Britology Watch: Deconstructing \’British Values\’

24 October 2009

The 2011 Census And the Suppression Of English Identity

On Wednesday of this week, the Office for National Statistics (for England and Wales) published their final recommendations for the 2011 census questions, including those on national identity and ethnic group. I’ve written about these questions on three previous occasions (here, here and here). I don’t want to rehearse those long and complex arguments. However, I do want to voice a strong protest.

The proposed questions for England are essentially the same as those used for the trials in 2007, discussed in the last of the previous posts linked above. For reference, they are as follows:

National identity questions

Ethnic group

The essential point I want to make here is that these questions deny any status for ‘English’ (and ‘Welsh’, ‘Scottish’ and ‘Northern Irish’, for that matter) as objective, civic national identities at the same time as confining the use of ‘English’ as an objective term to the ‘white-British-racial’ portion of English society.

It does this by combining four distinct categorisations within the two headings it uses (national identity and ethnic group). These categories are:

  • nationality in the political sense (equated with citizenship)
  • national identity in the subjective, personal sense (in the way I and many others identify primarily as English, as opposed to British, which is my official nationality)
  • race
  • ethnic / cultural background and history.

The documents about the national-identity and ethnic-group questions released this week (linked above) explicitly acknowledge the fact that the two categorisations are framed in complementary terms: the available national-identity categories are ‘English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British / Other’; and the first option in the ethnic-group categories is ‘White – English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British’. The ethnic-group categories are supposed to be objective: the question is asked using the words, “What is your ethnic group?” [my emphasis]. This implies that ‘ethnic group’ is an unquestionable, objective fact that the respondent will have no problem in ascribing to themself. And the reason why the respondent will not object to these ethnic-group classifications (or, at least, the ONS hopes they will not object) is because they will have willingly expressed their ‘national identity’ in the same terms in the previous question.

By contrast, the ‘national identity’ question is subjective: “How would you describe your national identity?”. A white Englishman like me might come along and happily tick the ‘English’ box in the national-identity question and then go on to blithely to classify myself as ‘White – English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British’ in the ethnic-group question because my Englishness (national identity), which I’m happy to affirm, appears to also be acknowledged as an integral part of my white ethnicity, and therefore I should have no problems with ticking that box. However, in so doing, what I’ve actually done is frame myself as only subjectively English (personal identity) but objectively white-British (race).

The ethnic-group categories borrow a spurious veneer of objectivity from being based on the first of the four categorisations listed above: political nationality / citizenship. For all the apparent concession of a distinct English (and, indeed, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish) ethnic group, these are all clearly sub-categories of ‘British’, which really designates political nationality not ethnicity. This is evident from the fact that the ethnic-group questions distinguish between ‘Northern Irish’ (paired with ‘British’ alongside the other UK nations / ethnic groups) and ‘Irish’. But this is a purely political distinction: are we really saying that there is a Northern Irish race or ethnic group distinct from the ‘Irish’ (i.e. Irish Republic) race / ethnicity? Clearly, that is ridiculous.

So these ‘ethnic-group’ categories are in fact based on formal nationality, and the ‘White – English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British’ category really just means ‘white British’. But, while being endowed with an air of scientific objectivity by being assimilated to nationality, the ethnic-group classifications do double duty as designators of race. Five fundamental racial categories are offered: white / mixed race / Asian / black / other. Respondents are invited to ascribe one of these categories to themselves by virtue of identifying with the ethnic-group sub-categories, which are geo-political in nature: ‘objective’ by virtue of being based on terms designating official nationalities (i.e. nation-states) or regions – India, Pakistan, China, Africa, the Caribbean, etc. Note, however, that all of these sub-categories are at a higher level in the categorial hierarchy than ‘English’. I.e. if ‘English’ were an ethnic-group category that was truly equal and regarded as ‘objective’ in the same way as these other ethnic groups, then the ‘White’ ethnic-group list would read as follows:

A – White

– English

– Welsh

– Scottish

– Northern Irish

– British

– Irish [Republic]

– Gypsy or Irish Traveller

– Any other White background, write in

This would make ‘English’, ‘Welsh’, etc. ‘objective’ designators of ethnicity / race in the same way as ‘Indian’ or ‘Pakistani’, as they would be at the same level as those terms in the hierarchy, as comparison with the Asian / Asian British ethnic-group section makes clear:

C – Asian / Asian British

– Indian

– Pakistani

– Bangladeshi

– Chinese

– Any other Asian background, write in

But instead of ‘English’ etc. being at the same level as ‘Indian’ etc., we have a category that effectively means ‘British’, as I’ve said: ‘English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British’. This ‘British’ term is a sub-category in section A of equivalent status to ‘Indian’ in section C; while ‘English’, ‘Welsh’, ‘Scottish’ and ‘Northern Irish’ are effectively sub-categories of ‘British’. They’re analogous, in fact, to regions of India and Pakistan such as Kashmir, Punjab or Gujarat, some of which claim a nation status that is not recognised politically.

This inconsistency and inequality is put to the service of an insidious sleight of hand that relates to a problem in the system: ‘British’ is used at once as a nationality, a designator of race (as in the implied ‘White – British’ category) and a would-be unifying national identity for the whole English population, both white and non-white. The way this is worked out is as follows:

  • The status of ‘British’ as a racial category (i.e. white-British) is mediated and validated by its sub-categories: ‘English’, ‘Welsh’, ‘Scottish’ and ‘Northern Irish’ are framed as exclusively ‘white’ identities; and as they are all effectively sub-categories of ‘British’, they make it possible to conceive of a white-British racial group
  • The identification of the ‘white-British’ population with ‘British’ as their national identity is mediated by articulating their ‘objective’ ethnic-group and ‘subjective’ national identities in the same terms, which are those of nationality: if we accept that we are objectively of the ‘British race’, then we might adopt ‘British’ as our national identity; whereas ‘British’, in a truly objective sense, only really designates our political nationality
  • But the implicit white-British category, despite being lower in the hierarchy than the top-level ethnic-group term ‘White’, also functions in the same way as the top-level categories C (Asian / British Asian) and D (Black / African / Caribbean / Black British): just as the multiple racial sub-categories English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish are resolved to a single ‘white-British’ race / ethnic group, so the racial sub-categories Indian / Pakistani / Bangladeshi etc. and Black / African / Caribbean etc. are resolved to overarching ‘Asian-British’ and ‘Black-British’ racial / ethnic groups
  • Finally, by applying ‘British’ to these supposedly objective, non-white
    racial categories (which are in reality based on nationalities and regional identities), Asian, Black and indeed ‘British-mixed-race’ people are encouraged to also adopt ‘British’ as their national identity.

In this way, ‘national identity’ and ‘ethnic group’ are tight, mutually reinforcing categories in the census. As discussed above, selecting ‘English’ as one’s national identity encourages one to accept an ‘objective’ racial identity as white-British; and as both forms of identity are articulated in terms of British nationality, one might be inclined to favour the politico-racially objective term ‘British’ as the designator of one’s national identity over the more subjective ‘English’. Or alternatively, as an Asian person of Indian heritage, you can embrace that particular national identity as an integral part of your ethnic-group identity; and, in so doing, you also buy into a racial identity as ‘Asian’. But as that racial identity is also designated as ‘British Asian’, you are also invited to adopt ‘British’ as your national identity as a British citizen: again, this is Britishness founded on a politico-racial ‘objectivity’ that trumps the historic national identity of India or the alternative adoptive national identity of Englishness.

Hence, the census insidiously frames the national and ethnic identities of both white-British people and non-white-British people living in England in the mutually reinforcing ‘objective’ terms of nationality and race. And, in so doing, it deprives both whites and non-whites of the opportunity to affirm a different sort of Englishness: one based on ethnicity in the sense of cultural background rather than race. For a white English person wanting to affirm their Englishness as their culture, the census throws it back at them as a merely subjective national identity and as a sub-category of an exclusively white-British racial identity. In so doing, the census also denies non-white English people the chance to declare their adherence to English culture and identity: you can be only ‘British Asian’ or ‘Black British’, the census says, not ‘English-Pakistani’ (what a powerful pairing that could be!) or ‘Black English’.

In doing this, the census fundamentally betrays the true power of geographical designations of identity. Yes, India is a political state; and yes, ‘Indian’ is a convenient label to attach to a diverse mix of races and peoples living in that state. But more than that, India is a state of mind: a wonderfully rich, complex and historic culture. To be Indian is far more than to be merely the member of a supposedly homogeneous, objective Asian ‘race’ that can then be assimilated to a category in a British census and an all-embracing British national identity. Similarly, to be English is far more than merely the nostalgic whim of a white-British citizen holding on to a historic ethnic and national identity that has long since been superseded by that of Britain. England is an ancient nation and a complex civilisation, and not merely a sub-category of British nationality or the preserve of an anonymous white-British race. And, in particular, it’s an identity open to all who embrace it.

You can be English and Indian, English and Black, and even English and Scottish in the true, cultural sense of the terms. But not for the 2011 English census, for which there is no such thing as an objective, distinctive, English civic, or indeed ethnic, identity. For the census, only British nationality and ethnicity counts. But for us English as we ponder how to fill in the census, we’re left with no alternative than to think outside the British tick box.

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18 Comments »

  1. In 16, the only way round it is to fill in “Other” and write in English.

    Comment by jameshigham — 24 October 2009 @ 1.39 pm | Reply

  2. Yes, that’s one way round it. But there’s still a problem about the whole question in terms of what precisely they’re canvassing under ‘ethnic group’. On the basis of my analysis, I would say it’s both race (e.g. ‘white’) and what I’d call ‘geo-political background / affiliation’, i.e. ethnicity defined in relation to terms expressing nationality and geographical origin. This is not at all the same thing as the fourth type of national / ethnic identity I listed (cultural / ethnic background and history), which is what I would generally understand under ‘ethnicity’. The census uses terms associated with ethnicity in this sense (e.g. Caribbean, Indian, etc.); but the information they’re actually seeking is the racial identity of the person (e.g. white, Asian, etc.) and their family history expressed in relation to countries of origin (e.g. Indian, Pakistani, Irish, etc.).

    If I was being honest, based on what the question is really canvassing (race and geo-political background), I personally would have to answer ‘white’ + ‘other’, and write in ‘British and Irish (meaning Southern Irish)’, as I had grandparents from England, Wales and the Republic of Ireland. But if it’s taken to mean ‘ethnicity’ in my understanding (cultural / ethnic background), I would need to provide my answer in section E (Other), as I don’t think ‘white’ (i.e. race) is remotely relevant; and I’d have to write in ‘English and Welsh’, as my main cultural influences have been English, but I was also influenced in my upbringing by the ‘Welsh’ values of my mother and maternal grandparents, and I retain a lot of affection for Wales. So the question is highly open to multiple interpretations, and certainly doesn’t allow one to declare a unique English ethnicity, as you say.

    Comment by David — 24 October 2009 @ 6.01 pm | Reply

  3. Why does the Census go into colour at all? It’s weird! Oh, no it’s not. It’s divide and rule!

    Comment by Maria — 24 October 2009 @ 8.36 pm | Reply

  4. The 2011 census is a direct result of the English revolt at Equality monitoring forms not using the term English.
    The English were ticking ‘White Other’ and writing in English. This just means you are counted as part of a category ‘White Other’ and not as English.
    So the government to confuse people while making them think they were ticking the ‘English’ tick Box were actually ticking an;
    ‘Enlgish, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish or British’ tick box.

    Once again the English are to be hidden from Equality monitoring for a further ten years.
    Yet again the State and media can report on the ‘White community’ instead of the ‘English’ community.

    The full impact of mass immigrations destruction on the White Ethnic English communities again are hidden in a ‘White’ racial group count.

    I am ‘White Ethnic English’ I want to know the population statistics for my racial group.
    But the state is determined to hide these figures.

    Britains population is to grow by a further million people of whom 75% will be Foreign immigrants or British born children of Foreign immigrants.

    England is the third most densly populated country in the world.

    The State and its media machine do not want the White Ethnic English aware of the growing numbers of non White Ethnic English peoples.

    Comment by Andy Cooper — 25 October 2009 @ 9.09 pm | Reply

  5. Andy Cooper, your summary of the census is spot on, however, “You can fool some of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time” BUT, etcetera…………….
    Our day will come !

    Comment by bobshaw — 26 October 2009 @ 10.16 am | Reply

  6. Thanks Bob.

    Last year I E-mailed the ONS ‘Office for national statistics’

    After much pressuring i got this reply;

    Dear Mr Cooper

    I am sorry that you did not understand my earlier signed reply.

    Subject to the requirements of users of Census statistics which are yet to
    be identified, for the purposes of the 2011 Census outputs, national
    identity and ethnic group are to be treated together. Therefore in the
    results of the Census, users will be able to identify the numbers of people
    in each of the main ethnic groups (such as White , Asian etc) sub-divided
    by whether they are ‘English’, ‘Welsh’, ‘Scottish’, ‘Northern Irish’,
    ‘British’ or other descriptions that they may choose to write-in, for
    example, Cornish.

    Accordingly the Census will identify how many ‘English’ live in English
    cities and towns. There will be separate figures for the number of ‘Welsh’,
    ‘Scottish’, ‘Northern Irish’ or ‘British’ people living in English cities
    and towns. By comparing these figures it will be possible to identify in
    which cities and towns the ‘English’ are a minority group.

    I hope this answers all your questions.

    Yours sincerely

    Margaret Wort
    2011 Census Stakeholder Management and Communications

    What this means is that;

    -The National Identity Question (see above) is not colour specific so EVERYONE Black, Asian or Oriental who ticks that their nationality is English will be added to the ETHNIC racial group of;

    English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish and British.

    The ‘White ethnic English’ that the State media like to call the ‘White Community’ will be hidden in a much bigger statistical group.

    The truth of mass immigration will be hidden for another ten years.

    I will not be completing the 2011 Census paper and will be sending it back with a written reason why. Let them take me to court.

    Comment by Andy Cooper — 26 October 2009 @ 12.59 pm | Reply

  7. Sorry that should be;

    I will not be completing the 2011 Census paper ‘as it stands now’ and will be sending it back with a written reason why. Let them take me to court.

    Comment by Andy Cooper — 26 October 2009 @ 1.00 pm | Reply

  8. Received a reply, again from Margret Wort, again the same answer;

    Dear Mr Cooper

    Thank you for your email of 21 October regarding the 2011 Census.

    The responses to the national identity and ethnic group questions will be
    analysed together and it will therefore be possible to determine the
    numbers of people in each of the main ethnic groups (such as White, Asian
    etc) sub-divided by whether they are ‘English’, ‘Welsh’, ‘Scottish’,
    ‘Northern Irish’, ‘British’ or other descriptions that they may choose to
    write-in, for example, Cornish.

    We acknowledge that even with a national identity tick-box for ‘English’
    some respondents will also want to describe themselves as ‘English’ in the
    ethnic group question. Therefore as in the 2001 Census, people will be able
    to use the write-in facility to describe their ethnicity as English if they
    wish.

    So not only will the Multi racial black, brown oriental Asian
    ‘English nationality’ racial group be combined with the ‘White Ethnic English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish and British’ racial group, but people can also hide their ethnic group in the category ‘White other’

    mass immigration is having a collosal effect on the White Ethnic English racial group. The 2011 Census is deliberately attempting to hide this devestation.

    I have wrote back;

    Ms Wort
    I dont wish to know how you will calculate the English

    I wish to know how you will calculate the ‘White Ethnic English’.

    Mass immigration has had an effect on my ethnic group ‘White English’ and I would like to know what that effect is.

    Your ‘lumping together’ the;

    ‘English nationality’ group with the
    ‘White English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British’ ethnic group

    will create a group which is not in any way representative of my White Ethnic English group.

    Just as writing English in the ‘White Other’ racial group will again remove the ability of your department to correctly monitor the White Ethnic English racial group.

    I therefore ask again, how will you make an accurate count of the White Ethnic English racial group from your 2011 census?

    I believe you have a ten day response limit. I will await your reply.

    White Ethnic English, ignored in the hope we will dissapear without a trace and without a murmur of protest.

    They have been right so far.

    Comment by Andy Cooper — 29 October 2009 @ 7.17 pm | Reply

    • I’ve written to the ONS citing two grounds of discrimination: the fact that ‘white British’ people are not allowed to break down their ethnic group as English (or Welsh, Scottish or Irish), whereas ‘Asians’ and ‘Blacks’ are allowed to break their ethnic groups down by Indian / Pakistani / Bangladeshi etc. or African / Caribbean; and the fact that Asians, Blacks and mixed-race people are not allowed to refer to themselves as ‘English’ or indicate their ethnic group as English, whereas whites are (‘English’ being reserved for white people only). I’m waiting to hear back from them but am referring this to the equally useless Equality and Human Rights Commission if I don’t receive an adequate reply.

      Comment by David — 29 October 2009 @ 11.01 pm | Reply

  9. I think the ONS being a government body actually have a loophole within the Race Relations Act that prevent them from being prosecuted under the Race Relationas Act.

    Just as the same loophole allows them to impose the discriminatory policies of;
    Devolution
    Barnett Formula
    Miss Black Great Britain
    Black housing federation
    etc

    I am in the process of taking my employer to an Industrail Tribunal for using discriminatory Equality monitoring form to measure work practices etc.
    Though the government can impose discriminatory practices my employer cannot.

    Comment by Andy Cooper — 31 October 2009 @ 4.20 pm | Reply

  10. After ringing and being told Ms Wort was not there, she would call me back later. I decided to try the complaints department.
    I then received the following E-mail from Ms Wort.

    Dear Mr Cooper
    Thankyou for your further e-mail of 29 October regarding the 2011 census, I apologise for any delay in replying.

    Details of cross classifications of statistics from the 2011 census are not yet decided as we are still consulting on these.

    You refer to English nationality but the nationality identity question does not seek to collect infomation on nationality. National Identity is a subjective matter, as is ethnic group. Response to these two questions could be combined to provide the sort of detailed breakdowns that you suggest if their is sufficient demand from users to do so.

    Such combinations provide the means of allowing English, Welsh etc componants of each main ethnic group to be classified without the need to repeat the tickboxes for each of these categories.

    Margeret Wort.

    No I do not refer to nationality I refer to the White English ETHNIC group.

    She says that the nationality identity question does not seek to collect information on nationality….EH?

    So for the White Ethnic English to be counted we need people to request this information be monitored, So how many Gypsies, Indians, Africans, Caibbeans etc that will be correctly counted requested their ethnic group be specified?

    Comment by Andy Cooper — 10 November 2009 @ 3.48 pm | Reply

  11. My reply;

    Thank you for finally replying, it is a shame I had to chase up a reply before I received it.

    The attached PDF you sent me is so typically erroneous.

    You state that ‘the national identity question does not seek to collect information on ‘nationality.’

    In fact I have no problem with the nationality question. Any one of any ethnic group can be of English nationality, nationality is not defined by the racial charactoristics of colour or ethnicity.
    Therefore a Pakistani would be included in English nationality if living in England though he would tick Pakistani as his Ethnic group because he has this option.

    You claim ‘Responses to these two questions could be combined to provide the sort of detailed breakdowns that you suggest’ NO IT COULD NOT! This is the problem that you do not seem capable to understand or a deliberately evoiding.

    COMBINING a non colour ENGLISH NATIONAL IDENTITY with the ‘White’ ethnic group ENGLISH, WELSH, Scottish, Northern Irish and British will hide the Wthite Ethnic English group WHICH I HAVE BEEN SPEAKING ABOUT.

    My WHITE ETHNIC ENGLISH group will be invisible on the United Kingdom statistics for the next TEN YEARS which is your purpose.
    YOU will not know how many WHITE ETHNIC ENGLISH live in any part of England, but you will know how many; Caribbeans, Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Arabs and Africans are living in England, these groups will not be invisible.

    Tell me, if English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and British are given one tick box, why are the Pakistani, Indian Bangladeshi and Chinese been given favourable treatment with individual tick boxes?

    And by your combining ‘White’ English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish and British in one ethnic group you hope to hide the fact of mass immigration into English towns and cities.

    You also claim that the ONS is still in consultation period on the finalisation of the Census paper, but I believe that the paper has been decided. Which is it?

    If consultation is ongoing i would like to request an invite to ANY consultation regarding Ethnicity questions.

    Andrew Cooper

    Comment by Andy Cooper — 10 November 2009 @ 4.22 pm | Reply

  12. Ohh dear, poor white population decline? Just try going back 600 years? Do u remember what your forefatehrs did to native indian americans, mexicans in north and south america by spreading DISEASES? oh dear, how do u whites feel when non-whites do same atrocties which your forefathers did on our ancestors? 110 million native americans were killed by invading europeasn terrorsists. 91 million blacks were killed in africa by PEACEFUL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES. 6 million chinese died of europeans drug imports during 18th centuary to force chinese emperor to surrender business to WHITES. 3.5 million indians dies of artificial famine created by the GREAT WINSTON CHURCHILL during world war by robbing all indian crops and exporting them to UK. Do u think your christ will save u from those sins? nah nah no way. You MUST pay the price for it. Your women will be raped in the same way as u your ancestors raped latin women and throwing their dead bodies into rivers. Your white population will die of similar diseases in large numbers, your kids and brothers will starve to death and drugs will make your sisters hanging hooker botches to non-white customers. You white bastards are worse than taliban. Taliban kills people openly whereas u bastards kill secretly. GOD will punish you rotten stinky assholes.

    Comment by Mexican — 12 December 2010 @ 4.44 pm | Reply

    • Your own words condemn you, Mexican, which is why I haven’t censored them.

      Comment by David — 28 December 2010 @ 1.09 pm | Reply

  13. While I can agree on some comments I cannot agree with others. Ethnicity is a complex thing, made up of culture, traditions, customs, laws, shared history, ancestors etc. And yes colour is part of it as Europeans are white and Africans mainly black – fact! That’s more to do where people have lived in the world in ancient history. But ethnicity is more than just colour, although colour is partly important. I agree English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish should be separate as Indian, Pakistani, Chinese etc, as all the so called white races have distinct heritages, customs, laws and traditions. In fact colour tags shouldn’t come into it. But you cannot be ethnically Pakistani and ethnically English. You either have ancestry and cultural heritage from England or Pakistan! Just because someone eats yorkshire puddings doesn’t make them white or understand European folk traditions or cultural heritage and neither does eating a curry or understanding Islam make you suddenly understand Indian or Pakistani literature, customs etc! Culture is often subtle, ways of thinking, ways of doing things, things you don’t even realise that make you distinct. This comes from people who have shared common language, customs, traditions for centuries or even thousands of years. These take ages to build up and colour is only the recognisable face of it.

    Nationality and ethnicity are two different things. Nationality is simply where your born your civic belonging. Ethnicity is very different! Particular groups have particular needs. I am half Irish and half English. Firstly I am not ethnically Irish as I was not brought up on Irish tradition, but my mothers culture, way of cooking, and largely an English mentality (culturally mentality is a big thing as well). That does not mean I don’t respect my Irish (Gaelic) heritage. But irish heritage and Gaelic heritage are different things. Irish is a nationality not an ethnicity. Gaelic irish is an ethnicity – a distinct culture and set of traditions. People in Northern Ireland are not generally Gaelic Irish in heritage (most are British settlers)but many have adopted aspects of Gaelic culture. They see themselves as Irish in terms of being born on the Island of Ireland but not Irish in a Gaelic cultural sense. Therefore they don’t see themselves as ‘the same’ as people in southern Ireland. But can I really count my upbringing as mixed English and Irish? Are the ways of thinking by my dad distinct from my mom – I couldn’t tell the difference anyway, so assigning some cultural ways of thinking specifically to Irish would be subtle at best and given the fact people generally from the British Isles have such similar general cultures assigning a singular ethnicity is very difficult – given the fact many things are shared across Europe anyway. The differences between white and non-white cultures are much more pronounced. Kelly Holmes for example can describe herself as ethnically English – she has an ethnic English mom, brought up on English culture – in fact what is Afro-Caribbean (or even Black) about her apart from a Afro-Caribbean father she never knew. Yet she is described all the time as black – her white European heritage is ignored – which I think she would feel is more she feels closer to. Black – who in Africa says their black? Its a skin colour not an ethnic group. Why isn’t black divided into Jamaican, Ghanian, Grenadian etc – all these places have separate histories, traditions etc. Can my dad read or understand Gaelic literature? – NO! Does he understand about ancient tribal battles in Ireland? – NO! So what makes him Irish then?

    Recording ethnicity is important as it will enable to see how many ethnic Welsh, English, Scottish and Irish there are and what ethnic minorities there are, so certain groups don’t become discriminated against (including the ‘white British’) and that groups don’t become invisible and are given the same protection under the law. These issues are very complex!

    Comment by Michael — 4 March 2011 @ 2.39 pm | Reply

    • To be honest, Michael, I’m not quite sure what point you’re making. I agree totally that ethnic identities are complex, as is the relationship between national identity and ethnicity. But the point you make about Kelly Holmes could surely be made about non-mixed-race black people brought up in England who identify as ‘ethnically English’ (cf. Ian Wright). Plus if that’s the case, why can’t people with Pakistani heritage also identify as ethnically English or ethnically mixed if they’ve got mixed cultural heritage, which many of them do, e.g. Pakistani in the family but English and British all around them and from their peers?

      The Census discriminates against such people, as it does not include ‘English’ as a standard option in the ethnic-group question for them: ‘English’ is reserved for white people only. That’s apartheid, in my view, and it means the Census won’t provide an accurate picture of how non-white people identify, putting them into a British-only box. I also don’t agree with the implication that ‘English’, in the context of ethnicity, refers only to white people: I see myself as ethnically English but don’t regard that as intrinsically bound up with my skin colour at all.

      The Census completely muddles up the different types of national identity: citizenship (‘nationality’), society / socialisation, culture, and race / kinship. As such, its findings will be of minimal value as a scientific survey, let alone as a means to plan English public services: those that are left after the present government’s onslaught on the very concept of the English public interest, that is.

      Comment by David — 7 March 2011 @ 12.04 pm | Reply

  14. I thought we all decided in 1970’s & 1980s that it was wicked to categorise people by race – especially as the question could not be answered scientifically. As someone now nearly 70 with the benefit of a traditional liberal upbringing, I’m disgusted that we are now doing it ourselves in the UK census. The liberal side of politics now seems obsessed to group and appeal to us collectively via our emotion, rather than to address us individually with reasoned argument. This truly is fascism. No wonder the country is broke.

    Comment by Peter — 11 March 2011 @ 8.25 am | Reply

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