Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Racial intercourse


There is a thoroughly splendid post over at The Sharpener by John B about the racial breakdown in the Dutch population, and how this compares to the situation in the UK. It's worth reading his post, and all the comments (well, most of them) in what is a fascinating debate.

John tries to establish why Holland is now regarded as the most 'Muslimified' (I believe 'dhimmified' is the vogue, but silly, term) state in the EU. He notes that only 4.3% of the Dutch population are "immigrants" (undefined), compared with 3.5% in the UK and a whopping (relatively) 9% in Germany. He wonders whether this is because immigrants are concentrated in big cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, etc. - but the statistics suggest the opposite, if anything. This spurs him to wonder if this is the problem - immigrants are so dispersed throughout the country that the indigenous people (for want of a better term) fear being swamped by a rise in their numbers. John suggests that "there aren’t any majority-ethnic-minority areas that people can look at and view as shining successes in the same way that there are in London or New York" (I'm not sure which places in London he's thinking of - certainly I don't think anyone in London would regard Brent, Hounslow or Tower Hamlets are "shining successes", just dumpy ghettoes of poverty).

The comments attached to the post are themselves worth reading, a mixture of support and disdain for John's views. I was alarmed to find myself particularly liking this comment by Tim Worstall, with whom I don't normally agree on matters political: "There is a third possibility about the dispersal of immigrants throughout the population [...] That most Dutch have in fact met immigrants, albeit never in any concentration, and have decided they don’t like them."

Perhaps both John and Tim have hit on partial versions of the truth. Clearly, Holland is not swamped with immigrants (nor is the UK - nor is any European country except perhaps Switzerland, where a good many of the 'immigrants' are rich, white people*). However, immigrant dispersal in Holland may be so successful that every part of Dutch society has been touched by it, so that every area has people in it who see newcomers (with obviously different skin colour and language) in their streets. Although the Dutch are a traditionally welcoming and tolerant people (albeit sometimes wilfully pedantic, in my experience), the fact that so many of them have been exposed to a small number of immigrants may have made it easier for the likes of Pim Fortuyn to stir up fear of swamping ("you've all seen these people arrive in your area - soon there could be thousands of them!" would be how the message would be interpreted).

Although the same process seems to be happening in certain parts of the UK (someone in the comments section on John's post refers to race riots in Wrexham, where there are only a very small number of refugees**), the fact that Muslim/Asian immigrants are so concentrated in areas such as Burnley, Bradford and Oldham may actually help to mitigate against a general countrywide feeling of irrational fear.

In the end, as John comments, living in London may make one complacent about race relations. We have our problems here, too, but I think we're not doing too badly.

* More on Switzerland in another post.

** Isn't part of the problem that the term 'refugee' (which implies someone in genuine need of help) has been replaced by the term 'asylum seeker' (suggesting, to many people, someone with a case to prove)?


Anonymous Fair Vote Watch said...

_I'm not sure which places in London he's thinking of_

How about Stoke Newington / Dalston where I live? Never once heard even a racial epithet, and there are three substantial racial groups here: white, black, Turkish. Plus various subdivisions within: Af-Carib v African black; Brit v E European white; and so on.

10:11 am  
Blogger Oscar Wildebeest said...

Yes, fair enough, but I was concentrating more on areas with a high Asian (ie Indian sub-continent or Arabic) population. I think the Afro-Caribbean/African population of London has 'integrated' (whatever that means) pretty successfully (although many will still feel there is a long way to go to achieve racial harmony, if such a thing is ever possible).

I used to live in Haringey, and the Turkish community there is enormous. I never heard of any racial trouble there* (doesn't mean there wasn't any, of course). Whether the Turkish community could be said to be 'integrated' or not - they had their own shops, clubs, even hairdressers, etc. - is open to discussion, but I didn't detect any inter-racial strife.

It's a similar situation here in Chiswick, despite Greg Hands's attempts to shove a barrier between the British and Polish communities (more on this, when I have more ammunition).

* Plenty of drugs trouble, yes, but that cuts across all races.

12:31 pm  
Blogger Tim Worstall said...

A useful question is what is the meaning of "integrated".
I would argue that in the long term it is the intermarriage rate. What percentage of the "community" (however defined, by race, origin, religion, whatever) marry out into the general society?
With Afro-Caribbeans I believe it is some 25%, (and that figure is a couple of decades old) meaning a high degree of integration, atleast as compared with many other of the distinct communities in our Isles.

7:23 am  

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