Join 3,435 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Marginally better than mistaking Brazillian electricians for terrrorists
February 10, 2014 9:31 AM   Subscribe

"Such esoteric partnerships can confuse the authorities. Last November the Home Office invited journalists to accompany officers on a raid of an apparent sham wedding between an Italian man and a Chinese woman in north London. After interrogating the bride, groom and guests, the officers emerged sheepishly to admit that the union was probably real." -- The Economist looks at the rise of mixed race Britain and the changing ethnic makeup of the UK.
posted by MartinWisse (47 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Welcome to the deep end of the gene pool, England.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:48 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


The use of the word "esoteric" in the excerpted sentence is so telling. Unintentionally so, I suspect. The more I read of The Economist, the more I'm pretty sure it's actually written by The Dowager Countess.
posted by jph at 9:53 AM on February 10 [17 favorites]


The Labour Force Survey reveals that 48% of black Caribbean men and 34% of black Caribbean women in couples are with partners of a different ethnic group—with higher proportions still among younger cohorts.

Anyone know how narrowly 'ethnic group' is likely being defined here? EG, would Caribbean and, say, X-African-Ethnic-Group count as different? I seem to remember 'Black' and 'Black British' being different categories on demo tracking forms.
posted by PMdixon at 9:53 AM on February 10


Even beyond the racism, what the hell did these bozos think was happening at the wedding? I mean, do people really have "sham weddings"? Sham marriages, sure, but weddings? Even if it was the shammiest of shammy marriages, I'm pretty sure you don't have to "raid" the wedding.
posted by kmz at 9:56 AM on February 10 [16 favorites]


Right? The idea of LEOs raising a little ceremony—it's absurd. Did they subpoena the wedding night bed sheets too?
posted by adoarns at 10:04 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Even if it was the shammiest of shammy marriages, I'm pretty sure you don't have to "raid" the wedding.


I don't know- was it a traditional Chinese wedding? Because then I think it would be necessary to raid it and collect "evidence."


delicious, delicious evidence
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:04 AM on February 10 [27 favorites]


The Economist looks at the rise of mixed race Britain and the changing ethnic makeup of the UK

Yes.. but... what this article doesn't tell you is that the quite substantial changes in how different ethnic groups interact is overwhelmingly an urban trend. More than that, it's a feature of the ten or so largest metropolitan areas. What seems so common in London that it's part of the fabric is unusual in lots of the country.

There are still plenty of towns in Britain where, apart from in the takeaway or the curry house, it is uncommon to see someone who isn't white. There are still parts of London which are essentially white enclaves by virtue of high house prices.

Which makes for an interesting dynamic at a political level. People in Exeter or Grimsby or Carlisle understand at an intellectual level that the UK is multiracial but at a day to day level this isn't how they experience it at all. When politicians, activists or agitators talk about race lots of the country are not relating it back to the same experience.

kmz: not to excuse the Home Office, but there are a fair number in London. Depending on who you listen to, between 5% and 20% of civil ceremonies in London are considered suspicious, but the reporting mechanism is poor and likely prone to underrepporting.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:04 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Esoteric:
adjective
1. understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest; recondite: poetry full of esoteric allusions.
2. belonging to the select few.
3. private; secret; confidential.
4. (of a philosophical doctrine or the like) intended to be revealed only to the initiates of a group: the esoteric doctrines of Pythagoras.

They literally can't understand, have not been initiated, into the mysteries of exactly why someone might marry a person who doesn't look like them, or even a tribe close to them.

Hidden mysteries, indeed.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:07 AM on February 10 [10 favorites]


Taking the title of the FPP along with the article, I just want to wave a sparkly wand of sequin studded rainbows emerging from that unicorn's ass all over the world and everyone coloured VIBGYOR.

Bah! Humbug!
posted by infini at 10:07 AM on February 10


What's with the snarky negative post title about the mistaken Metropolitan police killing of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 (a major counter-terror operation error with an ethnic profiling dimension, but nothing at all to do with multi-ethnic marriage) The Economist article itself is positive overall about increased UK diversity, or at least balanced. here's the ending:

"Crude racist politics, thankfully now rare in Britain, ought to become almost impossible as more white families acquire non-white members. Englishness, which has remained distinctly a white identity for many, may become less exclusive.

Most of all, the rise of mixed-race Britain shows that Britain is capable of absorbing even large numbers of newcomers. For the young, who are used to having people of all backgrounds in their midst, race already matters far less than it did for their parents. In a generation or two more of the melting pot, it may not matter at all"


Why pick on the 2 sentences from the article about the wedding raid to make a axe-grindy hostile post??
posted by Bwithh at 10:08 AM on February 10 [7 favorites]


Well, here in the states, we condone sham weddings for profit between two b-list celebrities for the sake of better TV ratings. We have no reason to question the UK's suspicious civil ceremonies.
posted by Kokopuff at 10:09 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Take eight people. All of them born in England. All of them white. All of them convinced they are 100 percent English. Convince them to provide a sample of their DNA. Then submit it to a series of state-of-the-art DNA tests; and some of them will be in for a shock when they discover just how English they really are.

100% English
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:11 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Speeches such as the one made by Tony Blair in 2007 about the culture of black youth violence will look silly when so many black teenagers have white parents too.

The Economist must be unfamiliar with the One Drop Rule.
posted by MikeMc at 10:13 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


For the young, who are used to having people of all backgrounds in their midst, race already matters far less than it did for their parents. In a generation or two more of the melting pot, it may not matter at all.

If we take much of Latin America as evidence, it is entirely possible for a predominantly mixed-race or even predominantly non-European nation to operate under a racially hierarchical system that places whiteness at the apex. It takes a lot more than a few mixed marriages and increased exposure to people of other races to eradicate racial tensions.
posted by drlith at 10:37 AM on February 10 [14 favorites]


Rob Ford of Manchester University

He has our sympathies.

Why pick on the 2 sentences from the article about the wedding raid to make a axe-grindy hostile post??

In the article, it's a good cue that English police and the English political class are adjusting far too slowly to changes in English society. That's important, and otherwise overlooked in the article.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:42 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Given that the one-drop rule is American, and The Economist is a British publication, I think it makes sense that they wouldn't use it as a reference point.

I didn't realize that Chinese woman-Italian man was such an unheard of union, knowing such a couple myself.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 10:56 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Considering the English once viewed the Irish as a separate, and inferior, race, and did everything possible to discourage them from settling in England, this is hardly surprising.

After all, what did the descendants of Irish immigrants to England ever give the world? Just the Beatles, David Bowie, Boy George, Danny Boyle, the Brontes, Kate Bush, Michael Caine, Steve Coogan, Elvis Costello, Daniel Day-Lewis, Princess Diana, Ralph Fiennes, Alfred Hitchcock, Jeremy Irons, Angela Lansbury, Charles Laughton, Johnny Rotten, Shane MacGowan, Roddy McDowall, Ian McShane, Morrissey, Carey Mulligan, Bill Nighy, Peter O'Toole, Alan Rickman, Dusty Springfield, and Evelyn Waugh, among others.

I'm sure the newer immigrants to England will do as poorly.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:00 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Given that the one-drop rule is American, and The Economist is a British publication, I think it makes sense that they wouldn't use it as a reference point.

I was joking. Sort of. The idea being that if a person has a black parent they will be considered black by many people even if they have a white parent so mixed-race youth will still be considered black for purposes of bemoaning the violence endemic in the black community.
posted by MikeMc at 11:07 AM on February 10


100% pure Britain.
Ingredients, a fine blend of; Pict, Celt, Saxon, Angle, Roman, Norse, Viking, West India, Pakistani, Bengali, Indian, Chinese, Polish, Irish....etc
We're all immigrants on this island, some more recently than others. :D
posted by Dr Ew at 11:11 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


There seems to be a lot of snark in this thread, which is weird because the article is pretty positive and shows some very interesting racial trends. It would seem that from a broadly later start, the speed of mixing and integration through breeding in England is already at the same level as paragons of racial diversity, such as the US. The most part of the Afro-Caribbean community dates from after 1945, yet already it is on the verge of becoming as normal a part of being English as the Irish community before it.
posted by Thing at 11:40 AM on February 10 [6 favorites]


MetaFilter: There seems to be a lot of snark in this thread.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:52 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


They sent a SWAT team to STOP OUR LOVE, but they FAILED!

(I wish my wedding had been raided by the police. My wife and I would be telling that story FOREVER).
posted by blue_beetle at 11:56 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: There seems to be a lot of snark in this thread.

Well, it would appear from your comment about the Irish that you didn't even read the article. The Irish are held up as the most successful and thorough integration in modern England, the pattern of which Afro-Caribbean people are following. The article says what you're snarking at, which make it doubly worthless as a supposed contribution to the discussion. You should have limited yourself to some kind of "LOL purity!" joke.
posted by Thing at 12:18 PM on February 10


So now this has to go through my head the rest of the day...
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:20 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


There seems to be a lot of snark in this thread, which is weird because the article is pretty positive and shows some very interesting racial trends.

One could read it that way.

Or one could read it as "This is the future face of England as Brazil; multi-cultural as Hell among the lower classes, while the lighter-skinned ruling class (who also run the police force) thinks of themselves as separate and superior among an otherwise unified populace".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:23 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


If you want to see intermixing and integration as the start of some kind of racial nightmare, that's your prerogative.
posted by Thing at 12:31 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Or one could read it as "This is the future face of England as Brazil yt ; multi-cultural as Hell among the lower classes, while the lighter-skinned ruling class (who also run the police force) thinks of themselves as separate and superior among an otherwise unified populace".

Yes, I suppose one could read it that way. But that really doesn't jibe with my take on the article. In fact, it sounds like a quite nasty reading. Chalk another one up for the Metafilter pessimism bias and the inevitable foul mood that results.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:49 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Re: esoteric, I assume the writer went for the wrong obscure-word-beginning-with-e: "eclectic" makes much more sense in the context, under the meaning "deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources."
posted by crazy with stars at 1:13 PM on February 10


I'm pretty sure my comment indicated that the Irish wound up being a successful immigrant population in England despite initial resistance, and that the new immigrants will likewise be successful.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:47 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Bunny Ultramod - Perhaps you should express yourself a little more clearly if that's what you meant.
posted by ComfySofa at 2:23 PM on February 10


The meaning of Bunny Ultramod's comment was quite clear to me.

If the point of rattling off a long list of successful and influential English people of Irish descent is unclear to you, then you're being obtuse. The Beatles, for God's sake! Why would anyone seriously mention the Beatles as an example of people from immigrant families doing poorly?

If you want to have a successful conversation, you can't assume that the people you're talking to are idiots. Try to make sense of what someone is saying before dismissing it.
posted by my favorite orange at 2:42 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


There seems to be a lot of snark in this thread.

It only takes one snarky comment and there goes the neighborhood.
posted by dhartung at 3:21 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I didn't realize that Chinese woman-Italian man was such an unheard of union, knowing such a couple myself.

The important thing to realise in this case is that both partners had recently moved to Britain, neither had taken on British nationality, and there was no certainty that as a couple they will spend the rest of their lives in Britain. So the transient nature of modern British high-skilled service industry migration is a noteworthy and unusual thing. It may sound parochial to American ears to hear people who are living in a different country being described as Chinese or Italian, but these are people who are long term expats, not emigrants.
posted by ambrosen at 4:04 PM on February 10


Welcome to the deep end of the gene pool, England.

You'll have to help me understand: as an English person, you're patronising me because I happened to be born in a country that has happened to be sufficiently fully settled and sufficiently well connected into the western Eurasian economy that until the time when my parents were in their early teens, it had gone a millennium without an immigrant culture of sufficient size to be prominent and self-sustaining over multiple generations? Are you suggesting it's xenophobia and narrow-mindedness that caused that, and that it's something, erm, racially built-in to English people?

Because for all the small-minded bigotry of UKIP, and the government that invented Border Force and the Daily Mail, I'd at least like to think that there are some people in Britain, even in the 90% of Britain that has the knapsack of Englishness, yep, that there are some 3rd-generation-plus English people, who despite an apparently homogenised culture can actually cope with becoming a more visibly mixed society. Because developed world democracies quite often breed pluralist thinking. That's the way these things happen.
posted by ambrosen at 4:36 PM on February 10


It only takes one snarky comment and there goes the neighborhood.

My last post was raided by the Home Office to make sure my snark and sarcasm wasn't in a sham marriage.
posted by happyroach at 5:31 PM on February 10


MuffinMan: "Yes.. but... what this article doesn't tell you is that the quite substantial changes in how different ethnic groups interact is overwhelmingly an urban trend. More than that, it's a feature of the ten or so largest metropolitan areas. What seems so common in London that it's part of the fabric is unusual in lots of the country."

A little over 32 million people, or almost exactly half of the UK population, live in the 10 largest metropolitan areas. You make it sound like it's a small minority, but urban is increasingly the norm in the UK and most of the world.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:47 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Joachim Ziegler: Yes, it is 30 or so million. But my point still stands. This trend is not present everywhere in those metropolitan areas. The trend In large metropolitan areas leaves, certainly by area but also by population, large parts of the country where there is little evidence of ethnic minorities or racial integration. This helps feed a disconnect between major urban and other narratives with respect to race.

ambrosen: The important thing to realise in this case is that both partners had recently moved to Britain

Which is a flag, but by itself not noteworthy. The second flag is a non European marrying a non-British European (EU citizen) in the UK. The combination of those two features (little history in the UK, non EU marrying EU) is very common in sham marriages - in several cases the EU spouse is actually using false documentation acquired through identity theft in their home country. The third flag is that the couple doesn't appear to know one another that well and/or does not share a common language.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:57 PM on February 10


Possibly a bit late to the relevant portion of the thread, but I suspect that in the extract quoted in the post the author intended 'exoteric' rather than 'esoteric', which would make a lot more sense.
posted by Dim Siawns at 12:24 AM on February 11


Exoteric
adjective
1. suitable for or communicated to the general public.
2. not belonging, limited, or pertaining to the inner or select circle, as of disciples or intimates.
3. popular; simple; commonplace.
4. pertaining to the outside; exterior; external.


I kinda don't think so. The thrust of the article is that all this lovely race-mixing is confusing to the power elites (and their police force) who run the country. Such pairings may be common-sense and public to those of us who are pro-miscegenation, but are they so to the Francis Urquharts in power?

Zadie Smith is a British author. I suspect she knew exactly what she was saying. If she were a fellow American I could better suspect she was misunderstanding/misusing the English language.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:03 AM on February 11


Zadie Smith isnae the author of the piece, although she is quoted in the first paragraph. (Actually, given that the Economist has a policy of not revealing the authors of individual articles, I suppose it's possible that she did write it, but it seems unlikely).

As for exoteric, it was sense 2 in the definition you posted that I was thinking of i.e., a marriage wherein the partners are from different ethnic backgrounds is one that is not 'restricted to an inner circle'. But all I'm getting at is that it immediately struck me that exoteric is a far more sensical choice of word in that sentence than esoteric, and it's that that made me think it was a typo or a subbing error. I have been known to be mistaken in the past, so I dinnae mean to suggest thats definitely what's going on here, just that it seems a plausible mistake to me.
posted by Dim Siawns at 9:34 AM on February 11


It's not by Zadie Smith, she's just mentioned in the first line. As far as the enduring Slightly Wrong Choice Of Words mystery goes, I'm 70% sure that the author originally put "exotic" before being upbraided by the editor and sent to find a less outdated term.

The rest of the article is very interesting too.
posted by forgetful snow at 9:36 AM on February 11


The thrust of the article is that all this lovely race-mixing is confusing to the power elites (and their police force) who run the country.

I think the fact that the pull quote is paragraph 9 out of 12, and is the first mention of the power elites rather undermines your thesis. Paragraph 10 deals with the monitoring of race for equal opportunities purposes and how that has changed, and needs monitoring from other angles, then paragraph 11 shows a change in the way race is addressed by politicians before the usual kind of Economist hopefulness as the concluding paragraph.

And the rest of the article is purely descriptive of the ways different ethnic groups are mixing according to, amongst other things, social class. I don't see how it can be read this way except by someone who's using their best confirmation bias skills.

The article's by Daniel Knowles for what it's worth. He's white, young and Oxbridge educated. And on Buzzfeed.
posted by ambrosen at 10:37 AM on February 11


ambrosen: You'll have to help me understand: as an English person, you're patronising me because I happened to be born in a country that has happened to be sufficiently fully settled and sufficiently well connected into the western Eurasian economy that until the time when my parents were in their early teens, it had gone a millennium without an immigrant culture of sufficient size to be prominent and self-sustaining over multiple generations?

This is nonsense, even if you're approaching 110, and your parents were 13 year olds when Darwin was working on On The Origin Of Species. There's been a substantial Chinese (and subsequently mixed-Chinese) population in Liverpool from the middle of the 19th century. Bristol and Liverpool, as twin engines of the slave trade, have had substantial African/Afro-Caribbean populations which can be traced back 400 years, as can Cardiff. This is to say nothing of London, where the Jewish diaspora was officially recognised (and allowed to remain legally) by Oliver Cromwell in 1656. One of them even got lucky enough to be Prime Minister, though it took just over 200 years after Cromwell's edict. Limehouse, in the east end, has had a vibrant Chinese community since the late 19th century. Glasgow also had a significant Jewish population from the early 19th century on (though it's somewhat smaller now than it had been previously).

Oh, and if you don't count Scottish immigration to England – either before, or after the act of union, when I suppose we should really call it simple migration – as being neither sufficient size to be prominent, or having had an impact, then I'm not really sure what to say. I know people like to make jokes about Westminster's Scottish mafia, but out of the 25 Prime Ministers since 1900, seven of them have been Scottish.

All of this is moot, of course, if you mean by "self-sustaining" that they don't dare interact with, marry and have children with, pure-bred Anglo-Saxon specimens. The fact that you also use the phrase "sufficiently fully settled" isn't helping.
posted by Len at 11:18 AM on February 11


Len, I intended that sentence as the opposite of a statement of pride in English ethnic homogeneity, because this is a thread that's raised my hackles as someone from Britain. I just wanted to say to Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey that of course multiculturalism works differently in Britain to in the USA because the countries were formed in different circumstances and that there was no need for him to be so condescending.

I definitely considered some of the migrant groups you mentioned when I was writing that rather convoluted, angry single sentence explanation of England's homogeneity relative to the USA, and I'm really glad to see them all laid out. I definitely do need to apologise for not having addressed migration within the British Isles, and I chose England because that's what PBZM mentioned, and it gave me the chance to describe the continuation of settlement as having lasted for about a millennium.

In terms of me describing myself as English, I intended it as a cultural reference rather than an ethnic one. Ethnically, I'd have to go with the word British, because my family tree comes from all around the island. Including a surname which comes from Cornwall. I take it as a sign of growing multiculturalism that it's getting rarer and rarer that I get asked where my name comes from.

So I hope you understand that that post was intended as a rebuttal to the usual blithe dismissals of multiculturalism in Europe that American MeFites tend to post and that have made it practically impossible to discuss what is happening in terms of ethnic integration in Britain as described by this article.
posted by ambrosen at 12:59 PM on February 11


Speaking as another British person, I didn't think it was all that patronising, really, though it may have been a bit sarcastic. I was more taking issue with your blanket and completely false assertion that "[England] had gone a millennium without an immigrant culture of sufficient size to be prominent and self-sustaining over multiple generations", which is only true if you ignore every single immigrant culture that has arrived in the UK over the 500 years prior to the arrival of the Windrush generation and the influx of immigrants from India and Pakistan in the '50s and '60s.

If you knew about, and "definitely considered some of the migrant groups you mentioned when I was writing that rather convoluted, angry single sentence explanation of England's homogeneity relative to the USA, and I'm really glad to see them all laid out", then why did you completely ignore them? I'd hope you'd have a better reason than the fact that they completely undermined your point.

As for it being "practically impossible" to discuss "what is happening in terms of ethnic integration in Britain as described by this article", what do you think the Daily Mail fills half its pages with? It's discussed all the time – see Mails passim, ad nauseam, as the Eye might say.
posted by Len at 1:58 PM on February 11


The Daily Mail is abhorrent crap. I'm interested exploring whether Britain can actually be as self-congratulatory about its integration of ethnic minority immigrants as the Economist article implies, or whether the true story is that the overall social background in Britain is the festering miasma of xenophobia that readers of the Daily Mail appear to love, and which you think I endorse.

To whit: I want Britain to be an inclusive country. Apart from the fuckwits at UKBA (who have already actually ruined my week), the linked article makes a claim that it is a very inclusive country. I'd like the discussion around this article to have been whether it is true.
posted by ambrosen at 2:43 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


Okay, I totally cop to coming out the gate on this one in pretty much cheap-shot snark mode.

I would honestly be thrilled, as an born New Yorker of Filipino-Irish ancestry, if the English did a much better job at being a mixed-ethnic identity than we 'murricans have.

I mean, I've seen videos of black & south asian Brits showing up to English Defense League rallies wearing Cross of St. George hoodies. Ok, not many of them, but there was a sense of
"We're English, we were born here, our children will be born here, and we don't want no damn Muslim Sharia Law forcing us to circumcise our daughters or requiring all meat in schools to be Halal!

Black, brown, or white, THIS IS ENGLAND and they will not take our Christmas or gurpurbs from us!"
I paraphrase.

But yeah, if the descendants of Cass Pennington get to unironically say "We're a warrior nation" as they charge forward in the name of St. George & the Queen to stomp some fellow football hoolies from the traditional enemies like France or Germany, well... I would have to call that a qualified win on the race front.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:38 AM on February 13


« Older Jimmy Fallon signs off The Late Show with an homag...  |  The Made Up Words Project... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments