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Teenage friendships – and dilemmas

An ethnically diverse couple holds hands. Grass is in the background

Divisions in our society mean that people from different communities often know very little about each other – they are culturally and socially separated, though geographically they may live side by side.

This is the theme of Channel 4’s ‘White Kid, Brown Kid’,  which brings together 16-year-old Siobhan from a white area of Dewsbury, and Farhana, 17, from the mainly Muslim Batley Carr district. Can they become friends? And how will their family and friends view this relationship?

Dewsbury is part of Kirklees, an area mentioned in the Casey Review into opportunity and integration as having high ‘dissimilarity scores’ for its schools. Research by Demos looked at segregation between White British pupils and all other ethnic groups and found wide variation by local area, using an Index of Dissimilarity. Kirklees had a Dissimilarity Index Score of 53.3%, 6th from the top (which was Blackburn with Darwen at 63.6).  So how easy is it for young people who have often lived and been educated within their own community groups to form bonds of friendship, and meaningful relationships, across those divides?

On the same index, Bradford had a score of 57% and was fourth from the top. The town is the home of 18-year-old Hiba Maroof, the subject of ‘Should I marry My Cousin?’ This is part of BBC3’s ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ season.

The theme of the series is taking back control of your own identity and owning it, and this episode follows Bradford-born Hiba as she tries to arrive at a decision on who should be her future partner. Should she marry someone who is a blood relation – thus remaining within the very closest of communities, her family – or find someone from outside that tight-knit group?

Most of Hiba’s extended family married their first cousins, which is perfectly legal in the UK, and the practice is common in Bradford. Her own mother did so, but is dead against her daughter doing the same. In fact, Hiba can’t marry a first cousin as they are all already married – to each other. But a second or third cousin from her family’s homeland of Pakistan is a possibility.

Medical evidence suggests that marrying someone related to you can result in congenital health problems and Hiba meets family members who may have been affected by this. It is a complex dilemma, and one that Hiba eventually resolves for herself decisively.