- By Alex Rowe.
Britain is a multi-cultural country. With a eclectic mixture of different religions, communities, backgrounds and skin colours. Britain today is a great example of the changing face of our society. Or so I thought.
Coming from a predominantly white area in the UK, I have often romanticised over the notion that Britain is completely integrated. I assumed that people had overcome current and historical prejudices in order to live together harmoniously. It seems as if I was completely ignoring an issue that I didn’t want to accept: I am living in a segregated society. After living in Birmingham, a city with a multi-cultural population, I began to see segregation in action.
‘Make Bradford British’ is cultural experiment which asks the question: Can different races, religions and cultures really live together in an integrated society? The project hopes to bring the British population closer together, eradicating our highly separated communities in favour of one that is ‘close-knit’.
Bradford has been described by many as a ‘divided city’ as it it is one of the most culturally segregated cities in the country. With a predominantly asian city centre and white suburbs, the city has failed to come to terms with the cultural duality of these two groups creating a disparity that now defines the city.
During the experiment, a group of 111 Bradford citizens completed the governments citizenship test. It was shocking to find that 100 of those tested, failed. Eight of those that failed were asked to move in together in order to learn more about their individual and group cultures discussing what they thought made them ‘British’.
It became clear, after watching the group for a couple of days, that many thought that the colour of an individuals skin was a variable that defined ‘Britishness’. It was uncomfortable to be exposed to racist remarks which were described as ‘normal’. I was deeply disgusted by this and couldn’t understand how someone could be so narrow-minded. This was something that also dawned on other members of the group. One woman claimed she was ‘disgusted with herself’ - she had come to terms with the fact that her remarks may have wider, more hurtful consequences.
I think that this project could teach us a lot about compromise. In order to truly live harmoniously, an individual needs to account for their actions in terms of their community, not just on a singular level.
If we all just learnt to listen, acknowledge, understand and appreciate the difference within out communities, we might learn a bit more about about our society, Britain and ourselves during the process.
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