We have to avoid ‘integration’ becoming another form of racism
Assimilation is an invidious concept. No one in Britain should have to give up their heritage to fit in
Iwill never forget the day I joined an English Defence League march in Chelmsford, Essex, in the run-up to the Brexit vote. I went as a journalist, and I wasn’t expecting it to be a comfortable experience. But the most shocking moment was not what I predicted. Instead of threatening me with directly racist slurs, a senior figure at the march told me he wasn’t fussed by my presence. “You’re OK,” he said. “You speak English properly. You know our ways. You’re like us. It’s the others we have a problem with.”
By “others”, he meant Muslims – the EDL’s most frequent target – or any other visible minorities he deemed to have made insufficient effort to assimilate into British culture. It struck me as the most chilling and insidious form of racism of all: he was, in effect, saying, “People who come to England are acceptable to the extent they attempt to mimic us.” Underpinning that is a confidence in one culture’s inherent superiority over others. It’s for exactly this reason that it is becoming more widely recognised that assimilationist thinking – the idea that a particular culture is preferable, and that others should therefore adopt it – is a racist ideology.
Why come if you don’t want to join the culture?