Belonging in Britain

Games board counters, all in one group with one of another colour separated

This time I’m trying something different, with a visual journey. Across the UK minorities form clusters, both spatial (e.g. where they live) and social (e.g. friendship groups, clubs based around nationality or sexual orientation). Here I give some background on why this happens, and why we should celebrate rather than integrate these diverse communities.

Swipe to learn more, below or on Instagram.

(Edit: I should add a note for avoidance of doubt that, clearly, my positive affirmation of clustering references chosen clusters.)

  • Belonging in Britain
  • Minorities across the UK form social and spatial clusters, for example friendships or clubs, and racial colocation in cities. Some see this as positive. Others do not. Responses may include calls for integration, or bigotry and moral panic.
  • Expecting others to change to fit your cultural norm shows a blind spot about their lived experience, and your privilege. The reasons for community formation are complex. It is often influenced by both choice and external factors.
  • Studies of UK minority ethnic group clustering show that individuals may reach the same choice through different constraints and preferences. For example, first generation migrants may choose to be close to their culture; the second generation may stay due to external constraints. (Banton, 1983)
  • Sometimes, racist law and policy have forced clustering. US cities are stark examples. Chicago today remains over 70% Black/white segregated due to constraint, not choice*. (Frey, 2018)
  • For social (rather than spatial) clustering, constraints are still important – but it is easier to choose friends than location. Identities can deeply define people, so they gravitate to those who understand them. LGBTQ+ people may refer to this as their “chosen family”.
  • It is telling that we wring our hands not over the clustering of white British people, but over clusters of minorities. “Integration” is a euphemism. It is about expecting people to erase their uniqueness and live unseen. It is about the majority being unwilling to understand the minority. It is about asserting dominance.
  • There are many explanations for clustering. One is Rational Choice Theory, the idea that aggregate individual choices lead to societal structures. Those choices will factor in both constraints (e.g. cost of housing, cultural pressure) and preferences (e.g. desire to be more open about identity).
  • In the UK, clusters occur based on race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, and more, in suburbs, cities and regions. Clusters may enrich society, although sectarian division in Northern Ireland stands out as one problematic exception.
  • Clustering should be seen not as a rejection of society, but as an embracing of identity. People are not one label. We can all be unique and part of the whole. Minority cultures bring richness and diversity – let’s celebrate, not integrate!

References & Attribution

2 responses to “Belonging in Britain”

  1. Russell Dickinson-Deane avatar
    Russell Dickinson-Deane

    Attractive way of presenting the data…a bit like a more interesting PowerPoint presentation.

    A relative said to me last year that they wish we could go back to a simpler time when everyone was the same. What they meant of course was when Britain was overwhelmingly white. But as always, history is seen through a rose-tinted lens by those who have had a comfortable life. In the past, working-class Britons had far more to worry about than whether a Muslim family was going to move next door – actual risk of starvation, diseases running rife, oppression by the monied class – and the fact we now can “worry” about immigration or integration is a luxury.

    What you refer to at the end where people belong to several groups sounds similar to the concept of intersectionality, where you can for example be both black and transgender, or both gay and Muslim – so not exclusively allied (or condemned) to just one cluster.


    PS I couldn’t get it to swipe on Instagram, but I’m not good at insta stories so maybe just me.

    1. Russell, thank you again for another thoughtful and insightful comment! It’s always a pleasure to read your replies 🙂

      Rose tinted glasses are, of course, a huge issue in so many things. I remember one friend around the time of the Brexit vote posting on Facebook saying something along the lines of, “All you folks who want to go back to the 70s, do you actually remember the 70s? Because I do, and they were SHIT. Poverty, racism, strikes, power blackouts…”

      Indeed, this touches on intersectionality. That’s actually a topic I have on my list that I want to write about at some other point, but I tried to limit the focus of this at least a little. Intersectionality really is one of those areas that makes you realise how privileged you are – literally the only “disadvantage” (for want of a much better word) I have when it comes to privilege is that I’m gay, but in EVERY other aspect – family, education, class, race, education, gender etc. – I have won the game of life. It’s actually something I touched on in my first post as well, you may remember.

      Thanks again for engaging… And thanks for the heads-up on Instagram – it’s actually working for everyone else so I think it’s just you! 🙂

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