11 June 2012

“Everybody has two flags”

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The upsurge in belief in an English identity over the past five  years is not the threat to modern Britain that many English liberals believe it to be, says British Future director Sunder Katwala in a new interview.

Katwala’s comments are part of an interview with youth project Headstart in the build-up to their Two Nations event, an inquiry into who Londoners want to win the Olympics and why.

He added that wanting the right to be both English and British is effectively a claim for recognition of more than one identity. By recognising that everybody has more than one identity, it is easier to accept others having more than one themselves.

Drawing on his own personal experience of being pushed to exclusively support the English sports teams as the child of Indian and Irish parents living in England,  Katwala explained that if integration is not separated from assimilation it can polarise the debate and lead to a rejection of British identity.

Katwala highlighted the extent to which national identity and integration have changed in Britain over the last fifty years. However, while most Britons would be fine with those with Greek roots supporting Greek national teams, there exist different levels of concern depending on ethnicity.

Noting the long British history of searching for an ‘enemy within’, Sunder emphasised the role some of the media has played in halting the process of integration by not reporting on the large number of its successful examples: “There isn’t any good news in the everyday, mundane story of no flash points.”

The rise in English identity over the last five years is therefore an opportunity to further reinforce a multi-ethnic, pluralist Britain through its claim for the recognition of dual identities, he argued. Accepting that everyone has more than one identity reinforces a pluralist, inclusive British identity, which is vital for integration to succeed, he said.

As Katwala told Headstart: “everyone’s got at least two flags”.

Listen to the interview below:

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