November 23, 2006

Malena, Sunny Hundal and the New Generational Network

Sunny Hundal is fast becoming one of the most interesting writers about British multiculturalism around- through both his own blog pickled politics and his Guardian columns, he puts forward a view of racism which is nuanced and interesting. Hundal for example in his latest column for the Guardian asks his readers to do two things: firstly he asks them to quite clearly stand against racist organisations even when they are from minority groups- marching alongside Hitzb Ul Tahrir against racism, he notes is absurd. On the other hand he wants us to acknowledge that though there are legitimate questions about minority faiths and how they treat people, there are also ways of framing those questions- comparing Muslims to dogs for example or assumptions about other groups- which are racist.

Hundal is an interesting example of the increasing and welcome subtlety and thoughtfulness of the debate. As in the film Malena for example where a minority group turns upon one of its own, notice that in that film a supposedly promiscuous woman is attacked not by men but by women who see her promiscuity as a threat to their preeminence under their husbands. They seek to safeguard their own position as wives (an inferior position but still a position) by isolating the slut of the city. Similarly awarding people from faith or representative groups power because they've appointed themselves chiefs of disadvantaged minorities is actually creating a Malena like problem- where those awarded with positions, however inferior within society, turn on those often within their own group who have no position to maintain- often that's young women in this case. Often such groups gain power from the racist assumption that there is a single Muslim or single black view on an issue, a thesis that happens not merely to be racist but is definitely in the case of Muslims, as I've documented elsewhere wrong. Sunny's perception of this though, as he is right to say, shouldn't lead us to deny racism just as the idea that there is "Asian" racism doesn't effect the evils that "White" racism has perpetrated and continues to effect.

Sunny Hundal's view and the New Generational Network offer therefore a positive model for reinterpreting and looking at race in Britain- moving away from unquestioning acceptance of any ally and adherance to any community leader- but not moving away from the fact that there are still problems to do with race in Britain. Specific policy programs haven't come out of this- largely because its about the way that we view racism not the way we view the policy of racism. We have made mistakes in policy because of the way that we've treated racism- the elevation of a man like Iqbal Sacranie to national prominence despite his opposition to free speech in the Rushdie case just because he happened to lead the Muslim Council of Britain might be cited as one of them. The New Generational Network's attempt to reposition race policy on the basis that we are all individuals, that racism still exists and must be combatted and that individuals can't be represented by self appointed opinion groups but must be treated as individuals- is to be welcomed. They've done a good job and I hope thinking through their ideas results in a way forward to combat racism of all kinds and prejudice within minority communities- without as Hundal rightly enjoins us not to giving up the fight to make whites see other races as their equals.

This new maturity in the discussion about racism is to be praised. Let's hope the government listen to it...