Recent Race relations Articles
The Oxford gang of men who abused, raped and exploited young girls were finally convicted today, and the issue of race has raised its head again.
Reading through the details of what the girls were subjected to is enough to make anyone physically sick, and feel angry at how this was allowed to happen for so long.
Anger also makes people want to reach for easy answers so they can deal with it.
I’m aware that the far-right are trying to exploit these cases for politician gain. But I think the focus should always be on doing what is right and highlighting injustices, even if it raises some uncomfortable issues that can be exploited by extremists. In other words, the presence of the far-right should not lead us to blunt our criticisms or arguments.
To what extent is race a relevant factor in the exploitation?
Let’s look at some evidence first.
After the Rochdale case, the children’s commissioner in England conducted an inquiry into what could be learnt from the case. They published a short briefing paper and later an interim report. The Foreword said:
The vast majority of the perpetrators of this terrible crime are male. They range in age from as young as fourteen to old men. They come from all ethnic groups and so do their victims – contrary to what some may wish to believe. The failure of agencies to recognise this means that too many child victims are not getting the protection and support they so desperately need.
Moreover, of the backgrounds of the victims who gave evidence to the inquiry, 42% were white British and 28% were ethnic minorities. I’m assuming the remaining were mixed or unknown backgrounds.
During the Rochdale case the Judge said: “You preyed on girls because they were not part of your community or religion” — this is repeatedly cited by some people. But it’s also untrue. As was revealed after the ring-leader in the Rochdale case also ‘repeatedly raped an Asian girl over many years.‘
My point is not that race is irrelevant – but that it’s not relevant to why the girls were targeted.
In some of the cases of gang-related child grooming and rape, the men were primarily of Pakistani backgrounds. I suspect this is simply because they congregated together for work and to commit crime. There are other similar cases where the gangs of men have been exclusively white.
To my mind, the key question is: did they target white girls because of their skin colour and because they hated white girls, or simply because they found it easier to groom white girls? The fact that there are instances of black and Asian girls also being raped implies that in the Oxford (and other similar cases) – the men simply found it easier to prey on young white girls.
Of course, in the Oxford case the men may have deliberately targeted young white girls – I can’t read their minds. But generalising that Asian men are pre-disposed to targeting white girls make no sense given the evidence. Furthermore, these generalisations make no sense since the Jimmy Savile revelations and other cases where not only did rape and abuse take place, but many more people were involved in the cover-up.
But we can make one generalisation with some certainty: too many men still find it acceptable to exploit, groom and rape young girls without much regret. Rape culture remains a serious and widely prevalent problem and we need to do more to help and listen to the victims, rather than using them to score political points.
Martin Robbins at the New Statesman writes, If Richard Littlejohn didn’t exist, you’d have to make him up.
I’d like nothing more than to see him sacked, but Littlejohn is the melting, mildew-infested tip of a giant iceberg of piss. His behaviour has been fairly mild in comparison to other journalists, let alone the wider internet. As a focal point for public anger, he is little more than a convenient avatar; a man who embodies the essence of the right-wing tabloids we hate. If Richard Littlejohn didn’t exist, you’d have to make him up.
I’m afraid this is not how things work and I’m writing a blog post only because it’s too long to explain in a tweet.
Take racism as an example. Since the 1930s overt racism in British society has melted away considerably and continues to decline. My parents had it much worse than me and so on.
The key to that process was making racism unacceptable in polite society. Right-whingers call this ‘political correctness gone mad’ – and while I can see why they’re mad about it, we both know they’ve lost the war. Calling people racist epithets in public is just no longer acceptable as it once was.
But racism still exists in society. So does that mean newspapers should hire someone from the BNP or Stormfront to represent those views? NO.
And not giving those people a prominent national platform has impact: it sends out a signal to the public on what is polite and what isn’t. Slowly that permeates through the national conciousness and attitudes change as older people who enjoyed making racist jokes die out, and youngsters who didn’t grow up with racism being acceptable get mortgages.
Firing Richard Littlejohn would send out a powerful signal: it’s time these attitudes were not acceptable in polite society.
I neither want Littlejohn nor Julie Burchill arrested over their articles, but sending a signal that transphobia is also a form of vile bigotry is a perfectly acceptable aim. Over time that would have an impact on popular opinion. That’s why the anger and the petitions matter.
by Jon Yates
The debate about the 600,000 white Brits who left London in the last decade shows how broken our thinking on integration is. The debate has been dominated by right-wing commentators in despair and left-wing commentators in denial. It is time for some new thinking.
The right-wing commentators have been predictable. For them, this ‘white flight’ is proof that multiculturalism is a terrible idea, immigration is all bad and the only answer is to close the borders. Even for someone who accepts the analysis, this is idealist nonsense.
Reducing immigration will never stop this country being diverse or becoming more so; my daughter is 3, a third of her peers are non-white. We are a multi-racial country – we need to deal with it, not deny it.
The left-wing comment is even more dispiriting. Commentators have competed to explain the exodus away. They tell us this has nothing to do with ethnicity. That it’s a story of ‘white families made good’: they’ve got some money and they’re heading to the seaside.
This makes sense – if you ignore all facts. How can a phenomenon that only applies to white people moving more white areas possibly be not about ethnicity.
It is time for those who care about living in a diverse, united country to speak up. For too long we have allowed our voices to be dominated by a right-wing that has nothing but a counsel of despair and a left that has no eyes to see what is happening. We need to start by admitting four self-evident truths.
One: We have a segregation problem. The OECD judges our schools to be amongst the most segregated. Our most ethnically diverse communities report the lowest levels of trust in others. And 600,000 people have just left London for a less diverse area. If you care about integration, let’s admit none of this is good news.
Two: It is about far more than ethnicity. It is also about the generational and income divisions that mark our country.
We can see this in an education system that places half the children who can’t afford lunch in just 20% of schools, a social care system that corrals the elderly together or isolates them at home, a lack of affordable housing that locates rich and poor in separate enclaves.
Three: It is a serious problem. Segregated societies are weak societies. Individuals have lower levels of well-being, communities have lower levels of trust and economies have less effective labour markets.
Four: The solution is integration. Activities that bond people together across boundaries are the key – not immigration policy. The National Citizen Service is a great example of how this can be done – through this, charities like my own have connected thousands of people across income and ethnicity and generational lines, built trust and helped to integrated communities.
Our debate should be about how we connect people together. It should be about building institutions where people will meet. It should be about how we transform our public services so people connect. It should be about how we all find ways to form friendships across boundaries.
We have had enough of despair and denial. It is time for action.
Jon Yates is the Co-founder and Strategy Director of The Challenge Network, the national charity for integration that connects 15,000 people a year from all income brackets, ethnicities and generations. The Challenge Network also blogs here.
“Most of what we’ve been saying about immigration for the last 40 years has backfired, and not worked for us,” said our American host quite bluntly. We were sitting around a table where the new offices of British Future would later be.
A group of Americans campaigners had come over to explain why, despite millions of dollars worth of lobbying, their debate on immigration remained negative and unfruitful. Our quest was to learn how we could avoid making the same mistakes, though it quickly became obvious we were in fact making the same mistakes as them.
There were three common responses to discussions on immigration that didn’t really work, our hosts said. In some cases they actually made people more resentful of immigrants and made the situation worse.
1) When we automatically brand people who want to talk about immigration as ‘racist’.
This response didn’t just fail to convince people, but drove up resentment and therefore led to more anger against immigrants. No doubt some people who oppose immigration are racist but there’s a spectrum here and some knee-jerk reactions are very counter-productive.
2) Telling people they don’t know the facts.
That the public is woefully uninformed on immigration is simply a fact. But there are two problems with this approach: first, people easily forget statistics that are quoted at them. They are more likely to remember narratives and stories (that the tabloid press use effectively). Secondly, the implication is that people are stupid. And when you call someone stupid they become less likely to want to listen.
3) We say immigration benefits us all economically, overall.
The overall impact of immigration may be positive but it won’t be uniform – some will see a positive effect and others negative. It goes without saying that those negatively affected (mostly poorer unskilled workers) will effectively hear us saying they should suck it up because the overall impact is positive.
There will be caveats for all these points above, but what unites everyone on this list above (with many on the left) is that no one likes their beliefs being challenged. If presented with evidence that proves them wrong, people make excuses. Or they reach for explanations that will justify their views. This is common human behaviour.
This is also why we keep losing the debate on immigration – we think people are misinformed, need to be taught facts and should not be listened to. That just makes them want to ignore us.
Why doesn’t Labour change the narrative?
This is the question almost every leftie asks. But probe it further and it quickly falls apart, because it is much easier said than done.
Labour is an opposition party which already struggles to get attention. Even if Ed Miliband said everything that lefties wanted, the media would distort it and re-interpret it for their audiences. And how many times would he have to say it before it got through to people?
Furthermore, people hostile to immigration would just ignore the speech and explain away the facts. This is how people react. This is how the world works. Just making a speech on immigration facts, even repeatedly, just wouldn’t do much to change the narrative.
I’m not saying Labour should pander and I’m not saying Labour should bring back the odious Phil Woolas and triangulate. I’m just pointing out that there are practical limitations to how much Labour can do.
So what is Labour doing then?
Ed Miliband understands that New Labour triangulation won’t work any more. His view has always been that immigration needs to be re-framed as an economic issue (‘a class issue’ – he called it), to help poorer workers at the bottom. He has thus far resolutely stuck to that view.
But you simply cannot take the public with you unless they trust you and think you understand their concerns. This is also basic psychology. So, first, Miliband has to gain their trust with a bit of humility and apologies. Once enough people think he’s trying to solve a difficult issue, only then will they start listening to his solutions.
But there’s another question too – what can left organisations do from the outside to change the debate? As the guys from America pointed out even this has been counter-productive in many ways. This should be the topic of another article.
In the meantime, have heart. Immigration has become a less poisoned debate in America recently only because minorities flexed their muscles and got President Obama elected twice. Though they are a smaller proportion of the British population here cannot exercise the same power, several key Tory commentators (esp. Lord Ashcroft) have noted that Tory hostility to immigration did cost them votes too.
We are a long way away from the days when Tories campaigned on immigration by saying ‘If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour‘. There is plenty of reason to be positive about the future.
Campaigners Hope Not Hate published this video today of BNP members abusing their staff.
Note: there’s a lot of swearing in it.
Hope Not Hate are hoping to raise £3,000 to buy 200,000 leaflets for May’s local elections.
Every few months, newspapers decide to have a pop at Oxford and Cambridge for institutionally discriminating against a particular section of society that isn’t white, male and public school educated.
This time it’s the turn of the Guardian to criticise Oxford University, presenting statistics obtained under a freedom on information request that reveal that white applicants are up to twice as likely to get a place as applicants from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Having been to Cambridge, I can say anecdotally that ethnic minority students certainly were under-represented there too. My brown face was duly splashed on the front cover of the college prospectus presumably to present a façade of a diversity that didn’t really exist.
But the statistics presented by the Guardian are misleading in that while they suggest correlation, they fall far short of proving the kind of causation asserted by the article.
Oxbridge is being unfairly criticised for discriminating against minority students in the same way it is often unfairly criticised for discriminating against working class students.
The real problem lies much further down the line, with the schooling system and with wider society.
Every now and again stories will emerge about a straight-A student complaining that Oxford or Cambridge didn’t offer them a place. The trouble is, almost everyone applying to Oxbridge is a straight-A student, so much of the final selection comes down to performance at an often gruelling interview.
Public school students tend to be prepped far in advance for these interviews. They know what to expect, what to read around, how to act and most importantly how to project a confidence that will come across well in an educational environment based on supervisions and tutorials which favour the bold.
Students at many state schools, particularly ones in deprived areas that are less likely to attract teachers who were educated at Oxbridge themselves and know the system, cannot provide the same level of silver spoon-fed service.
I was lucky in that the head of Sixth Form at my state comprehensive had been to Cambridge and could give me a punishingly realistic mock interview, as could my Oxford educated father. I suspect that’s not the norm.
It’s a sad fact that public schools are predominantly the preserve of the middle classes. It’s also a sad fact that ethnic minority students are more likely to be from poorer backgrounds with parents less able to pay for them to attend public schools.
State school attendance at Oxbridge remains poor. Last year, state school attendance at Cambridge hit a 30-year high at 63.3%. But considering only 12% of all students attend public schools, it shows that those who have been privately educated remain disproportionately represented there.
The statistics are a negative reflection not on Oxbridge, but on wider society. Oxford and Cambridge can do all they like to encourage more students from ethnic minority, working class and state school backgrounds to apply, but unless inequalities much lower down the chain in the education system and in society are tackled, the problem is not going to go away.
We must continue to build a movement in the UK that understands and takes action on the many ways neo-fascist groups operate across Europe and in EU countries.
As we have seen with Greece’s Golden Dawn, they do it frighteningly at street level but they can also convulse politics at national and even European level. It is to try and understand these different levels and how we can respond that is important.
The rise of such overtly fascist currents in Europe and possible solutions will be a major theme of the Unite Against Fascism and One Society Many Cultures joint conference in London on Saturday 2 March. It will hear first-hand from some of those opposing these neo-Nazis.
The relentless rise in support for Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, its violent attacks on mainly Pakistani immigrants, creation of ‘no-go’ areas controlled by its uniformed street gangs, collusion of the Greek police and thuggish interventions against trade union and leftist demonstrations, has been seen as a specifically Greek problem.
But while the rise of the neo-Nazis in Greece have not escaped attention, neo-Nazis, fascism and the far right have been advancing elsewhere with less fanfare and international concern.
The elections due in the next few days in Italy are also seeing unprecedented activity by fascist and ultra-right currents, alongside the rehabilitation of the record of Italian fascism by mainstream politicians. In the Nordic countries only Sweden so far has rejected the extreme right, while Norway’s Progress Party, the True Finns and the Danish People’s Party have all registered a marked advance.
I have seen how the far-right have influenced mainstream political debate and the direction of national government thinking and policy. A good example is Hungary, a centre right government heavily influenced by far right thinking in its anti-democratic policy on a day to day level in relation to minorities, the Roma and its anti-democratic activity in the judiciary, as well as activities against journalists and the media.
The mainstreaming of the far right movement is quickly becoming a critical issue across the EU and it is important we have a unified stand against their extremist rhetoric.
The conference on Saturday 2 March is not just for the committed activists, but a necessity for all those of goodwill to come together to discuss how to counter this threat in Europe which we thought had been eliminated forever in 1945.
Yesterday, the appearance in the Telegraph of an article under the by-line of Jane Kelly, titled “I feel like a stranger where I live” brought a predictably Islamophobic tone to proceedings. Kelly tells how Acton Vale has changed “almost overnight” into “Acton Veil”.
But then you get to the end of the piece. And here, readers are informed that Ms Kelly “is consulting editor of the ‘Salisbury Review’”. Anyone not hearing alarm bells ringing long and loud may not have made the connection.
The Salisbury Review was founded in 1982 under the editorship of Roger Scruton, and promoted as a journal of “traditional Conservatism” of the small state variety. However, the Review also espoused the concept of voluntary repatriation for those it labelled immigrants.
But very few people read it, at least for the first two years. Then an article on race and education by headmaster Ray Honeyford was reproduced – not by accident – in the rabidly Conservative Yorkshire Post. The Honeyford Affair looked set to initially damage, but then made the career of, up and coming West Yorkshire politician Eric Pickles.
When Honeyford died last year, the Telegraph willingly reproduced his Review piece.
Put directly, the Telegraph’s staff know what the Salisbury Review is about. When they get its “consulting editor” to pen an article about what it’s like to live in an area of west London where there is a significant Muslim population, they are sure enough about the result that they disallow comments on it.
They cannot be surprised when Ms Kelly asserts “mass immigration is making reluctant racists of us all”. Nor can they be surprised at some of the characterisations used: her part of Acton “has been transformed into a giant transit camp and is home to no one”.
She whines that “most of the tills in my local shops are manned by young Muslim men who mutter into their mobiles as they are serving”. Yes, they’re bloody busy having to do several things at once. Welcome to the world of the overworked small businessman.
The Telegraph ought to be ashamed of publishing this drivel, yet it went ahead, knowing exactly what its source would write.
A few weeks ago, when Libdem MP Lynne Featherstone called for Julie Burchill to be sacked from the Observer after her transphobic article, Nick Cohen and a few others were apoplectic.
How dare she call for Burchill to be sacked and try to influence a newspaper? they thundered.
In an earlier piece for the Observer, Nick Cohen wrote an article titled ‘Nothing, however vile, justifies censorship‘, saying:
Innocence of Muslims is one of the hardest cases for liberals I’ve come across. But even this tawdry piece of work raises problems for the proponents of censorship. The first is a problem with language. Mount a critique of Islamist religious fanaticism, and it is only a matter of time before you find that defenders of religious reaction have hijacked liberal language. You are an “orientalist”, they say, an “Islamophobe”, “neo-colonialist” or “neocon”.
I agree. I hate censorship too. But what annoys me more are double standards.
This week 20 Tory MPs wrote to the Sunday Times calling for an apology for its cartoon on Benjamin Netanyahu.
Calling for an apology is not the same as calling for someone to be sacked, but it is on the same spectrum – with lawmakers trying to influence the editorial judgement and content of the press. The impact of this letter and Lynne Featherstone’s call would be the same: self-censorship and a chilling effect on robust debate.
Yet, you don’t see the usual suspects complain about how free speech is being stifled here. Why not?
PS, I don’t believe the cartoon itself, while published at the wrong time, was anti-semitic. Martin Rowson has written an excellent defence, but this article in the Haaretz titled ‘Four reasons why U.K. cartoon of Netanyahu isn’t anti-Semitic in any way‘ – is a must-read (1. It is not directed at Jews; 2. It does not use Holocaust imagery; 3. There was no discrimination; 4. This is not what a blood libel looks like).
Update: Index on Censorship finally write something on the issue, condemning attempts to shut down the debate too.
A growing number of East London citizens are being harassed by a (likely very small) group of religious fanatics calling themselves ‘The Muslim Patrol’.
The men video themselves confronting people on the streets and ask them to throw away alcohol or tell women to cover up. In one video (below) they harass and abuse a man by calling him a “bloody fag” and tell him to leave from what they say is a ‘Muslim area’.
The disgusting tactics are straight out of the play-book of the now banned group al-Muhajiroun, who also occasionally surface as ‘Muslims Against Crusaders’ and have been known to burn poppies on Remembrance Day, hold pickets against British soldiers returning from abroad and demonstrate in front of the US embassy.
The group is also shunned from almost all British Mosques.
East London Mosque released a statement last week condemning the men:
Individuals claiming to be self-styled ‘Muslim patrols’ have been harassing members of the public on the streets of east London late at night, including outside our mosque after it has closed. They have anonymously uploaded their exploits to the internet.
These actions are utterly unacceptable and clearly designed to stoke tensions and sow discord. We wholly condemn them. The East London Mosque is committed to building co-operation and harmony between all communities in this borough. The actions of this tiny minority have no place in our faith nor on our streets.
The Mosque says they’ve also got in touch with the police to report incidents.
For many activists the videos are reminiscent of a campaign last year by a group of men (very likely the same) who kept putting up homophobic stickers around East London. That campaign came to an abrupt end when 18 year old youth was arrested and found guilty.
Videos uploaded by the ‘Muslim Patrol’
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