WHAT IS BRITISHNESS?
The Commission for Racial Equality commissioned ETHNOS to carry out research on the ways in which British people of different ethnic backgrounds living in England, Scotland and Wales think about ‘Britishness’. Most of the research participants shared a common representation of Britishness, ranging over eight dimensions:
▲ Geography: Britishness was associated with the British Isles, and with typical topographic features, such as the Scottish Highlands, lochs, Welsh valleys, and rolling hills.
▲ National symbols: Britishness was symbolised by the Union Jack and the royal family.
▲ People: Three different ways of thinking about the British people emerged: for some ...view middle of the document...
This was not salient among white English participants.
▲ Language: English was seen as a common language that unites the British people. The array of British accents (in terms of regional and class differences) was also seen as typically British.
▲ Achievements: Britishness was associated with political and historical achievements (the establishment of parliamentary democracy, empire and colonialism); technological and scientific achievements (the industrial revolution, medical discoveries); sporting achievements (the invention of many sports); and ‘pop’ cultural achievements.
VALUES AND ATTITUDES
The discussions around British values and attitudes were very informative. At the most basic level, white or ethnic minority participants who had lived in Britain for a long time and had been schooled in Britain produced much richer discourses on British values and attitudes than those who socialised mainly with members of their own community or were recent migrants. Among the latter, observable behaviour rather than more abstract values and attitudes was more likely to be mentioned. So, what did participants think were the central values and attitudes one had to adhere to and live by in order to be considered British?
Freedoms, rule of law, fairness, tolerance and respect
The upholding of human rights and freedoms (such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and protection of minorities), respect for the rule of law, fairness, and tolerance and respect for others seemed to be the most common British values and attitudes identified by our research participants.
Most of the research participants associated British people with reserve.This was sometimes seen in a very positive light, as when British people
were described as being polite, courteous and careful not to offend or be confrontational. It was sometimes seen in a negative light, as when British people were described as being hypocritical or reluctant to discuss what they really thought, as having a ‘stiff upper lip’ and being cold. White English participants were most likely to see reserve as a positive trait, while Scottish and Welsh participants, as well as ethnic minority participants living in England, were more likely to see it as a negative trait.
Another set of attitudes revolved around the notion of pride. Again, white...