Wednesday 08 April 1998
Sometimes it is the thud of mutual back-slapping; on other occasions it is a rant peppered with ugly stereotypes.
The last time I heard any of these nasty noises was last month in the company of Tony Blair. The prime minister was addressing a group of about 200 wealthy individuals - of which I am not one - who found themselves classified as "Britain's richest Asians".
The list appeared to contain much to sing about. Britain's richest Asians include the Mittals (whose steel business is worth pounds 2bn), TV tycoon Subhash Chandra (stash calculated at pounds 450m) and financier Felix Grovit (pounds 300m in the bank).
In London's Cafe Royal, we were serenaded by a familiar tune and the following lyric: "You are a success story/you are worth billions/you employ hundreds of thousands of people."
Yet there is little to praise and much to bury. The dinner was more about celebrating capital than culture. Most of the richest on the list are not British but globalist. These Asians are not representative of brown Britain nor do they provide any form of leadership. Many just happen to live in this country.
Laksmi Mittal, for example, moved his billion-pound steel empire, Ipsat, to London from Indonesia a few years ago to be "close to international capital markets". Mr Chandra is another unlikely British Asian - he was born in, lives in and works in India.
However, the high profile given to these "success stories" reinforces the popular image of British Asians as a community whose family values and hard work have somehow allowed them to succeed where other immigrants have failed.
This sterotype is happily propagated by those Asians who have made it. There is often talk of a "success gene" embedded in Asians. Take for example Bharat Desai, a global Asian who has interests in the UK. Mr Desai believes that, although "environment is a very large factor" in the success of Asians, "it is partly genetic".
By that sort of analysis you have to wonder if it is "partly genetic" that, according to the Home Office, "Pakistanis and Bangladeshis faced a statistically higher risk of being the victim of a crime than white people". Or that "ethnic minorities tend to be of lower social-economic status and more often live in high-risk areas".
The simplistic and reactionary thoughts of many global Asians - whose value systems and experiences are far removed from the majority of non- white British people - are often taken up by whites to lecture other ethnic minorities.
The Daily Mail is content to peddle a crude analysis: "The crucial difference between successful Asians and other immigrant communities and other immigrant groups is that the family survives intact." Yes, I thought that until the marriages of my extended family collapsed.
After the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots, the leader column of the Guardian read: "Britain's Afro-Caribbean population tragically lacks the kind of middle-class leadership which has already begin to develop amongst Asians here."
This wealthy elite - which has only been allowed to flourish thanks to those who fought for their rights at Broadwater Farm, Grunwick or Southall - expresses little interest in promoting those below it.
For example, Lord Paul, a Labour peer educated at an American Ivy League university in the Sixties, claims that "positive discrimination is just as bad as negative discrimination".
The gap between these views and those held by second-generation brown British youth is clear. When the teenage author Bishida was asked if she identified with the British Asian community, she replied "if you mean the reactionary, conservative lot, no, I do not".
With the experiences of the "middle-class leadership" so distant from those of most Brown British people, it is little wonder that many British Asians rarely recognise themselves when white people talk about them.
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