Posts Tagged ‘Bangladeshi community’

Tackling racism is important but we can’t just see minorities as eternal victims

25/01/2013, 11:04:21 AM

by Dan McCurry

When I was a child, a lad in our street threw a stone through the window of the first Bangladeshi family to move into our street. We were rounded up by the local vicar and taken around to the family, and they gave us biscuits and lemonade, and made friends with us. Other Bangladeshi families arrived over the next few years, but they didn’t get their windows smashed.

More recently, I did some community work on the Boundary estate, near Brick Lane. One of the issues was the relations between the new middle-class white residents and the existing Bangladeshi community.  Leila’s cafe and shop, which sold organic food, had her windows smashed by the local Bangladeshi teenagers. Her response was to make friends with them, and these days they treat Leila with great respect, because they all want jobs in the cafe.

As one wave of migration gives way to another, similar tensions occur. Today is a different world to the 80s, bananas are no longer thrown at black players on the football pitch, but as socialists, we still hold some of the views that were developed in different times. These views are outdated.

It would be difficult to imagine the socialist movement mobilising to defend the Shoreditch web designers in Leila’s organic cafe. The Labour party are not going to arrive en masse to chant “fascists out!” at the Bangladeshi teenagers, even though the many issues are the same, just a different time and place.  Why is that?

There’s an experience I had as a teenager that is worth recounting here. It was rather like when Huckleberry Finn asked the question, “What’s a feud?” In my case, I asked “What’s Paki bashing?” I was told, “Aw, it’s brilliant. You get tooled up, then go about with your mates till you see one, and everyone shouts out “Paki!” He runs, and you all leg it down the street after him, and you catch up and….”


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Ed’s right on integration and the need to speak English, but we need practical policies to make this a reality

28/12/2012, 10:11:03 AM

by Dan McCurry

Today, Ed Miliband promised that in 2013 we will see some concrete policies that define what being a one nation party means. Good. We need them. There are many areas the detail is necessary, not least on integration.

Before Christmas, Ed made a good speech on the subject. He struck the right notes in a measured manner, acknowledging the benefits migrant communities have brought to Britain while stressing the importance of the basics such as everyone speaking English. So far, so good.

Now we need to explain what this means in practice. For those that can’t speak English, what will we do?

A practical example. In my experience, if I can’t understand my Bangladeshi client, when I’m filling out the legal aid form, then I just pass them the pen and ask them to fill in their own details. In the box marked “place of birth”, quite often, they will write, “London hospital, Whitechapel”.

Born in this country, but with language skills so bad that they cannot be understood when speaking their own name and address, the issue is lack of exposure to the English language, during the early years, before the age of three. Without good English, their life outcome will suffer considerably, yet this someone who was born in this country.

Thankfully, these days it is less and less frequent for younger Bangladeshis to suffer from this problem. They are so surrounded by English speaking aunts and uncles that the issue no longer arises.

However, it is tragic for the Bangladeshi community that it wasn’t until the third generation, that the majority of the community could speak the language of the nation of their birth fluently. And it remains a major issue for many in the first and second generations of the community.

Ed Miliband says that Labour made mistakes by believing that these things will sort themselves out. People used to say that integration will happen naturally with the generation born here. But that was wishful thinking. Many who were born here, were held back before the age of three, by the problem that they were expected to solve by virtue of being born here.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon