Growing up in an Anglo Indian household, I always thought the answer to the question of whether different cultures benefitted society as a whole was a no brainer. From as young as I can remember, my siblings and I took equal delight in celebrating the bright lights of Diwali as we did the festivities of Christmas; this is why I was so shocked to find out that 40% of Brits think that a multiculturalism has had a negative impact on Britain as a whole.
To get to the bottom of this issue, we must first unpack what multiculturalism means. Broken down to it’s most simple terms the words ‘Multi’ and ‘Cultural’ just mean that a society contains multiple cultures, in order words, a society made up of people with different heritages and different backgrounds. To me, the term multiculturalism doesn’t make particular logical sense as it implies that there is such a thing as a pure and uninfluenced society, which is a ridiculous notion. At least England has never been such a society. Whether it’s the introduction of Norman traditions and customs courtesy of the Angevin kings or the more recent introduction of Afro-Caribbean slang into our modern day colloquialisms, England has always been influenced by other cultures and heritages.
At this current point in time, Britain is made up of different ethnic groups, with the most diverse area being London where forty percent of people identify themselves as non white. It is therefore no coincidence that London, all around the world, is revered for being a city of culture. Whether it’s the extent of the diverse culinary experience that can be found, the everlasting supply of theatre and music, architecture that is dotted around the city, London (and indeed Britain) has constantly benefitted from the influences and inspirations of different cultures. It is this exposure of such cultures that constantly permeate our society and make it a better and more diverse one.
As well as having a profound impact on society, multiculturalism can also have a profound effect on the individual. Different cultures (just like different families ) have slightly different values, slightly different customs and slightly different ways of doing things; the time my grandfather taught me the ‘Indian’ way to cut a mango was revolutionary enough to convince me of the importance of different influences from a young age. By immersing yourself in a different culture, whether that be something as simple as trying a cuisine you’ve never tried before or spending time with someone from a different heritage or background, you will definitely learn something new. Furthermore, by learning and understanding other cultures, it can make you see things in a broader and more emphatic perspective.
In a world which unfortunately seems to be divided by political views, religious beliefs and otherwise, this can only be a good thing; it is just unfortunate that not everyone agrees as they would probably be happier if they did. But fortunately for us, no one at WHS will share this view. Indeed, that is why we have a whole week dedicated not just to celebrate people of different heritages but also to appreciate that everyone has been influenced by different cultures and backgrounds. This is the reason why our community (and our country) is such a brilliant one.
If this article hasn’t satisfied your questions surrounding multiculturalism in Britain/ has whet your appetite for more, please come along to our panel ‘A multicultural Britain?’ Featuring Afua Hirsch and Naznin Islam at 16:30 on the 23rd November.