Monday, 17 March 2008

Yes British But Not the Right Colour!



Yes British but not the right colour!

Professor Peter Kirstin did make an assertion on the condition of the British society, citizenship, sense of belonging, and in a very apt way described the confusion emerging amongst what he referred to as the “new English”.
One of the major prism of his proclamation is on the basis that the effect of colonialism and the expedition for the “new state” make Britain the country of destination for citizens of post colonial States and thus with the coming of new migrant ditto the emergence of a new Britain.
The very best of the United Kingdom could be seen in the warmth of the people, the ability of the people of the United Kingdom to embrace individuals from all parts of the world.
However over the years the endurance of the British people is being tested on daily basis as increasing migration and its effect on the economy is creating a negative impact on the body polity.
The above background gives me two views, one that the United Kingdom is an island of tolerance but also the reality of the wide gap between the UK and other countries in the “developed” world.
No where do people of colour have to prove their “Britishness” more than in official contacts with agents of the states. There seem to be a wide gap between those who formulate policy and the ordinary people on the streets.
To the working class or middle class English man on the street, the United Kingdom is a country whose composition also includes people of colour and migrants.
Jew, Muslim, Asian, Caucasian, African and others are seen by the community as the reality of a New England. However to that police officer, that immigration officer, that airline worker and any other officialdom you come across as a citizen of the united Kingdom, it is a matter of Yes British but not the right colour and it seem frustrating that almost on a daily basis the posse ion of the UK passport is not enough as a tool of identity to an adopted homeland, You have to prove your commitment over and over again.
So when on the 13th of March 2008, after 3 hours of delay and a frustrating evening, I was confronted by a virgin Atlantic staff, holding my British passport and asking questions such as, when did you come to settle in the UK? , what do you do in the UK, any other form of identity aside from your passport? It beggars believe that the tale of “two classes of British Citizens” is not a myth after all.
If you are Caucasian and you hold a UK passport, it is “oh welcome sir/madam have a safe flight on virgin Atlantic. However if you have the misfortune of being black, Asian or of any other colour but Caucasian holding the UK passport is not a right to easy passage in any UK passport, you would have to do anything to prove your “Britishness” Including probably taking another oath of allegiance to her majesty the Queen or if you are unlucky as in my case, you refuse to be in intimidated virgin at antic will threaten to pass your details to the Americans.
So here we are Black British and Proud but yet continue to face discrimination from British Institutions, Immigration officials questioning your possession of the British passport , British airline giving you 7 to 8 looks and interrogating you in spite of your possession of a valid British passport. May be someday a separate British passport will be issued to Black people in the UK and on the passport the words “British but Black” will be writing boldly.

Kayode Ogundamisi.