“When you go into school, or into college, you meet people from everywhere – from America, from Poland, everywhere – in one day”, says one Hackney Community College student at a British Future debate.
British Future went to Hackney to talk to students about whether they defined themselves as British, English or something else. The students’ debate, chaired by Anthony Painter, also focused on integration – in terms of the diversity they could see around them in London, and how they thought that was mirrored in the rest of the country.
The students expressed pride in Britain and being British; when asked what she thought was a good aspect of Britain, one student answered that “the fact that we are all together in this country, and that we accept each others ways of life is a really good thing”. Another student said that events such as the Olympics, where you see “different ethnicities come together and win something for the UK” made him feel proud to be British.
But the acceptance they saw around themselves didn’t necessarily apply to the whole of Britain; “if you went to other cities, you wouldn’t really get the same view as you do in London…where an asian or a black race is less prominent, you will get different views”. Another student agreed that “people tend to generalise England to London – coming from London it can be easy to say people are really equal, but if you go elsewhere that might not be the case”.
But there are also bad sides to London, some students said; “London is a great city…but people don’t say hello going down the road…when I went to Wales, everyone was so friendly”. Another student added that “we are in a place where we do accept people…but London is also quite a ‘rude’ area”. Feeling like part of a community is something that some of the student’s had seen fall away the last few years: “I used to know everyone where I lived, now we don’t even talk”. The dispersal of ethnicities around London was put down as one of the reasons for this growing feeling of separation; “often Asian people have their own community and black people have their own community -Turkish people go to north London, and Asian people go east – so we are divided”. It is getting better, she admitted, but the division is still there.
And education needs to change to help grow acceptance and integration, by teaching things that help people understand different cultures, said one student; “in secondary school, and even A-levels, we just learn about the English, we don’t learn about anything else. My knowledge of that came from my friends”.
But the country is becoming more integrated, particularly for young people; “its become more diverse with the younger generation…its normal to us, its how we grew up”.
To watch the full debate go to British Future’s Youtube page here.