About the EmoHealth Guide
What is Emotional Health?
Self Knowledge Quiz
Knowing Yourself
Self Esteem Quiz
What is Happiness?
Happiness Quiz
Causes of Unhappiness
ASK ELAINE A QUESTION!
Self-Connection Quiz
Body Issues
Empathy Quiz
How to Make and Keep Friends
Resolving Friendship Dilemmas
Quality of life Quiz
Dealing with Change/Stress
Ready for Love Quiz
Wrong Date/Partner Quiz
Family Matters
Meet ELAINE SIHERA
BOOK ELAINE for your Event
Quotes by Elaine Sihera
DOWNLOAD Elaine's E-Books
Test Your Fear Quiz
Facing Fears and Anxiety
Success Blockages Quiz
Values and Perspectives
Know Your Value Quiz
Handling Personal Problems
Dealing With Life Issues
Spirituality Quiz
Mind, Body, Spirit: Self Help
The Ageing Quiz
Social Media Matters
Diversity and RESPECT
Diversity and INSECURITY
Emotions and Politics
Political Emotions: UK Admin
Political Emotions: USA '08
Sponsorship & Advertising
Recommended Books
Hot News of The Day!
Click For a Charity
Fun Activity Page
e-mail me

Respect and its Relation to Diversity



Understanding the notion of RESPECT in relation to diversity

 


A great number of books have influenced me, but they were mainlyAmerican books where the culture is different from Britain, so I did not feel entirely comfortable with their way of seeing certain things, or suggested actions. Take the perspective on EQUALITY.

My most favourite American gurus are psychologists Carl Rogers and Martin Seligman. Roger's ideas are a little too far back in time to be really useful to me just now but he echoed my beliefs, and they are worth knowing, while Seligman, considered to be the founder of Positive Psychology has a different view of equality than I have. He believes that true equality is 'sameness', making people merge into the crowd so that differences are ignored and similarities are enhanced. That is diversity for him and the American view of it. Not so for the British.

We believe that equality is NOT about sameness. If our maker wanted us to be the same, we would have been clones of each other. Equality is accepting people as they are, without conditions, to ensure they feel as worthy as we do. We were made differently for a reason and are already equal with each other in that respect. However, when it comes to the social construct of equality and diversity, true equality is about ACKNOWLEDGING difference, then trying to UNDERSTAND it, then APPRECIATING it, then ACCEPTING it and finally CELEBRATING it. During that process, we would be also noting the SIMILARITIES that we share, which then helps to build that appreciation and respect. We will tend to accept what we like about that difference, and ignore what we don't. But ignoring the difference to start with is NOT an option for true respect to be present. 

It's like saying to a white friend, I will ignore your blue/green eyes because all eyes are eyes, as I don't feel comfortable with them! Or I will pretend you are black , to be ‘colour blind' so that you are 'the same' as I am, and I don't have to acknowledge the difference in colour so that I can feel comfortable and treat you as a honorary black!! (notice we don’t do that with genders, ignoring guys and treating them as women!!). In that way, my friendship comes at an emotional cost to you.


Unequal Interactions
In every interaction I would control the situation, I control your presence by denying you your definition of yourself, and I control your perception of whom you wish to be as you begin to question your idenity. By conforming to MY definition of you, and my ignoring your difference, that's how you become invisible and, most important, UNTHREATENING, so that I can feel good. Quite simply I define who you are and you can do nothing about it, because I have assumed the power to do so, especially if I am also in possession of the social and economical resources that you need to enhance your life.

In a nutshell, that's how Racism works. It stops at ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, while ignoring the other four stages of social interaction; ignoring what makes the person unique or using their difference against them. Difference is held up as something negative and divisive, while similarities are deliberately ignored. People who are different are acknowledged to be so, of course, but in an inferior and derogatory way, while all the human similarities are deliberately downplayed or treated in a stereotypic way to apply to everyone of that group, without exception.

The five stages of diversity interaction are crucial in social engagement because we really cannot respect something if we don't understand it, and if we don't understand it we then find it more difficult to appreciate, let alone  accept. When we fail to understand something, FEAR takes over until it becomes more familiar, meaningful and relevant to our life. It is not differences that cause divisiveness in communities.

It is naked FEAR of that difference, and exaggerating such difference to make one feel superior, coupled with ignoring the possible similarities for integration. In effect, that failure to keep an open mind and to explore possibilities are the real culprits in keeping people and cultures apart. We would rather make judgements and assumptions instead of giving respect to anything perceived as different to our experience.




The True Meaning of RESPECT

 


Whatever new resolutions we make, there is one thing we will seek every day in our lives without fail and that is RESPECT because it is tied up with our self-esteem and feeling of value. We talk about it a lot, we yearn for it, we expect it automatically and we notice when we haven't been given it by others. But this word is not really understood by many people.

For example, respect is demonstrated by our actions, not our words. And when those actions are absent, especially at a trivial or simple level, there is also a distinct lack of respect. In every relationship respect goes hand-in-hand with love and commitment. You cannot love someone you don't respect or are not prepared to commit to, even for a short time. Otherwise you will resent the time spent with them, or spent doing things on their behalf, when you could be doing something else or be with someone else. Neither can you love someone you really do not trust. Once trust is gone, the feelings become superficial as the relationship shifts in terms of both emotion and power. You would no longer respect that person, tending to be suspicious of their actions instead of celebrating and enjoying their presence.


The Six Dimensions of Respect
Often a lack of respect comes from a misunderstanding of the word. We throw around the word 'respect' very glibly, as a single cure-all for our feelings. But respect is not just a simple term. It carries six other dimensions within it:

1. curiosity

2. attention

3. dialogue

4. sensitivity

5. empowerment

6. healing

If we are not really demonstrating those six concepts in various ways, with regards to the one we say we respect, we are not showing them much respect at all.

Curiosity

Respect starts with curiosity. We have an interest in that person. We want to know as much about them as possible, or at least a few key things to start with. In the dating process we engineer all kinds of opportunities to satisfy that curiosity and are often mortified when we get no response from our interest because are unable to fulfil our curiosity in any way and to give our attention. We feel frustrated, rejected and insignificant.

Attention

If curiosity is satisfied, we move to give that person our full attention. Indeed, our curiosity grows too, because that person begins to assume value in our eyes. The amount of value will depend on the way they satisfy our curiosity and attention. If the information we get is weak, unappealing or non-reinforcing, we lose interest rapidly, our attention wanes and we move towards another. However, if we perceive that the new interest aligns with us and matches us in major ways, excitement and interest both quicken. We then lavish even more attention on that person, going out of our way to attract their attention and interest.

Dialogue
Lots of attention inevitably leads to dialogue because that is the only way we can learn about our new interest. We communicate verbally as much as possible because we respect that person enough to want to hear what they have to say. We also take the greatest pleasure in conversing for its own sake. Hence much money will be spent on dates and phone calls, in particular. Where there is little respect, we are not in the least bit interested in that person and won't even talk to them. If there is also disrespect, for example, we made assumptions about them based upon their gender, colour, sexuality etc., we will go so far as to treat them negatively. We might have a dialogue at such times but it will express our anxieties, prejudices or anger, not our respect.

Sensitivity

This is at the core of respect. Accepting the person as they are without wanting to change them to suit us; fully acknowledging their values, culture, identity and who they want to be; valuing their contributions, opinions and inputs and genuinely listening to them and sharing their concerns. These are all essential elements of showing sensitivity to the person they are, and wish to be. When we put ourself and our needs first, and can only see our values, cultures and opinions, we are lacking great sensitivity to those we care for and are actually denying them respect, no matter what we say to the contrary.

Empowerment

Being curious about someone, giving our attention to, having a dialogue with, him or her, and being sensitive to their needs represent the greatest form of empowerment we can grant to another human being. It shows we value them greatly if we are willing to give them our attention and time, and also care about what they value. Anything else lacks respect. For example, if someone is trying to talk to you but you are busy playing on your computer, or talking to someone else on the phone, that shows little reciprocity for the respect they might be giving to you, or sensitivity to their presence and needs.

Healing
Respect has the capacity to heal, especially when we have had past experiences that have been very hurtful or traumatic, so this last dimension is important. When we have had a bad time it is very affirming to be respected and valued by the new person we are attracted to, or the people we interact with, and it is effective in speeding up the healing process. For example, if someone felt really inadequate because her man went off with a younger, more beautiful woman, a new lover in her life demonstrating how wonderful she is would give her much-needed respect and reinforcement. This would heal her pain even quicker than if she had to overcome it by herself. Respect heals because it affirms and reinforces who we are and wish to be. It also puts past hurt into perspective, or even negates it, and restores our confidence.

Respect and trust can never be taken for granted. They are attributes that have to be proven. They are also directly reciprocal to the behaviour of others. For example, when we feel that we have had no respect from other people we care about, it is likely that we have given them very little respect ourselves. Most of us are sensitive to when we are not being treated with respect and are then unable to give any in its absence.

If you feel disrespected, what are you doing in the process? There is always a connection. You are either accepting substandard behaviour in order to gain approval, allowing yourself to be treated like a doormat, or you are not treating someone well enough. Once you sort out the root cause, mutual respect and trust are usually assured.

Altogether these six dimensions add up to the powerful concept of respect. When we show another human being that respect, we add an even greater experience to their life and perspectives while we too are empowered by its effects.


The Sihera Emotional Health Guide
is a FREE website for your information and enjoyment.
Please help it to continue.




Is respect automatic or does it have to be earned?

 


We all seek respect daily, but how does it come about? Is it automatic or does it have to be earned?

We tend to respect people for what they do, their birthright and the role they play. If we did not acknowledge and validate them as the source of that status, action or expertise, we would not show them respect. Respect is automatic during the initial first impressions, but it is never static and has to be earned afterwards to be maintained. It is difficult to respect someone even when they are being negative and hostile, so we tend to wait for people to 'earn' that respect, though it is awarded without question at the beginning. In effect, a kind of respect with probation.

Respect does not come easily either. The very act of respecting someone means putting them either on par, or above, ourselves, in estimation. We tend to respect people only when we personally recognise them as the source of something wholesome, unique, beneficial or empowering: for example, through a particular knowledge, action, expertise or leadership, not just through their work or social status. We have to feel we can trust them. That is why some people who are simply 'in charge', and have failed professional expectations, are not really respected.

We have to believe someone is responsible for some display of talent, some special activity or earned status before we are inclined to give due recognition, followed by respect through personal admiration and trust. Respect is likely to come through any, or all, of the following sources:

*Fulfilling another person's expectations (i:e making their wishes come true).

*Being better at a special task or skill.

*Being knowledgeable in a particular subject, like a media or academic 'expert'.

*Having a unique position by virtue of birth (the Queen) or for very special achievements (a great sportsperson).

*Helping others to achieve their goals (perceived as having 'power' and 'influence')

*Having a reputation for being generous and kind (rich philanthropists funding selective social projects).

*Being a successful, self-made person with the freedom of action and personal control desired by others (Richard Branson of Virgin and Bill Gates, for example).


Facing Challenges
For example, Barack Obama came out of nowhere to be a huge contender in the 2008 American elections. At first, though there was some scepticism as to his suitability, he was welcomed into the race, given due respect for what he aimed to do and who he said he was. But, from then on, he was on his own and had to earn that respect which he did in the form of winning the Democratic nomination. Enough people recognised his talent, respected him for it and voted him in. If he had lost that respect through his words not matching up with his actions or suitability, he would not have been given the opportunity to be the next president.

His being fiercely individual and non-conformist comes as no surprise. You have to believe in yourself and others to generate real confidence and commitment and be prepared to lead from a lonely position of self-belief; to take risks and face challenges, regardless of scepticism and the consequences. Not to take that respect for granted but to reinforce it at every opportunity.

Respect also has to be given for it to be received. It is quite difficult to respect someone who thinks very little of us, unless we have low self-esteem and are seeking their approval. Furthermore, without respect from others we have problems of adjustment, feelings of insignificance and alienation, loss of confidence and low expectations. This explains why some minority groups perceive themselves to be outside of the mainstream instead of being a vital part of the action. Not recognised for their individual competence or endeavours, except in terms of their race, disability, religion, age or sexuality, they cannot contribute in the same meaningful terms to the wider society until their recognition becomes more professional and less personalised.

It is also difficult to succeed entirely on our own because success is defined by the recognition of our action and the sense of achievement which accompanies it. We can be mad scientists creating new gadgets every day which might personally benefit us, but unless others share those advantages in some way, our genius will never be recognised. Others would get the glory and respect for our inventions. We would only be successful in our own eyes and this is not sufficient in itself to allow us to make a social impact.

It does not matter how fantastic we think we are, unless others recognise it too, we can only move forward in a limited way. With recognition comes respect for our unique selves and talents.




Three Powerful Words Used to Judge Others and to Block Their Development

 


It is very easy to judge others mainly because, at the heart of any kind of judgement, is a fear of difference and a desire to make others more like us, and thus more comfortable to deal with. Hence why we might say that we don't notice a person's colour because that's not important, yet we never ignore their gender! immediately dictating what should be important about the person.

Many people also fail to realise that their own view of life is only ONE view of the diversity we share. We are all shaped by different knowledge, experiences and aspirations, such that even two people sharing the same space will be vastly different. The best way to treat others is to accept them as they are, especially if we wish to be accepted as we are too, and beg to differ in communication where agreement is not possible.

The first thing to note is that the way we view people, and the way our opinion is formed, and dictated, are through personal perception and prejudice. These lead to the emergence of definite stereotypes to cope with how we feel. The three terms are interlinked and can be defined in the following manner:

Perception: This is formed mainly by individual beliefs, background, especially in childhood, and experiences. It is gradually shaped by one's culture, gender and age influences. Most important, perception represents how we individually see our world, what we prioritise in life and what we ignore. That is why when it comes to opinions and emotional issues, they are always a product of perception, our version of 'the' truth, and a personal experience of 'reality' which might be far removed from the 'truth' and 'reality' of others, unless all the elements and shared experiences are exactly the same (a near impossibility!).

Prejudice: This is dictated by perception according to what we like or dislike, accommodate or reject. This aspect represents the preferences one has according to how one views the world and what one believes matters most. Prejudice comes out of perception but is distinct from it in that we ALL perceive our world in particular ways, but we are not all prejudiced in purely negative ways. Most personal prejudice is benign, relating to the life choices we make. They are not malicious towards others. Such prejudice comes out of fear of difference or a desire to feel superior by denigrating what matters to others or their actual person.

Stereotype: This is when one applies that prejudice in a major way by ignoring differences, or exaggerating those differences negatively, to make the targets appear extraordinary, inferior and/or detrimental. Stereotyping can be a key part of prejudice in order to either understand the world better or to exercise personal power over it. It is also heavily influenced by perception, but the extent of any stereotyping is controlled by personal prejudice.

The subtle distinctions between prejudice and stereotyping often lead to the terms being misunderstood. But one can be prejudiced without being stereotypic. However, one cannot employ stereotypes without being deliberately prejudiced or naive. Where naivety is to blame, that person involved perhaps has never interacted with the subject before, has little education of them, and tends to stereotype everyone of that ilk from what they have experienced (the 'benign' intention mentioned above). They identify easily observed characteristics to aid personal understanding. But stereotyping really becomes malicious when it's entirely intentional and other known positive aspects of the target are deliberately ignored.







Why the notion of valuing true diversity is a false and uncomfortable one!

 


Many people who know me and my pioneering equality work in the UK will find this post, in particular, rather strange, and might, in fact, fall off their chairs in some surprise! But that is the beauty of evolving in life from one stage to another. If we are learning, we are always developing and always changing perspectives. If we are entrenched in what we believe and have closed minds, we've stopped learning and are in danger of solidifying into fossilised rocks of dubious certainty. It has to be far more exciting to learn!

Being on a holiday in Chicago by myself has allowed for a lot of free thinking time and I believe the most profound thought I might have had on the whole trip was triggered by a comment from a member of an online diversity group I had joined. Some members had not taken kindly to comments by two other French members and had blasted them somewhat for their views. One member, in particular was so upset by this, she wrote:

"I am very disenchanted with a group entitled Diversity for Obama that does not welcome diverse comments from its members and does not stop to think that everyone may not be familiar with email etiquette."

She had made an excellent point which immediately gave me a new insight into my own work, as I had spent the last 15 years advocating diversity in very strong terms. Retired from it now, it was easier to see the wood from the trees and appreciate that accepting true diversity, not the cosmetic form like our recent 'Black History Month' etc., actually comes with a cost for each group/individual.

The problem with a desire for diversity is that the ideal usually falls far short of the reality. We are basically selfish in our cultural and social needs and genuinely fear difference. Hence diversity tends to be only acceptable when it conforms to our expectations, does not appear threatening and reinforces our cultural perceptions and beliefs!! Thus diversity is fine, but only from a detached and comfortable position, as we each vigorously protect our own corners. The minute that diversity encroaches on our specific values and traditions, questions our beliefs or challenges what we cherish, it ceases to be attractive and causes us to feel vulnerable and exposed.

In essence, the current notion of diversity as practised by the majority community, in particular, is simply monoculturalism in a slightly extended form!


The False Concept of Diversity

In fact, the whole concept of welcoming diversity is a false one because, for each species, gender, type etc., to survive, as is, each has to protect its own culture. The minute it allows for genuine diversity to encroach, it has to accommodate, and even integrate, the culture, needs and expectations of others, which then dilutes what was there in the first place and even challenges its traditions and beliefs. However, if the additional diverse entity is broadly similar, then the reverse happens: it strengthens what was there originally, while giving it new perspectives.

What is pretty clear about acknowledging, appreciating and valuing diversity in any genuine way is that each cultural group has to be prepared to respect other groups, accept parts of what they value and even integrate some of their customs to accord that respect. How many people are prepared to lose what they already have and hold dear to accommodate the expectations, traditions and beliefs of others? After all, we simply cannot appreciate, value or celebrate what we are not prepared to practise ourselves. For example, immigrant minorities in the UK are expected to learn English and be able to speak it, but having any knowledge of their language is not even addressed by the majority, which immediately negates an integral part of their culture!

That is why, in any mixed society, genuine diversity has mainly been practised by minority groups. They have had to integrate or assimilate the majority culture in order to be accepted, respected and valued, to feel included and psychologically comfortable in their identity. On the other hand, members of the majority can afford to deal with such diversity in a detached way, to pay lip service, in fact, while continuing with business as usual, because their culture, group, association etc., sets the standards, the laws, the goalposts, the decorum and the protocol of acceptance for everyone else to follow.

In essence, minority groups that crave inclusion practise diversity by having to accommodate aspects of majority culture while members of the majority can take it or leave it and are often untouched by it.

The whole concept and promotion of diversity is a fine and noble one, but unless everyone is prepared to lose some of their cultural heritage and beliefs, true diversity will always remain a luxurious pipe dream, especially to majority groups with the power to avoid practising it, while being an imposition to minorities who are impotent to avoid its diluting and inevitably absorbing effects.

That is why cultural celebrations like 'Black History Month', which are aimed at educating the majority while valuing diversity, will always remain peripheral to majority culture until there is a genuine desire to actively accommodate other cultures by moving beyond words and actually practising the ideal in some respects.






The 7 Most Important Words in Human Existence
(Virtual Keys to The Quality of Life)

 


We all have words that are of special meaning to us, and some will have greater resonance and relevance than others, depending on their positive or negative associations with our experiences. However, in a global and collective consciousness, there are certain words that unite us all. They soar way above others in what they mean for the quality, success and actual purpose of our lives; words that are like beacons in guiding us to our destinations and keeping us focused. They are above all other words we use because of their power to affect our lives, to give us what we desire and to add sheer enjoyment, satisfaction and fulfilment to our existence.

These seven words have no equal. Taken individually or together they are in a class of their own because they embrace other key words within them. Imagine those words as the building blocks of your personal house, and this is how they would be used in the construction:


1. SELF-LOVE
Self love is the foundation of your house. Everything else grows or falls on it. Armed with this word in your daily existence you just cannot go wrong. It is the essential basis for love, compassion and respect. It is the key to successful relationships and the quality of our interactions. It dictates the perception of our world, the attitude we have toward others, the empathy we feel for them, the forgiveness we are able to make and the love we freely give. If we do not love ourselves we find it hard to love and respect others too. Wherever someone is looking outward to the negative things in life, being quick to judge others rather than seeing their goodness, or to criticise rather than to nurture and love, there's huge self love missing from that person's experience. This results in a lack of confidence, lack of self-appeciation and value and a whole lot of fear.

We do not see the world as we think it is, we see the world as we are, based on the amount of self love we have. This dictates whether we feel good or bad, happy or sad, isolated or befriended, positive or negative. If we are happy and full of self love the world seems an enriching and wonderful place, no matter how terrible some situations might be. If we lack self love, we also lack trust in others, and love and empathy for others; the world seems a crap place to be. Quite simply, we can only give to others what we have to share within us. If we have no self love, we have no love to give and that has a marked effect on four main areas of our lives: our sense of belonging, the security we feel, our level of trust in others and the relationships we have.


2. BELIEF
Without belief, especially in ourselves, we are doomed. We might as well pack it in and take an early departure. If self-love is the foundation of our personal house, belief forms the pillars of it, the blocks that will hold up everything else. Belief engenders trust and faith, key words that underpin it. When we believe in anything, we trust what we know, we have faith in people's ability to deliver and we surrender to forces we might not understand but which have the power to take us farther in life than we can do by ourselves. We know that there is no limit on what we can do and achieve except what is inside our heads; we control less and enjoy life more; we can be patient as well as enthusiastic and impulsive and we can respect others too for their beliefs. 

Belief liberates us from fear and insecurity because we know that whatever we believe in - whether God or little green men - it has the power to help us make things magical. That belief, and faith in our belief, bind us all together in a shared purpose of living. Life ceases to be a drudgery and becomes joyful and fulfilling because we know, and believe, that we have the power to make our life what we want it to be. No one else is responsible but us. We do our best, believe in ourselves, trust in others (and even a higher power) to do the rest and with the faith to motivate us! The results can often be miraculous.


3. VALUES
Values are the roof of our house. They protect us when the rains of adversity are raining down upon us; they remind us of our identity and purpose and keep us focused on our priorities in life. If you know what your key values are, you will always feel a sense of peace, security and contentment because you will be living to them. In a recent survey, some executives were asked for their top priorities in life. Without hesitation most of them said 'my family', which one would expect. However, when they were asked to itemise all the major activities in their week to see how that value was put into action, hardly any activity related to their family! They all related to money, success, achievements and status - career concerns. Family was something that sounded good when they said it.

The words might have made them feel good about themselves but the actions to match it were sorely lacking. Money doesn't make a family, though it might provide some comfort. However, money and other concerns tend to destroy a family when the focus on them is too much. In fact, many of those executives would be living with perennial guilt because they were not living according to their top values. They would be trapped emotionally between the gap of their intention and continued lack of action. Until they really put family first by aligning their actions with it, they would be fooling themselves. 

Values are the things that define us, the priorities we make in life, the codes we live by. Some secondary values will always change, according to what is happening in our life at that time, but the core ones (like justice, fair play, honesty, integrity and valuing life) will never change. They stay with us forever. When we are not living to our core values (like married spouses who declare their undying love for partners but are having affairs, or someone who does something just to please someone else even though they hate it) we get a lot of frustration, worry, stress, resentment and emotional pain. We find it difficult to be happy, contented and at peace because there is a dissonance between our intentions of good faith and our actual actions. We are then tempted to look outwards and blame others than to look inwards to address what is making us unhappy and how we can alleviate it.


4. CREATIVITY

Our creativity is what makes the human race as a whole survive from one day to the next. It is like the walls of a house that surround us from day to day, to keep out the elements and ensure our survival. Creativity keeps our species going by turning our desires into material things that give us artistic beauty, personal comfort, improved health, prolonged life and stretches us intellectually. Desires are not accidental things. Thanks to our natural curiosity and our ability to keep wanting and expecting, we have developed our world over the centuries to the amazing one we now live in. Creativity is about how proactive we are; our willingness to fulfil our desires without fear, to use our imagination (the most powerful tool we possess), the knowledge gained through curiosity and the motivation we feel to continually forge our existence for the benefit of ourselves and others.

Creativity allows us to leave a legacy for the next generation, to prolong the chain of life itself. People who are reluctant to use their own creativity and prefer to depend on that of others tend to be takers, not contributors. They make use of the creative flow of others without realising their own dreams for others to benefit too (like the people who daily use the Internet just for their own gain without adding something to it for others to share). They are not fully utilising their own skills and talents in order to give life to their creativity, while helping mankind as a whole.


5. VISION

The windows of our house give the vision we need to see what is possible for us. Our vision allows us a much wider view of life, but it is usually blocked by the curtains of fear: the fear of where we are heading and the inadequacy we feel. Vision gives us clarity and boosts our motivation. Vision provides a panoramic view of life, while hope, faith and trust help us to cover the terrain. Without vision, we have no confidence in our abilities and our potential. A lack of personal vision feels debilitating because it keeps us in limbo, there is no real purpose in life and it robs us of the motivation to even get up out of bed each day and the real excitement of living. Without vision we simply exist because we are likely to be physically and emotionally drained of the joy of living.

With a clear view through your own windows, there is a sense of urgency and vibrancy in your life - an impatience for action and a need to get on. There is much anticipation and self confidence in what you can enable through your own efforts. All things are possible.


6. CHOICES

Choices are the doors of our personal house. We either use them regularly by keeping those doors open to possibilities and moving briskly on in our lives, or we fear to exercise those choices, hark back to the past with regret, and remain in a rut. At the heart of our choices are the decisions we make. If we make no decisions regularly nothing happens. Even worse, others are likely to make those decisions for us. The choices we make are about how we exercise free will, how we deal with the consequences of our actions, the responsibility we take for them, the expectations we have of ourselves and others and how we exercise those choices once they are made.

Many people are afraid to make choices. They lack the maturity to face the consequences of their actions and so live in fear instead. Or they want everything to be so perfect, and lack self-belief so much, they do not believe they have the power to turn their choices into great decisions which will magically affect their lives. Instead they keep their emotional doors firmly shut, fearing to open them even an inch, and then wonder why they are stuck in the same places, doing the same things and feeling the same inadequacy, failure and pain for months and perhaps years.


7. DISCIPLINE
This forms the sturdy floor of your personal house, solid and unchanging. Without discipline, you can be distracted by triviality; you can be blown this way and that; there would be no solidity or security in your journey because you would be plagued by vagueness and ambiguity. Discipline is the foundation for our behaviour because it is about commitment and consistency, first and foremost. Commitment to the things we value, to our beliefs, to the choices we make, to the creativity we exercise, the responsibilities we assume, the priorities we have and to the sacrifices we are prepared to make to achieve what is important in our lives. And consistency in our actions, whether we can be relied upon or are simply fair-weather people, changing with the wind primarily for opportunism and results without any clear direction. 

Without discipline we would be on a continual see-saw of inconsistency, perhaps starting and seldom finishing, always wishing yet never realising and often intending but not usually acting. Discipline is the glue that reinforces our actions, that takes us from one point to the next and keeps us focused on everything that is important to us.






The Power of 'Listening' to Gain Respect

 


Everyone in the world mistakenly believes they are seeing the same reality. In one sense, reality is a static situation but how it appears to us will depend on what we read into it, and that is decided by our individual perception. With perception being a powerful invisible force in human relationships, learning how we each perceive a situation can help to improve understanding, respect and individual communication skills.

For example, what do you currently assume or take for granted in your relationship?
Do you accept widely held stereotypes and do you base expectations of your family on them?
Can you see your child, parent or spouse as a person in his or her own right rather than just as 'a selfish man' , 'a stupid woman' or a member of the 'younger' or 'older' generation?

Most important, do you really listen when you meet someone new or do you immediately make an assumption and impose your perception on them? Do you try to understand their perception while patiently explaining your own?

Getting to know someone better, and taking time to understand their beliefs and perspective, whether we agree with them or not, help to get rid of perceptions which are based more on fear than on fact.

Listening to someone, while communicating accurately and consistently, is essential to this process. Being a fundamental aspect of effective communication, listening affects what we perceive the situation to be, especially what we believe the other person is actually saying. We cannot note the difference between a symptom and a problem when we have not listened to the facts or perceptions of the facts. We cannot help if we do not really hear.

Early in my writing career I sent the first three pages of a chapter of one of my books to a white colleague and high flyer whom I greatly admired and respected for her feedback. But, even before I sent it, because it was only three pages long, her perception of its value was immediately negative. She assumed that it would not make sense (and told me so, before receiving the excerpt!). She advised how I needed to write so the public could understand what I was trying to say, and that she would not be able to be objective about it if she did not get the whole chapter. I wondered what else was operating here so that my perceived incompetence loomed large in this instance!

Once she got it, she understood the content perfectly, rated it 'astonishingly good' and felt sheepish at her earlier perception, anxieties and assumptions. But that's what happens when our self-esteem and self-perception is low. We project our fears and worries on to other people who are unlikely to share those insecurities. Worse still, when such anxieties are placed upon children, who are normally fearless, they become burdened by them and act accordingly.

Do you make the effort to really listen to other people, getting the real messages between the words, or do you assume what they are saying and miss those messages entirely?




Why RESPECT Cannot be Earned Through Negative Means

 


Some time ago, an 18 year old at the start of his adult life began the next 25 years of it in prison in the UK for killing another man who he said paid him no 'respect'. Yet another Black youngster is behind bars, his freedom and potential dramatically cut short like the life of his victim. Bradley Tucker shot unarmed Peter Woodhams after Peter had already been knifed by someone in Tucker's hoodie gang. He lost his life trying to stand up to the bullies.

According to the judge, Bradley "perceived disrespect". He feared loss of face in a challenge that he perceived from the man he killed - a challenge to the standing he felt he had in the eyes of the people whose respect he sought. Gang members tend to talk about getting 'respect' from each other and others. They believe that the negative acts of wounding and killing should encourage even more 'respect' and save face. But they will always fail in getting the desired result because of a misunderstanding of the word respect and a lack of awareness of how it is acquired. Respect is a positive word. It has nothing to do with negativity or negative acts. So one cannot get respect through negative behaviour. One can probably get a temporary feeling of satisfaction and power, but no real respect. There are also six dimensions of the word respect.

At the heart of respect is sensitivity to others and their feelings. By demanding respect, or bullying others into showing it, that goes against the grain of earning that respect because there is no sensitivity. We are all entitled to respect by virtue of being living, thinking human beings. Respect is thus automatic in the first instance for who we are and proclaim to be. However, maintaining that respect is the difficult bit because unless the six dimensions of respect are in place (curiosity, attention, dialogue, sensitivity, empowerment, healing), we are likely to withhold respect from that person and treat them with either contempt or disdain, especially through ignoring them or resisting their attempts to draw our attention or engage in dialogue.


Reasons for Joining Gangs


Most importantly, real respect begins from the self. If we have no respect for ourselves, we cannot expect it from others either. That would be a difficult thing to do. For example, someone being a murderer, yet expect to be treated as though he hasn't committed a crime, is contradictory. He is a criminal. Until there has been a successful rehabilitation for his action, he will always be perceived in a negative light and denied the respect he seeks.

People join gangs for a variety of reasons but the key one is to foster a sense of belonging, to be accepted, which is an essential part of the confidence triangle. Most gang members will be low in self-esteem and the stronger ones will have a craving for power. Not being able to use that power in positive ways in the wider world, they will use it negatively to feel better about themselves. In such groups, where the only glue holding members together is the desire to belong and feel wanted, the achievement they crave is likely to come in deviant acts to maintain that feeling of power and desire for 'respect'.

Yet that is not the basis to earn respect because there is no self-respect already in place. Instead, members are likely to expect others to like what they reject - themselves. They will also be expecting others to condone negative acts which are likely to be part of their rituals and affirmation process. Yet those very acts merely serve to alienate the wider public and form a dubious base for their efforts to impress other members. In such a negative situation, how could Bradley expect to get the respect that he himself denied others?

Bradley Tucker is another tragic youngster who thinks he can earn respect by force through the maiming and killing of another person. But he lost respect for himself when he became a member of a deviant gang and began his reign of terror against his neighbourhood. He said he only meant to scare his victim. I am inclined to believe him. But what obviously got in the way when he pointed the gun at defenceless Peter Woodhams was that feeling of power again, the sudden realisation of the heady power to snuff out a man's life to prove a point, while momentarily forgetting that he was robbing himself of a life too.




Perception and Respect in the British Honours System

 


Perception dictates the reality of every individual so that no two people share the same perspective of their life or situations. Selective perception (based upon cultural conditioning, comfort levels, fears and aspirations) forms our beliefs which then dictates our values and our identity. We perceive, therefore we are! That is why it is so difficult to share the views of people who are radically different from us because the absence of familiar aspects encourages us to perceive a barrier in communication and in customs, even before we actually see any. We then act accordingly as dictated by our fears.

From that moment on, it makes it even harder for the one on the receiving end of negative perception to actually overcome that imaginary obstacle. Hence why stereotypes and discrimination of any form tend to take such firm hold in a mixed community. The powerless minorities are always at the mercy of the perceptions of the privileged majority, whoever they happen to be - whether men against women, abled against disabled, White against Black or heterosexuals against gays, for example.

Our perceptions dictate how we feel, how we see ourselves and, above all, how we see others. It is the only reality we know. We cannot share the reality of others until we are convinced of the merit, legality or the benefit to do so! For that reason colour and gender, in particular, define perceptions on many significant issues, of which 'Empire' is one of them. If some visible minorities, and even White members of our population, perceive that the word Empire is disparaging or even insulting, that is their reality and should be acknowledged and accepted, not dismissed because it does not conform to the view of the majority.


Labels and Their Effects
The British government has had an obstinate stance towards changing the word 'Empire' in its public awards for its own reasons, mainly for continuity and tradition, but this is not about a simple word. It is much bigger than that. The British Empire meant two entirely different things to Blacks and Whites who shared it. One group experienced repression, oppression and major racism against their very identity. For the other it was as subjugating masters of other peoples. It is also about the labels we choose to enhance ourselves.

The words and labels we choose to describe us are tied into our identity. They define who we are, emphasise what we stand for and infer where we are going. This word with its negative past is also integrated into our recognition and reward system. A word clearly giving mixed messages of value and discomfort to a significant section of our community. As it stands, the word Empire to the White victors of yesteryear is a constant reminder of a perceived lost age of glory; defining people of power, conquest, cultural superiority and colonisation; emphasising affluent living and a license to be racist, oppressive and to kill with impunity those deemed to be inferior, ignorant and rebellious. Something to celebrate with pride as they revel in the past rather than welcome the future.

However many younger visible minority citizens, our future role models, perceive themselves to be part of one nation, not part of a repressive and discriminatory regime. They do not wish to be reminded of images of racism, cultural negation, cultural imposition, exploitation and total disrespect which the Empire conjures up. So this is really a Black and White issue dominated by different perceptions. Naturally, if you hark back to those unequal days (while spouting hot air about equality and diversity) very few people can really take you seriously.

For the obvious reason that 99% of the Government is White, with its positive perception of the value of Empire, while the main refusniks of the word are Black or Asians, it stands to reason that the Government will perceive no adequate case to have been made for changing anything! But we cannot drive looking longingly through our rearview mirror at the past scenery. That will set us on a definite collision course with the road ahead. We have to look ahead through our windscreen of the future, whether we like it or not, to ensure our survival.


A Question of Respect
Finally, and most importantly, is the question of respect. The message of Empire to a mixed community is one of disrespect and negation of their feelings. No one is suggesting that every single Black person does not wish for these honours, but a significantly increasing number find them an anathema in their present form. People desire recognition and reward to feel appreciated and valued for their contribution to society. We also require national awards that carry integrity, credibility and prestige that we can all celebrate.

For a variety of reasons, the current corrupt honours system no longer serves that purpose. The honours have lost their gloss and are rapidly losing their impact and credibility. Many of the very people who could promote them and raise their prestige, like myself, are against them. Worse still, anything which divides a country, yet is supposed to be beneficial, will only increase resentment on all sides - from the powerful who remain entrenched to the powerless who feel unheard.

We need a system which recognises the diversity and different perspectives inherent in any mixed community - an honours system which is entirely inclusive. Not one dictated by one main group while meant for all. Not one lauding the recipient while simultaneously reminding him/her of how inferior/superior they used to be! A system which reflects our present and future is the only one which can send an inclusive message of value and worth to every member of society; a strong message of a celebration of the present and its potential not a glorification of the past. The true essence of respect are: personal value, being heard and being included. The refusal to remove the word Empire, or to reform the honours system radically, suggests the opposite to every one of its recipients.

Being a creative nation, with tremendous talent, we can do better in reforming these outdated awards, but only if we really want to go forward as ONE nation. Or perhaps we prefer to regress backwards as two distinct and opposing sides. It is our choice. The Government sees no case for change and has lost countless opportunities to make a real difference and to take us firmly into the 21st century. Here we are in 2008 and still the old system persists. But change will happen regardless, because only the people can give credibility to such honours and, increasingly, it is proving embarrassing to many people to publicly accept these honours, that are rapidly losing credibility, and with any real pride.






Is Affirmative Action Fair?

 


Affirmative action is fair, in the context of which it has been applied. But like anything else that has been in operation for a while, it needs reviewing and something else, perhaps more appropriate to these times, needs to be instituted.

The biggest case for affirmative action to continue in some form is with the college admission systems. So far, in colleges which no longer use affirmative action to place applicants, the number of Black students being accepted has dramatically declined. Cynics might say that it proves they were not eligible in the first place, but American society is very racist in key parts. Until that racism can be stemmed to some degree, there will always be a need for some remedial or affirmative action. When we have a situation where only White students are being educated in a given area, for whatever reason, what are the economic and social implications for the future when the students of ALL races are that future?

I have visited America as a Black woman on numerous occasions and have always been struck by the sheer apartheid nature of its society, the way people live in clear racial and cultural divides, hardly mixing at all, seldom understanding one another and with various erroneous perceptions of one another. There is an emphasis instead on getting the semantics right, promoting the jargon of equality without the substance to support it. Affirmative action is not there to treat anyone in more favourable terms than another.

It is simply about representation: ensuring that a given community is reflected at all levels of activity, particularly in ensuring crucial opportunities to everyone in society, regardless of their colour or culture. The fact that most institutions in America are still very White in composition, despite the growth and success of minorities, show that affirmative action will be needed for a long time to redress the balance of routine and pervasive racism in society, not least because of its history.

As to one writer who says that all colours in British society are treated 'equally' and 'fairly', she has obviously never lived in Britain! People might live harmoniously here but that does not suggest anything is equal. At least we don't live in exclusively racial ghettos. However, as a Black Briton, there is nothing fair about British society for minorities otherwise they would have advanced much further already. Britain is at least 20 years behind America in effective equality practices.


Lack of Awareness Among Minorities
The reason why there isn't more of a fuss about it is because minorities are not as organised, socially or politically, due to lack of awareness and smaller numbers. The social norms tend to suppress such issues and the history is rather different. Minorities in the UK are a long way behind successful counterparts in the USA because, though we need something like affirmative action to redress some of the glaring imbalances and inequities, that kind of action has been repeatedly resisted by governments. Yet the latest economic report on the state of minority communities in Britain makes dismal reading.

If a problem is never directly addressed and dealt with, it remains the same or gets even worse. Without doubt, racism is alive and well in America. Until one is on the receiving end of it, it really is a difficult concept to understand, appreciate and accept. A poor White person worries about not having any money and where the next crust is coming from. A Black person worries about the next crust, but also has the added burden of wondering who is going to stop him from getting that crust just because of his colour. That subtle difference between being White and Black can make or break lives.

The fact that affirmative action is being questioned now shows how successful it has been. Perhaps it needs something else to replace it to be more in tune with developing times, but there is no question as to its fairness and the need for it to redress the relentless inequity. Affirmative action may not be the best thing to remedy the situation for minorities, but it has been a crucial start in the process of equality. Whatever many people feel about it, rightly or wrongly, it has given a lot of minorities a positive start in their lives which they would have been deprived of primarily because of their colour and the spurious belief that one can engender equality simply by saying it without believing in it or acting upon it.




Is America still in denial of White Privilege?

 


In 2001, the writer and academic, Tim Wise, made history in the UK by taking one of the top prizes in the annual British Diversity Awards(7th) held in London - see Wikipedia.

Founded by myself, these unique and prestigious awards recognised and publicly rewarded organisations and individuals in Britain and internationally who were making a significant difference in their establishments and personal efforts to celebrate diversity, promote harmony between cultures, encourage social understanding and to bring people together. The 28 of the 38 judges nationwide, who never met to prevent being influenced by one another, awarded Tim the Best Diversity Article for enabling greater understanding and appreciation of diversity issues. Until then, the title had only been won by Britons.

Colour Conscious, White Blindness, was a powerful treatise on how minorities were perceived in the 1990s relating to crime. Using numerous examples on both sides of the colour divide, Wise left readers in no doubt as to the biased perception of people of colour, and how majority ‘white privilege’ ensured they were always viewed and treated unfairly.

A short excerpt of his award-winning article read:


By racializing danger, we lend legitimacy to what D’Souza calls “rational discrimination.” Thus, if certain types of people seem more dangerous, then it’s O.K. to refuse to pick up anyone of their race in your cab, or refuse to hire them, or keep them out of your neighborhood or for the cops to rough them up a bit. It’s rational. Far from mere rhetorical excess this logic has been utilized by a California judge to justify murder. In the 1991 trial of Soon Ja Du, charged with shooting and killing Black teen, Latasha Harlans, the judge handed down only a nominal fine, explaining that the event should be viewed in the context of Du’s family’s “history of being victimized and terrorized by gang members.” Not victimized and terrorized by Harlans, mind you, but by people who looked like Harlans. One can only wonder how this kind of argument would hold up if used by a Black man to justify his killing a white cop because of his prior experiences with police brutality.

“So in just a few short years, comments about the pathology of people of color have gone from the margins of political discourse to the center. Discussions of crime have become increasingly racialized and our dialogue on race increasingly criminalized, such that deviance is now seen by many as synonymous with melanin, or Black culture. Meanwhile whites, no matter how criminal or “deviant” our behaviors may be, are allowed the privilege of individualization. We’re allowed to be “just bad persons,” unlike non-whites who come to be seen collectively as bad people….

Fast forward to today, and I was amazed to receive his latest article relating to the American elections in my mailbox and it gives some real insights into white privilege and the 2008 elections.

Entitled This is Your Nation on White Privilege, the blog lists various ways white privilege is still manifesting itself in this election year and begins:

“For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fu*kin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you’ll “kick their fu*kin’ ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot sh*t” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.”

So is America still denying the existence of white privilege which automatically allows one section of its community to be treated better than the others? Decide for yourself with the rest of the article.

This is Your Nation on White Privilege (The Red Room Blog)

Tim Wise.org






Do we Really Need a Black History Month?

 


As one who has spent the last 14 years promoting multiculturalism from the rooftops in the UK, through the only book on the subject and two annual national diversity awards, I have been pretty saddened this year to hear government ministers and others trumpeting that 'multiculturalism isn't working' or we 'cannot celebrate diversity because it encourages difference' and keeps us separate. But both statements are based upon ignorance and fear which does not really help a diverse community to move forward together.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating diversity or encouraging multiculturalism. What has been terribly wrong is a marked absence of respect on both sides of the cultural divide which makes appreciation difficult. The word 'respect' is glibly shouted by everyone in times of crisis, but it seems to be only in connection with our own needs and viewpoints and very little to do with others. We all seek respect, we feel we are denied it, we accuse each other of not giving it. But in reality, we are simply in love with the idea of the word itself, not its application. This could be because we really do not understand the meaning of this important word. Let's take some glaring examples of disrespect.


Negative media coverage: Black History Month emerged because of a lack of positive attention to minorities (that respect again!) by the media. Minorities in Britain are virtually invisible in every aspect of life except crime. We hear about them ad nauseam in relation to terrorism, guns, gangs and street crime but hardly in any other dimension. The only time minorities take centre stage is when something negative is being reported.

Black History Month was introduced to counteract that media exclusion, to give much needed positivity and visibility. Yet, there should be no need for a Black History month at all because there is just a flurry of activities in October (and February in the USA), a month saturated with events where everyone tries to be heard, to be significant and valued, and then nothing else for the other 11 months. Like tragic cuckoos, they coo loudly once, then go back inside their clocks for another year. What minorities need is to be treated ordinarily, like the majority community, with balance and value.

An exclusive and racist approach keeps minorities in the public eye as extraordinary and non-contributing beings who are simply taking from society. It uses them in situations that bolster national fear (immigration and crime) while ignoring the vast majority of law abiding, legal citizens quietly playing their part in their communities. Minorities are also used in a cynical way to show national pride abroad (as with the Olympics when multculturalism was suddenly cool and essential), but are largely excluded from the preparations, the promotion and the service contracts.


2. Exclusive labels: Black History Month celebrates black heritage and culture. This is not just a showcase but an educational opportunity for the White majority to learn about their minority neighbours. It also empowers Black people to take pride in their identity and thus a wholesome cause for celebration. There are also many pointedly 'Black', 'Asian' or 'Muslim' organisations which were created to encourage a positive identity and to guard against isolation, primarily because of their exclusion from the mainstream. Nothing wrong with that at all. However, how would members of minority groups feel if they suddenly saw signs and promotion for a 'White History Month', 'White Women Forum', the 'White Professional Association' or the 'White Entrepreneurs Club', labels which are clearly racist and exclusive? They would rightfully be up in arms. Where is the sensitivity (respect again) for the pointedly White exclusion in those labels? Yet, in a diverse society, such cultural sensitivities are very important if we are to learn about, value, and appreciate one another.



3. Lack of Recognition: Visit the website of a top national newspaper in the UK and, of its 24 writers paraded for the public, only one will be black. I won't even mention television and radio because commercial radio, in particular, is dismal when it comes to representation of their diverse audience among radio staff. Is it any wonder that the views in the media are so skewed against minorities when there is a basic lack of recognition for them, with hardly anyone speaking with any cultural knowledge?

That is why there is very little sensitivity (respect again) to minority views and feelings. Being on the negative end of any reporting, they are fair game for people seeking sensational headlines without any responsibility for the divisive consequences of their actions. The BBC has been recently accused of racism by a prominent writer in 21st century Britain. That is very sad today. The real worry is that if the BBC is still lagging behind in its own objectives, a service which is supposed to be serving, and representing, the whole community, what can one expect of lesser organisations?


Social Harmony
Diversity and multiculturalism can work harmoniously when all parties are prepared to compromise, and accord each other respect. But we cannot simply demand respect for ourselves while giving none because no country can thrive with a divided nation. If we really love our country, we strive together to make it a great place to live. However, we cannot respect what we don't understand or appreciate.

Starting from that base, Black History Month should be scrapped and minority heritage and culture celebrated all year round, just like that of the white majority, but under a diversity label. For example, what about Our Diverse Music in January, Our Diverse Literature in February, Arts and Crafts in April, Dance in May, Diverse Foods in June?...You get the drift. It means that, instead of just focusing on minority crime and negative issues around minorities, the white-led media can actually begin to pay some proportional attention, throughout the year, to the positivity of being a minority, and the rich diversity of our nation, through the cultural exchange of knowledge, particularly encouraging involvement and patronage by white sponsors and patrons. That is the only way to make all people feel included, to engender loyalty and pride, and the main way to change white perception of their black neighbours.

It is also the only way for all British (and American) citizens, whatever their origins, to feel significant, appreciated, valued and included. In effect, to feel respected.






Can One Formally Learn a National Identity Like Being 'British'?

 


The short answer is: No, they can't.

You have to 'feel' something about a country to really appreciate it, and that takes time. One can learn the history of it, learn about the lifestyle, the crime, the values, but one can only appreciate what the country truly represents by being part of it for a while. We have to feel comfortable about that particular country, being in alignment with its aims, values and mores, before we can truly feel a part of it and what it represents for us. Otherwise one simply pays lip service to an ideal while feeling exactly the same. Worst still, one will also be caught in a kind of limiting limbo, while hankering after 'home'.

Another important element is the whole concept of 'Britishness'. With its obvious fluidity and continually changing mores, who defines it for whom? Politicians, civil servants, sociologists? What do we leave out of those lessons and what becomes acceptable? Reggae is now an embedded part of the British culture, despite its Jamaican heritage. Will that be part of any information, question or discussion provided, or will it be some outmoded monocultural interpretation of the essence of Britishness? And what about the elements of Britishness that will not make it to the lessons but which are regarded as equally integral to those who adhere to them and value them?

This is a cultural minefield, the effect of an evolving multicultural society, that only very courageous people would dare to tread.


Personal experience

On a personal note, it took me 10 years after arriving in Britain 40 years ago to actually 'feel' British. Until then, I strongly resisted getting a British passport, despite my ex-husband's constant encouragement, hankering back to Jamaica at every opportunity, with strong loyalties to match. I was the epitome of Lord Tebbit's yardstick for measuring British loyalty. I certainly felt little loyalty to Britain because, during those early years, the only cricket team I ever wanted to win was that of the West Indies!

The main effect of this split loyalty was that every time my British Sikh husband and I travelled anywhere with our family, he and the children would be whisked off to the fast queue while I was held back for a good old search for any ganga I was perceived to have, the dreaded 'weed' I might have carried back with me! Didn't matter that his suitcase could have been full of it too as he passed without scrutiny. I was Jamaican so I would be guilty. I soon learnt to give him all the extra bottles of rum we had that would have attracted attention! Being searched with little respect was so regular as to be ad nauseam. Having a Jamaican passport condemned me to the ritual of immigration racism and handy stereotype which I felt powerless to change. I certainly didn't feel 'British' when I was clearly excluded and being treated differently.

Then one morning 10 years later, I just didn't wish to be Jamaican anymore. I wanted a British passport. I had gradually realised, on subsequent visits back to the homeland, that I had little in common with the folks back 'home'. My perspectives had changed dramatically, yet with a slow realisation. I thought like a Brit and did things like a Brit. Fellow Jamaicans used to point at us in some mirth noting how we 'acted funny'. My children and immediate family also lived in Britain and I felt I truly 'belonged'. Until that Eureka moment of acceptance, that feeling of being at one with one's homeland, any talk of teaching 'Britishness' is sheer pie in the sky.

Today I adore Britain, I enjoy living here, and certainly wouldn't live anywhere else. Yet it took 10 years to have such a contented feeling of confidence and belonging in order to leave Jamaica behind. Sadly, many people never make that transition, depending on their experience. If it is negative, and they feel excluded, they tend to hanker forever after the perfect 'home' they left behind, one that would have been moving on with time, in reality, but had fossilised in their heads in an idealistic way - a situation that tends to have a tragic effect on their children's sense of self, identity and belonging too.

Pupils can learn what a narrow perspective of being 'British' is all about, from a dubious monocultural perspective, but they can never learn what it is to be truly British in the essential emotional terms of appreciation and love in that superficial process. Only time can teach them that. Nothing else.




Will the Coalition be Reforming the British Honours System?

 


Now that the new Coalition government seems to be sweeping the country with their reforms of one kind or another, will they also be tackling the last vestige of white supremacy while they are at it? The last insult to a multicultural society?

Last June, the usual crop of public honours recipients was announced in London. The Queen's Birthday and New Years' Honours Lists "reflect and pay tribute to outstanding achievement and service right across the community" says the blurb, but often one wonders which community it's dealing with, because the people who do receive the very top honours are seldom the ones who would be recognised by the general community.

The awards system, which still carries the obnoxious tag of 'Empire', and glory in its colonial legacy and traditions, is still alive and well when it should have been pensioned off years ago. With whiffs of honours for sale, it is about time this particular heritage is retired gracefully and something more reflective of modern society and true merit introduced in its place.

Britain prides itself on its equal opportunities and diverse multicultural society, yet, just casting a glance at the Knights and Dames honours, as in every past year, men outnumber women by nearly 3 to 1 and very few minorities achieve the very highest ranks like Commanders of Knights. From the spread of honours, one can assume that men are more deserving than women and Whites more deserving than Blacks. Nothing that has lasted so many years can still serve a different society today in an efficient way, and in the same form, when we have advanced in amazing ways and with constantly changing perspectives.

I mean, a lady running her business successfully for over 50 years gets a mere OBE. Yet still active in her nineties! What on earth does she have to do to get the CBE or Damehood? Another 50 years?


Honours an Anachronism?
I would scrap this outdated and exclusive honours system if I were David Cameron. It is getting really tired and irrelevant now in the way they are still awarded on class lines and still refer to that great 'Empire' which has an invisible location to the British public. Where exactly do we find this British Empire? Perhaps if we stopped hanging on to the past and looked to our future we would be even greater than before. To award a member of a minority group with a reminder of a discriminatory, racist and repressive colonial regime is disrespectful and offensive in this global age.

We are now desperate for an inclusive MODERN awards system that one does not have to pay money for, which will apply right across the board to everyone in our multicultural society; one which will reflect the national pride we should feel for Britain TODAY, not yesterday. An award system to help bind the country together as one in a spirit of achievement and togetherness, not keep people artificially apart and stuck in yesteryear! Is that the best we can do now to recognise our people?

These awards are an anachronism in today's technological 21st century world. The quicker that is realised and acted upon, the more the credibility of the British honours system will be restored and the more reflective of its multicultural society it will gradually become.


 

(Photo images used on EmotionalHealthGuide.com courtesy of dreamstime free photos).