The need to be eter­nally vig­i­lant in racism bat­tle

The Guardian - Journal - - Letters -

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

Eve­sham, Worces­ter­shire

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.

Josh Web­ster


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

Bushey, Hert­ford­shire

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

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