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The changing face of Britain

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The changing face of Britain

More and more non-Caucasians are becoming British citizens, and naturally some parts of the British population are not happy with this explosion and changing face of Britain. Does that make them racist? I don’t necessarily think so.

It wasn’t long ago when I used to notice while travelling from the UK’s Heathrow or Gatwick airports, how people with non-British passports would look on wistfully and in some cases, I am sure with envy as British passport- holders just breezed through immigration. For the last five years (or thereabouts), I have noticed a reversal in this trend. Now, the queue of those with British passports surpasses that of non-British nationals. Not just that. I have also noticed the “browning” of the British passport holders’ queue.

Let me explain myself. Years ago, the majority of those who briskly walked through immigration with their British passports had blond, brown or red hair; and green or blue eyes. But today, this has drastically changed, there are now many more people coming home to Britain, who have brown and black faces and brown eyes. Indeed many more people from Africa and the Arab worlds have now made Britain their home. And many of us hold British passports.

Indeed the natural face of Britain is changing. Even in remote countryside villages where you would not have seen foreigners in the past, there is change. For example, up to as recently as three years ago, my family and I were the only black people in our area (in Kent). Well, at least that’s how it felt as I rarely saw other black people. Today, there are a lot more of us. And not just us black people, but foreigners from European countries other than Britain, as well as the Asians.

Echoes of the words of British right-wing MP Enoch Powell, with his infamous 1968 ‘’rivers of blood’’ speech in which he derided growing immigration and estimated that by the year 2000, one in ten of the British population would be of immigrant descent, are increasingly creeping back into the current populace.

Obviously as an African who considers both the UK and Ghana home, I am expected to be alarmed or disgusted by this. But what may shock you is that I am not. You see, I agree with Enoch Powell. I firmly believe in when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Sadly, the issue of human rights has led to the British losing what little culture they had. Because the truth of the matter is, many of us non-British people come to live in Britain, but maintain our own ways. In as much as I think this is excellent, I also think we need to be considerate of the laws, cultures and ways of any country in which we choose to live.

As a Ghanaian, if I want to wear a kaba and slit in the UK, it should not offend anyone and should be acceptable. However, there are certain dress codes that may not go down well in the UK. The same way I would not expect a British woman to go out in her hot pants and tank top in Saudi Arabia is the same way I think the immigrant community should respect the UK’s laws.

One other issue is that of religious tolerance. I personally believe in a Powerful Higher Spirit that loves all good people. I don’t believe in religion as it’s too divisive and dishonest. Spirituality will never lead you to kill another human being. Never. Personally, I don’t care what a person’s religion is. People should be allowed to practice whatever religion they want to, as long as it does not hurt other people, and acts within the context of the country in which they reside. I don’t care what religious path a person chooses to follow; as long as they are a soldier of God and not an agent of the Devil, I am cool with them. My best friend of over thirty years is a Muslim. My other closest friend is a Hindu. I believe in Ancestral Worship.

Although Britain has been my home since 1980, I am Ghanaian by birth. However, I can understand why some sections of the British population may be alarmed at the increasing number of us now living in their country. It’s the same way I feel whenever I return to Ghana and see all the expats. Does this make me a racist? No.

Every country has its own laws, cultures and traditions. And some of us believe in the perseverance of these laws, cultures and traditions. So it breaks our hearts when we see immigrants bringing in new ways, to the detriment of our own. Promoting and advocating for the perseverance of your culture does not make you a racist. But in this post PC (Politically Correct) world, one has to be so careful of one’s thoughts.

Look, you could be in one part of East London, and you would be mistaken for thinking you are in India. The smells, language, music, conversations, food, shops, everything is Indian. Meanwhile on the other side of the same East London, you would be mistaken for thinking you were in Kumasi, Ghana. Add the Afghan, Iranian, Somalian, French, Czech, Polish etc communities that have grown all over Britain and really, you can’t blame the British for crying out loud. The demographic face of the UK has changed tremendously.

I think the biggest problem people have with immigrants is the idea that they’re taking over. The fear of losing what is yours as others come and take over is what makes some of us weary. I don’t mind if people want to visit Ghana. In fact, I actively encourage it. What I fear is living in a Ghana where as a Ghanaian, I have a Chinese employer, who will pay me less than he pays himself, and show me little respect.

Does this make me a racist? No. A few years ago, people did not smoke in public in Ghana. Now, it’s not an uncommon sight to see the foreign guys smoking freely, on the streets. Smoking in public is not accepted in Ghanaian culture. And it upsets me that a foreigner can come in and disrespect this culture.

It’s the same way the British feel at many different levels. No culture is perfect. And I guess cultures and traditions don’t have to be cast in stone. Alterations should be made as and when necessary to keep up with modern living. Cultures can even learn and borrow from each other. Maybe that may even bring better understanding, when cultures can stand side by side, non-competitively and learn from each other.

Despite my empathy for how Britain feels, the British must also take responsibility for what is happening today. For if they did not go creating wars in other countries, people would not be looking to move out of those countries and into Britain. If instead of working with corrupt leaders, they took tough actions, these leaders would be forced to pump money into their countries, thus making them liveable for their people.

Look at all the experts from around the world working and living in the UK? I am sure, given the right circumstances and everything being equal, these professionals would prefer to be back home. Historically, Britain has helped create so much mess in other people’s countries that today, you can’t really blame some people for wanting to take back what they perceive as theirs. Some people will tell you straight up that Britain owes them for years of exploiting their countries so they too will come and live in Britain, for free, on social security. I am always amazed when I hear stories of large immigrant families living in large homes in plush areas, for free.

People should definitely have the right of movement. We should all have the right to live anywhere in the world. But for as long as immigrants come into any country, disrespecting the laws, cultures and traditions of the land, only to promote their own ways, there will never be true peace between indigenes and immigrants. But hey, these are just the reflections of an ordinary African woman.

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Written by Akua Djanie

Akua Djanie, better known to her fans in Ghana as Blakofe, a TV, radio and events Presenter. At IC Publications, Akua has been sharing her 'Reflections of an Ordinary Woman' for the past three years in New African magazine.

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