You can end up doing a hell of a lot of harm when you set out to do some good.
For example, it was said yesterday that a new £50 note should recognise the contribution made by Britain’s diverse communities by featuring a person from a black, Asian or minority-ethnic background, an MP has told the House of Commons. Helen Grant, the Conservative Member for Maidstone and The Weald, has urged MPs to pass the bill amid fears a disproportionate number of “historic white men” have appeared on banknotes.
Statistics show 14% of the UK’s population are from non-white backgrounds, prompting calls the nation’s currency should better reflect its diversity. All but three people featured on British banknotes have been men. A person from a minority background has not featured on legal tender in the British Isles since the Roman Empire, when Emperor Septimius Severus was of north African origin,
Suggested candidates include Nurse Mary Seacole and the suffragist Sophia Dulip Singh.
Helen Grant’s appeal is a lively demonstration of the persistence of unintended consequences. For her laudable ambition for us all to be what I think in the jargon is called “more inclusive” will inevitably lead to further ghettoization.
The nub of it, as always, is in the choice of words. Ms Grant uses the phrase “Britain’s diverse communities.” Wrong from the start. For if you wish to promote segregation, then make special reference to people on the basis of their differences in appearance. In short, if you start drawing attention to our racial and cultural differences, then you will create division and sectarianism.
By contrast, if your aim is really to produce social harmony, than at once stop all this talk about “communities” and insist instead that we are all one community in Britain made up of people of different appearance, racial and cultural backgrounds.
We should be proud of the fact that we are one people united in diversity.
That should be our message and our slogan: we are one community whose strength is that we can celebrate our differences
Ms Grant’s well-meant proposal leads only to the ghetto.