Darcus Howe takes two Trevors to task

What do integrationists want us to do? Sing songs of sixpence?

Channel 4 has invited the great and the good, the not-so-great and the not-so-good to debate the question, "Is multiculturalism dead?" The invitation, for 9 November, says that discussions will centre on "issues raised by Trevor Phillips's recent assertion that multiculturalism, long regarded as the key to building an equal and harmonious society, is now holding back Britain's ethnic and cultural minorities, preventing the evolution of a fully integrated society".

In fact, the UK has been built over centuries on a very strong multicultural foundation. Only recently, Liverpudlians were abused by some magazine or other for their perceived cultural particularities. Geordies have had similar experiences. The Cornish continue to communicate in a dialect remote from standard English. But we, the former colonial peoples of dark skin, are excluded from this multicultural partnership and the colour of our skins is the defining feature of that exclusion. Consistent discriminatory practices hamper our full participation in society. But the two Trevors, Phillips and McDonald, blame this exclusion on the failure of the dark-skinned minority to integrate.

Integrate into what? This land changes by the hour. Nothing is fixed, fast and frozen. While a new caste has emerged to rule the country under new Labour, the working classes have expanded to include members of African tribes, Asian Muslims and eastern European peasants.

The proponents of integration have not explained what action we dark-skinned minorities must take. Are we to lighten our skins through intermarriage with whites until the dark skin disappears? Hold bonfires of spices and replace them with pasta? Throw the shalwar kameez, the buba, the hijab and the djellaba into the Thames? Change our accents so that we speak in chorus like McDonald? Sing songs of sixpence? Exchange the distinct Caribbean poise for the English quickstep? Burn the Koran and the Bhagavadgita and worship at the hem of the Archbishop of Canterbury's robe? Dismantle our communities, built up over decades in Southall and Brixton and move, isolated from each other, to the English countryside?

Both Trevors must speak now or forever hold their integrationist tongues. We will enter the multicultural society on the basis of absolute equality with white people or we will not enter at all. This is one of the last, great battles of the west.