The spirit of eugenics is still with us, as immigrants know to their cost

Useful reminder of relatively recent history and its contemporary echoes:

Birth control. Intelligence tests. Town planning. Immigration controls. It’s striking how much of contemporary life has been shaped, at least in part, by the eugenics movement, as Eugenics: Science’s Greatest Scandal, a two-part BBC documentary by science writer Angela Saini and disability campaigner Adam Pearson, which began last week, usefully reminds us.

Source: The spirit of eugenics is still with us, as immigrants know to their cost

Kenan Malik: Antisemites use the language of anti-Zionism. The two are distinct

Important to note the distinctions and consequent implications:

Anti-Zionism is antisemitism. So claimed France’s President Emmanuel Macron in a speech last week in which he promised to change policing regulations to criminalise anti-Zionism.

The condemnation of anti-Zionism as antisemitism has a long history, but in recent years has become increasingly accepted by mainstream politicians and organisations. This shift in perspective has taken place against the background of rising antisemitism, from physical attacks to racist tweets, fuelled by both the resurgence of the far-right and the growth of antisemitism on the left. Particularly in sections of the left, anti-Zionism has more and more appropriated, often unrecognised, antisemitic tropes.

All this is undeniably true. Yet, it remains important to resist the equation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

Critics of anti-Zionism observe that Zionism simply expresses the right of Jewish people to self-determination. Just as other peoples, from Armenians to Zimbabweans, have the right to self-determination, so do Jews. To deny that is antisemitic because it is to deny Jews the rights accorded to others. However, the issue is more complex. When Scots voted in their independence referendum in 2016, all residents of Scotland who were over 16, and were British, EU or Commonwealth citizens, had the right to vote. The right to self-determination did not extend to all those of Scottish ancestry living outside Scotland.

The Zionist notion of “self-determination”, on the other hand, embodies the idea that Jews anywhere in the world “self-determine” and that such self-determination relates to a state in which the vast majority of Jews do not and will not live.

Zionism is a form of ethnic, as opposed to civic, nationalism. The distinction between the two is fiercely contested, and often blurred. Many modern states fuse elements of both in nationality and immigration laws. Nevertheless, the distinction between civic and ethnic nationalism is important because they embody contrasting conceptions of national belonging, citizenship, equality and rights.

Israel itself combines aspects of civic and ethnic nationalism. As the late historian Tony Judt put it in an essay for the New York Review of Books, Israel is both a democracy in which non-Jews can be citizens and “a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded” and from which Palestinians grievously suffer. Judt faced great opprobrium for that essay, with many reviling him as “antisemitic” or a “self-hating Jew”.

To oppose Zionism but not other forms of ethnic nationalism would indeed be antisemitic. But to oppose Zionism because one opposes ethnic nationalism is a legitimate view.

Judt, who in early life was a Zionist, came eventually to accept that the only lasting solution would be a single, secular state in which both Jews and Palestinians were treated equally. For anti-Zionists like Judt, “self-determination” in that piece of contested land that is Israel/Palestine should adhere to principles of civic, not ethnic, nationalism; that is, be the self-determination of the people, and only the people, who live there, whether Jews or Palestinians.

This kind of anti-Zionism is very different from that which calls for the “destruction of the state of Israel”, usually (a not very veiled) code for the destruction of Jews. The latter is a form of anti-Zionism that refuses to acknowledge the presence of more than 6 million Jews in Israel/Palestine, whose rights, needs and aspirations are as central as those of Palestinians to any discussion of the region’s future.

There are, in other words, many forms of anti-Zionism, some progressive, some antisemitic. What has shifted is that leftwing ideas of anti-Zionism have become increasingly colonised by antisemitic forms. The reasons are complex, ranging from evolving notions of “anti-imperialism” to the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories.

One key development that has helped foster the shift is the growth of the politics of identity and of the tendency to see “good” and “bad” in terms of the group to which someone belongs and the privileges that they are supposed to possess.

Identity politics has led many to target Jews for being Jews, especially as they are seen as belonging to a group with many privileges to check, and to hold all Jews responsible for the actions of the state of Israel. Many who support the Palestinian cause, including many within the Labour party, seem genuinely unable to distinguish between criticising Israel and sowing hatred against a people.

The elision of anti-Zionism and antisemitism is a feature, then, of both sides of the debate. On the one side, it helps to legitimise antisemitism, on the other to close down debates about Israel and to criminalise genuine struggles for Palestinian rights. We should reject both.

Source: Antisemites use the language of anti-Zionism. The two are distinct

Myths about shared culture have no place in the citizenship debate: Kenan Malik

Interesting and valid reflections that culture has never. been as monolithic as some immigration critics, looking back with nostalgia, imagine:

What links Mike Leigh’s new film, Peterloo, to Donald Trump’s threat to deprive children born to undocumented migrants of the right to US citizenship? It might seem an odd question, best left to Only Connect fans. But answering it helps give an insight into some of the ways we think about immigration and citizenship.

Trump wants to restrict the scope of the 14th amendment, which guarantees citizenship to anyone born on US soil. It’s the latest move in a long history of attacks on “birthright citizenship”, a history defined by a desire to create fears about an “alien” presence and to cast some Americans as not truly belonging to the nation.

There is more to the debate, however, than fearmongering. It speaks to wider questions about the nature of citizenship and of national belonging. It has resonance on this side of the Atlantic too.

The United States, according to Trump, is the only nation “stupid” enough to permit birthright citizenship. In fact, virtually every country in the Americas does so. But not one in Europe. Yet this is not a New World/Old World divide. The roots of both birthright citizenship and opposition to it lie in Europe.

Two broad approaches to citizenship are formally labelled jus soli and jus sanguinis. Jus soli (right of the soil) is the right to citizenship of anyone born in a country. Jus sanguinis (right of blood) defines citizenship as an inheritance through one or both parents, who themselves need be citizens. What Americans call birthright citizenship is jus soli (though both forms of citizenship can be a birthright, automatically conferred at birth).

The distinction between the two has traditionally been seen as that between French and German conceptions of citizenship. The French republican tradition views citizenship from a universalist perspective, without regard for ethnicity or culture. German nationalism draws upon Romantic ideas of the Volk, rooted in a specific history, culture and race.

The reality is more complicated. For a start, the US concept of birthright citizenship derives not from French republicanism but from English common law. More importantly, jus soli and jus sanguinis have long been intertwined in policy. France introduced in the 19th century a “blood” element to citizenship: only those born in France with a French parent are automatically granted citizenship at birth.

In Britain, the 1981 Nationality Act restricted automatic citizenship at birth to those at least one of whose parents was British or had permanent residency rights.

In both countries, wariness about jus soli was driven by the sense that certain groups were incompatible with the nation. In the 19th century, Jews were cast as the unassimilable “other”. More recently, North Africans or West Indians were given that role. Today, it’s often Muslims.

Today, too, such fears have been recast in the debate about populism and social fragmentation. The philosopher Michael Walzer, influential in communitarian and postliberal circles, argues that in the past there existed an organic relationship between the political community and the cultural community. This allowed for “language, history and culture [to] come together… to produce a collective consciousness” and “a world of common meanings”.

Immigration has served to disrupt this, making societies seem more fragmented. For nations to flourish, Walzer insists, they must regulate immigration and citizenship so as to protect their historical and cultural integrity.

The lesson that some, such as the academic Eric Kaufmann, draw from this is the need to employ racial and cultural criteria in selecting immigrants. There is nothing racist, Kaufmann insists, in an immigration policy that seeks to maintain the “white share of the population”. It is a pragmatic response to assuage social anxiety and protect cultural integrity. Fear of populism and the triumph of identity politics have transformed what we imagine is racist.

Enter Peterloo. Leigh’s austere, harrowing portrayal of working-class struggles for democracy does not touch upon the question of immigration. In exposing the fractures of 19th-century Britain, however, it exposes, too, the myth that, until disrupted by immigration, nations existed as organic political and cultural communities defined by a “collective consciousness”. Societies have always ruptured along class, religious, cultural and ideological lines. From the English Civil War to the anti-slavery struggles to the suffragettes to the miners’ strike British history is one of contestation. As is that of all countries. Obsession with immigration has made us blind to that history.

On neither side of the Atlantic will it help in thinking about charged issues around immigration and citizenship to cling to historical myths or be blinkered to the consequences of our answers.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/04/myths-cultural-integrity-no-place-immigration-debate

The New Voice of Indigenous Australia: Malik – The New York Times

Interesting reflections on the Australian Indigenous peoples debate and parallels with the Canadian one (not explored by Malik):

The debate about Indigenous peoples seems — at least to me, an outsider — to take place on only two registers: on one hand, silence; on the other, a romanticization of Indigenous life.

It may seem odd to speak of silence in a nation where the issue of Indigenous rights is so prominent in public life. But silence can come in many forms. The affirmation of Indigenous ownership at public events has become little more than a ritual incantation that allows white Australians to assuage guilt without taking the action necessary to challenge racist marginalization.

Equally troubling is the romanticization. It has become the accepted truth that Indigenous peoples have a culture stretching back 65,000 years. Humans have been on the continent for that long, but no culture extends over such a time span. Today’s Indigenous Australians no more have the same relationship to the spiritual tradition of Dreamtime stories as did those first inhabitants than modern Greeks relate to “The Iliad” in the way their ancient forebears did.

The idea of an unbroken, unchanged culture has a flip side that has always animated racists. It was once used to portray Indigenous Australians, and other nonwhite races, as primitive and incapable of development. Likewise with another common claim: that Indigenous people have a special attachment to the land and a unique form of ecological wisdom. This, too, draws on an old racist trope, a reworking of the “noble savage” myth. The fact that in contemporary debates such ideas are deployed in support, rather than denial, of Indigenous rights does not make them more palatable.

When I raised these issues with Australian academics and activists, many suggested that as someone with a European perspective, I did not grasp the nuances of the Australian debate. That may be true. But many of the issues are global, not local. From America to South Africa, from India to France, questions about the legacies of colonialism, the authenticity of cultural traditions and the meaning of democracy in pluralist societies dominate public debate.

It was fascinating to read an essay by the Indigenous activist Noel Pearson, one of the guiding lights of the Uluru Statement, in which he references the work of Edmund Burke and Johann Herder to buttress his arguments: two 18th-century European philosophers, the first a founder of modern conservatism, the second of the Romantic view of culture. Both are figures whose ideas are central to European debates about multiculturalism, tradition and recognition — common threads that run through the discussions in different continents.

I was struck, also, by the fact that the Uluru delegates had not been elected by their communities but invited by the organizers. In Europe, the demand for recognition for minority communities has often helped empower community leaders at the expense of the communities themselves. It would be a tragedy if this were to happen in Australia, too.

In Defense of Cultural Appropriation: Malik – The New York Times

Good piece by Kenan Malik, particularly this point:

“The accusation of cultural appropriation is a secular version of the charge of blasphemy. It’s the insistence that certain beliefs and images are so important to particular cultures that they may not appropriated by others.”:

Critics of cultural appropriation insist that they are opposed not to cultural engagement, but to racism. They want to protect marginalized cultures and ensure that such cultures speak for themselves, not simply be seen through the eyes of more privileged groups.

Certainly, cultural engagement does not take place on a level playing field. Racism and inequality shape the ways in which people imagine others. Yet it is difficult to see how creating gated cultures helps promote social justice.

There are few figures more important to the development of rock ’n’ roll than Chuck Berry (who died in March). In the 1950s, white radio stations refused to play his songs, categorizing them as “race music.” Then came Elvis Presley. A white boy playing the same tunes was cool. Elvis was feted, Mr. Berry and other black pioneers largely ignored. Racism defined who became the cultural icon.

But imagine that Elvis had been prevented from appropriating so-called black music. Would that have challenged racism, or eradicated Jim Crow laws? Clearly not. It took a social struggle — the civil rights movement — to bring about change. That struggle was built not on cultural separation, but on the demand for equal rights and universal values.

Campaigns against cultural appropriation reveal the changing meaning of what it is to challenge racism. Once, it was a demand for equal treatment for all. Now it calls for cultures to be walled off and boundaries to be policed.

But who does the policing? Every society has its gatekeepers, whose role is to protect certain institutions, maintain the privileges of particular groups and cordon off some beliefs from challenge. Such gatekeepers protect not the marginalized but the powerful. Racism itself is a form of gatekeeping, a means of denying racialized groups equal rights, access and opportunities.

In minority communities, the gatekeepers are usually self-appointed guardians whose power rests on their ability to define what is acceptable and what is beyond the bounds. They appropriate for themselves the authority to license certain forms of cultural engagement, and in doing so, entrench their power.

The most potent form of gatekeeping is religion. When certain beliefs are deemed sacred, they are put beyond questioning. To challenge such beliefs is to commit blasphemy.

The accusation of cultural appropriation is a secular version of the charge of blasphemy. It’s the insistence that certain beliefs and images are so important to particular cultures that they may not appropriated by others. This is most clearly seen in the debate about Ms. Schutz’s painting “Open Casket.”

In 1955, Emmett Till’s mother urged the publication of photographs of her son’s mutilated body as it lay in its coffin. Till’s murder, and the photographs, played a major role in shaping the civil rights movement and have acquired an almost sacred quality. It was from those photos that Ms. Schutz began her painting.

To suggest that she, as a white painter, should not depict images of black suffering is as troubling as the demand by some Muslims that Salman Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses” should be censored because of supposed blasphemies in its depiction of Islam. In fact, it’s more troubling because, as the critic Adam Shatz has observed, the campaign against Ms. Schutz’s work contains an “implicit disavowal that acts of radical sympathy, and imaginative identification, are possible across racial lines.”

Seventy years ago, racist radio stations refused to play “race music” for a white audience. Today, antiracist activists insist that white painters should not portray black subjects. To appropriate a phrase from a culture not my own: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Terrorism has come about in assimilationist France and also in multicultural Britain. Why is that? | Kenan Malik

Kenyan Malik contrasts Britain and France in their approaches to multiculturalism and integration, ending up, with slightly different wording, with Canadian integrative multiculturalism:

In the past, when London was seen as the capital of Islamism and of terror groups – Londonistan, many called it – French politicians and policy-makers suggested that Britain faced a particular problem because of its multicultural policies. Such policies, they claimed, were divisive, failing to create a common set of values or sense of nationhood. As a result, many Muslims were drawn towards Islamism and violence. “Assimilationist” policies, French politicians insisted, avoided the divisive consequences of multiculturalism and allowed every individual to be treated as a citizen, not as a member of a particular racial or cultural group.

So how do we account for the way that terrorism has been nurtured in assimilationist France too? And how different are French assimilationist and British multicultural policies?

Many of the French criticisms of multiculturalism were valid. British policy-makers welcomed diversity, but tried to manage it by putting people into ethnic and cultural boxes, defining individual needs and rights by virtue of the boxes into which people are put, and using those boxes to shape public policy. They treated minority communities as if each were a distinct, homogenous whole, each composed of people all speaking with a single voice, each defined by a singular view of culture and faith. The consequence has been the creation of a more fragmented, tribal society, which has nurtured Islamism. The irony, though, is that the French policies, from a very different starting point, have ended up at much the same place.

…. Yet, far from including North Africans as full citizens, French policy has tended to ignore the racism and discrimination they have faced and institutionalised their marginalisation. Many in France look upon its citizens of North African origins not as French but as “Arab” or as “Muslim”. But the second generation within North African communities are often as estranged from their parents’ cultures and mores, and from mainstream Islam, as they are from wider French society.

….Kouachi’s [responsible for the Charlie Hebo killings] story is not that different from that of Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 bombings in London. They are of a milieu caught not between two cultures, as it is often claimed, but between no cultures. As a consequence, some of them have turned to Islamism and a few have expressed their rage through jihadi-style violence.

There are aspects of both the multiculturalist and assimilationist approaches that are valuable. The multicultural acceptance of diversity and the assimilationist resolve to treat everyone as citizens, not as bearers of specific racial or cultural histories, are both welcome. And there are aspects of both that are damaging – the multiculturalist tendency to place minorities into ethnic and cultural boxes, the assimilationist attempt to create a common identity by institutionalising the differences of groups deemed not to belong.

An ideal policy would marry the beneficial aspects of the two approaches – celebrating diversity while treating everyone as citizens, rather than as simply belonging to particular communities. In practice, though, Britain and France have both institutionalised the more damaging features – Britain placing minorities into ethnic and cultural boxes, France attempting to create a common identity by treating those of North African origin as the Other. The consequence has been that in both Britain and France societies have become more fractured and tribal. And in both nations a space has been opened up for Islamism to grow.

Source: Terrorism has come about in assimilationist France and also in multicultural Britain. Why is that? | Kenan Malik | Comment is free | The Guardian

The Failure of Multiculturalism: Kenan Malik

While much of Kenan Malik’s arguments reflects the European experience (rather than Canadian or Australian multiculturalism with its integration and participation focus), he largely ends up in the right place in noting that it is the particular variant of multiculturalism that is important, and that it needs the assimilationist (or integrationist) element to succeed:

Multiculturalism and assimilationism are different policy responses to the same problem: the fracturing of society. And yet both have had the effect of making things worse. It’s time, then, to move beyond the increasingly sterile debate between the two approaches. And that requires making three kinds 
of distinctions.

First, Europe should separate diversity as a lived experience from multiculturalism as a political process. The experience of living in a society made diverse by mass immigration should be welcomed. Attempts to institutionalize such diversity through the formal recognition of cultural differences should be resisted.

Second, Europe should distinguish colorblindness from blindness to racism. The assimilationist resolve to treat everyone equally as citizens, rather than as bearers of specific racial or cultural histories, is valuable. But that does not mean that the state should ignore discrimination against particular groups. Citizenship has no meaning if different classes of citizens are treated differently, whether because of multicultural policies or because of racism.

Finally, Europe should differentiate between peoples and values. Multiculturalists argue that societal diversity erodes the possibility of common values. Similarly, assimilationists suggest that such values are possible only within a more culturally—and, for some, ethnically—homogeneous society. Both regard minority communities as homogeneous wholes, attached to a particular set of cultural traits, faiths, beliefs, and values, rather than as constituent parts of a modern democracy.

The real debate should be not between multiculturalism and assimilationism but between two forms of the former and two forms of the latter. An ideal policy would marry multiculturalism’s embrace of actual diversity, rather than its tendency to institutionalize differences, and assimilationism’s resolve to treat everyone as citizens, rather than its tendency to construct a national identity by characterizing certain groups as alien to the nation. In practice, European countries have done the opposite. They have enacted either multicultural policies that place communities in constricting boxes or assimilationist ones that distance minorities from the mainstream.

Moving forward, Europe must rediscover a progressive sense of universal values, something that the continent’s liberals have largely abandoned, albeit in different ways. On the one hand, there is a section of the left that has combined relativism and multiculturalism, arguing that the very notion of universal values is in some sense racist. On the other, there are those, exemplified by such French assimilationists as the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who insist on upholding traditional Enlightenment values but who do so in a tribal fashion that presumes a clash of civilizations.

There has also been a guiding assumption throughout Europe that immigration and integration must be managed through state policies and institutions. Yet real integration, whether of immigrants or of indigenous groups, is rarely brought about by the actions of the state; it is shaped primarily by civil society, by the individual bonds that people form with one another, and by the organizations they establish to further their shared political and social interests. It is the erosion of such bonds and institutions that has proved so problematic—that links assimilationist policy failures to multicultural ones and that explains why social disengagement is a feature not simply of immigrant communities but of the wider society, too. To repair the damage that disengagement has done, and to revive a progressive universalism, Europe needs not so much new state policies as a renewal of civil society.

The Failure of Multiculturalism.

Kenan Malik | Why Multiculturalism Failed

While his understanding of multiculturalism is driven by the diverse European approaches to living with diversity, and unfairly, at least from the Canadian perspective, multiculturalism as reinforcing differences rather than being an instrument to further integration and participation.

But his three concluding points are valid, as is of course the reminder that integration happens at the local and individual levels:

First, Europe should separate diversity as a lived experience from multiculturalism as a political process. The experience of living in a society made diverse by mass immigration should be welcomed. Attempts to institutionalize such diversity through the formal recognition of cultural differences should be resisted.

Second, Europe should distinguish colorblindness from blindness to racism. The assimilationist resolve to treat everyone equally as citizens, rather than as bearers of specific racial or cultural histories, is valuable. But that does not mean that the state should ignore discrimination against particular groups. Citizenship has no meaning if different classes of citizens are treated differently, whether because of multicultural policies or because of racism.

Finally, Europe should differentiate between peoples and values. Multiculturalists argue that societal diversity erodes the possibility of common values. Similarly, assimilationists suggest that such values are possible only within a more culturally—and, for some, ethnically—homogeneous society. Both regard minority communities as homogeneous wholes, attached to a particular set of cultural traits, faiths, beliefs, and values, rather than as constituent parts of a modern democracy.

The real debate should be not between multiculturalism and assimilationism but between two forms of the former and two forms of the latter. An ideal policy would marry multiculturalism’s embrace of actual diversity, rather than its tendency to institutionalize differences, and assimilationism’s resolve to treat everyone as citizens, rather than its tendency to construct a national identity by characterizing certain groups as alien to the nation. In practice, European countries have done the opposite. They have enacted either multicultural policies that place communities in constricting boxes or assimilationist ones that distance minorities from the mainstream.

Moving forward, Europe must rediscover a progressive sense of universal values, something that the continent’s liberals have largely abandoned, albeit in different ways. On the one hand, there is a section of the left that has combined relativism and multiculturalism, arguing that the very notion of universal values is in some sense racist. On the other, there are those, exemplified by such French assimilationists as the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who insist on upholding traditional Enlightenment values but who do so in a tribal fashion that presumes a clash of civilizations.

There has also been a guiding assumption throughout Europe that immigration and integration must be managed through state policies and institutions. Yet real integration, whether of immigrants or of indigenous groups, is rarely brought about by the actions of the state; it is shaped primarily by civil society, by the individual bonds that people form with one another, and by the organizations they establish to further their shared political and social interests. It is the erosion of such bonds and institutions that has proved so problematic—that links assimilationist policy failures to multicultural ones and that explains why social disengagement is a feature not simply of immigrant communities but of the wider society, too. To repair the damage that disengagement has done, and to revive a progressive universalism, Europe needs not so much new state policies as a renewal of civil society.

Kenan Malik | Why Multiculturalism Failed | Foreign Affairs.

Radical Islam, Nihilist Rage – Kenan Malik

Kenan Malik on radicalization and rejection of modernity (apart from using social media and weaponry of course!):

Anti-imperialists of the past saw themselves as part of a wider political project that sought to modernize the non-Western world, politically and economically. Today, however, that wider political project is itself seen as the problem. There is considerable disenchantment with many aspects of modernity, from individualism to globalization, from the breakdown of traditional cultures to the fragmentation of societies, from the blurring of moral boundaries to the seeming soullessness of the contemporary world.

In the past, racists often viewed modernity as the property of the West and regarded the non-Western world as incapable of modernizing. Today, it is radicals who often regard modernity as a Western product, and reject both it and the West as tainted goods.

The consequence has been the transformation of anti-Western sentiment from a political challenge to imperialist policy to an inchoate rage against modernity. Many strands of contemporary thought, including those embraced by “deep greens” and the far left, express aspects of such discontent. But it is radical Islam that has become the lightning rod for this fury.

There are many forms of Islamism, from the Taliban to Hamas, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Boko Haram. What they have in common is a capacity to fuse hostility toward the West with hatred for modernity and, seemingly, to provide an alternative to both. Islamists marry political militancy with a conservative social sensibility, a hostility to globalization with the embrace of a global ummah (the worldwide community of Muslim believers). In so doing, they turn the contradictory aspects of their rage against modernity into a strength.

Jihadism provides Islamist ideology with a military form and seemingly creates a global social movement, at a time when radical alternatives have collapsed. What jihadism does not possess is the moral and philosophical framework that guided anti-imperialist movements. Shorn of that framework, and reduced to raging at the world, jihadists have turned terror into an end in itself.

Radical Islam, Nihilist Rage – NYTimes.com.

UK: How I Passed the English Cricket Test – Kenan Malik

Kenan Malik on Britishness and belonging:

Craft a statement. Teach a lesson. Politicians may be the only people in the world who imagine that the creation of identities, or the forging of a sense of belonging, can be reduced to such simple formulas.

What most public debates ignore is the complexity, elasticity and sheer contrariness of identity. Whether personal or national, identities can never be singular or fixed because they are rooted largely in people’s relationships with one another — not merely personal but social relationships, too — and such connections are always mutating.

…. My parents were of a generation that accepted racism as part of life. I was of a generation that challenged it, politically and physically. We confronted far-right thugs, organized street patrols to protect black and Asian families, and stood up to police harassment. And this inevitably shaped our sense of who we were.

My generation did not think of itself as “Muslim” or “Hindu” or “Sikh.” We wanted to be seen as British. When Britain told us, “You don’t belong,” we responded both by insisting on our Britishness and by identifying with those who challenged British identity. Such is the contradictory character of belonging.

… Today, things are different. Neither racism nor racial violence has disappeared, and hostility to immigration has become a defining feature of British politics. Yet the savage, in-your-face racism that marked Britain a generation ago is, thankfully, relatively rare. The nature of Britishness has changed, too. No longer rooted in ideas of race and empire, it is defined as much by diversity as by jingoism. National identity is being recast in a host of new debates, from the fractious question of Scottish independence to the fraught relationship with the European Union.

Blacks and Asians have long since become an accepted part of Britain’s identity, as well as its sporting tapestry. And I have dropped my “anyone but England” attitude. I, too, now feel the pain of penalty shootout defeats and the rare joy of cricket match victories. Yet, if I am now willing to wave the flag at a cricket field or in a soccer stadium, I will not necessarily do so in all contexts. I may be tribal about sports, but I am not patriotic about Britain.

Unthinking, irrational support for one team over another is an essential part of the experience of sports. Patriots wish us to be equally unthinking in our attachment to the nation in every arena, from culture to war. The myth of nationalism is that “Britishness,” just like “Frenchness” or “Americanness,” comes as a single package. But identity does not work like that.

There are many aspects of British life that I admire, and many that I despise. I only have to visit a London street market to be reminded how open Britain is to foods and goods and influences from all over the world; I only have to stand in line in passport control at Heathrow Airport to remember how deep the suspicion of foreigners runs. Many British traditions resonate with me; many I find abhorrent. This is the nation that produced the Levellers and the Suffragettes, radical movements that helped shape the world; it is also a nation that still clings to a monarchy and the unelected, feudal House of Lords.

Many non-British traditions, too, have helped shape my views, values and ideals. To erase this complexity with the myths of patriotism is to diminish the very meaning of belonging.

How I Passed the English Cricket Test – NYTimes.com.