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    Happy with being called British


    by Sunny on 12th November, 2008 at 7:58 pm    

    While in the US, people often asked where I was from. Often, I said I was from England and hence English. No doubt that will confuse many people who see me constantly use the phrase ‘British Asian’, but these are broadly inter-changeable phrases (unless you’re Scottish, of course).

    So I note with amusement that a Welsh board has declared that using ‘British’ is as offensive as using ‘negro’ when it comes to ‘British Asians’. Honestly, what idiocy [via Walk This World With Me).

    I suspect some hype over this, simply because Welsh authorities never sound very keen in associating tightly with Westminister anyway. And it was likely that the report (which I haven’t seen) contains one person who expressed this opinion while another British Asian said he doesn’t care what he/she was called as long as it wasn’t ‘Paki’. But either way - being called British isn’t offensive. It’s more annoying that this gives more ammunition to the pompous Tory MP David Davies and his lame crusade against ‘political correctness gone mad’.



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    13 Comments below   |   Add your own

    1. Muhamad — on 12th November, 2008 at 8:51 pm  

      While you were in the US, one of my worst fears was that some American babe was going to make you like it there and we’d lose our Sunny side of blogging.
      It was jolly good of you say so in America. I know I would. Yes, it’s interchangeable, but, if the Welsh and the Scots insist on having their little holes, they can have it. :-) I don’t give a fig.
      I can understand our grandparents or parents being called “British Asians,” but, when it comes to us or our children’s generation, it’s just ridiculous, and stupid, to describe us as “British Asian”. What can be said of us is that we are of Asian descent.

      At best, aren’t we all ‘bon Européens’? :-)

    2. John Lilburne — on 12th November, 2008 at 10:41 pm  

      Let’s think…I qualify as a west Londoner, a Londoner, an Englishman, a Briton, a citizen of the UK, a citizen of Europe and a citizen of Australia. Add to that some Irish, Dutch and English genes and I guess that makes me a classic mongrel. Looking on the bright side, at least I’m not a Welsh nationalist :)

    3. ashik — on 13th November, 2008 at 10:50 am  

      Terms like British and British Asian tend to be used depending on the context. The political and ethnic contexts differ. So, in terms of nationality I am British but in terms of descent for purposes of ethnic diversity monitoring British Asian, British Bangladeshi or most accurately British Sylheti qualify.

      I can understand that being called British can potentially offend the Welsh, Irish and the Scots but I personally don’t have a problem with simple British.

    4. justathought — on 13th November, 2008 at 11:49 am  

      I agree – I don’t see how ‘British’ is an insult. People can call me British, Irish or even (as Muhamad points out) European. It’s a statement of fact. I don’t find the label ‘British’ insulting but equally it’s not something I would ever say I’m happy or proud to tell people. I’m indifferent to it. I didn’t earn the label; it just happens to be true because my parents decided to move to Britain before I was born. And it doesn’t mean much else to me than that statement of fact. I wouldn’t find it an insult or a compliment if someone called me French or Spanish either; of course it wouldn’t be correct (!) but, to me, it isn’t in the category of being insulting.

      But perhaps this feeling of indifference to nationality arises out of a split sense of national identity. Growing up in England I was always the Irish girl, who disappeared off to Ireland for a couple of months a year, who had parents with funny accents and siblings each of whose names seemed more ‘made up’ than the one before. But in Ireland I was the English cousin with the funny ‘posh’ accent, a bit of a townie with barely pigeon Irish. So perhaps I don’t identify so well with a strong sense of one national identity, such as being Welsh. For a Welsh nationalist who denies there is a true union and has feelings of antipathy towards England, it might seem insulting. But they’re not being called English, and as ‘British’ as a term encompasses ‘Welsh’ within it, if you’re saying British is an insult, the paradox is that part of what you’re insulted by is being called Welsh…

      But yes, maybe we should just give them some holes if they feel the need. What might be helpful is to give people who have a strong sense of national identity more opportunity to express this fully. Having dual nationality, being British might be a fact but a more full description of that fact is British/Irish. Having one part of their identity ignored might be an insult to some people. And when it comes to form-filling and putting in boxes, as Muhamad and Ashik point out it is also helpful to separate nationality from ethnicity. You may have Welsh/Celtic ethnic roots but Wales has been part of Great Britain since the 18th century and, like it or not, that’s just a fact.

    5. Galloise Blonde — on 13th November, 2008 at 11:58 am  

      It’s my local council that got this leaflet and I’m pretty annoyed: I have a Welsh mum and English dad, and so (more or less) do my kids — and so do many, many other people in South Wales. If ‘British’ is an offensive term I guess we must all be mixed race now. Most people writing to the local papers agree that Davies’ position is ridiculous.

    6. huron — on 13th November, 2008 at 12:17 pm  

      I often read this blog, and never comment, but it is so interesting to read this today as I was just asking myself something similar.

      This morning I had to fill out an ethnicity monitoring form for a civil service role and on it that they asked about both nationality and ethnicity. Under nationality were the options:

      British
      English
      Irish
      Scottish
      Welsh
      Other

      I am a naturalised citizen, and have only lived in the UK for 8 years. I realised that whilst I had no problem stating my nationality as British I felt very awkward saying it was English, even though I live in London (and therefore England). I felt that ‘English’ implied an ethnicity (and an accent) that I do not have, whereas British only referred to the citizenship and therefore felt more neutral and appropriate.

      I had never thought about it before today.

    7. Sunny — on 13th November, 2008 at 2:44 pm  

      huron - yeah I don’t think we have this nationality thing finalised yet… for anyone. Most people in this country are confused too.

      But I like it, because we all have multiple identities (as John Lilburne points out). I prefer multiple identities than being forced to subscribe to just one.

    8. soru — on 13th November, 2008 at 3:32 pm  

      If at some stage anyone came to understand the system of national, ethnic and class identities of these islands, it would immediately be replaced by something even stranger and less consistent.

    9. Don — on 13th November, 2008 at 3:44 pm  

      I may be wrong but wasn’t Briton/Britain derived from Brythons, speakers of Brythonic languages such as Welsh?

    10. Rumbold — on 13th November, 2008 at 4:58 pm  

      A moment of madness from Ron?

      Excellent piece Sunny. And you are right about the rent-a-quote David Davies.

    11. boyoenroute — on 13th November, 2008 at 6:10 pm  

      I’ve long believed that English is much cooler than British - the English have always been a slightly dangerous, mongrel race, as viewed by the “pure” blood Celts, which probably explains their success. The sooner we ditch Britannia - which was only invented to keep the Scots happy - the better. Who after all could be more English than Lewis from Stevenage? His is the face of the English future, and its not bad looking neither. I mean, in a hetero sense… ;-)

    12. Don — on 13th November, 2008 at 7:36 pm  

      Joe Calzaghe, born in Hammersmith to a Sardinian dad and a Welsh mum.

      British? Welsh? English? Italian? As long as you’re a winner everybody wants to stick their label on you. Screw up and you are nobody’s child.

      It’s been a while since we linked to Bill, so…

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W27wBf7Jw34

    13. Muhamad — on 13th November, 2008 at 9:28 pm  

      Don @ 9
      Yeah, that’s why I prefer to describe myself as an Englander. :)

      “Screw up and you are nobody’s child.” I think Einstein said something to that effect, but, of course, more eloquently.

      Even though I don’t have any spiritual or religious faith, I like what my mum keeps telling everyone, “the spirit defies everything, nothing can pin in it down.”



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