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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Yesterday (Thursday 22nd June), a slightly built woman wearing a beret, face-mask, shirt and jeans, extracted my purse from my handbag (which was on my lap) while sitting next to me on a 341 about 12.30.

I had been puzzled as to why she appeared to have an ague, twitching all the time. When I stood up to leave the bus at Philip Lane, I realised what had happened - so blocked her exit and said very firmly "Give me back my purse" several times. Fortunately she dropped it - various other passengers joined in with support (one lovely comment - who’s been naughty then?) and the bus driver kept the doors shut ...so I was lucky or she was new to the job! She passed me walking back from the next stop.

So be alert!

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The distinction drawn between the labels British and English as they're applied to people whose families have recently migrated to this country is fascinating.

I've had an intuitive understanding of why the object of a label might choose British for themselves rather than English, but I have some problems accepting the argument about the distinction when the person proposing it is using it to exclude people from a group to which they believe they themselves belong.

Take the situation across the channel. How does it work in France. Is being French only a nationality and not an ethnicity? If it's the latter, then can it not accept new members?

The Cambridge dictionary describes ethnicity as. "a large group of people with a shared culture, language, history, set of traditions, etc".

I don't think we should exclude anyone from either identifying as English or British on the basis of their race. If they feel English or British, then as far as I'm concerned they very probably are.

I imagine the fact people who were born in or grew-up and live in England are at pains to distinguish themselves as British but not English reflects the extent to which some members of the latter group exclude people on the basis of their race or the nationality of their recent ancestors.

Like much of the world, going back centuries, we are a very mixed people in a very mixed nation. I celebrate that. Our ethnicity is not a single set thing. Our culture, language, history, and traditions are continually evolving. As long as I feel the changes are generally positive, I'm very comfortable with that evolution.

I don't want being English to be about race or ancestry. I wasn't born in this country, neither were my grandfathers. I'm a Londoner, by adoption, I'm English, British and European. Each one is a very complex identity and I don't identify with every member or every aspect of each, but I know I'm in there somewhere. 

Interesting response, but we have a fundamental divergence on the definition of ethnicity. Unfortunately, the word has become somewhat synonymous with race, but it is fundamentally different. 

You write:

Ethnicity is similar to sex and gender. Regardless of what you identify as, what you actually are is defined by science and DNA. 

Replace 'ethnicity'  with 'race' and we're on the same page. 

As a rule of thumb, in basic terms, race describes physical traits, and ethnicity refers to cultural identification, (see my previous comment).

'Race' and 'ethnicity' describe two related but also very different concepts, yet they are habitually confused. Even those whose job it is to know better, make this mistake. The headline of Inigo Alexander's interesting article in The Guardian, proclaims 'Now 90% of England agrees: being English is not about colour'. He then goes on to explain that 'Just over 10% of people believe that ethnicity is an important determining factor in being English, compared to 20% from a 2012 study'. It's an interesting and encouraging finding, but his focus on the article is on skin colour. So he is very clearly talking about race and not ethnicity.

Despite the confusion, I carry on using the word 'ethnicity' in its true sense because I have found no satisfactory alternative. 

I can hear people sighing about my banging on about definitions and meanings rather than focusing on the heart of the matter. For me, however, getting these definitions straight goes to the heart of the matter, both for people discussing the issue and, perhaps more importantly for people reflecting on their own identity.

Anyone can self-identify as any ethnicity, English or otherwise.

Interesting discussion. Reflected today

I like this guy. His balanced and common sense perspective bursts a lot of bubbles.

He was in my cousin's restaurant recently and was apparently charming and funny.

This is called cherry picking your facts to justify your racism. Mass immigration from Ireland began during the Famine of the 1840's and continued until the 1960s. The Irish immigrants were starving and desperate. Most would have spoken Gailge as their first language and lived in utter squalor, suffering from top down racism and bigotry. They also worked for paltry wages which encouraged resentment from British workers. They did not share a cultural background with indigenous British. Nevertheless they were instrumental in forming early Trade Unions, the Chartists, and the Labour Party. Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany were also the recipients of vile anti semitism but have gone on to make a huge contribution to our society. Indeed successive waves of immigration have injected new life into a relatively conservative society. The problem in France, as in Britain, is the hangover from Empire where black and brown immigrants are looked down on and treated appallingly by the police.

I think the population in this country had much more admixture by post-Norman immigration earlier than our interlocutor imagines. For example Indians started coming here much earlier than the mass migrations of the twentieth century. By the nineteenth century the Indian population was in the tens of thousands  (Chatterjee A K, Indians in London, 2023).

It sounds like you have some knowledge of this area. Perhaps it would be helpful if you were to share your understanding of the terms race and ethnicity. Then we might understand the source of our divergence on their meaning.

I agree with you that the era of mass immigration didn't start until the second half of the last century, but the UK's population was perhaps not as homogenous prior to then as many people imagine. If we take Chatterjee's tens of thousands of Indians, add the Huguenots you mentioned (estimated by some to be as high as 50,000), then add to that a population of African descent, estimated at 20-30,00 already by the late eighteenth century, it starts adding up. Then of course we already had a Jewish population of 15-20,000 by 1800, which of course grew with the 19th century pogroms. By 1900, we had an eastern European-born population in excess of 80,000.

I'm sure these figures don't approach the 5% foreign-born population we had by 1971, but by 1911, it had already exceeded 2% - and of course that excludes second and third generation citizens. Given that this was mostly concentrated in cities, especially London, it would have made cities perhaps much more diverse then many imagine. 

Another interesting note for this conversation, My smart TV suggested a programme from the new Time Team series on YouTube for me. 

In the first episode of Series 21, Nathalie Haynes said that by the 3rd or 4th century "one in five of Britain's population were long-distance migrants: that is migrants from outside of Europe". No doubt that diversity decreased somewhat after the 4th century, but nonetheless, if this statistic is correct (and I'm trying to get a source for it) it does suggest that Britain's genetic diversity is more deep-rooted than many of us may have imagined.



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