«The third generation of Indians in Britain Cultural identity and cultural change Vorgelegt von: Abgabedatum: 16.10.2008 Judith Frübing 1. Gutachter: ...»
In general, all youngsters were very positive about the situation in London. Most of them spontaneously declared that they have never had any experiences with racism or discrimination. But after reflecting more carefully about the matter they remembered certain situations. Further, they were very aware of racism and particularly critical concerning attitudes towards Muslims. Certainly, in London racism and discrimination is not such a problem than in other parts of the British Isles. The city is so cosmopolitical that colour, culture and background cease to play a role in daily life. Campaigning and Race Relations Legislation obviously have had a positive effect.
I think one of the best things I have seen is people are becoming more educated in it *in racism+. We’ve got adverts and that, TV and really good celebrities endorsing in stop-racism. And it’s really good. I found that within our society people are becoming more educated against not being racist and that’s something that has had a positive effect because I personally haven’t come across any of this racism in that sense personally towards me. Yeah, I’ve been lucky I guess. (Ranjitham) The high degree of ethnic mixture in the schools and neighbourhoods, the general openness of London as a metropolis towards foreigners and the middle-class background obviously have a positive effect sparing the young respondents personal experience with overt
expressions of racism and discrimination. Pradeep accounts:
I remember the first time someone called me a Paki, and I didn’t even know what it was and I remember thinking: “I am not from Pakistan, my family is from India.” So Frübing, 86 that just shows how alien it was in my life, I think I was about nine or ten. And he was a Jewish guy. It was really weird. *…+ But I mean like in my school *…+ up to half of the students were from different backgrounds. *…+ So like culture not really came into it coz I’m from quite an affluent background. *…+ So, there was never really so much discrimination. (Pradeep) It is implied here that such incidents of name-calling repeatedly occurred but neither Pradeep nor anyone else took these seriously or felt offended. Rather, being very educated Pradeep analyses such behaviour: “People will find anything to insult…” Later he accounts
that in contrast to other Indian ethnic groups:
… you don’t face so much troubles *with racism+ even though there was a big fear that with all the tensions with Muslims that maybe that would overspread to Hindus. *…+ In fact, people had been able to tell the difference and Hindi communities haven’t really suffered as in I have never encountered anyone in terms of school, like school applications there’d be no problem, university applications no problem, in jobs. In fact if anything, sometimes I think maybe coming from a Hindu-Indian background is in your favour coz they see you was having a very work ethic. So yeah Britain is very good in that sense, it won’t discriminate on basis of – at least outwardly – of ethnicity… (Pradeep) Pradeep here makes a significant restriction. Discrimination and racism are no longer openly displayed and manifested in racist and discriminatory behaviour. However, under the surface of an open multicultural and cosmopolitical society the white British hegemony persists, setting the conditions for the integration of ethnic and cultural groups and individuals. I have already considered above that there are limits to mixture. This confirms Brah’s observances. The author criticizes that multiculturalism is a western idea constructed in opposition to other forms of social organisation. It is characterized by western rationality and hegemony as well as eurocentricity (Brah 1996: 214-215, 220-221, 225). Thus, western multiculturalism only accepts difference on the surface of cultural expressions thereby satisfying its exoticism. Multiculturalism therefore demands assimilation into mainstream western structures and culture. In consequence, integration and success in the British society are only possible under the prerequisite of assimilation. Only Pradeep saw this critically.
…but at the same time I think it does entail having a homogeneity or having a homogenous cultural society; like rather accept you for an Indian you must be very Frübing, 87 willing to subscribe to certain English values, for example going out to the pub maybe three – four times, which I mean for third generations they mostly do it themselves anyway. But it ‘d be very difficult for you to assimilate to a corporate structure if you didn’t do these out-things like social drinking, smoking even eating meat sometimes raises a few eyebrows. So yeah, I mean it’s not a problem as long as you are willing to be English [laughter]. (Pradeep) Hence, English multiculturalism does not manage to integrate difference. In order to have full access to the English society a high degree of assimilation is necessary as if there was a glass-ceiling to success without assimilation. Thus, integration becomes impossible for those unwilling to become English. This implies that although open racist and discriminatory behaviour has become unusual, cultural difference is still not fully accepted and recognized (Anwar 1998: 39). Interestingly, none of the other interviewees noticed this. Studying law and social sciences, Pradeep has more insight into these matters and is more able to reflect social processes critically than others. In addition, he may have experienced that there are boundaries to the acceptance of his religiousness in daily life as every individual has to submit to the western and capitalist structures of the society. The individual therefore has to adapt to these structures to a certain degree. The question is how much difference a society can bear and allow without falling apart. Unfortunately, this cannot be answered in the scope of this paper.
In contrast, Ranjitham showed a very “assimilist” attitude throughout the interview. She considered it to be her, as well as her whole community’s duty to assimilate and adapt to western habits and norms in order to be accepted by the English society. It is true that the openness of the Shree Ganapathy temple towards its neighbourhood helps to decrease prejudice and fears. But this openness remains often one-sided. The girls and boys at the Dudden Hill Centre as well as Ranjitham told me in detail how they celebrate Christmas and Easter. In contrast, Indian festivals are only marginally watched by the English. For a long time the Indian communities faced considerable difficulties to live their customs and traditions in Britain. And, although the temples attempt to open themselves up to other ethnicities, only the occasional school class passes by in order to learn something about Hinduism. Cultural mixture or alternative ways of exchange do not really take place.
Integration continues to be one-dimensional. Even in a town so multicultural and cosmopolitical as London western Anglo-Saxon culture remains to be the reference point into which everyone else has to integrate. Multiculturalism still cannot really accept cultures Frübing, 88 to mix. Ethnic interaction only takes place on the surface, celebrated in numerous cultural festivals in London.
Yeah, there was one on food stores the other day. *…+ They were doing some food sellings and tastings of different cultures and it was just nice. Something you wouldn’t necessarily do until it is brought onto your doorsteps, it was nice.
(Ranjitham) Consequently, Ranjitham – and the same applies to all the other teenager I interviewed – are still constantly forced to explain and justify her Indianness and religiousness although she underlines that her friends are very understanding and accepting. This "assimilist" approach is also influenced by the idea of working oneself up though hard work which was particularly obvious among the Tamil interviewees who presented the stories of their parent’s hardships with pride. The youngsters were aware of the discrimination and racism suffered by their parents and grandparents upon arrival in Britain but they could not tell me any details. Obviously, although stories of immigration and survival in the new country were present in the minds of the teenagers, their families have not talked about racism and discrimination in detail.
In societies in which difference is not fully accepted and recognized minorities always have to explain themselves and justify their difference. This necessity is not only existent on the level of personal relations but also on a society level. Pradeep has already hinted at Islamophobia arguing that this has not affected the Hindu community negatively. This view is contested by the young people interviewed at the Sai Baba Centre. They have told me that after 9/11 and the London bombings people looked at them differently thinking they were Muslims. These experiences may be affected by skin colour: Tamil people tend to have a darker skin than people originating from the north of India like Pradeep. Further, Pradeep is living in a very educated social environment, where people are more critical. This indicates that experiences of discrimination differ from individual to individual, and are dependent on numerous other influences such as social surrounding and personal sensitivities to these aspects. Also, Veeran and Ravanan had very different views on the existence of racism and discrimination in Britain. While Ravanan detects a growing rejection of people from different backgrounds in Britain, Veeran denies the existence of racism and discrimination. Thus, both boys tended to quite radical views in opposite extremes. Ravanan’s opinion is influenced by the fear of British nationalist movements and their demands to throw the immigrant communities out. This fear was sparked by the news that the British National Party had won Frübing, 89 a seat in a local election a few weeks earlier. In contrast, Veeran is very positive and absolutely uncritical about the situation in Britain. He found the British to be one of the most open and fair societies in which everyone had the same chances.
Ravanan: Not that [racism or discrimination] has actually directly affected me.
People *…+ may have like looked at me differently but I don’t have actually thought of that as racist.
Veeran: I haven’t had the slightest kind of racism at all. *…+ I think maybe when a long time … Ravanan: But I mean attitudes are changing *…+ in this country especially… Veeran: When, the time I’ve lived then I’ve never been affected by racism. Noone’s looked at me in a different way or anything. Maybe… Ravanan: after the bombings Veeran: …a long time ago there was a time when people looked differently but… Ravanan: It was a time when people were fine except after like the 7 / 7 bombings here and after things they’ve kind of lost their tolerance and they’re starting to get frustrated.
Veeran: I can’t say I’ve experienced any racism at all. *…+ Like almost all other interviewees both boys have never felt discriminated or harassed for reasons of cultural background. But their reactions to the question on racism are very different. Veeran derives a very positive view on the matter denying any of such incidents in Britain. Only considering his personal experience, he tries to defend the British society.