I’ve had another break from the kitchen tonight and I’m watching things we won’t say about race that are true presented by Trevor Phillips on channel 4 and I feel absolutely compelled to comment on it.
Ironically, due to my liberal angst, I still feel the need to start this comment off with a bit of a disclaimer. I was born in the UK but to Irish parents. I am the product of immigrants to this country and so if anything I say sounds a tad on the verge of racist that small fact is to be considered.
But if you’ve not quite got the grasp of it…during the 30’s, 40’s and even later in Birmingham, there would be signs on rooms for let saying “no dogs, no Irish, no blacks” – despite the fact we’re predominantly white, we were once as much a source of racism as any other ethnicity in Birmingham.
Anyway, I digress…
…Birmingham today is seen as a beacon of multiculturalism. We have dozens, if not hundreds of international restaurants, there are literally millions of people that are “different “, you will hear any number of languages being spoken as you walk through the city centre, yet I seriously question whether or not we are actually a city united, a city in which everyone buys in to this grand idea being sold to us by our lying, cheating politicians – a harmonious city where people get on.
A basic and, I accept, potentially flawed way to review this concept is by looking at the A34 out of Birmingham, the Stratford Road.
We’ll begin at the Bullring and the Selfridges building. This is where we will see our thousands of people congregating together, consuming blindly, wandering around in a daze, trying their best to ignore anyone else that may be different to them. On any given Saturday there will undoubtedly be a Christian fella telling you you’re going to hell and a Muslim lad telling you there are seven virgins waiting for you in heaven. Not exactly what I’d call harmonious living!
Anyway, if we move on down the road we get to Digbeth, home of the largest St Patrick’s Day parade outside of Ireland and the USA and an area commonly referred to as the Irish Quarter. In trying to make a comment on my city being segregated, the fact that a section of the city is named a nationality rather makes my point, I’ll move on!
Next we get to Sparkbrook (where my mechanic is – Alright Malcolm), an area which is completely dominated by Somalians and, for whatever reason, Internet cafes and barbers – I don’t get how they need so many of each. Either way, my main point is that we see yet another area of Birmingham that is highly segregated and we’re barely a mile out of the city centre.
As you continue down the A34 you head towards Sparkhill. This is an area that was, in the past, largely populated by the Irish immunity (an early sign of ghettoes in Birmingham) but that is now predominantly inhabited by members of the Pakistani and Muslim communities. Yet again we see an example of communities living separately in Birmingham and it is arguable that this segregation has caused animosity within our community, demonstrable by the fact that there have been a number of terror related arrests within the area In recent years – as there were towards my people in the 70’s by the way (see The Birmingham 6)!
As we continue up the road past Springfield (my birthplace- nothing to do with The Simpsons) we head towards Hall Green. As the Irish started to move out of Sparkhill, Hall Green increasingly became a popular destination. Irish pubs and clubs began to boom within the area, indicative of a city in which communities keep themselves to themselves and, crucially, socialise amongst themselves – hardly multicultural!
As the Stratford Road continues we reach areas such as Shirley and Solihull places that are, for the most part, dominated by white English people who, up until now, have barely featured in my comments. I would argue that as immigration has filtered in to the areas discussed, the original people living there have moved on, further up the road. This is seen with the Irish moving to Hall Green and, arguably, with the white English people moving to Solihull.
My take on the segregation in Birmingham is by no means an exact science and I am sure that there are people wiling to prove me wrong every step of the way. However, it is quite clear that we live in a city in which there is clear segregation and separation from one another.
Multiculturalism is banded around as a great achievement of the UK (the same UK that colonised half the world at one point by the way!) and it is perceived that we all live harmoniously together.
We live separate to one another. We distrust one another. We feel that the other group (whichever one it is, just not our own) is treated favourably. We think that one group is too liberal. We think the other is too dictatorial or racist.
There is no commonality except the ground we walk on.
In wrapping this comment up I would love to bring it back to a happy-clappy , “it’ll be alright”, “we’ll all get along in the end” sort of conclusion. Unfortunately I just don’t think it’s true. I think were doomed to a race war and I think places like my beloved Birmingham are going to be major battle grounds – though I am more than happy to be proved wrong. If my negativity can inspire optimism then I would be over the moon. I just dont think anyone will prove me wrong.
Ah well! As Trevor Phillips said all the way back in 2005 “We are sleepwalking our way to segregation” – we still are.