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Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Are the British a racial group?

It seems the authorities are finally getting around to examining the BNP's membership ban on non-whites. Or rather, in the party's words, that membership is open only to the 'indiginous British'. The EHRC think that this is racial discrimination, although why anyone with a high concentration of melanin in their outer wrapping would want to join I can't imagine.

Nick Griffin has stated that the party relies on ss. 25 - 26 of the 1976 Race Relations Act for the ban; this states
An association [ ... is exempt ...] if the main object of the association is to enable the benefits of membership (whatever they may be) to be enjoyed by persons of a particular racial group defined otherwise than by reference to colour; and in determining whether that is the main object of an association regard shall be had to the essential character of the association and to all relevant circumstances including, in particular, the extent to which the affairs of the association are so conducted that the persons primarily enjoying the benefits of membership are of the racial group in question.
It seems to me there are two fascinating legal points that will form the crux of any legal challenge. Firstly, whether a political party is an association for the benefits of its members. Secondly, whether the 'indiginous British' are a distinct racial group.

It's the second that will prove most fascinating. The BNP says "We use the term indigenous to describe the people whose ancestors were the earliest settlers here after the last great Ice Age and which have been complemented by the historic migrations from mainland Europe. The migrations of the Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Danes, Norse and closely related kindred peoples have been, over the past few thousands years, instrumental in defining the character of our family of nations."

And here I must re-read Bryan Sykes' excellent 'Blood of the Isles'. From what I recall, the Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes and Normans barely left a genetic footprint in our DNA. We are overwhelmingly Celtic, even in Kent and Surrey. But Celtic-ness is not unique to the inhabitants of these isles - both France and Spain have Celtic populations.

Anyway, I hope it comes to court - I'd love to hear the legal arguments on both sides.


Henry North London said...

Im not Anglo saxon but I am Indo Aryan

Will that do? I suppose I am a little Celtic in some respects...

Sue said...

There's also the "United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 1994".. which states in

Article 7 (Indigenous peoples have the collective and individual right not to be subjected to ethnocide and cultural genocide, including prevention of and redress for:

(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;

(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;

(c) Any form of population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;

(d) Any form of assimilation or integration by other cultures or ways of life imposed on them by legislative, administrative or other measures;

(e) Any form of propaganda directed against them.

The Government are treading on sticky ground. If the BNP are clever, they may get away with it.

Sue said...

Additionally, (I am an amateur anthropologist, sorry :)

Myths of British Ancestry

"The genetic evidence shows that three quarters of our ancestors came to this corner of Europe as hunter-gatherers, between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago, after the melting of the ice caps but before the land broke away from the mainland and divided into islands. Our subsequent separation from Europe has preserved a genetic time capsule of southwestern Europe during the ice age, which we share most closely with the former ice-age refuge in the Basque country. The first settlers were unlikely to have spoken a Celtic language but possibly a tongue related to the unique Basque language.

Another wave of immigration arrived during the Neolithic period, when farming developed about 6,500 years ago. But the English still derive most of their current gene pool from the same early Basque source as the Irish, Welsh and Scots. These figures are at odds with the modern perceptions of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon ethnicity based on more recent invasions. There were many later invasions, as well as less violent immigrations, and each left a genetic signal, but no individual event contributed much more than 5 per cent to our modern genetic mix. ".

Make up your minds!!!

Costello said...

This idea of a "British" race is absolutely preposterous - Unless you restrict the definition to cover exclusively the Welsh and the Bretons who are the only peoples who have maintained any meaningful linguistic/cultural link to the original British race who were their ancestors.

The research into our genetic background is certainly interesting but is utterly meaningless in terms of defining modern peoples and providing identity. Nations are generally defined by language (and culture which derives from language) and to a certain extent religion - although this was more important historically than today.

Of course given the fact that the subsets of the British "race" who like to think of themselves as being non Anglo-Saxon define themselves more in terms of historical difference rather than any real modern difference between themselves and the English muddies the water somewhat today. With the exceptions of the extremely small minority of Scots and Irish who are native in the Scottish and Irish languages (both forms of Gaelic) rather English and the Welsh, who do likewise, what - other than self-perception/wishful thinking - distinguishes the English speaking Scots/Welsh/Irish from the English proper? As Sue has already pointed out genetically the British generally share the same ancestry.

Thus we have a situation in Scotland where the country is named after a Gaelic speaking tribe which invaded from Ireland, it's people are largely descended from two different tribes of British Celtic tribes (Picts in North and Britons in the South) with a dash of English ancestry in the South East (historically known as the "Land of the English in the Kingdom of the Scots") Gaelic/Scottish ancestry along the West coast, Flemish and Danish in the North-East and ancient city centres and Norwegian ancestry throughout the Islands and North-West coast. We have all these different bloodlines making up a modern people who almost exclusively speak English yet refer to themselves using a piece of nomenclature. "Scot" which for most of history specifically identified Gaelic-speaking Celts.

To be honest probably the best take on all this stuff remains the one found in 1066:

"The Scots (originally Irish, but by now Scotch) were at this time inhabiting Ireland, having driven the Irish (Picts) out of Scotland; while the Picts (originally Scots) were now Irish (living in brackets) and vice versa. It is essential to keep these distinctions clearly in mind (and vice versa)."

Costello said...

@ Sue - are you familiar with the Lebor Gabála Érenn and ancient Irish history?

One of the most interesting things about the recent findings regarding British DNA and the links to the Basque is the fact that it ties up almost perfectly with the ancient compilations of Gaelic history and myth found in medieval/pre-medieval Irish literature which describes the migration of the Gaels (or 'Milesians') from Iberia to the British Isles.

Raedwald said...

Yes, confusingly perhaps Sykes calls our Iberian ancestors 'Celts' but, er, completely different from central European Celts;

"Here again, the strongest signal is a Celtic one, in the form of the clan of Oisin, which dominates the scene all over the Isles. The predominance in every part of the Isles of the Atlantis chromosome (the most frequent in the Oisin clan), with its strong affinities to Iberia, along with other matches and the evidence from the maternal side convinces me that it is from this direction that we must look for the origin of Oisin and the great majority of our Y-chromosomes…I can find no evidence at all of a large-scale arrival from the heartland of the Celts of central Europe amongst the paternic genetic ancestry of the Isles… can"

But yes, race is not genetics. Genetically I may be hugely similar to the barman in Barca who pours such generous measures, but I think both of us would be astonished to find ourselves described as sharing a racial group.

Anonymous said...

Wish the equalities commission would find something better to do.

Sue said...

It will be interesting to see what the BNP come up with!

Sue said...

By the way, that last comment of mine was supposed to be "Make up you OWN minds"... whoops, sorry :)

Anonymous said...

You can't really define identity in terms of genetics - there is no such thing as "The British Gene" or "The French Gene", despite what our pregenitors believed. By the same token, there is no British race or French race - merely agglomerations of people, whose genetic ancestry may or may not be similar, but who share a common culture and language.

Nowadays, the general view - and this is certainly the case in British law - is that your identity is defined by your own personal perspective. If you have blue eyes, blond hair and the whitest skin, you can still be Afro-Caribbean Black in the census if you really really really feel that that's your identity.

So long as there are people who define themselves as British (either as a primary identity or as a secondary one), there is a strong argument that people must be allowed to express that identity to the same degree as any other identity (which is to say, if there are organisations which are exclusive for people who self-identify as black, there must necessarily be room for organisations which are exclusive for those who self-identify as British).

Budgie said...

Whilst the genetics may be irrefutable, the historical justification of original settlers from Iberia is not.

The Romans (here for 400 years in a sparsely populated island) policed their conquests with troops from other parts of their empire (for obvious reasons).

I suspect that they used troops from Iberia; and a retired legionary, with a grant of land in this province, would have been quite a catch for a local girl.

Anonymous said...

This is all poppycock.
the plain truth is most people want the population to be about the same composition it was early post war.
regardless of the bigotry of the politicians and very few want to have their future elbowed to one side by foreigners of all sorts.
The way you lot dance around with words - soon you will regard the british prevention of lebensraum in WW2 as a racist act. Oh and probably fascist as well.

Guthrum said...

The BNP have always confused Race and Culture, but then again they appear to be confused about most things.

If they had been around in the 1890's they would have been shouting about the Irish

If they had been around in the 16th Century, burning Catholics and shouting about Huguenots

If the had been around in the 12th Century the Welsh and Scots.

Anonymous said...

According to reports this morning, the Scottish Saltire is now a racist symbol. WTF???

Bessie said...

'The Origins of the British' by Stephen Oppenheimer (see Sue's link above to his article in 'Prospect'), is another good read on this subject. Oppenheimer is one of the few archaeogeneticists who bothers to get to grips with the evidence from traditional archaeology. He also makes the point that British DNA is really rather similar to that of the rest of north-western Europe.

But then I've never really understood the BNP's obsession with race. As long as a prospective new Briton is willing to interbreed with us cranky old Britons, I don't really care where his or her DNA comes from!

wildgoose said...

As an interesting aside, where does all this leave "ScotCare", the charity that Ian Duncan-Smith helped set up and which helps ethnic Scots in London?