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Multiculturalism Notes

History Notes > British History VII (Since 1900) Notes

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Multiculturalism - Condensed Past questions: Multiculturalism

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What most hindered the integration of immigrant groups?

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Why did immigration periodically become such a source of controversy?

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Did legislation, or economic change, do more to improve women's position in society?

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How successful were policies of multiculturalism at maintaining community relations?

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How successfully did immigrant groups integrate into British society?

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Has Britain become a more tolerant nation since the 1950s?

What can we learn?
The degree to which assimilation has been met with positive or negative responses overall. To what extent has the issue of race become more heavily involved in wider political discourses, and what are the broader social, cultural, economic and political forces that have shaped British responses to multiculturalism over the twentieth century?
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Wider narrative. 1930s - racial prejudice permeated all levels of white society, reinforced through popular literature, cinema, the content of school curriculums and the patriotic propaganda of Empire Day celebrations. Most people were unconcerned about the problems that blacks faced. Even on the Left, prejudice was deeply rooted and at times openly apparent as in the controversy which surrounded E. D. Morel's article 'Black Horror on the Rhine', published in 1919, which played heavily on the sexual threat to white women posed by black soldiers in Europe. Pre-Windrush

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Like many of the pervasive social fears in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century, we cannot divorce racial concerns from the wider economic context.

o Seamen's unions fuelled animosity between competing groups as they sought to protect white British access to jobs by imposing a 'colour' bar on sailors from racialised ethnic minorities. o The riot was connected to wider industrial unrest on Clydeside as leaders of the union campaign for a reduced working week (to maintain full employment following demobilisation) brought unskilled labour, including merchant seamen, into a general strike alongside skilled workers. o Given this wider context, it is not too much to claim that the events surrounding the Glasgow harbour riot reflect Britain's uneven metropolitan and colonial relationship, and illustrate a general feeling of political instability via government fears over Bolshevism associated with strike action in the period. o Local, racialised responses to wider social/economic tensions.

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Dissatisfaction with the post-war settlement in general was channelled into aggressive responses to those considered to be undermining the economic position of the white working-classes. o Demand booms in the context of war lead to local businesses, including those run by Jewish families, to prosper. Becomes another point of tension; propaganda argues that Jews profiteer from Britain's war effort. o In part, unrest stems from worsening conditions of the economy and widespread fears of decline and decay. National police strikes take place. Trade union activity intensifies. But these fears manifest themselves in explicitly racial forms. Crowds of white men and women attack black and Asian sailors.

* Case of Ernest Marke. Served in merchant navy throughout WWI, nonetheless finds himself the victim of persecution.

* Spurred by growing unemployment, port-towns and shipping industry contracts massively after experiencing a substantial boom. Social/cultural expressions of wider economic fears. Exacerbates racial tensions.

A spate of legislation affirms governmental approval of the need to codify and restrict Britishness:

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Aliens Act (1905) Aliens Restriction Act (1914) British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act (1914/1918) Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act (1919)

This creates the definition of the 'alien' and heightens and publicises xenophobic attitudes. Placed under surveillance and regulation, Britishness legally defined legally to exclude a racial other. Hardened by the experiences of the war.

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The enduring result of the Coloured Alien Seamen Order (1925) was the codification of a hierarchical definition of British nationality dependent on race, class and occupation, and, implicitly, gender. o A definition shaped by the demands of the shipping industry, the vagaries of the interwar economy, local and national politics and state policy decisions. o Not simply a reflection of popular racism arising from self-evident distinctions, or according the law with pre-existing customs. Legal and policy changes violated custom and practice, actively re-defining the subordinate status of Black citizens.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Miscegenation Lucy Bland: At least three dominant discourses concerning these interracial relationships existed, each of which referenced innate biological/evolutionary tendencies as the moral arbiter, and each of which proffered its own 'solutions'.

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First, miscegenation was seen in terms of leading inevitably to violence between white men and men of colour, due to white men's 'instinctive' antipathy towards such relationships. 1919 Race Riots o Though it was acknowledged that unemployment was a key factor in the outbreak of violence, the media and authorities maintained that interracial relationships were the catalyst for discontent, constituting an equal instigator of rioting. o Difficult for many to accept that the attraction between white women and black men could be one of reciprocity. Press depict as demeaning to whites.

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In the years immediately after the war, a victorious but disillusioned and frequently psychically, if not physically damaged army of white British working-class men returned home, initially to face unemployment, and, in Britain's main ports, the spectre of the racial 'other' courting 'their' women. Intersection of gender & race. o White working-class masculinity, already battered by the inglorious nature of the war, including the emasculating conditions of trench warfare, now came up against challenges to two main definers of British masculinity, namely the ability to work and the ability to attract the opposite sex. o Competition for sexual prowess = competition for jobs; economic downturn.

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Second, these relationships were said to entail sexual immorality, whether the men involved were black, Indian, Arab or Chinese; violence towards white women, including sexual violence, was added to the equation where the men were black or Arab.

o The women 'drawn' to men of colour were represented as either passive victims, the prey of licentious, immoral 'aliens', or alternatively, they were seen as active in their choice, as a result largely of their own sexual immorality and social marginality. Reflective of confused and contradictory understandings of women - seen as frail and in need of protection, but also as points of potential weakness and vehicles for the degradation of the racial stock. o 'The Yellow Peril' was another manifestation of interracial engagement that attracted substantial media attention.

* 'Brilliant Chang', a slick Chinese businessman connected with the drug-induced suicide of Freda Kempton in 1920s London, provided an excellent folk hero for the sensationalist press.

* Women were reduced to passive victims in a manner parallel to a white slave narrative, but it was a scenario forever in tension with that of the women as active agents choosing these 'alien undesirables'.

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The third discourse on miscegenation, which came increasingly to the fore as the 1920s progressed, was of miscegenation having 'disastrous' procreative consequences. o The 'half-caste' child was deemed to inherit the worst features of both parents, namely immorality and laziness. o Visible product of crumbling social morality

What a close examination of the 1920s reveals is that the slow shift towards a more racially mixed community began not with the arrival of the ship the Windrush in 1948, but in the years after the Great War, when certain white women made choices against the norms of respectable femininity as to their sexual partners. Conclusions The Shieldsman - 'since it seems impossible to send these people home the next best thing is to segregate them'. Opposition was present. Never went uncontested. Rhetoric of the endurance of hardships from 1914-18, entitled to the same entitlements as other British subjects. Do not necessarily disagree with the need for an 'alien' classification, but along different lines. Powerful claims to citizenship evident in letters written to parliament, respecting due process and the need to address Westminster to voice their concerns.

Post-Windrush o Discourse on multiculturalism after 1945, couched in terms of resistance to colonial rule in the empire and 'immigrants' in the metropolis 'increasingly converged on a common theme: the violation of domestic sanctuaries.'

o Crucial intersection of race and gender - imperial power expressed through these two paradigms. o Englishness as a white woman, racial 'otherness' as a black man. o Domestic reactions strengthened an understanding of 'little England', first emphasised in the aftermath of the Boer War and consolidated in the interwar era 'when national identity was increasingly domesticated, emphasising hearth, home and herbaceous borders' o Reworked after 1945 to more clearly delineate between domesticity and a racial 'other'. o Bill Schwarz - 'a battle between two irreconcilable Englands'. A victimisation of white domestic citizens as colonialism 'comes home'. Blacks believed to be acquiring a status of supremacy.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Political 1950s

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Often seen as a halcyon era for immigration policy - a decade in which rhetoric couched in terms of imperial bonds and tolerance outweighed practical necessities of limiting immigration flows. o Constraints such as the need to placate opinion in the African and West Indian colonies, a strong desire to present an enlightened view of conservatism at home and abroad and uncertainties about possible reactions which could be exploited by Labour outweighed senior concerns regarding constrictions on migrant numbers. o Easier to uphold the principle of free entry. o Responses to immigration fluctuated with wider social/economic context.

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Relations between the white and black communities were gloomily portrayed as no more than an armed neutrality, with little assimilation taking place. Blame for the uneasy relationship was attributed to the black neighbourhoods themselves because they persisted in maintaining life styles inimical to white communities. Nevertheless, Tories under Eden determined to present themselves as modern. o Important to win back significant sections of middle-class voters in the 1950s, evidence of voters shifting towards Conservatives due to fears regarding impingements on civil liberty by an overlypowerful socialist state. Sense of worsening race relations did not appeal to groups of churchmen, academics and philanthropists. Unease increasingly aggravated not only by Fleet Street, but television (new mediums of mass communication)

o Equivocation the chosen method of Conservative candidates in the 1955 election period. Candidates told 'they should stress "all these people are British" but then go on to state "The government has been watching the situation most carefully. This is not a matter which should be allowed to become an issue of Party controversy'. Had to balance localised issues with a more national programme projecting the Tories as the upholders of liberalism and the paternal state. Difficulty in reconciling local/national tensions.

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Commonwealth Immigration Bill introduced in the closing months of 1961. o Growing sense that major world power status was beyond Britain's capability. Therefore, the barely tolerated position of large numbers of West Indians and Indians in Britain lost its most important prop - an international empire centred on a thriving motherland. o Notes of economic decline increased government focus on technological backwardness and unskilled labour - associated most visibly with migrant populations. Black immigrant became inextricably linked in the public eye with wider social and economic stagnation.

After the British Nationality Act, almost all successive legislation on the issue of race and immigration has been negatively defined; prescriptive, exclusive.

* 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act limits immigration to those who clearly demonstrate their capability to provide a positive contribution to Britain. Rab Butler 'great merit as a restrictive effect intended to operate on coloured people almost exclusively'. Under Thatcher

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Stuart Hall - Thatcherism a 'dislocating force in every sphere of cultural life' Thatcher chose to emphasise the supposed dangers posed to British social and cultural values by the black and ethnic minority people already settled in Britain. o Thatcher's pronouncements on this issue were part of a wider campaign to use race as a symbol for the neo-Conservative ideology of Thatcher's wing of the party (Barker, 1981; Smith, 1994; Ansell, 1997). o While the political language used still referred to immigrants, the main reference points of this campaign were the black people already settled in Britain. Immigration control remained an issue of public and policy debate, particularly in relation to the dependants and marriage partners of those settled legally (Gordon, 1985).

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The 1981 British Nationality Act was passed under the first Thatcher administration and came into force in 1983. Third, during the 1990s the main

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