Sunday 6 February 2011


A few years ago I was privileged to work in a multicultural International school in Tamil Nadu, India. ( I stayed there for three years, met great people, enjoyed teaching there and I miss the place.

For those 3 years in India I was a foreigner, I stood out, I was a 'Vellai Karan': I know what it feels like to be a minority. The welcome I received made me feel just that, welcome. I was treated differently, mainly when I visited other places as a tourist. Occasionally I would have to pay over the odds for things but that was the only downside; people were always interested in what I was doing in India, I was often interrogated on train journeys about why I taught biology instead if practicing medicine (somehow my parents would have been prouder of me if I had have been a doctor). If my motorbike wouldn't start I was surrounded by a group of 'helpful experts' who would beep my horn and turn my fuel tap on and off. I was always fascinated by the people I met and the stories they had to tell. If this all sounds like a gold-tinted, rose-coloured look back at my time there then I don't apologise, it was a good three years. I was never intimidated for the colour of my skin or my religious beliefs.

Multiculturalism is not a strategy or a party political policy. It is an ideal not an idea. Multiculturalism cannot fail. We must work towards it, we have only failed in that we have not reached a truly tolerant multicultural society yet. There are no real alternatives to multiculturalism. Hatred is one and the Far Right should not get any help from the Prime Minister on peddling that idea. A single party state is another alternative and the Far Left should really get together and work on that one; at the student protests I have attended I could have bought newspapers from about half a dozen different groups (you can't smash the state if you are too busy trying to out-smash each other) Both extremes are clearly not multicultural.

If Gandhi had said 'multiculturism has failed' after every riot between religious groups at the time of partition then India would not be the country it is today (if they had privatised the railways in the early 90s then it would not be the rising tiger economy that is becoming either)

Do not let multiculturalism fail. Don't let it fail in your school, college or university. Don't let it fail in your city, town, village or estate. If you do then racism and intolerance have won.

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