Sunday, 18 March 2012

Make Bradford British?

If you heard about Make Bradford British a couple of weeks ago on Twitter you might be excused for mistaking it for a racist slogan. But then you might have found a link to the Channel 4 citizenship test and discovered that if you wouldn't pass the tests immigrants go through to get into this country. This was a step-up from the pinhead documentary Proud and Prejudiced, which almost portrayed the crypto-Nazi EDL as defenders of multicultural Britain against radical Islam. The stated point of Make Bradford British was the standard concern about the lack of integration in a racially tense place like Bradford to create a model for a multicultural Britain. The line that the liberal intelligentsia was the main proponent behind multiculturalism was quickly trotted out, but in terms that the mission had failed to deliver integration outside of London. The emphasis on a set of 'common values' came out at the beginning and end of the episodes.

A pair of 'diversity experts' invite us to watch this search for an answer to the question "What does it mean to be British nowadays?" The problem with this is that it assumes there is or should be a thing called 'Britishness'. We have forgotten that Great Britain is composed of a union between the English, the Scottish, the Welsh and the Irish. It is a marriage of convenience that has lasted a very long time. It was never about a nation, tradition or identity. It is almost as absurd as the French having a fit over the disappearance of the King of France. The standard spectrum on this debate runs from the view that we ought to respect 'other cultures' to the position that we need to reassert 'our values'. These are just empty signifiers and that remains so even if we are calling for a return to the values of Boudica. At best we can only tolerate the Other, which is especially easy if they fit into a neat unit which renders them 'one of us'.

Rashid and Damon were the most interesting to see 'interact', the rest was a standard mash up of fake lessons regurgitated for the camera upon command. The copper had to learn to look beyond the blackness of Desmond and the liberal bint had to find someone who won't tolerate her sinuous nonsense. Rashid and Damon are set up to share the same bedroom, but they move one bed out of the room so that the two can sleep separately from one another. It was an agreement that they both reached. Rashid was presented as a Muslim absorbed by his faith to the point of inconveniencing the team with the call to prayer. The cheap lesson in the first episode was Rashid putting aside going to his mosque to pray in order to go on an outing with the team. Whereas, Damon came out with the predictable lines about the Muslim community - the lack of integration demonstrated by women wearing headscarves etc. - that you can enjoy in our fine press. He went as far as to defend the use of the slur 'Paki' at dinner and admits that he viewed mosques as 'terrorist centres'.

Then Damon started to go to the gym with Rashid and visits the mosque in a predominantly Asian area which Damon had avoided for so long. It was warming to see these two men paint the bedroom of Damon's daughter. Even more heartening was the scene where Damon tells Rashid that it is he - the bearded Muslim - who is in fact closer to his grandparents and their 'British values' than he is. Damon has since attended the wedding of Rashid's sister. This moment went beyond the multicultural trite of liberals and the white whines of conservatives. Even though the rest of the participants regurgitated the same old platitudes and shallow ideas of what it means to live in a multicultural democracy. It may have meant to just reenforce the old narrative that there needs to be a national centre to a plurality of cultures in contemporary Britain. But it included a moment of great potential.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hello again - re your " sailer post" last week email me and i will definatley get back in touch this is a second hand one
kind regards