Excerpt from The New Empire Within Britain

original site

by Salman Rushdie

"A language reveals the attitiudes of the people who use and shape it. And a whole declension of patronizing terminology can be found in the language in which inner-racial relations have been decribed inside Britain. At first, we were told, the goal was 'integration'. Now this word rapidly came to mean 'assimilation': a black man could only become integrated when he started behaving like a white one. After 'integration' came the concept of 'racial harmony'. Now once again, this sounded virtuous and desirable, but what it meant in practice was that blacks should be persuaded to live peaceably with whites, in spite of all the injustices done to them every day. The call for 'racial harmony' was simply an invitation to shut up and smile while nothing was done about our grievances. And now, there's a new catchword: 'multiculturalism'. In our schools, this means little more than teaching the kids a few bongo rhythms, how to tie a sari and so forth. In the police training programme, it means telling cadets that black people are so 'culturally different' that they can't help making trouble. Multiculturalism is the latest token gestures towards Britain's blacks, and it ought to be exposed, like 'integration' and 'racial harmony', for the sham it is."

More excerpts from Salman Rushdie's
The New Empire Within Britain.


Here, Rushdie is making a claim that a people's society and culture can be linked to their language.
Language is vital part of a society because it is the main source of communication between people,
however, the problem arises when people speak different languages in the same place. Consequently, this
leads to a barrier in the communication. Rushdie confronts this issue because it plays a big role in the
reason why immigrants, as well black britons were discriminated against. With white britons dominance
over social, economic, and political life, it was very hard for anyone else to partake in their way of life
because of their superiority. In language, the white britons believed that the proper way to speak was
through Queen's English, and as a result, anyone who did not or could not speak this language was not
included in their way of life, in addition to being discriminated against. Rushdie says that a people's
"language reveals the attitudes of the people who use and shape it." This is an important point becuase
when black britons and immigrants were discriminated against because of the way they spoke, they were
regarded and labeled as criminals and beggars. The white britons believed that the "other" language
showed the attitude of being inferior as well as only suitable for the lower class. This issue ties into the
poem Listen Mr Oxford Don.


"The New Empire Within Britain" scores British society for never having "de-imperialized" itself in the
way, for example, that German authors at least attempted linguistic de-Nazification. The historical models
for subduing unruly colonials therefore became internalized as institutional racism, ways of marginalizing
immigrant and second generation minorities. "We have, in Britain today', writes rushdie with sarcasm
scorn, "judges like McKinnon who can say in court that the word 'nigger' cannot be considered an epithet
of racial abuse because he was nichnamed 'Nigger' at his public school.

Rushdie has a remarkable capacity to enter into the minds and hearts of diverse writers, who live in
different realities and cultures address themselves to different issues, in a variety of styles. For instance,
in John Agard's, "Listen Mr Oxford Don", is the coming power of language. Integrationcan means a
variety of definitions pending who is doing the inquiring. In America, indians were asked to integrate into
a whie society eventhough they were the ones who first found the land, that was eventually taken from
them. When reading the poem by Agard, it clearly points the short-comings of black immigrants.

...'racial harmony'...

"Britain has been harshly criticized by a UN race relations committee over 'racial harmony' towards
ethnic minorities. The police force in Britain especially has been taking most of the brunt due to the fact
that a disproportionate number of people who die in police custody are fron minority groups, non-whites
are a target of police brutality, and allegations of harrassment seem to be inadequately investigated in
many of police claims. There is a deep concern over the state of race relations in Britian, so much that
there have been a few poets that have expressed their anger as well as understanding to the causes that
lead to such brutality. In Linton Kwesi Johnson's, Five Nights of Bleeding , talks about the way riots can
break out due to racial inequality."

What He is trying to explain is that in societies, there are many different cultures that have their own
values and beliefs, but just because one does not believe in that certain culture does not necessarily need
to impose violence just beacuse of different attitudes towards it. Racial harmony must exist throughout
the world, if not, people will suffer. Governemnts mudt not be allowed to ignore the injustices families
face after a death in custody.


Multiculturalism is the latest token gesture towards Britian's blacks, and it ought to be explored, like
integrations and racial harmony. The trouble with all of these multi's is that whatever their passing appeal
to politicians and guilty liberals who wish, usually for consumer purposes, that they'd never lost their
grandparents' streerage language, is that the mainstream never sees itself as part of the equation as one of
the multi's. The pot itself never melts only the ingredients as they get chopped up. But multiculturalism
deals more with the language of oneself than any other. In fact, the central issue is articulated in 'a world
language'. Without the world language, the choice that confronts us is endemic world tensions and world
chaos. The essence of language is effective communication with a world that has been reduced to the
proportions of a village. Only the world language, therefore, can hold together the 5.3 billion human
beings that today inhabit this overcrowded planet. The need for it becomes inescapable should world
polulation double by the end of the 21st century.

The absence of a world language, I believe, is primarily responsible for the wars, beastialities and the
slaughter of the innocents which are today the backdrop against which our global tragedy is being
enacted. For instance, in John Agard's "Listen Mr. Oxford Don", he is talking about language. "Idon't
need no hammer to smash up your grammer". He is attacking the language of the country. This enormous
disparity he attributes to how one defines the English language.

Linton Kwesi Johnson's poems

Five Nights of Bleeding
Inglan Is a Bitch

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