Sadly, there is never a shortage of African, Caribbean and Asians who will deny even what their political party bosses know to be the truth: persistent structural inequalities on the grounds of race in all areas at all levels of society. This is what the coalition Government leaders said at an OBV event:
‘We must tackle the deep and structural inequalities that all too often hold Black people back, especially the young… We know something is extremely wrong when the colour of your skin dictates how likely you are to succeed at school, starting a business, employment, or ending up in prison.’ David Cameron’s at an OBV event-April 2010
‘I want change…If you’re from an ethnic minority you’re still likely to be out of work, on low pay, and hassled by the police even though you’ve done nothing wrong.’ Nick Clegg’s at the same OBV event-April 2010
Munira Mirza is the latest in a long line of individuals, who for reasons best known to themselves, see things very differently.
Munira Mirza, Culture Advisor to Boris Johnson writing in the Daily Mail and in a Prospect magazine Black History Month special has launched a tardy and poorly evidenced attack on anti-racist and multicultural policies suggesting that their existence has led to a more not less divided society.
Her evidence for this remarkable statement is the fact that schools have been reporting racist incidents and that in Oldham in 2001 in the lead up to race riots instigated and led by the BNP white communities believed that the local Council had banned the flying of the flag of St George.
Other than that Munira rails against the Equality Act, ‘race equality monitoring’ and the use ‘diversity consultants’ believing that all this adds to ‘hyper awareness’ of whites to issues of race that leads to increased tensions and mistrust between communities.
Munira writes in the Mail:
“ … Britain is a far more tolerant place than it was 30 years ago, when there was much prejudice and ignorance. People now are increasingly relaxed about living in a multi-ethnic Britain.”
Warming to her theme she states:
“Research in many fields, such as education and employment, shows that if there is a barrier to achievement today it is social class, rather than race.
Yet, ironically, as racism declines and public attitudes change, government agencies have become ever more preoccupied with the issue.”
Identifying human right and equality legislation as the problem she contiinues:
“It was in 2000 that the Labour government passed a heavy-handed law imposing a duty on all public authorities, such as schools, councils, hospitals and universities, to ‘promote good relations between persons of different racial groups’.”
“As a result, a lot of money is spent on legions of well-paid ‘diversity professionals’ in workplaces, whose job it is to monitor racism, run training courses and ensure no one offends anyone.”
The problem for Munira is that the facts undermine her obvious politically indoctrinated perspective. Race equality in the UK has not been achieved and Black and Asian British people lives are severely debilitated by the negative effect of workplace or wider societal racism. In fact crude racism is making a comeback with attacks on Mosques and Muslim burial grounds on the increase. There is a febrile atmosphere of Islamophobia stalking the nation led by a right wing press and the extreme right wing activities of organisations such as the English Defence League.
Socioeconomic discrimination that produces a 16-point unemployment gap between black and white Britons and a large ethnic pay gap are but two examples of how racism operates to lock poor black communities into economic ghettoes. Rampant discrimination within the criminal justice system that results in 1.2 white people per 1000 being incarcerated in British jails. For black people the figure a staggering 7 black people per 1000.
In the areas of health, education, homelessness the figures tell a depressingly similar tale. Racism and the consequent social economic exclusion have rendered black and Asian Britons as little more than third class citizens in a first class democracy.
Of course where equality policies are properly considered and seriously implemented they can and do make huge difference. The Metropolitan Police Service has seen the number of ethnic minority recruits increase by 50% as a result of positive action policies introduced in 2003. The Greater London Authority itself has one of the most diverse workforces of any employer in London as result of strong equality policies.
This would of course rate as nothing more than a vaguely provocative comment piece but is somewhat at odds with a Greater London Authority cultural programme that celebrates most ethnic minority communities major cultural or religious festivals in the capital.
Perhaps these series of articles are a means of softening the public up to cuts to equality and cultural policies and programmes in London. Maybe the cuts to GLA staff are set to have a disproportionate effect on black and Asian workers and undermining equality polices is seen as discrediting efforts to ensure that these cuts do not unfairly affect black and Asian staff across the GLA. . Either way for a city as diverse as London such a policy would be a disaster.
Writing in the Guardian in response to Munira recent articles Aditya Chakrabortty point’s out
“Since time immemorial, ethnic-minority children have been told they need to work twice, three times as hard as their white friends: that rule hasn’t expired yet.”
“ …race remains a massive factor in determining our opportunities and life chances. Two in three British Bangladeshi children grow up in poverty in the UK (compared with two in 10 of their white counterparts). Even those at the top of the career ladder, who have been dealt all the right cards and played them correctly, are still subject to what Bristol academic Tariq Modood calls an “ethnic penalty”. What does that mean? The typical Chinese-origin man now earns about 11% more than his white British counterpart; but he is still paid 11% less than would be implied by his qualifications.”
Munira’s confused piece ignores the objectives facts about the social reality of racism and seeks to discount racism as belonging to a bygone age.
The facts are that multiculturalism and anti-racist policies are essential to any meaningful effort to achieve race equality in a society that still resists the demand of black and Asian communities for equality and freedom from discrimination.