‘Living in a multicultural society takes time.’ To what extend is this illustrated by the challenge of multicultural societies in the UK? (40) A multicultural society is the status of several different ethnic, racial, religious or cultural groups coexisting in harmony in the same society. From the early 19th century people have immigrated to England, developing its diversity. During World War 2 polish and Jewish people immigrated to the UK to escape fascism. Also as the UK is part of the European Union, free and fair movement between the 28 member states means that there are no limits on immigration between these countries. This has seen it compulsory for the UK to adapt and change in order to accommodate for these individuals. For different ethnic minorities to coexist in harmony time is imperative, groups of different people will never coexist harmoniously over night. This is evidenced by holiday and school timetables being altered for ethnic minority groups, opportunities for people to learn English for free and websites being available in other languages. The vast majority of immigrants to the UK have settled in the industrial cities and towns as there is a demand for workers.
Consequently, councils then have to work to help integrate these ethnic minorities into the communities, limiting tensions that may occur as a result of groups of people lacking understanding of each other. For example, Birmingham city council has created a festival to promote and express culture within Birmingham. Using twitter and other social media they have emphasised ‘your postracial is a myth #itooambirmingham’ this is the idea that no matter what ethnic group you originate from are equal and almost labelling Birmingham as an ethnic group with no specific image. This integrates ethnic minorities in to society and creates a sense of community by almost blurring the lines between people differences. The process of integration takes time, therefore supporting the statement. However, some council’s are better than others at creating a sense of community and educating their population about different cultures; moreover councils are not literally able to force people to be accepting of change.
This issue can create racial tensions. In 2005 Riots started in Birmingham initially due to the alleged rape of a Jamaican girl. Violence erupted between gangs of Black and Asians; Isiah Young-Sam was stabbed and later died as a result. Even though Birmingham council have worked to create a sense of community between ethnic minorities, it did not stop gangs fighting for revenge. This may suggest that council’s efforts are rendered ineffective and ethnic groups in society will never coexist harmoniously, because these groups still see themselves as different and don’t completely understand each other which consequently cause tensions. This racial violence can then cause other ethnic groups to resent the groups that were involved because they are seen as unpleasant trouble makers causing more of a divide. Furthermore, political parties like UKIP and the BNP feed off this negative image created and demonstrate intolerance towards others. In times of crisis people may look to more extreme parties and favour them as they believe government is ineffective. Another issue that the UK faces due to the development of multicultural societies is in education. Holiday patterns, school meals and school timetable may need to be altered for ethnic minorities groups.
Religious holidays may demand time off school, the English school holiday is based on the Christian calendar, but people of different religions such as Islam celebrate at different times. For example schools in Tower Hamlet are now allowed two days off to celebrate Eid. School meals have to be altered for Muslims as they can only eat Halah meat and no pork so an alternative needs to be given. Furthermore, prayers occur on Friday afternoons, in Oxford Spire Academy in Oxfordshire pupils are allowed to travel to the mosque on Cowley road during lunch to attend prayers, if they are too young to travel alone there is a prayer room located onsite. The school adapting to changes in requirements shows they are accepting of a multicultural society, it has taken time to cater for these differing ethnic minorities.
On the other hand, faith schools have developed in some areas to teach children according to a particular religion. Faith schools make up around a third of the education system. This limits choice for parents who do not want a religious education for their children, or do not share the faith of their local school. For example, in hackney Lubavitch Senior Girls’ School is a strictly orthodox, small secondary school for girls only. Liberal secularists argue that faith schools have no place in a growing diverse population as they promote segregation. Children should be educated around others from all religions and cultures as it is a truer representation of society. Moreover, enclaves of ethnic minorities are likely to locate near a school of their own faith this demotes integration and interaction within the community, resulting in a lack of understanding of others which
consequently can cause racial tensions. Conservative people would argue that parents should have the right to bring a child according to religion and they should be able to continue to practise the religion at school. Faith schools demote integration with others who do not share the same beliefs; this is evidence to show that as long as there is faith schools in the UK ethnic minorities will never coexist in harmony. In the 1970’s and 80’s ethnic minorities were subject to racial discrimination in the workplace. Racial discrimination is still present today but it is declining slowly, Of the Civil Service employees in March 2014 who declared their ethnicity, 10.1% were from an ethnic minority, an increase of 0.5 percentage points on March 2013. 7.5% of these people are of senior civil service. This suggests that the UK has changed and become more accepting of other ethnic minorities, giving them access to promotions and roles with more power. Some people would argue workplaces reflect society and there is still more work to do to protect ethnic minorities’ from discrimination and enable them to progress in their jobs.
This slow change in decreasing racial discrimination has taken time and will continue to need help to completely abolish racial discrimination. Although, there are still incidents of worker exploitation and discrimination in the UK. A poultry farmer had to pay over £5,000 in compensation to a Polish worker who also won a case of racial discrimination. The worker, who had not been paid the same as his British co-workers, was unreasonably criticised over his work and was not allowed to attend English classes. The Polish Embassy stated that number of Polish workers in Britain was between 500,000-600,000. The amount of polish migrants who have settled in the UK increased after Poland joined the European Union, as the minimum wage in Poland is half of the UK meaning workers are prepared to work for less and longer than a native British worker. This is appealing to an employer’s as low skilled jobs become cheap labour as the migrants are prepared to work for less, some companies then take advantage of this and there have been examples were breaks are not given or employees are being paid less than the minimum wage. This suggests that immigrants can be vulnerable and some don’t even realise that how they are being treated is wrong.
It could be argued that ethnic groups will never live harmoniously as there will always be a way to exploit immigrants. On the other hand, if all immigrants were educated of their rights it would make it a lot harder for employer’s to take advantage of them as the person would know right from wrong. Some UK-born people may completely disagree with the statement. This is because some unemployed may feel that the immigrants are ‘taking their jobs’ as they are prepared to work for less than them and an employer favours this and not investing in our country as they may be sending money back to their families. However others may argue that they are just benefit tourists and they have only come to live off the state as the welfare system in their country is not as generous. In times of crisis (housing, economic) anti-immigration parties feed of the negative image painted for immigrants and the people which have these crisis’s hit them the hardest may decide to support them.
Parties like UKIP and the English Defence league promote intolerance towards others this can influence people to stop trying to accept other ethnic minorities. In conclusion, I think there are many challenges of multicultural societies in the UK and some are easier to overcome than others. I strongly believe that living in a multicultural society harmoniously does and will still take time. People need time to accept change and some people will never accept it but as time goes on generations are taught to be tolerant of others. Councils holding events to educate everyone about the different religions, cultures and ethnicity can bring a sense of community and help ethnic groups understand each other. However, I feel as if there will always be obstacles such as faith schools and scapegoating different groups of people but it is the attitudes of society towards these obstacles that will allow for everyone to coexist harmoniously.