If ethnic Italians were no longer a majority in Italy, would it still be Italy? Does it matter that ethnic British are no longer a majority in London? Would it matter if they weren’t in Britain? Would it be a problem if ethnic Ugandans ceased to be a majority in Uganda, and Europeans overtook them?
These are all essentially the same question, though the answers might feel different in each case. They are all asking about the relationship between an ethnic group and its home country, and about the meaning of becoming a minority in the country it considers its own. Does being the majority ethnic group in a country carry any moral or political significance? Is it something which an ethnic group may legitimately aim to preserve? How does this interact with ideas of racism — the taboo par excellence of post-war Western culture?
Ethnicity and race are typically avoided these days when thinking about the constitutive features of a nation or state, particularly Western ones. In their place, writers who take an interest in such matters tend to ground their ideas in culture, shared beliefs and customs. Samuel Gregg, for instance, writes of the shared bonds of ‘a common culture, language, beliefs, shared memories, sense of a common patrimony, and association with a particular territory with recognized boundaries’. What is often left unsaid, presumably for fear of attracting the poisonous charge of racism, is any connection this culture might have with ethnic origin.
This is all the more curious when you consider that on a sociological and anthropological level the connection between culture and ethnic group is very strong indeed …
Read the full article in Crisis magazine here.