightly or not at all British.
More than a third agreed to get on in the UK they needed to be a "coconut", a term for somebody who is "brown on the outside but white on the inside".
Yet 84% were satisfied with life in Britain and almost half thought they have more opportunities here.
Half of the South Asians and nearly two-thirds of the white people interviewed agreed it was too easy for immigrants to settle in Britain.

Three-quarters felt their culture was being diluted by living in the UK and nearly half believed white people do not treat them as British.

The poll was commissioned to coincide with the BBC's India and Pakistan '07 season of programmes to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1947 partition of India.

Some 12% of those polled said they considered themselves to be "coconuts".
Meenal Sachdev, director of Connect India - which works with young Asians to strengthen identity - said she did not think British Asians needed to be "coconuts" to be successful.
"Identity can be a tool for success. I feel very confident about being a British Indian," she said.
"Confidence with identity comes down to ability and knowing you have as many opportunities as other people," she added.'
Many British Asians consider themselves to be British but at home they are more in touch with their cultural and ancestral roots.
ICM Research interviewed 500 Asian people aged 16-34 and 235 white people aged 18-34 between 4 and 12 July.


[Journalism students note: just 12% of people agreed that the racially pejorative term ‘coconut’ was relevant to themselves, whether through prompting or not we aren’t told. A mere 12%, and yet the term makes it into one of the first paragraphs of the article. Oh, and then we have the director of Connect India telling us that the term ISN’T relevant to young British Asian experience. So that’s cleared that up.]

2 comments:

Ron said...

Meh. This is such a tiring dilemma.

I realise that a lot of this blog entry had more to do with the BBC's ability to focus on the smaller negative statistic, but it just got me thinking about this whole cultural divide in "melting pot" societies.

What does it actually mean to BE British? What is a Briton? If a Briton is a UK born citizen, then immigrants are most certainly not Britons. Or perhaps a Briton is a born citizen, a naturalised citizen, or even a legal resident alien. In that respect, almost everyone in the UK is a Briton. What then? What distinguishes Briton from non-Briton? The ability to sit down for tea and biscuits? Cricket play perhaps? I'm sure there are quite a few Asians who can handle their tea and play a great game of cricket as well.

I think a lot of the cultural divides are quite man-made. We focus on our differences rather than our similarities. A black athlete, an asian tailor, a minging co-worker (I know, I know). Why not just an athlete, a tailor, a co-worker? Not to sound as if I'm an Asian basher (I love them to death, actually, they make excellent shoes.. kidding), but when you adhere to your "cultural roots" by way of dress, ceremony, pomp or circumstance, then you actually alienate yourself. If your religion prescribes the wear of a head covering, then by all means, wear it. But don't expect that others will view you as a "regular" Briton. As I write this it sounds terrible, like I'm suggesting the only way to fit in is to forget your culture. Quite contrary. I'm only saying that depending on what "being British" actually means, our own cultural divisions (and aversions) make that near impossible.

Why is it in the US there is still the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the United Negro College Fund? The month of May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month, and February is of course Black History Month. Is any of that necessary? Why can't every month be American History Month, where any historical American can be celebrated? So long as we create our own divisions, there will be.. well.. divisions in our society.

Then again, you can never discount the fact that ignorance will always reign supreme. Familiarity breeds contempt, but I put it to you that ignorance breeds a whole hell of a lot more contempt than familiarity.

How many times are Sikh Indians mislabeled as Muslims? How many Indians have a blanket-dislike for Pakistanis? How many Pakistanis in the UK are automatically suspected of involvement with terrorist network affiliations? How many white Britons of the Anglo-Saxon persuasion scrutinize the baggage carried by any darker skinned traveller on the tube?

What we don't know about other people seems to compel us more than what we DO know.

Anyway, I've been banging on long enough. It's late and I'm tired. Racism is so aggravating.

"Can't we all just get along?" - famous US philosopher Rodney King

Jo said...

I agree with many of the points you make: I suppose what angers me is that it is EXACTLY this kind of lazy journalism (where the facts become distorted to fit the agenda) that helps fuel the harmful and futile sense of division to which you refer.

As the other famous philosopher Kelvin McKenzie once opined, "Collectively we do have a fuck of a lot to answer for".