Mixedness
& mixing

New perspectives on mixed-race Britons

A CRE eConference · 4-6 September 2007

Forum: Day 2, Interaction
  
  
What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 00:56:00
Posted by: Hamish Macpherson
What place can policy play in challenging and changing attitudes towards mixing?

        
Re:What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 09:30:00
Posted by: Bob Macintosh
As the token white man here, I'd like to make a plea for less talk about 'Racism' and more about 'prejudice'. "Is there a difference?" says my partner reading over my shoulder. Well I would like to change the way we use the words so that there is. Let us reserve 'Racism' for the overt belief in the superiority of one's own race. It exists, its abhorrent to me, it is not the majority's belief. 'Prejudice' is normal, inevitable, and universal. The mind is built to jump to conclusions, and everyone does it, usually unconsciously. In order to change the tacit assumptions that one makes automatically, one has to be able to articulate them and question them. But if prejudice is regarded as racism this becomes impossible. The result of anti-racist legislation has been to make any real discussion impossible. If a policeman or a council official could admit to his or her own prejudice without facing instant dismissal, shaming, and demonising, then it might be possible for them to change. As things stand, denial and defensiveness are the only options, and no progress can be made. Please note, I am not talking about acts of violence or gross abusive language, but those more subtle looks and attitudes which we are all familiar with, and which have to be depersonalised and spoken of as 'institutional racism'.

                
Re:Re:What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 10:41:00
Posted by: Hamish Macpherson
Bob,I think what you say is true to an extent although it probaly applies across society and not just public institutions. But the existence of diversity and cultural awareness training (whatever your thoughts of that might be) surely acknowledge that we do have prejudices and lack understanding. This of course addresses a whole range of 'equality area' and not just ethnicity. Are you saying then one thing policy makers need to do is make sure they address particular prejudices they might have about mixedness?

                
Re:Re:What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 11:01:00
Posted by: Wildcard user
i agree that prejudice is normal, and something we all do on many different levels. but surely racism is a cause for prejudice, and can be identified as such. if the judge/councillor/police officer/shopkeeper is racist she will prejudge every situation involving someone of a particular race - even when he/she is proven to be wrong about those prejudices - with a particular slant. it certainly doesn't have to mean they are a white/black/brown supremacist

wouldn't it be a little risky to allow people the opportunity to 'plead' prejudice?

toby lb

                
Re:Re:What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 17:53:00
Posted by: Sharon Walker
Hi Bob, I agree with the need for that distinction. I think that it is 'natural'(that word in itself can be unpacted) of us to discriminate and prejudge but as you say that does not necessairly have to result in negative outcomes. I agree that the equation of such responses with racism is detrimental and that as a result people fail to be honest with themselves and with each other. It's almost as if a process towards understanding and discussion is being blocked by the existing environment. I'm not saying that people should be allowed to express all feelings that they have about others including those which are harmful, violent and hateful but I do think that people should be given the opportunity and feel comfortable enough to raise questions without fear of being labelled a racist. Some of the best conversations that I've had with 'white' people is when we have spoken honestly about differences based on our varying perceptions of our differing race. Rather than cause a distance between us it has resulted in fruitful dialogue and exchange. I think that policy makers need to work through these differences in meaning so that an environment is created which is no longer 'name and shame' but one of exchange. In all honesty I think that most people's reactions to others do not arise from motives of racist hate but rather from unanswered and unchallenged misunderstandings.

        
Re:What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 10:39:00
Posted by: Ashley Chisholm
Can you define 'policy', for the un-initiated?!

                
Re:Re:What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 11:38:00
Posted by: Hamish Macpherson
Policy in this context is a deliberate course of action taken by public bodies (although sny organisation will have policies) whether it's government, schools, the police, a council or some other body. The question for this thread then is more than how can we effect people's general attitudes to mixing (these are important questions too) but are there specific things that organisations can do or need to do?

        
Re:What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 11:31:00
Posted by: Wildcard user
i think that policy has a crucial role to play, since it is something that has a big effect on those doing the mixing ie the poorer sections of our society. the vulnerable members of our society depend on the policy of government to acknowledge them and to help make things better for them. A country that has relied on mixing for its place in the modern world should be in a better place to provide policies that help ALL of its citizens move forward. I feel that there needs to be much more recognition on the part of a largely white, male government of just how much Great Britain owes its achievements to mixing with other peoples of the world. Britain seems to consistently ignore its dependence on mixing. Perhaps it's difficult to accept that such a small percentage of people have carried so much weight for so little gain through the years.

we could start with being honest to this country's children about this country's history and precisely WHY there are more and more brown kids sitting in the classroom

                
Re:Re:What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 12:02:00
Posted by: Hamish Macpherson
Thanks (what's your name?) A few points:

I agree that policies need to be there for everyone but sometimes some sections need different policies (one size does not fit all) or additional attention (if they are disadvantaged). The question is whether mixedness and mixing require specific policy responses (it's not unthinkable that the answer would be no)

Are you sure it's only 'the poorer sections of our society' that are mixing?

Can you say a bit more about what you mean by the UK relying so heavily on mixing for it s success? Organisations like the Multiple Heritage Project have highlighted the need for history lessons to recognise the contributions of mixed-race people in history. Is this what you mean?

                        
Re:Re:Re:What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 12:55:00
Posted by: Wildcard user
the stats that say that mixed children are over represented in the care system- a system rife with problems and controlled by 'policy makers' - suggest that a specific response to that issue alone needs to be formulated. people of all backgrounds mix. but the majority of mixing will always occur where there are most people of different backgrounds together. this happens in the poorer sections of our society, namely inner city areas, where people have little choice but to get on, one way or another.
These poorer, more vulnerable sections are the ones most affected by policy-small policies can make a huge difference to those with very little.

In terms of GB relying on mixing for its success, the reliance can be seen everywhere. the financial and industrial structures of this country are built on the sweat of slaves and immigrant workers-built on this country's insatiable desire to 'reach out' to the world and make things work to its advantage. Whether through religion or economics, Britain has never been able to keep to itself and we, the citizens of today live with the consequences-good and bad-of this history.
I don't think it's about sticking up a few statues or changing a couple of lessons in the curriculum.
It's about properly admitting wrongness and making proper steps to put things right and acknowledge Britains place in the world, rather than just plodding along on top of all the benefits of that wrongness.
I hope that mixed race people like myself can lend a new perspective, since many of us have no option but to look at things from at least two sides in order to come up with something that pleases everything within us.
toby lb



                                
Re:Re:Re:Re:What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 15:00:00
Posted by: Wildcard User2
This perspective of mixed people -being able to see everything from two angles- is a great and underused resource for Britain today.. How about educational materials directed towards helping kids in schools (and their parents) appreciate that they have often acquired as their birthright a particularly rich competence in the culture-crossing insight and skills that we all need in modern Britain (but that that the 'unmixed' often struggle ineptly with). More of the 'it's cool to be mixed' message- In terms of policy: the debate about language that's been going on in parts of this e conference is worth attending to. How do people want to be designated? do they want to be defined as mixed, Can the official language of censuses etc catch up with all this nuance and complexity of how people actually experience their own identity? Language affects how society sees things, see for example the whole disability rights movement. Heather Al-Yousuf

                                        
Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 16:26:00
Posted by: Rob
I see this theme developing where writers assign a competency for cross-cultural understanding as a some kind of signifier for being mixed. This is a concern because I wonder whether someone who doesn't share this competency is somehow 'less mixed', but secondly because there are other experiences which have some claim to being particularly skilled at cross-cultural understanding e.g. Black British. That observation aside - I've particularly appreciated this econference as an opportunity to disrupt current thinking on ethnic categorisations - this can only be a good thing. If 'race' can be significantly disrupted then its power is diminished. I would be loathe to expect this disruption to be led by people racialised as mixed, if the disruption is successful enough, it will be led by people for whom ethnic categories hold little explanatory power.

                                                
Do you need to be 'Mixed' to be mixed?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 16:38:00
Posted by: Hamish Macpherson
Good point about assuming cross-cultural competence. Someone makes a similar point in response to Hassan Mahamdallie's paper (tomorrow). "...mixedness is happening through sharing and creating fusion music (and food and clothing etc.) as much as through making babies. So if an ethnic group is defined in part by shared customs and behaviours could this sort of fusion be a step towards creating new mixed ethnic groups independently of intermarriage?

Obviously in reality the biological/ genealogical heritage carries added weight - so we might love curry and fish and chips, bhangra and new rave, have travelled the subcontinent extensively but only if one parent is say white and the other Indian are we considered mixed - why is that?"

                                                        
Re:Do you need to be 'Mixed' to be mixed?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 18:21:00
Posted by: Sharon Walker
I think that if this was the case that it would change the debate completely because based on that premise many of us are fully mixed without having parents of mixed heritage. Maybe this should be the new debate i.e. changing the way that people understand being mixed. However, will this deny people who either grapple with their experience of being 'physically' mixed (for want of a better word i.e. it's in their blood and related to what we understand as race)or who are comfortable with embracing this mixed race reality, from presenting the case of their experiences on the policy and political stage? It would appear that many of the issues that arise from being mixed are directly related to a sense of knowing who you are in relation to your racial heritage. why such an emphasis on racial heritage, over other types of mixing (food, music, clothes), I do not know. Yet I do not think that the two are (or can be) at this stage synonymous. It's probably an old proverb but people often say that you need to know where you've come from to know where you are going, and although I can not articulate fully I somehow feel that the difference is there. That it, it is there that the distinction is made between notions of mixing which share food, music, etc and those which are in your genes. (As an aside, the argument that we all have racially mixed genes may negate all that I've just said i.e. we're all mixed)

                                
Re:Re:Re:Re:What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 17:34:00
Posted by: Hamish
Toby, I don't think you can automatically conclude that because most poorer people live in urban areas and urban areas are the most diverse areas that most mixed relationships occur between poorer people. (Although it could be the case) The Mixed group is actually less heavily concentrated in urban areas than other ethnic minorities and you are more likely to be in a mixed marriage if there are not so many people from your ethnic group living nearby.

Chamion Caballero's apper points out that "Over half of dependent 'mixed' children have married or cohabiting parents, whose socio-economic circumstances denote a strong middle class dimension to mixed families. This profile of a strong middle class dimension to mixed families confirms speculation in in-depth studies of mixed race children and young people about whether or not the high incidence of children from middle class background in their samples are representative of young mixed children in Britain in general. It also, again, questions the dominant underclass stereotype and provides an under-acknowledged material dimension to discussion of mixed and mixing populations."

                                        
Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 18:29:00
Posted by: toby
i like the idea of the categorisation of ethnicity and race being a thing of the past. is that the agreed utopia that we all strive toward? being mixed-the mixedness- is just a fact. like being black or white, african or european. it's a tag and how you choose to describe yourself. but it doesn't define you.

i have a middle class mother, but that doesn't help me when a shopkeeper or a policeman or another kid on the street sees me as an underclass 'black' youth. what good are my married parents to me then?
let's not get ahead of ourselves in thinking that perceived class or our parents income come ahead of racism and segregation in the real world.
you can love curry, but it is not a part of you if you don't have the heritage to feel it from within-i don't mean flatulence, although of course the digestive systems of some asian people are significantly different to european people.

you can love jazz, but it is not part of you if you don't have the pain of that creation branded in your blood. it may be in the mind or in the body, but it is who we are.
maybe that is why so many old white men fight so hard to defend their old old systems-despite the damage they cause.
the mixing is what we should look closer at, because it's all the proof we need that people from all over can live together without riots.


                        
Re:Re:Re:What role for policy?
Posted on: 05/09/2007 21:21:00
Posted by: Ashley Chisholm
I have to say, after reading everyting in the conference so far, I feel it IS unthinkable that no policy recommendations of any kind come out of all these efforts.