The need to be eternally vigilant in racism battle
The evidence of the Guardian survey on continuing discrimination (Racism in Britain: the stark truth uncovered, 3 December) is sobering but not surprising. It is disappointing that, 25 years on, the same pattern of disadvantage, which was exposed by systematic research by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) and other bodies, continues to challenge any complacency that racism is a thing of the past. Of course there has been encouraging progress from those days when I was rebuked by sections of the press for describing Britain as a multiracial society and the sneer of “political correctness” was first heard. We now have a black member of our royal family and both a home secretary and his shadow and a mayor of London from minority ethnic communities. Many of our national sporting teams are truly diverse and more successful for that.
We were too inclined to believe we had moved on. Bodies such as the CRE, with its responsibility to both campaign for racial equality and enforce the law, had its funding severely reduced as it became absorbed into a more general Human Rights Commission. Community relations councils and units within local authorities fell away and large organisations became less committed to monitoring their performance. So there was a failure to recognise that eternal vigilance is required to maintain progress and we now witness a resurgence of farright oppressive rhetoric and policy in many parts of Europe and beyond.
There is little doubt xenophobia and alarm over immigration played some part in the Brexit decision and, as well as the more subtle patterns of discrimination in many areas revealed by your survey, there are still too many ugly incidents of racial attacks on the vulnerable. In the turbulent years that may lie ahead we need to invest in resources and find the political will to tackle the sources of discrimination that lead to a divisive society. Michael Day Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, 1988-93
Working for the Churches Commission for Racial Justice from 1987 to 1998, it became clear that racism is deeply rooted in British society both individually and institutionally. The latter emerged most visibly through the Stephen Lawrence campaign, which our commission supported. At individual level, those of us who are white who claim “I’m not racist” immediately give ourselves away. Racism is in the cultural air we breathe. The best we can say, taking our cue from Alcoholics Anonymous, is: “I am a recovering racist, and I am working on it.” Rev David Haslam
Your damning reports made for painful reading, particularly, the depressing experiences of Nish Kumar. However, in one way they seemed unreal. The clear implication was that only white people made careless and demeaning presumptions about their ethnic minority fellow-citizens. This is not the case. Some such presumptions are made by one or more ethnic minority groups about others. Although the greatest amount of casually, even unconsciously, insulting behaviour is made by white people, it is wrong to imply that all ethnic minority groups have so strong a knowledge of each other that they play no part in it.
What I find disappointing is that we do not speak of or report on racism that exists in the ethnic minority communities against the “whites and blacks”. Many Asian families practise a policy of no BMWs (blacks, Muslims or whites). Carry out research on how many black people are employed by Asian shops, or if a Muslim is offered a job in a shop run by a Hindu. It is time we Asians are made aware of racism within our communities and are called to change our attitudes towards the “other”. Jehangir Sarosh
Racism doesn’t lie in drawing attention to the ethnicity of those convicted of sexual offences against young women in the north of England (Javid says tweet about Asian grooming gangs was appropriate, 4 December). It is a fact that most if not all of them were of Asian heritage, just as a disproportionate number of those who kill fellow teenagers on our urban streets are black. The racism lies in selecting that one particular variable ahead of all the other variables which apply in these cases.
For example, the perpetrators are invariably male and almost certainly under-educated, they may be excessive users of alcohol or drugs, many will be unemployed, many consumers of violent or pornographic videos, few will have solid, supportive family networks, few will take part in organised sport or positive cultural activities (other than music, perhaps), and so on. If we ignore the superficial, visible characteristics of colour or race, about which no one can do anything, achievable solutions or approaches come into view.
The casual violence of these grotesque offences comes about because there are small groups among us who have not been socialised into agreed, modern modes of behaving and relating. The lesson in understanding them in this way is that family members, schools, churches and all the other pillars of civil society must recognise the common duty to include, protect and guide boys and young men throughout their formative years. The guilt of such offenders is theirs, the failure is ours. Jeremy Walker
I was born in 1934 in Trinidad. My mother was Dutch by birth, but married to my father who was English. When I was three my mother, brother and I were moved to England. I was very frightened of all the white faces I saw when our ship arrived in Southampton. Selma Montford
It is time we Asians are made aware of racism in our communities and are called to change our attitudes to the ‘other’ Jehangir Sarosh