In the Sunday Times, The Commission for Racial Equality chief Trevor Phillips said that Britain was “sleepwalking” into New Orleans-style racial segregation, with Muslim and black ghettos dividing cities. [Link here]
The fact is we are a society which, almost without noticing it, is becoming more divided by race and religion. We are becoming more unequal by ethnicity.
â€œOur ordinary schools . . . are becoming more exclusive and our universities are starting to become colour-coded with virtual â€˜whites keep outâ€™ signs in some urban institutions.
He will tell that to Manchester Council for Community Relations on Thursday. So, is he right, or is Trevor Phillips banging the wrong drum? Will integration solve all our problems?
I think it’s a very timely warning – and a valid concern. In my view certain segments of society are feeling increasingly isolated. Isolation has always been a problem – due to poverty or ethnic origin (think of the Irish in Victorian Britain).
However, I think the problem we face now is potentially more problematic than may previously have been the case, due to the widespread ignorance that pervades in certain localised sections of society and which, at a time of heightened tension, really has the potential to drive people towards further feelings of isolation, which in turn can foster radical action.
But Kulvinder disagrees, saying:
I’d disagree that social engineering would have any real impact against communal alienation. Having white, Asian and black people living in close proximity wouldn’t necessarily result in any significant bonding. The london bombings are in themselves a testament to that. The area of Yorkshire that three of the bombers came from is diverse but the level of social alienation felt on all sides has led to each respective community having a greater percentage of extremists than the norm amongst them, be that the BNP or Al-Qaeda sympathisers.
The key problem, to me anyway, is certain segments in each community having incredibly narrow and outwardly hostile self-identities. The problem isn’t black, white or Asian people living apart, but rather them believing the way they ‘live’ is black, white or Asian and ONLY black, white or Asian.
Rohin agrees with Trevor Phillips:
Phillips’ comments are timely, in particular his, and the CRE’s, assertion that schools are responsible for much of today’s segregation. The CRE has found that in mixed schools, ethnic groups remain divided. A greater emphasis has to be put on encouraging different groups to interact, whether this be through curriculum changes or new school policies.
It also surely demonstrates how Tony Blair’s faith in faith schools will lead to far higher rates of segregation and suspicion between racial groups.
The Guardian’s Gary Younge has a thoughtful article on the issue too.
The trouble is, unless integration is coupled with the equally vigorous pursuit of equality and anti-racism, it does not go very far. Rwanda had plenty of inter-ethnic marriages before the genocide; Jews were more integrated into German society than any other European nation before the Holocaust. Common sense suggests that the more contact you have with different races, religions and ethnicities, the less potential there is for stereotyping and dehumanising those different from yourself.
He also points out some interesting statistics
A YouGov poll for the Commission for Racial Equality last year showed that 83% of whites have no friends who are practising Muslims, while only 48% of non-white people do. It revealed that 94% of whites, compared with 47% of people from ethnic minorities, say most or all their friends are white.
A Mori poll for Prospect magazine last year showed that 41% of whites, compared with 26% of ethnic minorities, want the races to live separately.
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