Slavery’s Legacy Continues With Shadeism

Defined as a legacy of slavery; ‘shadeism’ is a form of skin tone bias, one that identifies groups and individuals on the basis of their degree of pigmentation. This distinction between shades of brown is thought to be much more pronounced within communities rather than between those of different ethnicities. To this end, shadeism is not particularly thought to be a form of racism, but rather a form of disunity; one that through mainstream ideals of beauty promotes self-hatred and low self-esteem.

“Going back to slavery and all that, if you were lighter, you were in the masters house, whereas if you were dark you’d be out in the field to do more work,” said Juliyaa, on how she believes these distinctions between shades began. “You’ve got a whole culture, three, four, five generations where shade is pivotal.”

Being judged on things such as the shade of your skin seems to have trickled down through the ages, resulting in ideals that are seemingly ingrained in individuals of all shades, cultures and nationalities.

These ideals are arguably forever perpetuated by the media, one that tends to – on the whole – embrace races which are predominantly white, or lighter. “It’s always the Beyoncé’s, the Halle Berry’s, the lighter versions of the black community that are portrayed in popular culture,” was the resounding argument made by every single one of the various shades of brown that were spoken to.

This is arguably further perpetuated by the beauty industry who have recognized people’s insecurities surrounding the colour of their skin and have been steadily releasing a multitude of products aimed at helping people to change this aspect of themselves.

Bleaching creams are, as a result, a phenomena that is by no means limited to the black community, but rather rears its head in a variety of countries across the globe.

“It seems to be an ingrained way of European beauty,” suggests Juliyaa, a half Ghanian, half Welsh woman who defines herself as light skinned. “I think maybe in ancient cultures a different form of beauty was idolized,” she added. “But now it’s very much European-looking people at the top – that’s probably why popular culture has shifted to European-looking black people or people of colour.”

Haris Adu, a man who defines himself as dark skinned suggests that this may be due to the fact that magazines “like that” are predominantly for the mainstream. “Mainstream being the white audience,” he went on to clarify.

“Not to say that black or Asians don’t pick up an ‘OK Magazine’ but the majority of people who read any of those magazines will probably be 18 to maybe late 20’s or beyond, and they’ll probably be women of a white, British nature. So obviously if that’s your target market then you have to appeal to them… and portray things in a way which they feel is not going to alienate any of their readers.”

“Maybe it’s a reflection of a more deep seeded, cultural, accepted racism that a lot of people aren’t aware of,” he concluded.

This is arguably inherent in the media, with Isha Victoria- a girl who defines herself as dark skinned – further advocating that the majority of girls who appear in music videos, films and magazines in general are often lighter skinned. She went on to add that although there does tend to be a dark skinned friend, in much of these instances she appears to be portrayed as more quiet and studious.

Juliyaa suggests that this may be due to the fact that even the word ‘black’ as a concept “inherently leaves us at a deficit.” She argued that ‘black’ is associated with darkness, with blindness, with evilness, while ‘white’ is associated with light, angels and happy things. “A lot needs to be expanded upon to really get us to a place where we can see black as a positive thing.”

This is something that author Marita Golden also picked up on in her book “Don’t Play In The Sun – One Woman’s Journey Through The Colour Complex,” in which she suggested that at its root, the colour complex is about words. She went on to cite the “Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary,” in which, among other things ‘black’ was defined as “soiled or stained with dirt, evil, wicked, marked by disaster or misfortune” whereas ‘white,’ among other things, was defined as “auspicious or fortunate, morally pure, innocent, without malice.”

This idea that the lighter the better is suggested to be ingrained from a young age, with Isha suggesting that low self-esteem based on the shade of ones skin often comes from childhood or playground bullying.

“I think from a young age if you hear ‘oh you’re so dark,’ or ‘oh let’s turn off the lights so we can’t find you,’ I think if you hear that for a long time from when you’re young you’ll start to believe it.”

This, for women, is arguably perpetuated by the images portrayed in the media, as well as the difficulty in finding make up to suit your shade – in particular items such as foundation or lip-gloss. “All that kind of stuff impacts on why people resort to skin bleaching,” she suggested. A solution that is often very easy to come across as a lot of beauty suppliers sell such products under the counter. “If you ask for it, they’ll give it to you,” she revealed.

Isha went on to add: “if you only see certain girls being held as pretty then you’re thinking ‘oh okay, I can’t possibly be then.’ And then if you combine it with simple things like make up I think it makes it a lot more difficult.”

This is made all the more so by the ideals of beauty that are portrayed in the media, ideals that are often very hard, if not impossible to reach. “I had a friend who felt she was fat,” revealed Thaniya of her size ten friend. “She thought she was fat because she didn’t have that gap that white girls have in between their legs.”

In addition to the ideas that people may have of themselves based on the shade of their skin tone, the stereotypes that surround each different shade also speak volumes.

“I haven’t heard any derogatory things about light skinned people like you would about blonde people,” said Thaniya, before going on to add that despite this, they’re often thought to be easier to get into bed than darker skinned girls; a stereotype that Isha is also familiar with:

“I’ve heard light skin girls are easy,” she said, “whereas dark skinned girls have attitude, they’re hard to get with.” She went on to give an example of the multitude of times she’s been told, “you’re pretty for a dark skinned girl,” adding that both guys and girls have been found to say and think things of that nature.

Thaniya, another girl who defines herself as dark skinned, as had similar experiences. “I’ve never been discriminated for being dark skinned,” she reveals, “but yes, the lighter girls do get a) more attention from boys, and b) more opportunities. I don’t know why,” she added. “That’s just been my experience.”

These stereotypes are often supported with real life instances, with black men such as Haris conveying that often they don’t find the darker skinned girls attractive. “To say that maybe myself and people I know would find more light skinned people attractive, that would probably be true, he said. Although he was unable to provide any concrete reason as to why that may be the case.

Isha sees this in a different light, however, arguing that often, when black girls say that black men don’t find them attractive, they tend to be talking about the musicians, footballers and basketball players who arguably tend to marry women of lighter shades.

“I don’t think that’s got anything to do with them going out and being like ‘I’ve just signed a five million dollar contract, I’m going to go scout for white girls,’” she said, but it rather being a case of where these types of men socialize. “They’re more likely to come across European women… strictly because if you’re in America or in the UK you’re a minority as a black woman.”

These distinctions between shades of brown are thought to be much more pronounced within communities rather than between those of different ethnicities, with many of the girls revealing that they were often complimented on their complexion by Europeans, rather than ever by African or Caribbean people.

“When I went to University quite a few people were like ‘oh my God your skin looks so good,’” revealed Isha, “and I was like ‘really? Nobody’s ever told me that before.” This is something that Juliyaa also experienced, revealing that her main difficulty has often been feeling accepted within the black community.

Representation in the media is argued to be an important facet in terms of shadeism and, within that, an individuals self esteem, with many, such as Juliyaa suggesting that it must be hard for people to see that they are not represented in mainstream culture.

This is an aspect that Isha also picked up on, suggesting that artists like Beyoncé are often role models to young girls, and that the fact that they are often thought to be lightened in magazines and advertisements is sure to have consequences on the youth who look up to them. “I think if people are going to cut their hair, or get extensions, or dye their hair red because Rihanna or Beyoncé did it, if they see them as lighter skinned they’ll also wish to follow suit.”

“It’s all to do with the media,” argued Thaniya. “What people want to see, or what they think people want to see. And also what they want to sell. Do they want to sell this big dark skinned person? I don’t think they really do.”

Juliyaa went on to suggest that this lack of representation of different shades is less pronounced in an American context. “I don’t think mainstream UK media know that it’s an issue within African and Caribbean communities,” suggests Isha. “I think it’s just like ‘oh you guys are all black anyway so it doesn’t really matter.”

The presence of black people of varying shades in the US media is argued to be much more prominent, with Juliyaa, Isha, Thaniya and Haris all suggesting that the US tends to give a much more balanced view.

“I think there’s probably more black middle class and darker women who are quite pro-blackness and stuff in America,” Juliyaa suggested, “but I don’t think that’s really happened here yet. I don’t think Britain has had its revolution yet.”

She went on to suggest that this may be due to the fact that colour is so enmeshed in American history, generations of fighting for equality and progression that hasn’t particularly occurred in the UK – “that’s probably why we don’t have a sense of blackness, a sense of heritage like they do,” she concluded.

But shadeism isn’t only an issue within the black community, but one that is prevalent in various cultures. The colour complex is arguably a massive concern within other cultures, such as the Asian community. Sahar, a half Iranian, half Kenyan girl explains how her Iranian mother remarried into a Pakistani family for whom shade was a massive issue.

“They believe fairness represents wealth and beauty, whilst dark skin tones do the complete opposite,” she revealed, going on to add that when her male step-cousins got married “all they looked for was skin tone… they would go for the fairest girl with the most ugly features, yet still deem her beautiful because of the shade of her skin.”

This just goes to show that the media aren’t the only ones responsible for people’s perceptions of themselves. This argument is supported by Juliyaa, who suggests that the shade of ones skin isn’t really an issue for those who have been “affirmed” by their families or by their cultures. She went on to add, “If your dad says that you’re the most beautiful girl in the world you will believe him, hands down… And then as the person grows up they become conscious of what the outside world is trying to project, but their inner being is comfortable with who they are.”

This, of course, can have the opposite reaction if families are the ones perpetuating the belief that the lighter, the better, as in the case of Sahar,

“The women of my stepdad’s family are unbelievably pale,” she revealed. “In comparison to that I am of course, seen as dark, and they’ve let that be known since I was a young age. My stepdad’s mother used to refer to me as “kaali” which means ‘black’ or ‘dirty’.”

Sahar went on to reveal that she was gifted ‘fair and lovely’ cream – a bleaching cream – for her 15th birthday. “[My stepfather’s sister] would scrub me with papaya and lemon juice then make me sit with the cream on for an hour every single day for about a month,” she revealed, of the measures the family would go to in their belief that the lighter, the better.

Arguably these ideals of beauty are thought to be changing, aided partly by the fact that we are living in an increasingly globalized world; one in which we are six times more likely to be of mixed heritage than our parents are. The United Kingdom in particular is said to have one of the fastest growing mixed-race populations in the world.

This is further facilitated by the advent of technology. “I think once Africa goes super speed broadband, fiber optic cables, we’ll all be changing all over the world,” suggests Juliyaa. Increased communication and with it an increased understanding for different cultures and beliefs sure to arise as a result.

Finding make-up to suit all shades of skin – a facet that was raised as an issue for those suffering from low self-esteem based on the shade of their skin – has also arguably become much easier over recent years, with Isha citing Mac and Bobby Brown as the top two brands who supply make-up for varying shades.

One question that requires some attention is; what could be done to speed up this process and give more people the belief that the shade of your skin does not comprise who you are as a person.

“Education in terms of enlightening people – that this is what they do to make you look lighter and stuff like that,” suggests Haris. “It’s not necessarily what beauty is, it’s just part of it – but if you’re not this, then don’t think you’re not beautiful or not attractive.”

At the end of the day “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” – but are these the far-reaching consequences when the beholder’s eye is tainted with a bombarding of images carefully tailored to suit a specific ideology and dynamic?

“I am a black girl in a culture that convinces even the white girls I once fantasized about being that they are never quite enough. White, yes, but never ever thin or pretty enough,” wrote Marita Golden in “Don’t Play In The Sun.” And, arguably, this is the whole crux of the problem.


Should police officers be armed?

A foray in the United States confirmed what many already knew, Americans are deathly afraid of their police force. Why? Undoubtedly because they are armed to the teeth with artillery. Our police force? Not so much. As evidenced by the mass riots which took place in London just over a year ago, and the more recent death of two police officers in Manchester at the hands of gun crime…

“Your police officers don’t have guns?!” exclaimed a group of thoroughly shocked Americans during the course of one of our UK vs. US comparisons, before going on to add that if US police officers didn’t have guns there would be anarchy twenty-four-seven.

It’s the single, stand out feature that produces a wealth of a gap between the British police and their counterparts in other countries. And yet it remains thoroughly unremarkable to the British public. That is, until unarmed officers like Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone are shot dead in the line of duty.

But would an arming of the police result in any positive repercussions?

Home secretary Theresa May suggests that it wouldn’t, stating “I think we are clear we have a British model of policing that is one that our police very much support… I don’t think this is the time to be calling for the arming of police.”

But what is the logic behind this?

In a country where there are 90 guns for every 100 Americans and around 85 fatal shootings a day, it would make no sense for the police not to be armed, when the public themselves are.

But in the UK, a country where firearms are tightly controlled by the law, with only 388 firearm offences in which there was a fatal or serious injury in 2010-11, do we really need to introduce such a final decision making of a weapon into the police force?

Arguably, why fight fire with a grenade if the fire can be put out with less extreme of a method?

Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy supported this notion, arguing: “We are passionate that the British style of policing is routinely unarmed policing. Sadly we know from the experience in America and other countries that having armed officers certainly does not mean, sadly, that police officers do not end up getting shot.”

This is a position shared by 82% of the Police Federation members who were asked their stance on the situation in a survey carried out in 2006.

Undeniably, the public should feel some element of fear towards the police. But is a gun really necessary in order to instill that? Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg suggested that arming the force would bring with it a big change in policing culture, one that could bring with it considerable risks, with several suggesting that this would undermine the principle of policing by consent, and would send the message that the force owes its primary duty to the state, rather than to the public.

And, question of fear aside, why put dangerous elements onto the road even more than they are already present? Carrying a gun brings with it the responsibility to shoot, if need be. It also brings with it the responsibility of protecting that gun, lest it be used against you.

But many disagree. Darren Rathband, twin brother of police officer David Rathband who was shot and blinded by a fugitive said, “How many officers need to die before the powers realise that it is the 21st century and you cannot fight crime with an outdated piece of plastic and a bit of spray.”

What do you guys think? Does an eye for an eye make the whole world blind, or do the police really need to have a one up?

As written for SB.TV

Loving Home VS Ethnic Match?

There is no “more urgent task” for the government than speeding up the process of adoption and tackling the “absurd barriers” to mixed-race adoption, David Cameron recently said.

This comes hand in hand with new plans that aim to create a “fairer, faster” adoption process, following research that found that black children wait an average of twice as long as their white counterparts to be adopted.

“We want to make it clearer that ethnic matching should not automatically be an overriding consideration in the matching process,” said a No 10 spokeswoman.

But should it be one? Selina, a Jamaican born, London based woman who was raised in a variety of different foster homes when she was younger argues that the decision is a difficult one.

“In an ideal world it would be nice I guess,” she said, when asked if she thought children should be raised in a household with parents of the same culture and heritage as themselves. “But I think it’s more important that kids are part of a family being really looked after and belonging to something as opposed to on the sidelines, waiting to be picked up.”

This is particularly poignant due to research that shows that the outcomes for children raised in care remain shockingly poor, with 53 per cent leaving school without a single GCSE and only one per cent reaching university (as opposed to 40 per cent of their peers). It has also been found that adults who grew up in care comprise 23 per cent of prison inmates, despite the fact that they account for only one per cent of the general population.

This is something that came as no surprise to Selina, having been accustomed to it while growing up. “A lot of the children… especially black children that came in and out of the homes had a really tough time, and really went off the rails,” she revealed. “I can’t say many of them didn’t go down sort of bad paths really.”

This is something she suggests may be due to the lack of identity instilled in them from a young age. “I think it’s important for people…” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of children in the care system who have almost jumped on a race thing when they get to a certain teenage age because they want to be accepted and they want to identify with something. And the stereotypes that they then start trying to identify with aren’t necessarily the best ones”

“I think if you can consistently just let people know about different aspects of who they are or where they’re from,” she went on to say, “and then just let them decide who they want to become.”

This is something that Antonia’s adoptive parents made sure to do. Born to Colombian Christian parents, Antonia was adopted at the age of six months old to American Jews.

“Catholicism has always been spiritually an important factor to my life. I was born a Catholic, my birth mother was Catholic and over 80% of the people in Colombia are Catholic too. My adopted parents are Sephardic Jews and raised me to make my own decisions on religion and spirituality. They never forced me into a religion but educated me on various faiths.”

This was something they ensured by sending Antonia to two Church of England schools and a Catholic school during her youth. “As a child I would go to Synagogue with my family for all the major holidays. December 25th we always celebrate Christmas. My parents attend mass to support me and we only decorate our tree with angels. The angels that hang from the branches are all multi-racial and international.”

Instilling a sense of ones culture and faith when it doesn’t match your own isn’t always so easy, however. “In some ways, I can see how it would help,” said Selina on the importance of a child’s heritage matching that of their adoptive parents. “My foster family had all daughters with long glossy manes like the shampoo advert, but I remember them having to get my hair shaved at the barbers, unsure basically, what to do with it.”

Selina went on to reveal how she used to have to wait for a black member of staff to come on duty at the children’s homes in order to have her hair washed or combed or for the right cream to be used on her black skin. “But these days people are more exposed to things and everything should be more accessible,” she added.

This is particularly poignant as a study conducted last year by the Institute of Social and Economic Research at Essex University revealed that ten per cent of children are now of mixed or multiple heritage, and are six times more likely to be mixed-race than adults.

“People mix more, and are more exposed to different cultures… it’s all more accessible,” said Selina on whether she believed this to still be as large a problem. “When I was younger, there wasn’t much representation. If you weren’t in a black family, you weren’t really seeing much of black people beyond the athletes.”

She went on to suggest that it would now be a lot easier for families of a different race to their adopted children to have contact and support as well as the increased ability to gauge what issues affect different nationalities or ethnicities.

This is reportedly something social services help with. “Culture and race are a very important part of the assessment process,” revealed the manager of Diverse Care – a small, independent fostering agency based in Leytonstone, East London. She went on to reveal that as well as training carers on diversity issues; monthly checks are also conducted to ensure that the cultural needs of the child are met.

In addition, the spokeswoman revealed that if a child is placed with a family from another ethnic group, provisions can and are made for their cultural needs. “We ensure that there are links within the community that will be able to provide the child with the proper food and language skills,” she revealed, going on to provide an example of an African child who was recently placed with Asian carers. “We looked at the community in which they lived. We found other African people, an African church… people who could help instill in him a sense of his own identity.”

This is, however, harder in some areas than others, as she went on to reveal -citing in particular the example of carers who live in predominantly white areas where there aren’t really any other ethnic groups present. “Then there is an element of isolation,” she explains. “But in places like East London where we are based, there are people of all ethnic backgrounds. So no one will stick out.”

But, regardless, identity will always be something an adopted child struggles with, regardless of whether or not their adoptive parents come from the same culture or faith as them. Diverse Care’s spokesperson supported this notion, suggesting that there are always identity issues – even in mixed race families where the children are not adopted. “A lot of them see themselves as black rather than white. There is no firm identity of ‘oh, I am mixed race’ – a lot of them don’t know what to identify themselves as.”

This is further evidenced by Antonia’s experience: “I had issues with identity as a teenager. I would stare at myself in the mirror and not know where I got what from. Do I have my mother’s eyes? Why are my ears so small? I definitely have my dad’s nose…”

This issue with identity and in trying to find out who we are is arguably something all teenagers go through, regardless of whether adopted or not. Selina, now a mother of two supports this, arguing: “even within families, as soon as we hit our teen years, we start forming our own beliefs and culture anyway.”

The extent to which this differs depends on the attitude of the parents, as well as the society in which the child is raised.

“He always felt out of place,” said Hajar on her half Saudi, half Phillipino cousin who had been adopted by her grandmother in Saudi Arabia.

“I think if he grew up in London he wouldn’t have faced half of the issues that he faced,” she said, on the cousin who now perms his hair and has changed his name in an effort to appear more Arab.

Having grown up in a Bedouin, tribal society such as Saudi Arabia, Hajar went on to explain the differences in adoption legislation in the Gulf. “All the rights they give the child in the west isn’t the same at all. Its just that they live under your roof, you take care of them, you raise them, they go to school,” she explained.

Adoptive legislation in the Gulf region tends to resemble more of a foster-parent relationship. This is signified in the term itself, with the corresponding Islamic term for what is commonly called adoption: “kafala.” This, essentially means, “to feed.” The rules surrounding this relationship specify that, among other things, an adopted child retains their own biological surname and cannot inherit from their adoptive parents.

Seif’s sense of identity was made all the worse by society’s exclusion of him. “When we used to go play in the playgrounds people would say to him ‘what are you doing here, Phillipino child’ to his face… Society especially made him feel like an outsider,” she recalled.

But this type of identity crisis is not limited to Gulf countries with strict legislation and societal standards. Diverse Care’s spokeswoman went on to reveal that such cases do also arise in more Western countries such as the UK. She cited the example of a black African boy who just couldn’t accept his identity or his culture; revealing how he had bleached his skin and changed his name in an effort to find his identity, before eventually ending up in counseling.

“If you’re going to adopt someone okay, but try and do it in the right way so that they grow up to be the best person that they can be. It’s up to the person that’s adopting the child to make sure of that. To make sure they’re growing up in the right environment so that their ethnicity doesn’t have to clash with the families,” Hajar argued.

But in taking into consideration the importance of the child’s identity and their sense of belonging, what can be done to ameliorate the plight of children in care? And will the new legislation have an impact on the actual process of adoption?

Many argue no. “I would imagine that it would come more down to budgets and things,” suggested Selena. “It’s just one less barrier to making sure they get the right family and getting children off the books quickly.”

The manager of Diverse Care doesn’t really think the new legislation will hold much weight, either. “Most agencies will continue to match carer and child because we believe that’s in the best interest of the child,” she explained. “We believe children’s needs come first, and culture and race play a very important role in the identity of the child.”

“At the end of the day, we’re all human beings,” argued Hajar. “Look at Angelina Jolie for example – she’s got the United Colours of Benetton… at the end of the day we’re all human beings.”

The lesser of two evils? A loving home. Every time.

Should artists have their music released after they die?

At a time where technology allows the resurrection of musics late, great artists, the likes of Tupac to reappear unblemished before us via hologram, and posthumous albums emerge seemingly from nowhere, is there anything left sacred? And should Drake – or anyone, for that matter – be releasing music on someone else’s behalf?

With the emergence of ‘Enough Said’ several days ago – Aaliyah’s ‘duet’ with Drake on the Noah “40” Shebib produced track – the interwebs erupted and divided into two very clear sects; those who believed the track is awesome, and those who believed that Drake’s Aaliyah super fan status did not attribute him worthy to executive produce her posthumous album, and that someone like Timbaland or Missy Elliott should instead be awarded the honour.

But, the question of who is the reverse grim-reaper aside, perhaps it’s more important to consider if it’s ever acceptable to release someone’s music after they die. After all, isn’t their music the gift awarded to them, and us in turn? Shouldn’t they be the ones to decide how to package and present it?

This question is all the more important with new information which reveals that Aaliyah’s family have denied any and all involvement in her posthumous album. ”There is no official album being released and supported by the Haughton family,” said the late singer’s brother, Rashad Haughton.

Having obtained some of Aaliyah’s previously unreleased vocal tracks, Young Money’s Drake added his own verse in which he brags about his watch, laments various first world pains and appears to further diss Chris Brown after their brawl in a nightclub several months ago.

The extent of or lack of Drake’s prowess is not something that particularly needs to be covered in this discussion but, who said Aaliyah wants any of that on one of her tracks?! (Who said she was happy with those vocals to begin with or that she wanted them heard by the world?) But more importantly – who is Drake to change the legacy Aaliyah left behind?

Music producer Flying Lotus appears to feel the same way, saying “When I’m dead, don’t mess with my music. Don’t be having whoever ‘finish’ my demos n shit. Fuck that.”

Someone once said: “art is the desire of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in,”and as such, what emerges his wholly personal, and special, and private. That art and the people who bare their souls to provide this art become stars and phenomenons should not take away from the heart of the matter. Namely, that art is a form of expression, and as such, that the power, or the meaning, or the substance behind it should not be borrowed, or lent, or stolen.

Written for SB.TV

Gold medals won by multiculturalism – should immigrants be expected to adapt to host?

Just over ten years ago UK Home Secretary David Blunkett urged immigrants to adopt “British norms of acceptability” and develop a greater sense of belonging in the UK. But should they be expected to do so in a country, and a world, that prides itself on being multicultural?

In the wake of a multicultural society, one in which all three of the Olympic gold medals won by Team Great Britain were won by those perhaps not typically of ‘Great British’ descent, what does this mean for the abundance of immigrants that make and have made their homes on UK land?

The difficulty in ascertaining what exactly a British identity is, is in itself an important question. Is there even a defined British identity to which immigrants must assimilate? Aside from the fact that we are reportedly six times more likely to be of mixed heritage than our parents are, the fact that Britain was for so long a colonialist country arguably in itself muddies the British identity as it is, in itself, one that has become more and more mixed.

This is aside from the fact that in a world where transportation links have become increasingly more accessible and travel has become commonplace, what is stopping people going out in search of a better life for themselves and their families? Whereas in the past people would travel from the countryside to the city in search of better work and better opportunities for their families, todays equivalent of country dwellers can hop on a train, or a boat, or a plane, to take them to wherever they perceive there to be better opportunities for themselves. Should this move mean they have to adapt to the norms of their new surroundings?

This is particularly poignant in that these additions to the country bring with them their experiences, their skills and their views on life, which, if incorporated could arguably prove beneficial to the host countries. The UK would arguably not be the county it is without the mass contributions of its immigrant populations.

In addition to the fact that an increased amount of immigrants results in an increased work force for the country, it has been proven that immigrants are more willing to do low paid jobs or ones that people in the host country cannot do. To this end they have been found to frequently meet skill shortages in areas such as the health sector, where over 30% of doctors and well over 10% of nurses are non-UK born. In education, overseas teachers play a large role in staffing schools, with an increasing number of London education authorities directly recruiting staff from overseas.

Immigrants have also been found to work for longer hours and for lower salaries – factors which, although controversial and at times lead to exploitation – are arguably benefits for the host country. Those that move to the UK to employment are paying taxes that go to the British people – taxes that stay behind whether or not the immigrant themselves do.

This is made all the poignant by the fact that economic migrants are “self-selecting,” meaning that they made a conscious choice to migrate in order to find work. In a UK Government Home Office study Glover suggested that this would mean they are more likely to be more resourceful, entrepreneurial and ambitious than the average person.

Of course, this is not always the case. Arguably some immigrants either come from cultures that are worlds away from the British way of life, or are wholly unwilling or unable to partake in the host country.

To this end, it could be argued that the immigrants should at least try as, as one person put it “I say any country you think is worth entering a boat in the middle of the night for, swimming across the Atlantic and selling all you have to move to, any country that you decide is worth settling in to better yourself…the least you can do for that country is be decent and adapt to its norms and obey its laws.”

This applies almost directly to those who, in moving to another country refuse to adapt in any way. Arguably the most basic and fundamental aspect of adapting to a culture is learning the language, but recent research suggests that even many second or third generation immigrants speak or understand hardly any English.

Perhaps it is unfair to assume that everyone should speak English, but to move to a country where that is the predominant language and not at least attempt to make the words familiar to your ears or your tongue could be supremacist in itself. As above, why bother moving to a country if you are unwilling to play any part in its progression, or your own?

The importance in at least attempting to adapt is evident in much of France’s societal problems, which can, at least in part be attributed to the fact that their immigrants are so wholly unassimilated into the society and live in ‘banlieues’ at the edge of the city.

The banlieues in Paris house hundreds of thousands of French citizens who originate mostly from North African descent – ones who partially due to feeling completely uninvolved from the society they live in have contributed to mass civil unrest, most notably that of Autumn 2005 where much of the banlieues youth took part in a series of riots.

Therefore assuming that feeling like part of the society is important both for the countries and the immigrant’s well being, the question remains, whose responsibility is it to ensure that this is the case?

The immigrants. Just as you wouldn’t go into someone else’s house and expect to abide by your own rules, arguably you shouldn’t expect to go into another country and bring all your baggage with you. Especially as in as much as the UK is a free country, the demands it makes on its citizens are not really too hard to abide by. France and its ban of the veil, for example, is arguably much more forceful in its need for its immigrants to adapt to the status quo of the country.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia can also be said to impose their views on the expats and the visitors that frequent their countries, raising the question of why should the UK with its arguably much more lax requirements be expected to adapt to the culture of each and every resident that finds sanctuary on its land? Would it not be easier if those who have made the decision to seek it there, trim their edges in order to live a more harmonious life?

In saying that, at the end of the day we are all human beings and the differences between us, despite coming from different cultures or different religions are not entirely and wholly that different. Arguably it is possible to adapt without being a hypocrite to your beliefs and without having to wholly give them up.

As one UK resident of Pakistani descent said: “The idea is integration. Not wholly giving up one thing for another but rather remembering who you are and where you come from and where you currently live and finding a balance between all three.”

For as much as the argument of a free speech and a free country remains, and aside from the fact that some immigrants are uprooted due to factors out of their control, why move to another country if you are unwilling to give or take, anything? Just as love and growth and any relationship requires compromise, so does a life outside our own minds.

Are we taking the human aspect out of communication?

With the advent of new technology like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogging sites, which serve to forever change the ways in which we communicate and share our stories, perhaps it should come as no surprise that the number of phone calls made are found to be in serious decline, while texting is going up…

For the first time in history the volume of calls from mobiles and landlines has fallen. Media regulator Ofcom recently published a report that found that the total number of texts sent in the UK topped 150 billion in 2011, whereas calls from landlines fell by 10%, and calls from mobile phones also went into reverse.

But what kind of impact does this have on our communication? It’s no secret that in a world who’s pace is forever quickening, we have less and less time to communicate with those around us – eyes down, headphones in on the tube we stare blankly ahead. Reaching for our phones we snap photos and type quick 140 character blurbs of how we’re feeling, what we’re doing and who we’re seeing. BBMing and whatsapping away, all the while ignoring the vibrating, screaming phone calls which seem more and more to feel like an intrusion into the bubble we’ve found ourselves in.

This is something James Thickett – Ofcoms director of research also picked up on. “We are all familiar with the sight of people looking down, brows furrowed, tapping on a plastic screen,” he said. “What we are seeing is different ways of keeping in touch. Smartphones and tablets have substituted for making voice calls. It’s about convenience.”

But what about the seven hour phone calls late into the night with your best friend or your boo? The epic teenage phone calls when you used to speak about anything and everything. Can texting, or tweeting, or emailing really replace that? And what about when you’re trying to get a point across, debate an issue or solve an argument, is the anonymity that hiding behind a screen provides really going to help us in the future in terms of being able to speak eloquently or get our points across effectively?

“I’ll be surprised if, in the next 24 months, we don’t see people in the market place with data-only plans,” AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said at a conference in June. “I just think that’s inevitable.”

Undoubtedly everyone wants to be heard, it’s a facet of human nature. But are we killing the art of communication? Are we taking the human aspect out of it by so blatantly ignoring the phone call? Can words on a screen replace the crinkling of the phone line as stories are exchanged, or the changes in octaves that come before or after a laugh? Does the need to be in control of every syllable, every sound we make come before the need for real human contact?

And maybe the real question is, are we really that busy? Or do we just think we are?

As written for SB.TV

Changing the law on forced marriage.

For many of us the summer months represent a time of freedom, where days are endless and filled with the things that we want to do. But for 1468 people last year, this wasn’t, and will never be the case. Instead, they found themselves forced into marriages they had never agreed to, with people they had never met…

“For some, summer represents a life they haven’t chosen, and don’t know how to avoid,” was the opening statement made by FCO Minister Alistair Burt at the launch of the Right To Choose Campaign yesterday.

Launched in an effort to raise awareness to the all too real reality that faces the youth, the summer holidays have been found to be the peak time in which young people are taken overseas and forced into marriages against their will. Often, they’re told they’re going on holiday to visit family, but once there, are isolated and unable to escape from the wedding, and the life that has been arranged for them.

FCO Minister Alistair Burt went on to reveal that the Prime Minster has already announced plans to make forced marriage illegal, but that the legislation itself is not enough.

Despite the fact that everyone in Britain, whichever religion or beliefs they adhere to, has the right to choose whether they wish to get married and who they wish to get married to, more often than we think – people are forced into marriage. Sometimes to someone they dislike or have never met. Sometimes they are too young to get married. Sometimes they are lesbian or gay and don’t want to marry someone of the opposite sex. Sometimes, they have no choice.

Therefore, in an effort to further raise awareness of the risks, and of the fact that help is available, three heart-wrenching and hard hitting short films have been developed to highlight the devastating effects forced marriage can have, and to remind young people that if they or someone they know are in danger, they are not totally helpless, and that help can and will be administered.

In the first six months of 2012, the FMU has given advice or support related to 747 possible forced marriage cases, with a 26% increase in the last month alone. At this age, and in the cultures where such instances are most common, a parents word is often the final one. This campaign, however, aims to raise awareness that this does not necessarily need to be the case, and that if you or someone you know are in such a situation, you are not alone.

Based on an amalgamation of real life scenarios and emotions, the hard-hitting clips remind young people to speak up if they think they or someone they know are close to danger.

Joint Head of the Forced Marriage Unit Amy Cumming implored: “Every day in the unit we see the devastating impact forced marriage has on individuals. Many of the victims who contact us have experienced horrendous sexual and physical violence. They endure intense pressure in many forms – whether emotional, financial or otherwise. Forced marriage affects many communities and cultures. Today, I’m strongly urging people to back the Right to Choose campaign: don’t leave it too late – call our helpline and get advice.”

This is not a case of see, speak, hear no evil. Doing nothing is not the answer.

Show your support for the campaign on Twitter by using the hashtag #RightToChoose
Watch the videos here

Get help

If you suspect that you or someone you know is at risk, call the FMU helpline – (+44) (0)20 7008 0151 – it’s totally confidential and is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You can also email For out of hours emergency advice, call (+44) (0)20 7008 1500 and ask for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Global Response Centre. For more information, visit

As written for SB.TV