Is the UK becoming another New Orleans?


by Sunny
20th September, 2005 at 5:43 am    

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.

“Our ordinary schools . . . are becoming more exclusive and our universities are starting to become colour-coded with virtual ‘whites keep out’ 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?

Edward says:
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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  1. Nush — on 20th September, 2005 at 9:41 am  

    NUSH: In light of Trevor Phillips remarks on the ‘ghetto crisis’ I actually think it’s about bloody time that someone said something remotely shocking to get people to react!. We need more initiatives to integrate this nation, im sick of the discussions its time for action.

    I was in the States when the atrocity of hurricane Katrina hit and I saw the fallout as depicted by US media. It was not pretty and to think that New Orleans and the rest of the effected region was being treated as a separate Nation by its own people. It was quite shocking.

    It’s inevitable that we would draw parallels to this type of potential scenario with our own country. The Natural Disaster that hit America has been elevated in light of following colossal human error.

    This country has its blinders on and I think 7/7 shocked us all to the core, the fact that the enemy is within is evidence enough that somewhere along the line we have lost touch with each other.

    The article states:

    “He will suggest new measures that he admits critics will regard as social engineering. These could include forcing “white” schools to take larger numbers of ethnic minorities to help to encourage integration.”

    I like the term social engineering however I think it is dangerous to force communities to mix, as the article goes on to state,

    “The study by Bristol University found that children are slightly more segregated in the playground than they are in their neighbourhoods. That means that not only aren’t the children meeting — nor are their parents,”

    Integration needs to work on all levels current research shows that it’s harder in practice than it seems in theory.

  2. leon — on 20th September, 2005 at 10:38 am  

    Integration? At what cost and how? It’s a two way street remember; if the UKs BME communities are asked to integrate fully into UK society then the white majority has to accept the consequences of that society changing. If it doesn’t what is really being asked of us is assimilation.

  3. leon — on 20th September, 2005 at 10:44 am  

    To be honest i’m not even sure if the question is the correct one, maybe we should be asking has the UK become another New Orleans rather than is it becoming one?

  4. Sunny — on 20th September, 2005 at 12:34 pm  

    See, I think TP is banging a convenient drum to give the impression he is is doing some work.

    By saying all this about integration, he gives the impression that all our problems will be solved just by having more mixing between the races. History however is not so clear-cut.

    Taking an example of India, for arguments sake. Firstly, people of different castes have lived side by side for centuries yet they remain very segregated in reality and in society. There is also much animosity between the lower castes (Dalits) and the upper castes.

    The same goes for Muslims and Hindus living in India. Virtually indistinguishable from each other – they nevertheless sometimes erupt into communal fighting given who is grinding what axe.

    I find Gary Younge’s analysis of power-relationships much more relevant. You can have people live next to each other, but they won’t necessarily get along if there are imbalances that lead to resentment.

    Those power imbalances, as a result of institutional racism, biased coverage in the media etc must also be dealt with.

    For example, no amount of religious evangelising in India (mostly by the Arya Samaj) has led to equality between castes.

    But now, with money being the great leveller, and lower caste people earning more than upper caste people, suddenly you’ve had more equality (certainly in the cities) than ever before.

  5. Nush — on 20th September, 2005 at 2:01 pm  

    Leon, I agree that integration isn’t easy but aren’t we all sick of hearing the same old drivel? I want to see someone actually do something.

    You can start initiatives but it always ends up with people working at grassroots with tied hands by paper rules!

    Anyway I think the statistics from the Yougov don’t really surprise me but greater circulation of such figures would shock more people.

    You can’t force people to get on, but you can break down misconceptions, prejudice and stereotypes. I’m not a lady with all the answers but I find the media extremely biased and scare-mongering at times and it’s what lets us all down.

  6. leon — on 20th September, 2005 at 2:38 pm  

    Blink has the 1990 Trust take on this:

  7. leon — on 20th September, 2005 at 2:38 pm  

    Hmmm the link didn’t come up…here it is in full: http://www.blink.org.uk/pdescription.asp?key=9249&grp=47&cat=191

  8. leon — on 20th September, 2005 at 2:39 pm  

    Sunny, I think you have a point in part but mixing of different ethnic groups has worked just fine in some areas (Afro-Caribbean and White English for example).;)

  9. Sunny — on 20th September, 2005 at 3:55 pm  

    I disagree Leon. I still think there is a massive power-imbalance in that relationship that continues to fuel resentment and racism.

    Racism is also a result of people believing others are beneath them. They can’t continue to believe that if that group is doing really well for themselves.

    Yet, black kids under-perform at school, the community remains poorer than average, and is frequently villified in certain media campaigns – violence in black music and ritual killing of babies to cite two examples.

  10. leon — on 20th September, 2005 at 4:09 pm  

    “I still think there is a massive power-imbalance in that relationship that continues to fuel resentment and racism.”

    I’m not sure i understand what you’re getting at, care to offer up some insight? My point is that mixed race kids exist which is progress of a type (contrasting with not many mixing between various Asian groups).

  11. Sunny — on 20th September, 2005 at 4:34 pm  

    I’m saying the problem is more of a general power-imbalance, as Gary Younge says, then just about living side by side as mates. The USA is a great example of what he means. They are all American and integrated, but still have differences in class, which spill out into racial fighting sometimes.

  12. leon — on 20th September, 2005 at 4:39 pm  

    I see, you’re point seems to run parrellel to mine rather than directly contradict it.

    In my view in the UK mixed race kids are one of the fastest growing BME groups (projected by the CRE to become the biggest in most UK cities within a generation). This, to me, shows that integration is happening and can work on that level. I know it’s different for the Asian community (due to some entrenched cultural differences and frankly racism not to say that there isn’t any in both Afro-Caribbean or white communities) but it can happen and it can work (despite the power dynamic at work in the wider parts of society both parents are a part of).

  13. douglas — on 21st September, 2005 at 10:39 am  

    leon,

    What an interesting analysis. Great big melting pot and ll that stuff. Can you point me to the statistics? It is frankly the cheeriest thing I’ve read on the web for ages.

    douglas

  14. leon — on 21st September, 2005 at 10:43 am  

    It’s not a utopia, nor am I suggesting it is or should be a melting pot (I can’t find the stats but they were from the CRE and reported around 2002/3); what I’m getting at is that integration is happening in some parts of the Black and Minority Ethnic communities in the UK.

    Like I say it’s not perfect but i’m hopeful that the good examples that do exist can inspire more in this area.

  15. Rahul Verma — on 21st September, 2005 at 12:23 pm  

    Much as I think Trevor Phillips is a waste of space, and has done nothing worthwhile in his time as head of the CRE, his comments on minority ghettos are very valid.

    This goes way beyond segragation, ghettos by definition mean disenfranchised and separate from society. Disenfranchised, and excluded youth, ie people who think they are not a part of British society which can be applied to Pakistani communites in Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Middlesbrough are much more likely to be radicalised and be more open to the ideals of Al Qaeda. It’s a utopian ideal but everybody regardless of class, ethnicity and geographical location should receive the same opporutnities in education, and life. Then perhaps these ghettoes which we all know exist, and that includes the white working class ghettoes also, will evolve and improve.

    As for Leon’s point about intergration, mixed race families are rising very fast for Asians too, and that’s a fact. In America there’s a term for it ‘ethnically ambiguous’, and hopefully more mixed relationships and families will encourage more integration. But whether it will trickle down into these ghettoes is another matter.

  16. leon — on 21st September, 2005 at 12:38 pm  

    I must admit I didn’t know the extent of Asian mixed race people in the UK (I’m going on my experience and studies i’ve read and not much is covered in that area from what i’ve seen). You last point about ethnically ambiguos sounds interesting though, will have to have a dig around on google.:)

  17. jamal — on 21st September, 2005 at 8:36 pm  

    I agree with Trevor Phillips on this, partcularly in London. it has been a trend for a long time now that in areas where blacks and asians move in, the whites move out.

    Many communities are now segregated, and personally i think there is an underclass prevalent in many. Lack of opporunities, bad housing, unemployment, crime and drug use are characteristics which have taken hold in many of these areas. The government seem to then leave these areas alone to continue going downhill.

    There are white ghettos also, but there is a disproportionate number of blacks and asians in ghettos in comparison to whites.

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