Evolution of Ethnic Identity in Contemporary Society


'Black' became a political colour, a source of identity to those who had experienced undifferentiated racism. A shared 'black' identity in contemporary society gives the impression of a homogenous group of individuals. The term 'black' has been used inconsistently in present day society; it is usually used to refer to those solely of African descent, only sometimes included to refer to those of Asian origins, this has led individuals with family roots in the Indian sub-continent to "now reject the generalized use of the label" (Gillborn and Gipps,1996:8).

The make-up of the African Caribbean and Asian population in Britain has become varied in modern day Britain; Anwar (1999) stated that Britons of South Asians totalled over 1. 7 million compared to that of fewer than 8,000 people in 1955 (cited in Song, 2003:100), social experiences have created a 'collective understanding' however a sense of division has occurred between the diverse ethnic and religious groups comprising of Asian descent.

The broad category of the term 'Asian' ignores the differences in political, economic and religious profiles in these different communities, an example of this can be shown in the education system, where different levels of attainments is experienced between Indian and Bangladeshi pupils.

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"Indian pupils are shown to achieve results marginally better than their white peers... Bangladeshi pupils were less likely to achieve five or more higher grades and more likely to leave school without qualifications" (Gillborn and Gipps, 1996:23).

Contemporary scholars have argued against the idea of a shared 'black' identity, Modood (1997) has criticized way in which the symbolic domination of 'blackness' and 'whiteness' is portrayed in society.

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He argues that the term 'black' portrays an essentialist identity for ethnic minorities; it symbolizes a monolithic, homogenous group of individuals. Moodod also argued that the 'non-white' population possesses many diverse identities. In a contemporary society it can be said that a greater emphasis is placed upon ethnicity and cultural upbringing rather than that to dwell in the significance of a collective 'black' identity.

This idea has been highlighted by the increasing number of young second-generational Asian youth identifying themselves as British Muslims, as opposed to other identities, such as Pakistani. The revival of Islam as a world religion has led to many scholars such as Jacobson (1997), arguing that religion has become a source of identity that crosses over different cultures and ethnicities. "Islam is important... because it is about how you think, not what country you are from" (Jacobson, 1997:245 cited in Abercrombie et al, 2006:239). The idea of Islam as a sense of identity unifies people has one entity.

The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, however, have only increased the differing forms of racial abuse experienced between communities of African and Asian descent. The widespread presence of Islamaphobia has depicted certain sections of the Asian population with religious fanaticism and 'backwards' methods following the debate, on whether Muslim females should be allowed to where veils in contemporary society, this is contrasted by a fraction of the Asian population in Britain are depicted has being hard-working individuals.

This differs from the way in which those of African descent are racially stereotyped has deviant individual's involved in criminal activity. In the revolutionary political climate of the late 1960's and early 70's, the idea of a shared 'black' identity had a greater significance, however in a less radicalized political climate the emphasis has been placed on a cultural understanding and individuality therefore weakening the sense of a shared 'black' political identity. Increasing racial and ethnic tensions have led to the fragmentation in the notion of a shared 'black' identity.

The Birmingham riots at the start of the twenty-first century have only highlight such issues. A major problem with the inclusion of those of Asian descent in a shared 'black' identity, is partly due to a fraction of people within the Asian population identifying themselves as not being 'black', recent discourses have associate the idea of 'black' identity being associated with those of African descent, Evidence have shown that an increasing number of African Caribbean people have placed on emphasis the skin-colour of an individual has a strong source of identity.

The idea of a shared 'black' identity has evolved over recent decades, with a greater emphasis being placed upon, economic religious and cultural factors has a source of identity. New ethnic identities are emerging among younger members if minorities groups in Britain, leading to generational clashes between parents and children. This idea of new ethnic identities is best highlighted in the form of some young Islamic women, who have associated themselves with a different identity, to that of their mothers.

An increasing number of individual within the Asian population share a dual identity, in which they inherent an Asian identity and adopt a British one. This has led to individual having the ability to interact between two different cultures, for example one is able to identify themselves has British when abroad but in Britain, a greater emphasis is placed on their cultural background. Hall (2002) has described the idea of 'black' being a constructed identity. The process of identity is a continuing process always altering. (Cited in Mason, 2000:28)

The emergence of hip-hop in popular culture has lead to a younger generation of Britons adopting a similar fashion taste and speaking the same language in the form of colloquial speech, this has only challenged the characteristics attributed with a sense of identity. The evolution of new ethnic identities, suggests that the notion of a shared 'black' identity has 'evaporated' in contemporary society, whilst a shared 'black' identity provides a based for political change, it constructs an idea of a homogeneous social group. The notions of a shared 'black' identity developed out of the collective experience of oppression and disadvantage.

In a political climate where Asian and African Caribbean people face diverse forms of racial abuse and inequalities, "such differences undermine the legitimacy of the notion of a collective 'Black' identity". (Song, 2003:103). The emergence of differing levels in achievement among ethnic groups have led to a shared 'black' identity becoming fragmented, with individuals forming new ethnic minorities, with minority groups "constantly redrawing and renegotiating their boundaries... all against the backdrop of historical events and contingencies" (Song, 2003:103).

Those of the Asian descent have rather placed a greater significance on cultural factors when identify their ethnic identity, therefore the idea of a shared 'black' identity is not an essentialist as in previous decades. Racial discrimination in society still persist today, 'Black' still remains a political colour, it providences the foundation for ethnic minority to become united to eradicate the stigma of racism in all its form from society. However ones need's to take into the increasing amount of diversity within ethnic minority groups.

Bibliography Abercrombie, N and et al, (2006) Contemporary British Society, Polity Booth, H (1988) Identifying Ethnic Origin: The Past, Present and Future of Official Data Production, Gower Gillborn D and Gipps C (1996), Recent Research on the Achievement of Ethnic minorities Pupils: Report for the Office for Standards in Education.

London: HMSO Mason, D (2000), 'Race and Ethnicity' (2nd ed), Oxford University Press Modood, T (1997), The Politics of Multiculturalism in the New Europe: Racism, Identity and Community, Zed Books Song, M (2003, Choosing Ethnic Identity, Polity Woodward, K (1997), Identity and Difference, Sage Publications http://www. guardian. co. uk/race/story/0,11374,1653120,00. html.

Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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Evolution of Ethnic Identity in Contemporary Society. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/shared-black-identity-11926-new-essay

Evolution of Ethnic Identity in Contemporary Society essay
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