There’s an interesting post over at Mark Easton’s UK in which he comments on the minefield which is ethnic terminology. During last week’s controversial “Question Time”, featuring Nick Griffin from the British National Party (BNP), a woman in the audience upbraided Jack Straw of the Labour Party for using the term “Afro-Caribbean”, rather than her preferred version: “African-Caribbean”.
Meanwhile, Nick Griffin, possibly the least photogenic politician since Roy Hattersley, drew flak for using the expression “indigenous British people”. One of the standard arguments against the use of terms like this is that no-one in Britain can truly claim to be indigenous. We’re all descended from migrants; the only difference is that some of those migrant ancestors arrived here sooner than others.
No population is entirely separate from the rest of humanity, goes the rhetoric. We are all members of a single species whose ultimate roots lie in Africa. That being the case, how can it be meaningful to refer to anyone as “African”? How can that word be used to differentiate the origins of any human sub-group?
Then, the second part of her term: “Caribbean”. Surely the association between this lady’s ancestors and the Caribbean is likely to be even more ephemeral than is that of the average Welshman, say, and Britain? A few hundred years as opposed to a few thousand.
As for the lady herself, surely she is “just British”? If this isn’t true, then presumably the majority white population aren’t “just British” either. In which case, what are they?