Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The changing face of a world

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We visited Dublin back in 1995 and as soon as we were ensconced in our B&B I accessed a telephone directory to book in at a cabaret where an Irish comedian I had admired from afar was performing. Booking made, I then perused the phone book and discovered that pretty well all the surnames had a familiar ring. It was like looking through a 1940s Wairarapa directory. No foreign names, but almost exclusively Irish and Anglo-Saxon nomenclatures. I was surprised. Do they not encourage outsiders to settle in Ireland - or if they do come, are they perhaps denied a telephone?

I don’t know what the Dublin telephone book looks like today, but I gather the London directory will have no such exclusions. I came to this conclusion a few weeks ago when the good people of London elected a Muslim mayor. Sadiq Khan assumed office earlier this month. The contrast from the previous incumbent, who was blonde-haired and blue-eyed, was startling.

How did this happen? I needed to do some research (thanks Google).

I found the government’s push to increase immigration has altered London’s population. The national census which looked at change over a decade has revealed that London’s racial and religious mix has changed dramatically.

Statistics from last year’s census showed that only 45 per cent of London’s 8.2 million population class themselves as white Britons. That compares with a figure of 58 percent when the last census was compiled in 2001. The next largest ethnic group is Asian, including both those who have arrived from abroad and those who were born in the country. They now account for 18 per cent of the capital’s population with a total of 1.5 million residents.

Black Londoners, of whom there are 1.1 million, represent another 13 per cent of the population. They include Africans, black Britons and those from the Caribbean. The capital’s 405,000 mixed race residents make up another 5 per cent of the population. Arabs represent 1.3 per cent while “other” ethnic groups make up 2 per cent.

Another 13 per cent of Londoners are “white other” - such as Europeans - meaning that the capital still has an overall majority of white residents despite white Britons becoming a minority.

Regarding country of birth, today’s figures show that three million Londoners were born abroad.

All of this may sound racist, but the changing face of London is history in the making; with an outcome we may find dismaying. Imagine if Beijing or Tokyo suddenly found that their native populations were being overtaken by outsiders. China and Japan are Asian countries and are no doubt determined to stay that way. Similarly, if an African country’s capital city found that it suddenly had a black African minority then it would probably consider it had been colonised and cry “foul”.

Molly Malone was said to have walked Dublin’s “fair” city wheeling a wheelbarrow full of cockles and mussels that were so fresh they were still alive. A modern counterpart walking the streets of London today would probably need to offer up an alternative slogan and different fare.

And I’m not sure just how long we will continue to refer to Britain as “the home country.”

“The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion or ethnic background, is that we all believe we are above-average drivers.” - Dave Barry


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