Not Allowed to Be English?
Dave, at our small town site, is also in his late twenties and is a selfemployed IT consultant. He sees little difference between being English and British but is hostile to both Europe and to multiculturalism:
What bothers me is people referring to me as European. I’m not; I’m British. You’re no longer allowed to be proud of your nation. At least if you’re English, or white English. We fought two world wars and now they are trying to take us over by trying to create a United States of Europe.
Gary also expresses anger at what he perceives as an inequity between how the English are treated compared to other national groups:
Nobody ever complains about the Welsh flying their dragon or the Irish flying theirs, but if you fly the St George’s Cross, you are branded a racist. But I still think we don’t fly enough, not just of the St George’s flag and the Welsh dragon, we don’t fly the Union Jacks in this country. See you go to America, everywhere you see flags, and they are so proud and they wear their Stars and Stripes, and they wear them with pride, even the Mexicans and the immigrants, they are proud to have become Americans. But the council won’t let you fly the damn things. They will not let you fly them. They will bend over backwards to accommodate the people who have come to this country instead of the people having to assimilate themselves into this country. We do it totally different from anywhere else in the world. We accommodate them, as opposed to them having to adapt themselves to live in our country, which is the thing that I don’t agree with. I’ve got no problem with people coming here, but I do object____I mean they can carry on
practicing their religion, they can carry on practicing.. .they can dress how they want, they can eat how they want, but when they prevent me from living the way that I want to and the other people traditionally live in Britain, when they want that to be changed, I don’t think that’s fair, I don’t think that’s a democracy.
Similar senses of grievance are expressed by Craig and Teresa:
Why should it be offensive? They celebrate their cultures in their own way, so why can’t we? Why do we get called racists and bigots when we want to celebrate what it is to be English? (Craig)
It’s atrocious that we’re not allowed to show our flag. This is our country, and other religions and other communities have come into this country
expecting to change it. The fact that it’s not their country____It’s ridiculous
how English has to change for other people. (Teresa)
These cases typified a view amongst several respondents that people ‘should be allowed’ to be English or British if they choose to, even if categories do not mean much to them. That is, ‘if other people can have their identity, then we should too’. At the time of the interviews, these sentiments on the expression of pride in being English were not matched by widespread public support for English devolution or self-government. But they do provide indications of an emerging sense of English identity which may be linked to a resentment-based politics of English nationalism.