I would like to think there is a straight forward explanation for the alienation of some of our young people whose family origins are from other countries/cultures but I’m not too sure. Saying multiculturalism has failed raises more question then it answers. I have never been too sure what multiculturalism is. Does it mean allowing people to keep close to their cultural origins? Does it imply separate development? And what is the alternative? Is it assimilation to the extent that the newcomers give up their other cultural attachments?
I understand the USA does assimilation but they have their share of home born terrorists too. They also have clear separate identities. It is a good few years since I was last in Los Angeles but I distinctly remember being taken to the Japanese quarter; the Latin Quarter and so on. I remember thinking at the time that my street in London was very mixed and very neighbourly compared to the separation I saw there. Most of the people I knew in my area regarded themselves as British.
I also wonder how much racism aggravates the problem. Many Commonwealth immigrants came with a strong belief in British values and the British way of life. That was particularly true of the Afro Caribbean immigrants of the 1950’s. The children of these groups were between two cultures. They also had to deal with racist attitudes as children. They became more alienated – remember the concern about young black delinquents in the 1970’s/80s? I remember one young black teenager when I was a probation officer in the early 1970’s who was convicted of carrying an offensive weapon – a steel comb. He was stopped and searched and when asked why he had it replied it was to defend himself. He was used to being threatened. His parents could not understand why he felt so alienated. One of the many reasons I set up the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal was to create a permanent reminder to people from all backgrounds of Britain’s incredible mixed heritage – it has long and deep roots.
We do have to confront groups that are soft on violence and terrorism – I am 100% in favour of that. Choosing to opt for assimilation as opposed to multiculturism however might be far more difficult than the Prime Minister thinks – and the roots of alienation by a small minority might have other causes.
So what are your views?