Make Me British

union jack

Last night, a rather controversial programme was aired on television. It was called “Make Leicester British” and was about racial integration and assimilation in modern Britain. It was a spin off from a previous programme called “Make Bradford British” which was equally as provocative.

The show focused on eight hand-picked individuals from all walks of life, ethnic groups and backgrounds to come together in a radical social experiment. The aim? To see if different ethnic groups could live together in harmony and how they each overcame/addressed social issues. These ranged from not eating certain meats to whether or not one should have their national flag flying outside.

Identity is subjective, malleable and fluid. It evolves with changes in society and culture.

The experiment was divided into two halves: the first half saw all eight participants live together in a house which made for an uncomfortable and explosive watch as the group were rocked by controversial opinions and arguments. The second half, saw members being paired off and spending two days in the life of their experiment buddy.

I don’t usually mind programmes like this; it’s healthy to have a debate and give everyone a voice. However, whilst there were many elements of the show which really aggravated me, the main issue I had was with the title of the programme. “Make Leicester British” – it’s as controversial as TV show names get. From a commercial perspective, a title needs to hook in viewers as that equates to higher viewings and more money, but as one of my followers on Twitter pointed out:

“Even the title itself is insulting since it assumes Leicester’s Britishness is somehow in question due to immigration.” @SaritaAgerman
From what I know and from conversations I’ve had, many residents in Leicester don’t understand why this programme has been aired. Many of them, from all backgrounds and ethnic groups, don’t see an issue with integration. This blog post by Cllr Sandip Meghani says it all: click to read.
However, that’s not to say that we should ignore issues of integration and issues in identity formation. It’s made me think about what being “British” actually means and how do we go about defining ourselves as “British.” As far as I know, there is no set in stone definition of what “Britishness” means. What does it mean? Fish and chips? Our love of tea, queuing and being passive aggressive? Chances are, the answer will differ to varying degrees. This is the second problem – and a very big one: how we can we go about making something “British” without even knowing what it is.
“Oh my gosh #MakeLeicesterBritish is a very uncomfortable watch” @SejAsar
Thirdly, immigration is a loaded term in contemporary British current affairs and politics. It’s a term that is thrown about so easily and is often the blame for many of the problems we have. “The sky has collapsed. Global warming has killed off the polar bear population – it’s because of immigration!”  You get an idea of how ridiculous it gets.
In times of economic austerity and hardship, we forget that issues such as sexism, ageism and racism are amplified.
The social presentation of immigrants also has negative connotations of individuals who sponge off welfare, steal jobs, have large families and cannot speak English. Yes, there are individuals who come to countries with intentions to rinse a state dry, but not every single immigrant is like this. Immigration has vastly helped Britain in the past and I am certain that it will in the future.

2 thoughts on “Make Me British

  1. Pingback: The Chameleon | Avid Scribbler

  2. Pingback: “I’m more Indian than you are!” | Avid Scribbler

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