by Rakib Ehsan
Wednesday, 24
February 2021
Explainer
14:43

The Myth of the ‘Black Community’

The term fails to capture the cultural and political diversity among Black Britons
by Rakib Ehsan
Can such a broad term really reflect the reality on the ground? Credit: Getty

The term ‘South Asian’ masks important socio-economic and socio-political differences between Britain’s notable Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi communities. But how useful is the phrase ‘black community’?

The term continues to be used by mainstream politicians, journalists and social commentators across the ideological spectrum. The UK BLM political organisation refers to the ‘black diaspora’ on its official funding page. However, there is growing evidence that suggests that the term ‘black community’ is wholly inadequate in capturing the cultural and political diversity among Black British people. Two sizeable co-racial groups — Black British Africans and Black British Caribbeans — are vastly different in terms of their political attitudes and social behaviour.

My new report for the Henry Jackson Society found that when compared with co-racial counterparts of Caribbean origin, British Black Africans are notably more positive about the current state of UK race relations and less likely to think that we live in a fundamentally racist society. As well as being more likely to attach importance to their religious identity, Black British Africans are less likely to say that they had an unstable family life during their childhood — and crucially, are more likely to report satisfaction with their life in Britain. This supports previous work on institutional trust which shows that Black British Africans, when compared with Black British Caribbeans, are far more likely to have confidence in their local police force and report satisfaction with British democracy.

So, what can account for some of these differences? ‘Frame of reference’ is likely to play its part. Black British Caribbeans, who are more rooted in the UK in terms of duration, originate from relatively stable nation-states with multi-party parliamentary democracies. This certainly isn’t the case for Black British Africans, who are comparative more ‘recently-arrived’ as a group. With some originating from relatively unstable countries characterised by severe political oppression and intense societal fractionalisation, there is no surprise if they have a naturally positive orientation towards British democracy and UK race relations.

The figures on family and faith encourage fresh thinking on integration. Black British Caribbeans are ‘hyper-integrated’ in a secular mainstream that is now characterised by internationally high levels of family breakdown. Meanwhile, Black British Africans, traditionally devout and with stronger ‘in-group’ social and economic networks, are simply not as ‘hyper-integrated’ in this sense. This naturally gives rise to the admittedly unconventional view that there may be a ‘sweet spot’ in terms of social integration — with ‘hyper-integration’ potentially leading to undesirable outcomes.

What all of this tells us is that the term ‘black community’ is a fictitious social construct which does not reflect the reality on the ground. The notion of ‘Black Britain’ is a myth — Black Britons do not represent a singular mono-cultural bloc that sings from the same hymn sheet. It is high time that the disaggregation of the culturally-diverse Black British population, informs both our social policy and broader political discourse in the UK.

Dr Rakib Ehsan is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, specialising in social integration and ethnic-minority public attitudes.

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sharon johnson
sharon johnson
1 year ago

Thank you Dr. Ehsan! Perhaps we ought to dispense with the whole skin color designation entirely as few people are actually white or black. I am not white. On the melanin scale of 1 to 6, white to black, I am 1.5. My next door neighbors, Ken and Ellen, are about 4.5 to 5. My best school pal and fellow jazz lover was also 4.5 to 5. When humans are packaged by extremes on the color scale there are expectations of narrow color-based thinking and behavior. What if Black Lives Matter, celebrating Melanin Level 6, were to say just that? ‘Melanin Level 6 Lives Matter’. What if we whose lives fall out of that narrow designation formed our own group? “Melanin Levels 1 to 5 Lives Also Matter”. Or what if we accept Martin Luther King’s belief that it’s character, not skin color, that matters?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

I congratulate you for your perfect post, you completely captured the zeitgeist of race discussion in the 2020s.

Rosy Martin
Rosy Martin
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Agreed, but in fairness to Dr Ehsan I think that is the position he is edging towards too. He has to go a little slowly, and carefully, as an academic, but my guess is he is with Martin Luther King on this.

Alan Girling
Alan Girling
1 year ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

Of course, they’ll tell you it’s not melanin they are concerned about, it’s ‘whiteness’, as a construct of oppressive ‘Western’ values that anyone can manifest. It’s a dodge, though, because in any real world sense, it will be the the colour of your skin that counts, and they will speak about ‘whiteness’ and ‘white people‘ in the same breath. It’s quite astounding that they experience zero cognitive dissonance about this and appear to have no awareness of their own racism.

Last edited 1 year ago by Alan Girling
Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
1 year ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

1000upticks!

G Worker
G Worker
1 year ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

For the native victims of replacement colonisation it’s not character but ethnicity which matters. A coercive mass immigration such as the one that is occurring in Britain, and has been so for seven decades, is always destructive of the native people and, therefore, always profoundly unwanted by them. Mixed-race people demonstrate the ending of ancient native family lines; and the whole process can only lead to disaster for said natives. Nativism plus the mass repatriation of the colonising population is the only way to life for them.

Last edited 1 year ago by G Worker
Iliya Kuryakin
Iliya Kuryakin
1 year ago

So a group of people who tend to be more religious and have more stable traditional family structures are more satisfied with life? Who would have thought!

Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell
1 year ago

Surely we don’t need a research fellow to explain this. How hard can it be to realise that people from Jamaica, Nigeria, Somalia and Zimbabwe are not culturally homogeneous. The question to research is why on earth so many people seem to think it makes sense. Explain this instead and we might make some progress.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

I had a quick look at the writer’s work, he studies race and integration in UK, a subject as scientific as Victorian doctors doing examinations on women wile they sat on one side of a privacy curtain and the doctor on the other, for decency’s sake.

‘Best not inquire too deep’ is the thing, less one be swallowed up by a wrong word or set of data, or even of thinking of incorrect sets of data one would like to create. The best insight to race and London I would get was from taxi drivers who always seemed to be happy to talk about different groups and what they thought of them as customers and even as people. One thing one learns this way is that no one is as unbiased as White people, and different national origins are not always that fond of others who are lumped together with them.

I remember one study I read decades ago where outcomes of migrants were quantified, and as a surprise to me Hungarians topped the list, as highest in entrepreneurship and monetary success. Such a study today would mean termination of who ever was silly enough to compile it though, and the end of any one silly enough to publish it.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

It’s ironic, isn’t it. The social justice crowd treats minorities as segments of The Borg, yet no one would ever think of applying that to whites.

David Fellowes
David Fellowes
1 year ago

I was born in Africa, and spent some time growing up there, so Black means nothing to me, either. It’s as useful as White in Europe. Yoruba conjures up memories, as does Igbo, but I left before Biafra, so they are more nostalgia than understanding. Dinka is still the standard of beauty, but that is something I share with the world.
Most of all, I am uneasy with the whole idea that there is something deeper than culture that distinguishes White from Black. I have never encountered it in any of my travels. I really don’t believe it exists

William Cameron
William Cameron
1 year ago
Reply to  David Fellowes

I too grew up in Africa. West Africa. People were not racist . Everyone got along fine.
But then there wasn’t much serious crime, few if any drugs, no Drill or Rap and children had parents at home.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  David Fellowes

Yes, and as biological fact, the ‘between-group’ human genetic diversity is greater in Africa than elsewhere. This is unsurprising because modern humans arose there and only small ‘genetic bottle-neck’ populations ever left that continent to populate the rest of the world. However ‘race’ is in any case a very weak category in h**o Sapiens, with genetic variation typically much greater between individuals than between population averages.

William Cameron
William Cameron
1 year ago

Interestingly Black African folk tend to do economically better than White folk economically and academically .
Whereas Black Caribbean folk do not.

G Worker
G Worker
1 year ago

A couple of decades ago a friend of mine who was a humanities professor in a California university told me that he always inflated the marks given to blacks and Hispanics, and so did everyone else in his department. It was just too risky to deal with those students fairly.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

I’m wondering why my comment agreeing with the authors point has not been retained
It was basically saying that many people drawn into generalised groupings such as BAME and BLM don’t appreciate it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton