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Herefordshire Council wants me to fill in an online form so they can evaluate my ethnicity. They want to know what colour my skin is (I mean they want to know what colour I think my skin is, because although I am white I am not really white am I more of a greeny bluey magnolia pink (so I'm told), I am of course politically white - white and black here not being colours at all, but political markers.) They also think they need to know my nationality to assess my ethnicity. Now remember in Old Blighty your nationality is your father’s nationality not the country you were born in (Mrs Thatcher saw to that so this isn't geographical placement - you can be born in Britain raised as British but still be a South African, unless a sporting interest dictates otherwise, Messrs Peterson and Trott.) The council is equally concerned about an unencompassing geographical aspect – Am I Caribbean or Asian or African it would like to know but not European, American or Australian – for some reason that doesn’t fit their peculiar picture of ethnicity. So by your colour, nationality and geographical origin the council will pigeonhole you into a desirable (unnegotiated) ethnic group. How handy is that? To answer that one needs to consider what ethnicity actually is. Is it really some bizarre mix of colour, continent and nationality invented by the authorities with no basis in science. Is this merely a redressed biblical version of an outmoded and dangerous unscientific notion of race? When we speak of ethnicity we speak of culturally recognized markers that point to difference – ethnic food, ethnic music, ethnic clothing and jewellery and ethnic art or dance or even ethnic colours. The way we use and talk of ethnicity points to something that we think is not us - it is something different, something other, something alien. We do not see ourselves as ethnic. Ethnic is not fish and chips, not binge drinking, not punk rock and not bowler hats and stiff upper lips - those things we consider as 'ours', as English and not ethnic. Going back four hundred years when Europeans (and Africans and Asians) were exploring the world the European explorers felt the need to distinguish themselves from the people they encountered and this was easily done through their religion and sense of superiority. 'They' were natives and heathens and 'we' were civilized and Christian. However, this dichotomy became problematic when we encountered the Far East and discovered people who 'we' recognized as being more civilized than 'we' were. The Orient was born and labelled and to distinguish ourselves we became occidentals –West had met East and the difference formalized in language. Another Us and Them was to form with our European neighbours – France, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands – they and the rest of the Europe are the Continent and 'we' remain isolated Islanders despite Common Markets and European Federalism - a notion that remains strong to this day. The irrationality of rationality of the C20th saw this fixation of otherness draw to its inevitable conclusion with the Nazi’s final solution – the Jews and the gypsies were not Aryan and therefore had to be exterminated. And this wasn’t the only ethnic cleansing suffered in the C20th. Now we are still at war - an Us and Them war (what other sort can there be?) disguised as a war on terror or a war for resources or a war of ideology – the one that replaced the cold war. Us and Them is just primitive white and black thinking – However, our means of identifying ourselves by who we are not does not stop there. Our accents identify us - 'we' don’t have a brummie accent. Ancient British tribes go back a long way – Anglia, Sussex, Northumberland and Mercia and our regional dialects still speak us and identify us. Even more locally and we are defined by not being from the other side of the (Malvern) Hills and not from the Forest (of Dean) In fact we’re not from Bosbury or Bromsberrow or Marcle and more lately not from New Mills. Or are we? We have friends and family in these places and we visit and do business with these places and people. We take on and enjoy the music, food and art from these other places. The notion of other (by race and ethnicity) can only logically implode our identity to that of mere self – to alienation and isolation (I is me and everybody else is not me) while a celebration of difference and tolerance of others leads to an explosion of possibilities and diversity that we enjoy through our choices of consumption. In the C21st our identity is not prescribed by outdated notions of nationality and national borders, which in any case are undermined by political super states, international travel and business, the Internet and global communications. Our identity is self-determined by what we consume, not by what we look like – curries, reggae, lager and bollywood become our cultural markers. This preponderance by the council to pigeonhole us does nothing more than reinforce unwelcome notions of otherness of race and ethnicity – both terms invented to describe ourselves by what we think we are not, while ignoring and eluding our shared relationships, languages, culture, ethics and values. Why is the council not interested in my Europeaness – Am I Gallic, Slavic, Latin or Nordic – they don’t seem at all bothered about that. Neither is the Council interested in my Britishness – am I Scottish, English, Cornish, Manx or even Welsh. Ah Welsh - surely as a Herefordian if there was one marker I would chose to say "hey that’s not me" it would be Welsh. Culturally I’m more French, Turkish or Thai than I am Welsh. But the council doesn't recognise this celtic ethnicity. And what of future questions this investigative Council will want to ask me. Is my hair red? Am I fat? Am I gay? Am I thick? Do I wear glasses? Am I atheist? Am I introvert? Am I colour blind? The one thing we do know is that rather than our Council being colour blind, our council has a preoccupation and tendency towards colour hyper-sensitivity that is unhelpful, unwanted and divisive in a world that gets closer and less heterogenous every day. This council's questionaire only reinforces notions of difference by demanding we fulfill a dreamed-up imagination of ethnicity.
Re: Welsh This sounds like the pre-C20th imperial language that indicated that England was Britain and Britain was England - Wales and Scotland were (language-wise) treated as regions and therefore parts of England. It seems very odd that Herefordshire Council does not recognise a celtic (Welsh) identity/ethnicity. The Welsh have a distinct language that is impenetrable to most English people, distinct regional accents, their own national dress, national dishes to savour and even their own parliament. If ethnicity is based partly on nationality (as Herefordshire Council makes out) then there is no Welsh country and the Welsh have no ethnicity other than a colour followed by the British label. How insulting is this? In wider terms Herefordshire Council collates this information and summarises all their ethnic groups into two broad groupings (see their website if you don't believe me). These are 'White British' and 'BME' - Black and Minority Ethnic - in other words 'us' and 'them'. Interestingly, Herefordshire Council focuses on the different ages of the BME group, something it chooses not to do with the whites. Why is that? What possible use is knowing what percentage of BME (Blacks, Africans, Indians, Pakistanis, West Indians, Chinese, Japanese, 'mixed race' etc - but not whites) are aged between 30-44? This is information published on Herefordshire Council website. What possible function does this serve?
I asked someone today (out of the blue) what their ethnicity was. Firstly, they had to think about this. There was no immediate reply. It's not like asking what gender you are, what nationality you are, how old you are etc. I don't think most people think about this unless they're asked - by people like me or governments. When the response came it was this 'Anglo-Welsh' - and this was based on the person's parental nationality. Note the Welsh bit. This person assumed Welsh as a seperate and different ethnicity from Anglo. However, my respondent quickly expanded on this: 'white caucasian anglo Welsh Jedi' he told me. Straight away he, like Herefordshire Council, sees his political colour as a primary marker of his ethnicity which he has attached to caucasian (stretching him from South Asia to Wales). Herefordshire Council do not use the term caucasian to describe people, probably as it is seen as rascist and redundant as it refers to a physical type. Jedi was chosen as his religion not because he believes he is Jedi, but because he put that answer on a government census form as a joke. It's interesting that this respondent thought of religion (what one believes in) as an ethnicity marker and was not prepared to be truthful to the authorities when asked about this.
Do you think the BNP have started celebrating early since most of England has become pure white (thats if snow is still classified as being white).But maybe they have considered that although its whiter that an albino anglo saxon it may not have origionated in this country and would like send it back to where it came from.
I suppose we could take a few tips from nature itself. I personally don't look at the UK or any other part of the world as being any particular colour except for blue sky's,green grass,sandy deserts and so on (all possibly just an illusion created by light). In my opinion colour classification for people can only encourage something more ignorant than racism and that would be colour prejudice.
Is Herefordshire Council discriminating against everyone except the 'white others' or is their data on ethnicity effectively useless?
I asked Herefordshire Council for a breakdown of the ethnicity of their 6,413 workforce and the County Councillors themselves. I was surprised. At first glance it appears Herefordshire Council is discriminating against 'White British' as the percentage of White Brits they employ is 86.34% compare to a county average of 95.6% of the population.
But then it looks like Herefordshire Council is also discriminating against against 'Asians/Asian British' - 0.23% employed out of a population percentage of 0.8%; 'Black/Black British' 0.17% out of 0.4%; 'Chinese and Other' 0.11% out of 0.4% and staggeringly 'Mixed' 0.16% out of 0.7%. Only the 'White Other' ethnicity seemed well-treated 1.57% employed by Herefordshire Council out of a county population of 1.5%.
The problem with these figures supplied by Herefordshire Council is they don't add up. There is 11.08% of the employees missing from Herefordshire Council figures - these are classed as 'not known' which I don't think is an ethnicity. Now according to Herefordshire Council website they don't know about 'gypsy or traveller' numbers although they expect them to be the largest ethnic minority in the county. [By the way I know some 'travellers' and I cannot see how their ethnicity is different to mine - their lifestyle yes, but hey, I've lived in a caravan too and I've 'travelled' - does that really mark ethnicity?]
So, is the Herefordshire Council workforce 11.08% gypsy?
Or, are 11.08% of Herefordshire Council workforce not prepared to tell their employer what ethnicity they think they are?
Why would that be? What do they have to hide? Are they hostile to the politics of ethnicity? When they look in the mirror do they not see their colour/nationality and geographic location mashed up into a single credible ethnicity that is authenticated by central government and the Race Relation Act?
Obviously, this 10%+ lack of information invalidates the attempt to see the ethnic breakdown of Herefordshire Council workforce and makes all this unscientific nonsense.
By the way, Herefordshire Council does not know the ethnicity of its Herefordshire Councillors. Why is this? Is the ethnicity of the ruling elite invisible? Is white so white you can't see it?
Let me help this poor fact-finding council out. If you go to Herefordshire Council website you can see photos of the councillors - and a pretty mean and ugly bunch they are too. But hey, guess what, I'm pretty sure they are all 'white' (if you know what I mean). They have that pasty look about them. One of them hadn't supplied a photo, so perhaps Councillor Matthews is trying hide her/his ethnicity.
So that's one marker - whiteness.
How about nationality. To stand as a County Councillor you must be either a British citizen, a citizen of the Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland or of another European Union State. So, they're not Americans (North or South) nor mainland Chinese. They could all be 'gypsies', but I think one of them looks Welsh, but I'm not telling you which one, have a look yourself:
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Of course, this 100% totality of ruling whiteness by County Councillors does not match the County percentage of whiteness (95.6%) - so is the Council representively racist? Or is it the electorate that is racist? Or is it the election system that is not proportional that is racist? Or were the candidates all white? And if so why?
My own take is that the whole concept of "race" (and ethnicity) is a pretty loopy, utterly inaccurate 19th century construct taken to it's absurd, deadly conclusion by the Nazis.
Why it is not now utterly discredited, but on the contrary forms one of the bases of supposedly enlightened and liberal modern Europe really does baffle me.
I don't actually believe I have ever met a 'black' person or a 'white' person. What is this nonsense supposed to mean??
I'd go further: I myself was born in Glasgow, to Irish parents, and accepted until recently that I was, as the form-filling ethnicity business demands, a "Celt". But last year after research I discovered that no-one ( really NO-ONE) ever described an inhabitant of the British Isles including Ireland as being "Celtic" until the 17th century (it was the Welsh guy who started the Ashmolean musem in Oxford, name escapes for the mo).
To me that means that the "ethnic" label of Celtic as applied to people such as myself is entirely made-up, no matter how romantic or quaint. It turns out that the "Celts" were in fact a language/culture group living in Southern France and Northern Spain 2000 years ago and named as "Celts" by Greek & Roman authors.
By all means, modern inhabitants of Ireland and the UK who want to describe themselves as "Celts" go ahead and do so - just don't tell me it has any 'racial' or 'ethnic' basis. And I think this caveat applies to all other 'racial' or 'ethnic' categorisation.
Next up, we've got the "scientifically based" DNA approach which is building on the race/ethnicity cr*p.
It'll take a generation to reveal that this also is hokum: for the moment prepare for our society to be bamboozled by DNA, as it was in the 19th century by race, and in the 20th century by ethnicity. Jim M.