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Thursday, 19 October, 2000, 10:14 GMT
Is Britain a nation?

The UK should be described a "community of communities", according to a controversial report.

The study by the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain has been criticised for suggesting the word "British" has racial connotations.

The report also says the UK Government should do more to improve race relations and end discrimination.

What does being British mean to you? Do the British recognise their multi-cultural reality? Has the country progressed much with race relations over the last thirty years?

Here's what you had to say.

if I say I'm British it's seen as arrogant, I simply don't understand

Julia, UK
My eldest daughter was born in Canada and she takes pride in saying she's a Canadian. My husband was born in Belfast, he feels Irish first. I was born in West Sussex, but if I say I'm British it's seen as arrogant, I simply don't understand
Julia, UK

In this 21st Century world of globalisation, the concept of nationality is becoming redundant. If we are what we experience then we are all, certainly in the West, increasingly multi-cultural and nationally neutered. I for one look on the world as my home and its people as my brothers and sisters!
Phil Eadie, Citizen of the World

For goodness sake, do NOT become a "community of communities." Recognise this nonsense for what it is - an attack on your history and all those who have gone before and built your nation into what it is. This is simply a beachhead for those who came to Britain so they could enjoy the fruits of your labour; yet, they have no intention of assimilating and becoming a constructive part of what it took for you to get where you are. They don't want to become British; they simply want what you have while they maintain their own island within your island. You're courting disaster.
T. Sharp, USA

If you want to discover the true English you should look west of Offa's Dyke.

Jason Perrott, United Kingdom?
I half listened to an early evening news item about a survey that showed 30% of people could not identify the "English" flag. So what, these are just trappings. The Cross of St George? It is, in fact, the cross of Aquitaine, Richard the Lionheart? He was French and preferred Rouen. There is no such thing as the English. All there is the remainder after you deduct the Scots the Irish and the Welsh. If you want to discover the true English you should look west of Offa's Dyke.
Jason Perrott, United Kingdom?

If England, Great Britain or the United Kingdom is such an awful place with such an awful history and imperial legacy, why come here in the first place? Why not stays in a country that represents those anti English/British views where many of these people come from.

The quest to be politically correct is becoming very dangerous now. It is worrying because rash statements like those of the commission further marginalise those they wish to help. My nationality is Scottish because Scotland is the nation I was born in and where I am currently domiciled. My citizenship is British because Britain is the governing state in which I am a citizen.
D Wyllie, Scotland

I do not and never will consider myself to be 'British'. I was born and raised in England and am therefore English. England is my country, whereas Britain isn't. What I can't stand is the Scots and Welsh moaning on about their right to self government. Right off you go and govern yourselves and stop being a drain on the taxes and resources of England. How come there's the Welsh assembly and the Scottish parliament, but no separate English parliament. The sooner we (the English) can get rid of the Scots and Welsh the better.
Peter, England!

Considering most of our contemporary culture comes from across the Atlantic, perhaps we should think of ourselves as British Americans?
Lee, England

One of the enduring strengths of the British have been their ability to 'muddle through' and gain strength from the un-planned and un-defined

Pete, UK
Yes - we are a nation. But the more the politically correct try to re-define it the more fractures they will create. One of the enduring strengths of the British have been their ability to 'muddle through' and gain strength from the un-planned and un-defined. This is mainly because of their sense of fair play and doggedness. Politicians - both in 10 Downing Street and Brussels - should reflect on this.
Pete, UK

More PC claptrap from our Labour Government. Pretty much any extreme is undesirable. This includes political correctness. Perhaps they should concentrate more on the NHS and other inadequate public services rather than redefining the English language?
Patrick Seurre, UK

Oh dear Stephen from Luxembourg, wake up and smell the coffee if you are really trying to equate Britishness and Luxembourgese...I have never heard of any of you.
Mike, UK

Both the inhabitants of the British Isles and the Empire with the same name must be happy to have such an extensive term

Andrej, Russia
"British" does not describe an ethnic identity, how can it possibly be a racist term? Both the inhabitants of the British Isles and the Empire with the same name must be happy to have such an extensive term. Here, such a term had to be invented: introduced by Peter I and perfected in Soviet times. Now "Russian" means one of the three Eastern Slavs; while "Rossian [yes, stem vowel 'o'] Federation" is the strange nation binding over a hundred ethnic groups. Sadly, the English language doesn't distinguish the two; but citizens of the Empire must be glad that "English" and "British" are not synonymous.
Andrej, Russia

One people. one nation.
James Larkin, Australia

I hail from Scotland originally and think of myself as Scottish first, European second and British third. My only concern with the term British is that people from outside the UK tend to think of British and English as synonymous.
Eddie Craig, New Zealand

I think to say the word British has racial connotations is nothing more than political correctness gone mad
Tony Dean, Cornwall

The success of any country depends on full integration, not multiculturalism

Ray Marsh, Australia

I believe the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain should be dissolved immediately. The success of any country depends on full integration, not multiculturalism, which is a fancy name for ethnic tribalism. A fully-integrated Britain is the only way forward.
Ray Marsh, Australia

Britain is hardly an ideal society but as someone from a white English family I am proud that the term British has evolved since colonial times into one embracing many different types of people and culture. But it is ridiculous to suggest ditching the term Britain because of the history attached to it. As a Briton living in Japan I am often struck by how inclusive the term British is. In Japan there remain nearly a million Koreans who were brought here forcibly during Japan's period as an Asian colonial power, yet third and fourth generation Korean-Japanese are still refused citizenship because they are not ethnically Japanese, having to renew visas and permits every year or so. I love Japan but for a former colonial power, their whole idea of nationality remains a racial one - if you're not from Japanese stock then you're not Japanese - end of debate.
A.C., Japan

Great Britain is the large island located off the coast of Brittany. Those born in this island are known as "British". Others who are allowed to take up permanent residence there are also allowed to call themselves "British". "British" culture has had significant influence on the development of civilization over the last 500 years, a fact in which the "British" can take some pride.
David Baynes, Canada

Is it deemed racist to describe oneself as Dutch or French?

Richard Lack, British in USA

'Britain' and it's superlative twin 'Great Britain' are becoming outmoded through a collective sense of imperialist guilt over the last 50 years. It reminds us of a greatness upon the world stage that we sadly no longer enjoy. Where have all the flags gone? A country's identity cannot embody everybody who comes to live there. Is it deemed racist to describe oneself as Dutch or French? Of course not.
Richard Lack, British in USA

Terminologies and political correctness are the issues here. We should be represented equally and without bias."Britishness" is commonly associated with conservatism and old England. Times are changing - society should reflect on that change, Britain is clearly a multi-cultural society represented only during sport events such as the olympics.
Ronald Mashate, England

Britain invaded the world. Now they have been invaded and they have lost

Peter, South Africa

Britain invaded the world. Now they have been invaded and they have lost. Without a shot being fired foreigners have taken over large parts of their country. They did however suffer fearful loses in two world wars. With such high loses something had to give.
Peter, South Africa

I am an Indian-American (both my parents are immigrants from the sub-continent), born, raised, and educated in the US. I have many friends who are also of Indian heritage but were born and raised in the UK. While we share an Indian heritage, they still root for Arsenal and actually enjoy cricket. I crave college basketball and opening day of baseball. They are British, and I am an American. In the end, culture is not just about the past and heritage -- it is also about a contemporary sea of shared values, beliefs, and identity. Indians can be British or American. You folks should relish your multidimensional society, and channel it to build a better Britain.
J. Yepuri, United States of America

I think people are missing the point. The UK, Briton or any notion of Britishness ceased to exist with the advent of devolution. The only people underrepresented by this new arrangement are the English. As an Englishman I am sick and tired of this left wing racist rubbish. The Scots, Irish, Welsh and other groups living in these islands are only too happy to reach into English tax payers pockets, in order to pay for their extravagances. It is high time that we English had our own parliament, in order to take control of our affairs.
Alan, England

Britishness is the consensus of a number of values, beliefs and opinions

Gavin Pearson, Detroit, USA
Britishness is the consensus of a number of values, beliefs and opinions rolled into a way of life and legislation. I am English, I choose to live in the USA, thus I respect US laws, customs and culture. I conform. I was glad to leave behind people who wanted to live in Britain because of the economic advantages compared to their home country, yet won't accept Britain for what it is and want to change it.
Gavin Pearson, Detroit, USA

I was born and bred in England. My father was an immigrant from Greece, my mother a 'Geordie'. I now live in the heartland of the United States with my wife who is 'German-American'. I am proud when asked where I'm from to say that I am English or British. Furthermore I think that Britain has come a long way since my childhood in the 70's. Chicken Tika is now as British as Fish and Chips!
Dimitri William Ponirakis, USA

I was born in a former British colony in West Africa to an Indian father and a Scottish mother, went to school and university in England and now work in Australia. Often stumped by the question "But where are you from?", I am proud to say British, for it doesn't describe a race or country, but an identity that more than any other evokes my multicultural background that shares the former British Empire at its root. I would suggest that rather than being divisive, it is the most inclusive term for many millions of people in Great Britain and beyond.
Alex Green, Australia

The people who wrote this report must be extremely shortsighted and know little of the country they live in. To be British has, more than many other nation, meant being multi-cultural. Romans, Vikings, Normans, you name it, as well as indigenous people. The fact that we are now made up of people from all over the globe just shows how tolerant our society is. There will always be those who seek to destroy what is good, to take the least common denominator, but I, along with millions of other people of all races and colours, am proud to be British.
Paul R, UK

You are often not aware of your culture until you go abroad. As a Briton who has lived in Japan now for over two years, there are certain aspects which rule me out as British. I like cricket and warm beer, I speak English, I love curries, I scan the internet to see how Norwich are doing in the league, I like to talk about the weather, I read novels, I only like karaoke when I'm drunk and I contradict anyone who dares suggest I am an American! I don't have to be white to do this, Britain to me already is a multicultural term and it's a term I'm very proud of.
Antony Bellingall, Japan

Britain is a product of a shameful imperial past and deserves to fall into disuse

Stephen, Luxembourg
Britain is a product of a shameful imperial past and deserves to fall into disuse. Moreover, Scotland and Wales would be better off if they were independent. It is no longer the case that countries are only economically and politically viable if they are big. Luxembourg, Ireland and The Netherlands are just three examples of thriving, dynamic economies and they can punch above their weight on the international scene due to membership of the EU.
Stephen, Luxembourg

I claim to be British by nationality, not race! This is more inconsequential drivel spouting from the mouths of equally inconsequential "politically correct" nobodies. Send 'em to Brussels with the rest of their kind!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/ UK

My grandparents are from 4 different countries: England, Scotland, Finland and Germany. I was born in England but I can hardly call myself English - I am British. If I am to be denied that identity by some faceless "race" Commission with chips on their shoulders, then what other identity do I have?
S. Jones, Britain

I'm an Asian guy born and brought up in Britain. I am British. My parents arrived here with nothing as immigrants. They worked hard and this country has rewarded them greatly. I am proud to be British. This term should be nothing to be ashamed of and I certainly don't find it racist. We don't want to go OTT on this political correctness rubbish.
Ash, UK

I was born in England, of parents who fled from Hitler in the thirties. I consider myself to be a British citizen as I was born and educated within the United Kingdom. I have enjoyed visiting Scotland, Wales and Ireland and meeting the people there. Each region has the right to a say in its own development but I think it would be a disaster if the United Kingdom disintegrated as a result of nationalist doctrines.
Frank, England

The word British may have racial connotations for some. However, what should be recognised is that the word is used every time by home and foreign media and tourists when they actually mean England. The majority of Scots and Welsh do recognise and accept multiculturalism. However, the English because of their lack of identity use the word British so that they do not miss out. Indeed, so obsessed are the English with classing the Welsh as British, we are not allowed to register our true identity in the forthcoming census.
Paul Evans, Cymru/ Wales

I am and will always be a Yorkshireman. The rest of Britain is merely the annex.
Simon, UK

Multiculturalism has hindered and interfered with the development of a Canadian identity. Unlike the melting pot of the US which made a great country with a specific identity, multiculturalism leads to the identification of groups as being less than totally Canadian, an identification which offends both mainstream Canadian society and the so-called "ethnic" groups. All multiculturalism has done for Canada is to provide work for politically correct busybodies whose livelihood depends on creating and maintaining problems between various "ethnic" groups. Take a look at Canada and see what a mess multiculturalism has made of Canadian identity.
Patricia Evans, Canada

The people from the former colonies who reside in Great Britain are British

Wumpscut, Jamaica
When one country takes it upon itself to conquer, colonise, influence, shape, abuse and enslave more than half the population of the planet in the name of profit then I don't see how that country can not accept its own creation. You cannot spent centuries reshaping other people's civilisation in your own image and expect to remove yourself entirely. The people from the former colonies who reside in Great Britain are British and should be given all the rights and privilege that comes with that title. Anything less is an embarrassment and not acceptable.
Wumpscut, Jamaica

It used to be the case that people in my country were regarded as being British, during the height of the British Empire. In fact Britain tried very hard to have us remain as such. However, even while we were members of the British Empire, we were always Irish with our own unique identity and heritage. Similarly, people today are Scottish, Welsh or English, while still being members of Great Britain. Why change it?
Barry O'Sullivan, Ireland

This is a society of people, not a box of washing powder

Matt, Amsterdam, Netherlands (ex UK)
I think coming up with such terms is pandering to the true xenophobes and racists. Anyone with half a mind knows that a country is made up of many parts, sometimes multi-cultural, and that the name of that country is not indicative of every person in it. Why should it be that a country is not allowed to be proud of its heritage and history? There are many things the country has done wrong, but if we learn from these then we come out better. Keeping the history, and the name, allows us to remember those mistakes and to do better for our community and our country. Rebranding is not a solution to our current problems; this is a society of people, not a box of washing powder.
Matt, Amsterdam, Netherlands (ex. UK)

We're all citizens of the world now. The Internet has no borders, and neither does capitalism. It's increasingly irrelevant whether we are British, French, or Zambian, or living in Britain, Russia, or Mexico. The only thing that gives people equal opportunities - or denies them - is how much money they have.
Pete Coan, France

Why should there be a problem with the term "British"? What race are they??? It hardly describes a race/ ethnicity as "English", "Welsh", "Scots", or "Irish" does. (Even "English" is a mixture of Saxon, Norman, Dane, etc.) Surely "British" is the best general non-discriminating way to describe people of Britain?

This nation gave my parents the chance to provide their children with endless opportunities

Vipul, UK
When persecuted by a racist leader in Uganda, my parents and I landed on the shores of England as immigrants. Although it was not always easy, this nation gave my parents the chance to provide their children with endless opportunities. And although I take great pride in my Indian heritage, I am prouder still to be British AND English. The declaration of the UK as a multi-cultural society is a step towards acknowledging that this great nation is now cherished by people of all colours, races, creeds, and religions.
Vipul, UK

What I personally find offensive is the suggestion that the term British is something to be ashamed of. The simple fact is that if you were born in the British Isles, you're British regardless of which community you belong to.
N. Richard, UK

I am of Asian origin and was born and brought up in England. For the past year and a half I have been working in Brussels and it has given me an outsider's view of the UK. One thing I think the UK can be really proud of is its diversity and tolerance (particularly when compared to certain Continental countries).
Arun Rattan, Belgium

I feel both offended and patronised, as my parents were British in the Caribbean and I am now

KHH, England, UK
I am a black Briton and think that these ridiculous 'agencies' are simply trying to give themselves work to do. I do not feel that this 'race industry' represents me at all. During the former Tory Government such bodies did very well to highlight issues, but now that such issues concerning deaths in police custody, racial violence, harassment and discrimination are being legally addressed and the majority of Britons - black, white, asian or otherwise, support such measures, these organisations are sadly now fantasising issues to give themselves work to do. Such a thought has never crossed my mind or that of my peers. I feel both offended and patronised, as my parents were British in the Caribbean and I am now. Furthermore, black people, as in African/ Afro-Caribbeans, have worked too hard for equality and Britishness has been denied to us for too long, after our predecessors had literally broke their backs, and died in wars for centuries for Britain.
KHH, England, UK

The term "British" has never meant that much to me anyway. I am, and always will be, "English".
Dan Brown, England

I think most Brits are happy to live in a multicultural society

Russ Moore, UK
I think most Brits are happy to live in a multicultural society. I know I am - it makes the country a more interesting place, and after all, diversity is the key to survival. However, to insist that the term 'British' should no longer be used is folly - far from being racist, it should be used as a banner to unite us.
Russ Moore, UK

Why is it that all Anglo-Saxon countries must surrender their sovereignty and sense of nationhood, while countries no less diverse in the source of their folks do not? Mexico, Brazil, Russia. They hang onto their sense of being a nation. If Great Britain and the US fail to do this, then it is only because of lack of will, not any real ethnographic reason.
J. Davis, USA

'British' to me means the people who live in the UK "today". It has nothing to do with nationality, ethnicity, history etc. I think the British people recognise that we live in a multi-cultural society in terms of our daily lives, but that the Establishment and the press in general don't. Interestingly, having lived in both Scotland and England, I have to say that Scotland has a much bigger problem recognising its diversity than England has.
James Mclean, UK

Surely this is Political Correctness gone mad, Great Britain has a rich heritage and this should be celebrated. What makes it Great is the huge diversity of peoples here. Changing the name will achieve nothing. It will still be the same place, the only difference being that the majority of people will be wondering why on earth their country's name has changed. The old adage fits here "if it ain't broke don't fix it".
Mike S, United Kingdom of Great Britain

I think the report contains many good proposals - an equal rights commission, an independent body to investigate complaints against the police and a call to scrap the vouchers scheme. And yes - it's time for our nation to say to the world: "We are a multicultural society and we are rather proud of it." However, it is not for the Runnymede Trust to suggest a 're-branding' of the UK/Britain. Such suggestions only serve the purpose of bigots and racists to paint such reforms as 'PC gone crazy'.
Matt, London

I think that ultimately people should give up some of their culture while keeping other parts

A. Butler, USA
As an African-American (black American) I think the Commission has gone a bit far with the term British as a racist term. I think that ultimately people should give up some of their culture while keeping other parts. When ethnic groups refuse to do so, it causes mistrust among residents. Although Great Britain is becoming a multi-ethnic society, I don't want them to lose their British identity. I love British history. That is what makes Great Britain, Great Britain. The same is said about America. The history and culture upon which this country was founded should not change drastically to accommodate people who leave other countries. There needs to be a balance.
A. Butler, USA

Take another idea from across the Atlantic and think of your country as a land of immigrants.
T.J. Cassidy, USA

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See also:

11 Oct 00 | UK
What is Britishness?
23 Aug 00 | UK Politics
Row over UK 'racism'
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