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a campaigning national organisation - promoting the principle of 'different but equal'

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  • people are not blind to colour in a colour conscious society
  • racism affects black and white people both but differently
  • racial harassment is anti human rights - more than hate crime
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Asians – confused terminology!
Since the UK race relations legislation forty years ago, race terminology has been struggling to keep up and faces multiple challenges because language is power where words create structures.
The term Asian in the UK developed with the development of anti-discrimination framework to combat discrimination against groups of people but without appreciating that the term has severe limitations.
Asians include people of Chinese, Indian, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan, Cambodian and Thai ancestries. But in Britain, the word "Asian" usually refers specifically to people of South Asian ancestry (Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans).
Concentrating on discrimination – the ‘effect’ and not the ‘cause’- obscures the reality that Asians are not homogeneous groups. There are vast differences – cultural, social and religious – where language, culture and religion are inextricably connected, but every apparatus of the state has been used to ignore this.
Most of the widely used ethnic monitoring forms have main categories as Asian, Asian British or Asian as a country of birth.
Asia is the biggest continent and consists of many ethnicities and cultures but serious mistake is made when people associate ‘Asian’ with ethnicity and race where the use of this term in social, cultural, economic and political contexts open up the possibilities of rivalry for power, recognition, provisions and funding within the communities.
Moreover, the piecemeal term ‘Asian’ hinders addressing any imbalances in treating and providing for the groups of people contained under this subjective title.
It would not be realistic to think that the social, cultural and religious needs of Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans under the consolidated title ‘Asian’ are the same.
Even the Daily Mail warned about this: ‘Peterborough has a proud history of immigrants integrating seamlessly with the community. Past arrivals – mainly Indian, Pakistani and Ugandan – gratefully accepted the opportunity to start their lives afresh. But the new influx is vastly different they say’ (30 August 2004, p. 16).
How real it would be to spread the cultural norms like the caste/ tribe system or the system of 'colour-creed', specific to a certain community, across the ‘Asian’ community?
Or tinting the collective term ‘Asians’ with the findings of the Casey review that segregation is adversely affecting some members of a certain community, in particular women – who are not just being held back, but subjected to ‘domestic abuse’ and ‘other criminal practices such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage and so-called “honour”-based crime’?
Or that Islamophobia, a particular form of racism, is widely faced by all ‘Asians’ where we must continue to fight its manifestation, whether abuse on streets and buses, racist comments in the media, or being a refused a job by an employer?
We need a perpetual and forceful reminder that Britain has a diversity of cultures and religions and that a practice of the principle of ‘different but equal’ eases the sort of integration that the government is asking for.
A message of tolerance and harmony is helpful but we need to move on and cultivate a spirit of understanding and acceptance.
There is a consensus of opinion that multiculturalism promotes a sense of separatism and needs to be abandoned. Britain has been a multicultural society and should have the capacity to include, rather than exclude groups of people.
The former Commission for Racial Equality chief Trevor Phillips was quite right to point out that ‘multiculturalism is a better doctrine in theory than in practice because it can, in some circumstances, allow public funds to be used to entrench the power of community leaders – always a potentially loaded word – by isolating them from mainstream society: thus “sleepwalking” into the segregation’.
Unfortunately, there are some opportunists, including Asians, whose interests are not well served by achieving integration or empowering people to use mainstream services and representatives for the resolution of the problems thay face like Islamophobia and hate crimes, since it damages their chances to acquire or retain marginal community leadership or funding.
Therefore, no surprise to find a number of self-appointed ‘Asians/ Asian groups’ using the weight of this collective term and racing to deal or giving impression to deal with deprivation, extremism, radicalism, Islamophobia and cultural issues but really within their respective communities through public funding. There is hardly any rigorous mechanism to evaluate the effectiveness of these groups or the value for money they provide.
Depending on who is doing what and for which community, the term ‘Asian’ helps one group at the cost of other, reinforced by media, government funding and socio-political recognition. For example, 'Asians' really mean certain people in areas like Brent or Leicester and different people in Bradford or Birmingham.
The institutionally defined term ‘Asian’ as a social category promotes a sense of 'once an immigrant, always an immigrant' which is not helpful in creating a ‘shared society’.
Such a language and whatever flows from it obscures the fact that the so called ‘Asians’ are British where they may look different but their participation in socio-cultural, political and economic life and their needs, different they might be, are equally important. The power-loaded terminology and its implications also create resentment within the communities and seriously hinder the process of integration and social ‘sharing’. 17/1/2017

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