European Practices and Policies Towards Ethnic Minorities
Puja Daya
Adolescent Ethnic Minorities in regards to Identity and Racism within the United
The United Kingdom is vastly populated with a majority white ethnic group, however 14 per
cent of the population is of other ethnic origin (Census, 2011). This group which consists of a
mixture of diverse Asian and African minorities will be concentrated upon in regards to
adolescents and the education setting within the United Kingdom. Thus, the overlook will
distillate more towards first generation Asian British and African British students throughout
their adolescent period and school because most immigrants will not have studied in the
country or been present at a teenage age. Further, the study of ethnic minority students within
education will need to entail a discussion of not only their integration within the educational
setting but also how it effects their identity both in the present and on going future.
Subsequently, how ethnic identity promotes the best integration and adaption within
education will also be considered throughout the paper alongside notions of racism that may
occur, which will be the basis of the paper. This will be discussed in relation to my own
perception as a first generation British Indian student within England. Conclusively, a
discussion of whether a policy proposal would be beneficial will take place in regards to the
distinctive impacts of being an ethnic minority student within the British educational system.
Ethnic Minorities and Identity
First and foremost, it is necessary to understand the term ‘ethnic minority’ as well as
‘identity’ and the way in which they are applied. A relevant definition is; “a group of people
distinguished by physical or cultural characteristics subject to different and unequal treatment
by the society in which they live and who regard themselves as victims of collective
discrimination” (Wirth, 1945: 347) as well as share a common and distinctive culture,
history, religion and language amongst their group. Thus, it is important to look at ethnic
minorities in a way that does not just include people of different races. An ethnic group can
also be seen as someone of different religion or origin of country, for instance a French
British, Italian American or Jewish British – there are different cultures, languages and
symbols distinguishing ethnicity here (Smith, YEAR) and thus, ethnic origin is not only
related to race and should not be narrowed down to such.
“Identity is primarily about constructing differences between ourselves and others”
(Romaine, 2009: 373). Thus, ethnic identity for an individual has importance within ones’
life as it relates to their personal culture, religion and language from their national origin.
There are variations in ethnic identity that should also be considered – here the model of
acculturation will be considered (Berry 1990, 1997). Here, it can be correlated with two
dimensions of group identity that are independently varied in that one identity can be
undeveloped and weak and the other strong and secure (Phinney, 2001). The former can be
seen as a difference in identity from the majority group which may hold as an identity issue
for students as it relates to the underdeveloped understanding one has of themselves.
Nevertheless, it must be kept in mind that “ethnicity is not equally salient for all individuals”
(Phinney and Alipuria, 1990: 173). Especially the younger the age; many children do not
comprehend the difference in ethnicity until at a later stage in life, mostly their adolescent
years. This issue of the understanding (or lack) of ethnic identity can effects students
European Practices and Policies Towards Ethnic Minorities
Puja Daya
positively or negatively, depending on whether they have a strong association with their nonBritish culture or not.
Thus, in modern societies that consist of different ethnic minorities such as the United
Kingdom, ethnic identity evolves and changes in response to many factors, such as the
development of society and the context of which the individual is set, making it a dynamic
construction (Marcia et al, 1993). Terms of progression, conceptualise the formation of ethnic
identity – when the individual from an ethnic minority goes from a period of no
understanding at a young age to adolescence where he or she begins to explore personal
identity securing their position in society (Phinney, 1989). This is because, during this time,
youth are more curious and begin to involve them in learning about their culture and
ethnicity, allowing to them to develop their identity.
From a personal account, the realisation of a different ethnic identity was evident around this
adolescent age. It was evident that many of my classmates had a distinctively different
upbringing to myself as – from different cultural activities taken part in during spare time and
diverse views on religion. This is just the starting process of realising one’s ethnic identity,
after being unaware of any ethnic difference (Goodman, 1964), one begins to partially gain
an understanding of ethnic identification (Phinney and Rotherham, 1987) through the late
adolescent going on adult years where identity crisis’ are most likely to occur. However,
Brown (2002) states that this period can lead to constructive actions which eventually affirm
the value and legitimacy of the ethnic group. This occurred during adolescence for myself
which enhanced ethnic identity, allowing a higher comfort and understanding of it.
For others, identity crisis is often a period (in this case when regarding the realisation of a
different ethnicity occurring during the adolescent years) of confusion and uncertainty where
one feels somewhat insecure with their identity (Erickson, 1970), not knowing where they
belong and where to call home. Trying to draw a balance between two cultures is a difficult
process for youngsters at an adolescent age which can lead to exclusion from society and
often this can be displayed through aggression and violence. Often, this also leads to
adolescents from ethnic minority backgrounds to leave school at an early age and reject other
societal institutions further resorting to crime (Junger, YEAR). This is evident in the 20142015 statistics of England and Wales which convey that “40 per cent of prisoners aged under
18 were from black, Asian, mixed race or ‘other’ ethnicity backgrounds” (Guardian, 2015).
There must be a reason why crime rates amongst adolescent ethnic minorities are so high
within Great Britain – one being the confusion of identity leading to lack of integration in the
areas of society that are dominated by the white majority.
Ethnic identity does not only have an effect on occurrences such as violence and high crime
rates, but it can also have an important influence on academic achievement during the years
at school (Arellano and Padilla, 1996). For instance, many studies have shown that Asian
students of Chinese and Indian origin are high achievers in comparison to the white majority
as well as other ethnic minorities, where as those of African origin are low achievers in
comparison. This, however is not the only component that is effected by ones’ ethnic identity
(also in relation to academic achievement), self-esteem has also been correlated to the
understanding of ones’ personal ethnic identity (Adriana, 2004). In accordance to the social
identify theory by Tajfel who describes social identity as “that part of an individual’s selfconcept which derives from his knowledge of is membership of a social group together with
the value and emotional significance attached to that membership” (Tajfel, 1981: 255).
Through the social identity theory, knowing as a person that you are a member of a particular
social group, maybe of a specific ethnicity, helps the individual derive their self-concepts and
European Practices and Policies Towards Ethnic Minorities
Puja Daya
often self-worth. In reference to this, if the adolescent takes pride of their ethnic group and
favours them, then being apart of that group may enhance their self-esteem and confidence
(Lorenzo-Hernandez and Ouellette, 1998). However, if they do not feel fully integrated
within the group, it can have the opposite effect, especially if they also do not feel like they
belong to any other group outside of their ethnicity.
Nevertheless, many researchers such as Carlson et al (2000) have established that there is
often a positive correlation in regards to an individuals’ ethnic identity (when fully integrated
into it) and self esteem. Thus, this relationship only occurs for the adolescents for whom their
minority ethnic group is salient (Phinney, 1991) and it is seen as more salient for those who
are apart of an ethnic minority rather than majority (Martinez and Dukes, 1997). This
suggests that often, adolescents of minority ethnic groups are more integrated within their
own culture than majority ethnic groups are with theirs because the group is too large to be as
tight knit. This maybe beneficial to the minority group on one hand, because they feel support
and belonged to something greater than themselves, however at the same time it may make
them feel disengaged and integrated within the wider community and majority group of white
British individuals. Thus, the individual of a minority ethnic group may feel that their life is
embedded into multiple contexts but only feel belong to one which is in relation to their
group, nevertheless these different contexts that exist around them are what shape their
identity and influence their experiences during the adolescent years (Bronfenbrenner, 1989).
However, the individuals that do only feel like they belong to their ethnic minority group
may find themselves sheltered into the group, not leaving it (Adriana, 2004) – this may allow
them to feel that they are not apart of a minority as together they become a majority but it
could disintegrate them from the rest of society. For instance, there are still today some ethnic
minority individuals or groups in Britain that do not speak English, making it nearly
impossible to integrate within society fully.
Racial Discrimination and Integration
Studies have conveyed that abilities to cope with discrimination and racism can be influenced
by ones’ ethnic origin (Chavira and Phinney (1991). Thus, the issues that occur with ethnic
minority identity are not just personal identity crisis’ but also the way in which one is
perceived by others, especially within different institutions such as schools. The concern
being racism. It is important to understand the definition of racism as “an ideology that gives
expression to myths about other racial and ethnic groups, that devalues and renders inferior
those groups, that reflects and is perpetuated by deeply rooted historical, social, cultural and
power inequalities in society” (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1998).
This racial discrimination can either be direct or indirect, either disbursed by the institution
such as schools or by colleagues and individuals.
Often there has been a concern that many students of different ethnic minorities are unable to
take part in certain educational activities without racial harassment such as physical
education and science due to their religion (Osler, YEAR). The dynamics of what is taught
within school often differs to the values your parents encourage you to hold, thus a ‘clash of
values’ (Rex, 2001: 214) occurs. For instance, many female Muslim students in primary and
secondary school would not wear the normal uniform (of shorts) during physical education
lessons due to religious disapproval. This can often cause questions from other students in an
invasive fashion, leading the other to feel ‘different’. Furthermore, some British high schools
in the area did not allow female students to wear trousers but only skirts as a school uniform
European Practices and Policies Towards Ethnic Minorities
Puja Daya
policy. This can be perceived as indirect institutional racism, whether it be intentional or
unintentional thus limiting the rights of some ethnic groups – leading parents to be unwilling
to send their children to such schools.
The Muslim population in the the United Kingdom is interesting to study in terms of ethnic
minorities as there are constant discussions of their integration within such a society. In fact,
it has been conveyed that ethnic minorities that are of the Islam religion integrate less and
more slowly in comparison to those who are not Muslim (Basin et al, YEAR). This could be
due a number of reasons. One of which being their high involvement and commitment to
religious practices which differ to the dominant religion of Christianity in religion, hence
many studies show they perceive a stronger intensity of religious identity than other ethnic
minorities with different religions of no religion. For instance, many of my Muslim friends,
alongside attending school would go to the Mosque in the evening to study the Qur’an, thus
finding themselves integrate within their culture through not only religious teachings but also
a different language.
Nevertheless, such practices can lead to racism against students that affiliate with a diverse
identity to the majority which is a common case in many schools within Britain. Research has
been conducted on such inequalities and racism or bullying that occurs, however little is
really known about the depth of racism against ethnic minority children in Britain and how
this effects their understanding and knowledge of their own identity. One paper (Eslea and
Mukhtar, 2000) conducted in the city I was brought up in – Preston and a near by city Bolton,
in the area of Lancashire researchers racism and bullying that occurs in schools. It surveyed
children attending Hindu Temples, Muslim Mosques of Indian and Pakistani descent with
results conveying that “bullying was widespread; 57 per cent of boys and 43 per cent of girls
had been bullied in one school term and all three ethnic groups suffered equally” (Eslea and
Mukhtar, 2000: 207). This conveys that racism is evident in schools with different ethnic
minorities and identities. Nevertheless, the interesting entity about this study was the
acknowledgment that in fact it was as likely that an Asian student would be bullied by
another Asian of a different ethnic minority as they would be by fellow white children. This
conveys that diverse ethnic minorities often form their own crowds and thus separate
identities within the group even if they are all say Indian. Presenting that other factors such as
religion can group them into smaller ethnic groups where they integrate and create an identity
for themselves, distant from other ethnic groups, be it other minority groups or the white
Policy and Conclusion
The research of anti-racist education policies has not been served well by researchers who
evaluating notions such as bullying in school and identity crisis amongst adolescents. The
issue that lies here as that often it has been conveyed that arguing against racist bullying itself
can be a diverged as a racist act (Loach and Bloor, 1995). This is due to the fact that just the
expression ‘bullying’ provides a sort of screen where other abuses can also be hidden such as
sexism and homophobia and not just racism. Thus, just the beginnings of creating policy by
conducting research are limited which creates further confinements in the establishment of
any policy via the state.
In terms of existent policy, The Crick Report (1998) sets out the change in curriculum that is
needed for an understanding of national identity and anti-racial views within the English
European Practices and Policies Towards Ethnic Minorities
Puja Daya
education system. This in all is laid out to develop the student understanding of different
ethnic minorities and their belief systems so both parties feel more integrated within the
environment. With the introduction to further citizenship education by the state has allowed
adolescents to gain a more developed understanding of ethnicity and the difference of culture,
creating for acceptance. Nevertheless, this is not enough in terms of adolescent identity crisis
amongst ethnic minorities in Britain, where the individuals are unable to integrate fully into
society as they cannot perceive or gain a grasp of their own identity and thus notions of
racism and bullying occur.
A proposal to reduce this manifestation could entail the introduction of more education of
both students and parents on personal identity and the meaning of diversity within ethnicities
from an earlier age. A tactical response would be engaging parents of both ethnic minority
and majority groups as the home setting is important when gaining personal identity for an
individual, as it a big part of their private sphere.
Furthermore, in regards to integration of the community on a full level, the understanding of
English is beneficial for all members of society with the United Kingdom, especially
adolescents as they are new generation. Unacceptability of ‘school drop out’s’ is necessary.
Further exclusion and time given off school due to racist behaviour is an old concept that is
not beneficial to the individual or society – one should be fully educated with an
understanding of diversity and equality.
In conclusion, the literature and research that has been carried out to gain an understanding of
the identity and racism amongst adolescent ethnic minorities within the United Kingdom is
vast with interesting conclusions. However, the identity crisis is often portrayed in full notion
but no understanding of how it can be dealt with by making ethnic minorities feel included
and integrated within society form a young age. This, thus needs further research and analysis
to take place in order to not only gain a better understanding of ethnic minority identity
structures and issues also but how it can be dealt with to avoid notions such as racism that run
alongside and cause feelings of disparity amongst minority ethnic groups.
Multiculturalism in W. Europe and N. American
Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University
Name of
Please refer to the field research handout if you have any questions
1) Introduction
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have a clear thesis
statement or hypothesis?
b) Is this sustained in the
2) Methods
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clearly explained?
European Practices and Policies Towards Ethnic Minorities
b) Is the methodology
integrated into the report?
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Puja Daya