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Absence of Asians from sport and the arts



Absence of Asians from sport and the arts

2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony
'Asians were conspicuous by their absence, no more than extras' in the London Olympics opening ceremony. Above, staff from Great Ormond Street hospital perform in one segment. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Lenny Henry is right to argue that the inequalities faced by ethnic minority talent must become a thing of the past (The door to nowhere, 25 January). However, his list of highly successful actors, directors, and writers includes only one Asian, and his description of "Team GB in its full multi-ethnic, multicultural butt-kicking glory" is sadly not correct.

Little commented upon at the time, Team GB was, in fact, comprised almost in its entirety of whites, blacks, or those of a black and white parentage. Similarly, in Danny Boyle's marvellous Olympic opening ceremony, Asians were conspicuous by their absence, no more than extras in the various sets.

There are profound reasons for the lacuna of Asians in the world of entertainment and sport – the fact that the Premier League is devoid of Asian footballers is perhaps the most striking example. A survey by the Commission for Racial Equality in 2000 found that black Caribbeans had much greater exposure in the British media (particularly in television) than Asians.

Though such a survey has not been repeated, there is no reason to think that the situation has changed. This has little to do with racism or discrimination but instead much to do with the separatism engendered in our supposedly "multifaith, multicultural society" – indeed it seems almost quaint to refer to a segment of society as "Asians", given the preference for a "faith identity". To truly comply with Lenny Henry's laudable wish, a starting point is for such separatist identities to be reined in.

Letter in Guardian on 3rd February 2014 in response to Lenny Henry article