Ethnicity, Cultural Diversity and Families

An ethnic group can be defined as a group of people with similarities of a common racial, national, geographic, linguistic, or religious identity. They do not have to be similar in all of these, and may be in as few as one. Each of these can contain many ethnic groups. An identified ethnic group may share a (mythic) history and a perceived future and perhaps they have a dominant language that contains cultural meanings.
In your own words, write a sentence on the difficulty of defining an ethnic group.

Some labels of ethnic groups in Britain:



Distinctive ethnic groups have existed in the UK since before slavery but a large expansion in terms of numbers and cultural impact was from the 1950s and the expansion in public services and the Welfare State particularly in health and transport.
The UK has always had cultural diversity. The Romans met Celts when they invaded producing some Romano-British. The Anglo-Saxons pushed the Celts to Wales Cornwall and southern Scotland. It is the Anglo-Saxons who form the origin of the English but many Celts remained and adopted Anglo-Saxon culture. Then came the Norman French and it is said that 50% of the English today are related in some way to William the Conqueror. The Scots were a mixture of Picts Gaels and Celts as well as English and Wales has a mixed and English ethnic population. Irish groups come from British involvement in Ireland and its proximity. The Normans set up French as the language of the elite but English survived in the population and eventually returned into the State and flowered as a language in Elizabethan times. Manx and Cornish are now only languages of interest amongst supporter groups; Gaelic is spoken by 60,000 (still in rapid decline) and Welsh is spoken by 200,000 as a first language (and is in recovery) with many second language Welsh speakers.
Jews were expelled from Britain in 1190 but returned under Oliver Cromwell in the 1640s. He saw how beneficial they were in the Dutch economy and tolerated them as people of the Book.
British ethnic diversity since the 1950s has come from the former colonies. This means African-Caribbean Indian Pakistani and Bangladeshi individuals and families. There is also a sizeable Chinese population in part due to the former British colony of Hong Kong but also historical British interventions around Shanghai. Each ethnic group has its own traditions that have added to the definition of being British; some of the outcomes of immigration are visible - the relative success in education of ethnic Chinese and Pakistani children choices of self-employment and careers (for example the professions). Family structures vary too so that for example Indian groups have a very low proportion of single parents (10%) compared with black groups (45%). The importance of the extended family is also emphasised in the arranged marriage (not the same as compulsory marriage which is illegal - in Britain the individuals must consent to marriage). Afro-Caribbean society tends to be more matriarchal and Pakistani more patriarchal. Diversity is also represented in religion with a huge expansion in the Muslim faith to some 2 million adherents and many Hindus from across India as well as styles of black Christianity originating from the Caribbean. Some faiths like the Buddhist tend to be across many ethnic groups.  Judaism shows influence of both poorer Eastern European and richer Spanish origins. The result is that the white population absorbs some of these faiths family values and culture. This has been most evident in choices of food.
The ending of the Iron Curtain and Communism exposed vast differences of income and opportunity between East and West never mind that between Africa and Europe. With the addition of regional wars the result was that in the 1990s there was a huge movement of people from poor parts of the world to Europe. Since then many Eastern European countries have joined the European Union and population movements have become internal to the EU where people are free to move and work. It has meant a significant increase in the population of Eastern Europeans and even Russians in the United Kingdom. They are adding their own cultural diversity to the definition of British. Many skilled and intelligent women in Eastern Europe and Russia finding a lack of opportunity at home are marrying into British families and add in their cultures. British Embassies take an economic view of immigrants into the UK in terms of wealth education and skills.
Britain's comparative liberal form of economy in Europe the English language (the world's common second language) and individualism (including toleration and attitudes to the State) prove attractive for migrants. It is argued that recent immigration has added to economic demand provided a flexible workforce and helped hold off economic recession.
Institutional racism (differentials of unemployment and opportunity; policing) recent issues of religious expression and now terrorism have re-emphasised ethnic group identity. This includes the place of family and kinship. Nevertheless Western liberalism influences these structures towards change. Arguably there is a "melting pot" culturally and in actual relationships across ethnic groups - more than even in the United States which is sometimes called "a nation of immigrants".

Ethnicity, Family and Gatherings

Many ethnic communities speak of having their own cultural identity and a British identity.
  1. Consider a member of an ethnic minority (labels above) and describe how a home culture or a religion (choose one) adds distinctiveness to family gatherings. Use examples of festivals (if this helps) or write in more general terms.
  2. What values do you think British society culture and politics (British being defined as this country's culture today including its ethnic mix) adds to ethnic identity?