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    Sleep-walking into segregation eh?

    by Sunny on 5th August, 2009 at 10:11 am    

    A common line taken by many right-wing writers on race, segregation etc is that it’s all the fault of the effniks. Apparently they are the ones deliberately living in ghettos and refusing to integrate. They are the ones who hate us.

    Except the reality, as I have to keep pointing out, is rather different:

    Estate agents are flouting race relations laws by discriminating against migrant workers on behalf of landlords, a BBC undercover investigation has found. Firms in Boston, Lincolnshire, were found using illegal techniques to stop foreign workers viewing properties.

    This sort of discrimination is in fact old news. People have complained for decades that estate agents and councils have sometimes deliberately engineered their responses to ensure people of different races lived separately. And then there’s ‘white flight’ - when white families start moving out of an area that moves up to about 25% ethnic minority. I remember a couple of years ago Migrationwatch was even blaming immigrants for ‘white flight’!

    The kind of discrimination mentioned above, in housing, also occurs in other places. A few years ago a Radio 5 Live investigation found that employers frequently discriminated against Asian or Muslim sounding names on CVs. Oh wait. It’s probably the race relations industry’s fault. Or perhaps the MCB’s.

      |   Trackback link   |   Add to del.icio.us   |   Share on Facebook   |   Filed in: Race politics, Religion

    16 Comments below   |   Add your own

    1. Shamit — on 5th August, 2009 at 11:00 am  

      This is spot on Sunny. Excellent post.

      I wonder what steps, if any would be taken against those landlords and the tenants for denying equal opportunity to one of the most basic public services.

      I bet if you ask the landlords - each one of them would disagree to being termed racist.

      How do we change how people think? It was good to see that many estate agents refused point blank yet a majority was willing to do this. And many of them did for economic reasons, I suspect.

      Sadly though no one thought it was just simply WRONG.

    2. Adnan — on 5th August, 2009 at 11:14 am  

      About 10 / 11 years, the wife and I were looking to buy a house and went to an estate agent. The agent when arranging the viewing right in front of us said something along the lines of, “I’ve got an Indian couple interested in a viewing - is that okay with you?”. I wonder what he would’ve said if the vendor had been unable to do the viewing for whatever reason.

    3. Yakoub — on 5th August, 2009 at 11:17 am  

      Problem with the sleepwalking thesis is the evidence contradicts it. See (e.g.): Simpson, L. (2004) Statistics of racial segregation: measures, evidence and policy, Urban Studies, 41 p.661-81; and, Phillips, D. (2006) Parallel Lives? Challenging discourses of British Muslim self-segregation, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 24, p.25-40

    4. damon — on 5th August, 2009 at 11:20 am  

      I don’t think I can go along with the implications and tone of Sunny’s setting out of this issue, as it’s leaving out so much of bigger story. It’s oversimplistic.

      Why might landlords in a place like Boston in Linconshire sometimes have a preference as to who lives in their houses? Just because they ”don’t like” eastern Europeans?
      Pure prejudice (and that’s all?)

      I don’t know this part of England, but a family member of mine has been renting properties for 30 years and there are all kinds of ”prejudices” that landlords have. But what they want more than anything is to have tennants that pay the rent, stay for a good long period of time and don’t cause any problems.

      And my guess is (in a place like London anyway) that the race or background of the person is the last thing they are concerned about if they they have ”good” tennants.

      I’m not saying that they are not prejudiced (about people they don’t know - prospective tennants) and that prejudice (if they have it) will be based on past experience and knowledge of their business.

      In a place like Boston in Linconshire, I’d imagine that a good percentage of the non English population is much more transient than the local population.

      There are houses that are let out to one or two people, that can become like workers hostels.
      Completely understandable from the point of view of temporary migrants working in the feilds for minimum wage. They don’t want to spend big money on housing costs when they are only here to save up as much as they can before taking that money home.
      But if a landlord doesn’t want that for his property, they might prefer a local couple with a baby (or whatever).
      It’s illegal, and wrong, but perfectly understandable.
      The last thing landlords want is ”churn” with people constantly coming and going, and bills not being paid and the house starting to get shabby and uncared for.

      You’ve seen those kinds of houses. Rubbish all over the front garden. Bins overflowing. A white bed sheet in place of curtains in the downstairs front window.
      The next door neighbours don’t have a clue who lives there as it’s different faces all the time.

      Instead of just blaming racist landlords, I think it would be better to look at the wider picture.

      Remember what cheif constable Julie Spence said about Cambridgeshire police?

      Whether she was saying that just to get more resources I don’t know, but lets not pretend that things like a changing demographic doesn’t throw up challenges.

      And what Andrew Green said about ‘white flight’ was ”that massive levels of immigration are a significant factor in this.”
      I don’t think he was blaming anyone for it. Just (in his opinion) describing what happens.

      As for the last point about name discrimination. Yes, that sucks. But what community doesn’t do that?

      An Asian guy running a shop and is looking for someone to work there, might have in mind as an ideal candidate someone from his own background.

      And it’s laughable that when faced with complaints that there were not enough Bangladeshi kitchen workers to man the 9000 Indian resturants in the UK, some ejit like Phil Woolas suggested that eastern European people could be trained up to do the jobs.

    5. Lord Binky — on 5th August, 2009 at 11:59 am  

      Discrimination by whom and against whom?

      A kid belonging to archetypical ‘Guardianistas’ walked into a newly-bought house in Hinde Street, Lancasrer, wrinkled her nose and said “It smells of Indians.”

      This was true; the stench of curry permeated the entire house but eventually dissipated until - two years later - only the furthermost corner of the cupboard under the stairs smelt of that pungent Gujerati-Muslim food.

      Migrant workers are notoriously bad tenants in several countries, not just in Britain. The argument is a circular one - because they are such dire tenants they get dreadful housing and behave appropriately.

      The ideal rentees are a childless academic couple with no bloody pets. There are buy-to-let outfits in Cambridge and Oxford who specialise in getting such tenants together with responsible landlords.

      The worst thing - and everyone reading this this is aware of it - is that socially Britain is slipping backwards; nobody had heard of ‘gangmasters’ until those Fujianese drowned in Morecambe Bay or even dreamed that such hideously cruel exploitation existed in New Labour Britain.

    6. MaidMarian — on 5th August, 2009 at 1:54 pm  

      Sunny - I see where you are coming from, and you are right to say that we need to scratch the surface of this one to get beyond the superficial.

      That being said, to deny that there is a very real problem with some (not all) people who decide to come and live here is to rather hold reality in contempt.

    7. Golam Murtaza — on 5th August, 2009 at 2:19 pm  

      @ Lord Binky

      A Manchester-based mate of mine would probably dearly love to get hold of “a childless academic couple with no bloody pets.” He has two houses (still paying mortgages for both) one of which he lives in, the other he lets out. He’s so far had three sets of tenants and they’ve all been a bloody nightmare. Nothing to do with race in this instance, they’ve just turned out to be scallies.

      Of course, I accept maybe he should have been more careful when he was vetting them initially. But it’s not always possible to tell in advance whether someone is likely to be a troublemaker.

    8. Naadir Jeewa — on 5th August, 2009 at 5:48 pm  

      What are the facts on segregation in the UK:

      1. Economics drives ethnic geographical grouping.
      Muslim amenities, such as mosques and halal shops are opened in areas where first waves of migrants set up. Further migratory waves congregate in the same area because that’s where facilities are. White converts to Islam also move to those areas. (see https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/gber/pdf/vol6/issue2/Article2.pdf)

      2. Many of these areas now have stable levels of ethnic migration. Out-flow as ethnic groups move up the socioeconomic ladder matches or begins to exceed inflow.

      3. Suburban and exurban neighbourhoods resist non majority group ethnic migration. As minority ethnic families get richer and want to move outside of classic areas of immigration, they are frustrated by campaigns to stop building mosques in mixed neighbourhoods.

      Let’s take a look at the 2005 GLA report ( http://www.london.gov.uk/gla/publications/factsandfigures/dmag-briefing-2005-38.pdf ):

      * No wards in England or Wales fulfil all three criteria of segregation, therefore there are no ‘extreme polarised enclaves’, commonly referred to as ghettos. This is the case in both 1991 and 2001 in London

      * Since 1991 there has been an increase in the number of wards which have ethnic minority populations of over 66.6 per cent, from seven in 1991 to 20 in 2001.

      * However segregation has declined over the decade since in 1991 there was one London ward that fulfilled the first two criteria of segregation. In 2001 there were no London wards that fulfilled both criteria.

      * Two wards, Southall Broadway and Spitalfields & Banglatown, with high proportions of ethnic minority communities in 1991 saw a decline in the proportions of these communities in 2001.

      * Evidence of dispersal is present in these analyses. The increase in the Bangladeshi population of Little Ilford, Newham since 1991 clearly shows the dispersal of the Bangladeshi population from neighbouring Tower Hamlets.

    9. damon — on 5th August, 2009 at 9:58 pm  

      As bad and wrong as this discrimination that was shown in Linconshire is, I’m putting it down as something less than terrible race prejudice.

      Landlordism is a pretty unscrupulous business at the best of times. Particularly in my opionion, at the lower end of the market. Bedsitland and small flats let out to those people on low wages.

      A member of my family has a simple terraced house, divided into upstairs and downstairs flats, and they are rented at 165 pounds a week each. It’s in a street with a lot of similar conversions, with many let to the council or a housing association. It’s a lot of money for people on basic wages, and I guess that landlords are very fussy and pre judge their potential tennants.
      It’s not so much about race I’d say, but a more petit bourgeois notion of whether the would-be tennants can pay the rent and are ”respectable”.

      I’d say landlords in that end of the business are pretty much the same whatever race they are. And there are plenty of people of Asian origin who are in the landlord game.
      In Manchester, the landlords who are into letting houses for University students, are probably majority Muslim guys of Pakistani origin. I’ve been up there with a niece who was going to uni there, and that appeared to be the case from anecdotal evidence.

      Some landlords in Boston Linconshire may not want to be letting to migrant workers on minimum wage as they really can’t afford it.
      If there have been several cases in the town of the legal tennants subletting (and overcrowding the houses), then this sort of thing soon becomes known about in landlording circles, and that’s probably where prejudices start.

      If the flat they are letting is 150 quid a week, even a couple sharing are going to find it a bit steep.
      But that same landlord who suggests that his property is not really suitable for ‘eastern Europeans’ (as the landlord wants a thousand a month) is not going to turn down some Polish businessman who wants the house for his wife and two kids, and says he’s happy to pay for a year up front in cash.
      The landlords would be fighting each other to let him their property.

      We can focus on the little people and their (our) unfortunate prejudices - like how you hear it said that it’s hard for a black man in New York to get a taxi to take him to Harlem in the evening.
      Oh, the dirty rotton racists we all cry, forgetting that the New York cabbie who really doesn’t want to go to Harlem after dark is probably an immigrant to the country himself.

      I think the landlords of Boston just want hassle free tenancies.
      Though I’m not belittling the area of discrimination in the private letting economy in a more general sense.
      Landlords are almost pre-programmed to be petty and small minded - whatever their race.

    10. Estella — on 5th August, 2009 at 11:47 pm  

      Having lived in Boston all my life (30 years), I have more reason than most to comment.

      It is for the landlord to decide who he wants in his property. Adverts for properties in the Boston Standard and Target newspapers state people on benefits will not be consider nor those with pets. That is discrimination as well and has been happening for years. Many factories around here will take only foreign workers simply because they can charge them too much for transport and accommodation. Again this is discrimination against Bostonians. Farmers here wants people to buy British and support British farmers. All very good, except they are not supporting local workers by screwing these foreigners.

      Ask most native Bostonians and the vast majority are fed up with the vast number of migrants who have come here over the past five years. Boston is not a big town and an estimated 15,000 immigrants has had a serious impact. Speak to the locals and many wish they could walk through Strait Bargate in the town centre and hear someone speaking English instead of the usual Polish. A few immigrants, fine; but Boston, like many others towns, cannot cope with such a huge number.

      Speaking to a Bostonian who has escaped Boston sums up what many of us here know. She will not lived in Boston again because of the thousands of foreigners Since the influx, the town has gone from bad to worse. All the areas where migrants are housed were once neat and tidy areas; not any more.

      A few less Poles would be a vast improvement to the town, but so would rounding up all the webbed-foot fen sloggers who hang around outside Maaaaaarrkks n Spaaaaaarkks, packing them like sardines in a submarine and sending them to the bottom of the sea.

      Boston: fattest town in the country; town most likely to flood; town where nowhere pays more than the minimum wage; no decent infrastructure; empty shops; hardly anything to do for any age group; in the middle of nowhere. Anyone who willingly comes here, needs a full frontal lobotomy - English or Polish.

    11. ahmed — on 6th August, 2009 at 12:34 am  

      Lord Binky

      only the furthermost corner of the cupboard under the stairs smelt of that pungent Gujerati-Muslim food.

      Fascinating that food can have religious beliefs. Yes Muslims are to blame for everything - even bad cooking

    12. Sunny — on 6th August, 2009 at 1:08 am  

      Ask most native Bostonians and the vast majority are fed up with the vast number of migrants who have come here over the past five years

      So you have a problem with a Polish person living in your street? What about a British born black person? Are they a problem too?

    13. damon — on 6th August, 2009 at 1:49 am  

      I think that post @ 12 by Sunny above is a really important one in understanding how these debates just seem to go nowhere.

      Estella from Boston Lincs made a point about about most native Bostonians, which was interpreted as ”So you have a problem with…”.

      Would a bit of Luditism not be expected with a situation such as happened in Fen towns in recent years?

      Would agricultural peasants in Punjab not react so differently if outsiders had come in and changed the existing order?

      I remember when I worked in the tomato fields of Queensland (around the town of Bundaberg) some years back, that the local field workers weren’t too happy about the influx of international backpackers.
      Staying in workers hostels in town and being driven out to the fields in minibusses in the early mornings.

      The farmers maybe even prefered the on-tap plentiful supply of willing overseas young gap year types.
      They were more reliable than the local rednecks it seemed. (And you could understand why.)

      When I heard disparaging remarks from them about the ”backpackers”, I didn’t think it right to ask them if they hated ‘Abos’ too.

    14. Sunny — on 6th August, 2009 at 2:18 am  

      Would agricultural peasants in Punjab not react so differently if outsiders had come in and changed the existing order?

      If they did I’d challenge that too. Why should I put up with the bigotry of some punjabi farmers saying they don’t appreciate some Gujarati farmers moving into the village? This is in fact why there were separate villages in India for ppl of different religions. And when some trouble broke out, they went at each other like different tribes. Segregation doesn’t help anyone.

      I’m against segregation - hence I highlighted the article.

    15. damon — on 6th August, 2009 at 3:15 am  

      That’s a highly commendable position to take (seriously). And one I’d push myself if I was in some kind of trade union or polital group these days.

      It is quite a revolutionary point of view though isn’t it? Or at least one that is way out in front of where most people (from anywhere in the world) actually stand.

      Of course chauvanism must be opposed. But if you expect too much from ordinary people, you are bound to be dissapointed.

      I work with people at a large industrial laundry in south London. The staff are from all over the place.
      A lot of whoom are eastern Europeans (as well as a bunch of middle aged Asian and Black women who have lived in the UK for decades).

      I wonder if having the eastern Europeans working there is one of the factors that keeps our wages down?

      And if that was proved to be the case, what should we say about it?

      And before I fall asleep, this last point (and stupid it is I know) … but the situation with Chinese farmers showing up in Africa is a whole other issue - (isn’t it)?

    16. hantsboy — on 6th August, 2009 at 3:47 pm  

      I was in a home counties railway station caff the other day and a black woman asked the (chinese) server for a coffee. ‘Would you like white or black’ she was politely asked. She stormed out.

      Now who was discriminating here ?

      Unfortunately this is a true story.

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