25 June, 2010


Diversity in practice

I was standing on the platform of a train station in South East London yesterday afternoon. On the opposite platform a party of primary school children was making its way in a relatively orderly loose crocodile towards the exit. It was quite a large group, approximately sixty children about 9 or 10 years old.

Two small pale-skinned figures stood out among a group of 60 children which was otherwise entirely Black. And by Black I mean what Black people mean by Black, not the looser more inclusive sense favoured by certain well-known South-Asian race-hustlers when it suits their purposes.

You call that diversity?

Was it Woolwich Arsenal (aka Lagos North) ?

Abbey Wood on this occasion.

I notice that the Nigerians are beginning to spread out of their traditional powerbase in Thamesmead — a town world-renowned for its exquisitely-crafted forged identification documents and its many Vietnamese indoor herb gardens. Some have gone upmarket, migrating across the railway tracks into Abbey Wood village, while scouting parties have been spotted as far afield as Erith, a place which the late Linda Smith aptly described as not actually being twinned with anywhere, but having a suicide pact with Dagenham. Even the Nigerians don't seem that keen, and are slowly advancing on Bexleyheath.

There are some changes, though. Formerly, whenever I passed through Abbey Wood station, you could guarantee that there would be at least one newly arrived West African waiting outside the village-side entrance, with wheeled suitcase in tow and looking nervously about him as he waited to be picked up. Nowadays that person is equally likely to be a South Indian, of which I have noticed a definite increase in new arrivals in South East London over the past couple of years.

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