Bring England in from the Cold
Alibhai-Brown, Yasmin, New Statesman (1996)
Suppressed English identity contributes to racism and prevents Britain from embracing modern realities. Wear your Union Jack underpants with pride
"You are a traitor. Just because you have married a bloody [sic] Englishman and have a half-caste bastard child, you think to defend the English. You have no shame. You are not an Indian woman." - Letter I received after I spoke on a radio programme asking if we had punished the English enough.
Since May I've been asked to speak at seven events on the apparently endlessly gripping subject of The British Identity. No. 8 is next week. We discuss the concept in elevated terms; hybridity, post-colonialism, postmodernism, diversity, new formations, new ethnicities. We engage with the politics of difference, of identity. We debate the Irish renaissance and globalisation. But we don't mention the English, except as the chief culprits of world exploitation.
These discussions are intended to help us break from an ignoble past, to cut the British identity from its dishonourable English roots and to free the world we now inhabit so that we can forge a New Nation. Les Back, author of New Ethnicities and Urban Culture, exemplifies the exhilaration of this position. Pitting himself against the old fogeys, those who "relate to the withering popularity of T S Eliot's vision of English culture", Back believes that "young people in British cities are embracing diversity in a seemingly inexhaustible combination of form and content, in ways which make Britishness or Englishness almost meaningless".
The problem is that the more the metropolitan elite assumes these concepts are meaningless, the more meaningful they become, especially as numerous forces unite to create new tensions and desires. We are at an extraordinary historical intersection this summer, when the 50th anniversary of the loss of the Raj …
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Publication information: Article title: Bring England in from the Cold. Contributors: Alibhai-Brown, Yasmin - Author. Magazine title: New Statesman (1996). Volume: 126. Issue: 4342 Publication date: July 11, 1997. Page number: 24+. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 1997 Gale Group.
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