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Migration, Racism and Identity: The Caribbean Experience in Britain
It is the white man who creates the Negro. But it is the Negro who creates négritude.
Although much has been written on the forces behind Caribbean migration to Britain, and on the social and economic conditions in which black people in this country live, little work has been done on the national and ethnic identity of these people and their descendants. [*] Ethnicity and ethnic identity, it is now widely acknowledged, are not static and eternal in their constitution but profoundly dynamic, always in the process of being made and remade. It is evident, moreover, that the experience of migration and the challenges of a new environment often accelerate the pace of such change.  Yet, although the issue of identity, including that of ‘black identity’, has become something of an intellectual cottage industry of late, there is still a virtual absence of concrete work on identity formation and change.  This article, an analysis of the experience of African Caribbeans in Britain in the postwar period, is intended as a contribution to such work. It explores both the relationship between migration and racism, and the formation of ethnic identity. In striving to lay bare the dialectics of this latter process, it confronts the political implications of the new identities being forged by black people in Britain. As I endeavour to show, the exploration of aspects of black identity is by no means a merely academic exercise: the way in which black people identify themselves within British society has a direct bearing upon their political capacities and practices. Consciousness and action are bound closely together.
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