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International Socialism, Summer 2002


Hassan Mahamdallie

Racism: myths and realities


From International Socialism 2:95, Summer 2002.
Copyright © International Socialism.
Copied with thanks from the International Socialism Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Race is once again at the centre of politics in Britain. Half a century ago, during black immigration from the Commonwealth, there were early hopes in reformist quarters that strict immigration controls, combined with ‘race’ legislation to curb the worst aspects of prejudice, would result in racism fading away. The idea was that new arrivals would be gradually and benignly assimilated into the ‘host’ society. Such ideas have been shown to be wide of the mark. Although in general immigrants have sought to embrace the society they have found themselves in, they have been handicapped by racism that has blocked their path and that of their British-born children.

In the period following the publication of the Macpherson report after the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence there was a widespread sense of a new start – a watershed had been reached. Yet during the 2001 general election one of the Tories’ strongest themes was racism towards asylum seekers. In government New Labour has played a double game of rhetoric about ‘toleration’ and ‘inclusion’ while enacting the harshest barrage of racist anti-asylum and anti-immigration measures seen for a generation.

The riots in the northern towns of Oldham, Burnley and Bradford in the summer of 2001, combined with the rise in racism towards Asians, especially Muslims, as a result of the ‘war on terrorism’ have produced a further step-change. We are seeing a racist ‘blowback’ from globalisation and imperialism. The intense racism against Muslims was typically articulated by Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore. He declared that ‘Britain is basically English speaking, Christian and white, and if one starts to think it might become basically Urdu speaking and Muslim and brown one gets frightened’. [1] The equivalent of Samuel Huntingdon’s ‘clash of civilisations’ – that the West is superior to the East and that Islam is an expression of fundamentalist medievalism – has given an ideological shape to racist antagonisms on the ground in Oldham, Burnley, Bradford and elsewhere. This racism has been so pervasive that Asians, from wherever they come, or whatever religion they espouse, are now popularly portrayed as Muslims – as though the religion carried a racial type.

This racism towards Muslims comes on top of the intensification of ‘Fortress Europe’ anti-immigrant and anti asylum seeker racism. This has its roots in neo-liberal policies that are forcing increased displacement and migration of the world’s poor due to the economic and military destruction of Third World and former Eastern Bloc countries. Governments across Europe have demonised a new scapegoat – asylum seekers and economic migrants, who have been cast as subhuman ‘sewage’ – ‘swamping’ Europe. ‘Swamping’ was the term favoured by New Labour home secretary David Blunkett this year in an echo of Thatcher’s notorious 1978 speech. This has led to brutal policies including the segregation of asylum seekers in camps, and mass deportations. These attacks have been combined with racist propaganda that asylum seekers are an external virus seeking to infect the otherwise healthy national body. This process of legitimising racism has fuelled a rise in fascist organisations – in Britain principally the British National Party (BNP). The same formula has been repeated across Western Europe, as the failure of centre-left reformist governments to deliver has seen them resort to the race card, only then to see themselves ‘trumped’ by the far right, dragging the debate further rightwards. The crisis of reformism has its reflection in every sphere of politics – race included.

These two planks of racism – against immigrants and Muslims – have been fused on an institutional level in Britain. New Labour home secretary David Blunkett has explicitly linked race with immigration, producing a new Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill in the wake of the riots. It combined an exclusive notion of British citizenship targeted at South Asians with a new battery of controls to stop blacks and the poor entering this country. Blunkett earned the plaudits of the BNP when, announcing new rules on citizenship in December 2001, he stated, ‘We have norms of acceptability, and those who come into our home – for that is what it is – should accept those norms.’ There are now new racist immigration controls that not only target migrants outside Britain’s border, but simultaneously recast Asians who have lived in this country for decades (and their British-born offspring) as foreigners, who will only be tolerated if they forcibly assimilate ‘British norms’ and become in Blunkett’s words ‘more English’.

These victims of racism have been turned into the authors of their own oppression. New Labour’s Europe minister Peter Hain blamed ‘very isolationist’ Muslims for the fact that black and Asian people face racial attacks. He joined the chorus of those who accuse Asians of ‘self segregation’ in the northern towns of England. Decades of racism, poverty and enforced division by the authorities have been conveniently whisked away. Instead problems in these areas are supposedly the result of the desires of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis to live in self-contained enclaves apart from ‘white’ society. The notion that a ‘cultural divide’ separates working class Asians from their white counterparts is now promoted both on the reformist left and the racist right. The report into the Oldham riots concluded that ‘the main cause for residential segregation has been preferences both within the indigenous and Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities of people “to live with their own kind”.’ [2] Throughout history each new group of immigrants from ‘races’ deemed different (and inferior) to the majority has faced hostility and myths – the Irish in the 19th century, who were regarded as ‘white niggers’, the Jews who at the start of the 20th century were accused of refusing to integrate, and those coming from the Caribbean after the Second World War.

Myths of self segregation

There are many false arguments put forward about the root of the segregation of some Asian working class communities. For example, it is fallacious to generalise about the nature of the lives of people of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin and their relations with their white counterparts solely from the experience of the mill towns. Most people from a Pakistani background live outside the north. Figures from the 1991 census showed that 29.9 percent of Pakistanis live in the south east of England, and 20.7 percent live in the West Midlands, compared with only 16.2 percent in the north west, and 19.9 percent in Yorkshire and Humberside. [3] The northern mill towns have seen a particular economic and social development resulting in enforced (not self) segregation from which it would be wrong to generalise. As Mohammed Anwar has argued, ‘Their [Pakistanis’] position in the labour market is a fundamental aspect of their position in society. The type of work available to them on arrival not merely governed their incomes, it also determined in which areas they settled, where their children went to schools, their chances in participation in the civic life and their overall status in society’. [4]

In the 1960s Pakistani and later Bangladeshi male workers were encouraged to go to Lancashire and Yorkshire to work in the mills, doing the lowest paid and worst jobs (typically segregated night shift work). These immigrants were effectively barred from the council housing where white workers lived because of discrimination through residence qualifications and so settled in poor areas of dirt-cheap housing close to the textile mills. These included Oldham’s Glodwick where Asians replaced Eastern European and black Caribbean workers who were in the process of moving out. Originally the predominantly male Asian workers held to the belief that they would return home after a few years. But this faded, and members of their close families – despite a succession of controls devised to keep them out – joined them over the next decade and a half. The gradual, but still far from total, isolation from white workers arose out of a number of factors connected not to their desire to live apart, but to their socio-economic position and the racism they endured.


Asian house buyers were effectively allocated certain contained geographical areas of towns such as Oldham. In 1988 when the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) investigated an estate agent in Oldham it found that ‘the firm tended to recommend white areas to prospective white purchasers and Asian areas to Asian purchasers, to accept instructions from white vendors to deter prospective Asian purchasers and to offer mortgage facilities only to white clients’. [5] Those Asians who did apply for council housing were hit by racism from the local authority that had an unofficial policy of segregation – as the Oldham Independent Review into the town’s riot found:

A formal investigation by the CRE into the local authority’s housing allocations in 1991 found that the council were discriminating against Asian applicants by segregating them from white households into the centre of town and by placing them into lower quality housing in the Clarkwell and Waterloo Street estates. The council had also failed to review its allocation policy and its ethnic data on households. In 1990 the CRE also found that some estate agents promoted segregationist policies by steering ethnic minority and white residents into different areas; the minority ethnic areas being poorer and ones with already high minority ethnic populations. [6]

Asians who did try and move out geographically were likely to face hostility – as the Oldham Independent Review also found: ‘We heard from many Asian Oldhamers that they did not seek to live in exclusively Asian surroundings, but that every time they moved into a new street, white people began to move out, and it is very clear that this phenomenon, popularly known as white flight, has been occurring on a wide scale’. [7] The Oldham Independent Review showed that Asians were also afraid that hostility and isolation would make them the prey of racists. They were largely absent from Oldham’s housing estates, meaning that chances of Asian and white families mixing together (as happens in England’s inner cities) were blocked. The 1991 Census showed that a quarter of the white population of Oldham lived in local authority housing compared with 13 percent of Bangladeshis and 9 percent of Pakistanis – and a 1995 housing survey showed there had been no significant change in that balance. [8]

Geographical segregation therefore had little to do with ‘self-segregation’, ‘the lack of desire of people from white and Asian backgrounds to live together’, [9] or the ‘comfort of living with people whose customs were familiar in an unfamiliar context’. [10] Neither was it to do with Muslims’ desire to ‘live close to facilities such as mosques’ [11] or close to ‘their’ shops – other explanations advanced in the riot reports.’ 


Asians in the mill towns suffered high levels of unemployment following the collapse of Britain’s textile industry. Racism in the jobs market has clearly had the effect of isolating some groups of ethnic minorities – most noticeably Pakistanis. As a recent authoritative Cabinet Office report on ethnic minorities and the labour market (commissioned by Tony Blair) states, ‘The decline of the UK textile industry has had far more of an impact on Pakistanis in the north of the UK than it has had on any other ethnic minority group’. [12] Where Pakistani workers have tried to get jobs outside their traditional areas of employment they have met racism. It has been demonstrated that ‘similarly qualified ethnic minority job applicants were three times less likely to be offered work after a job interview than white applicants’. [13] As a Pakistani male from the Manchester area told researchers, ‘I was turned down and there was no reason for it as I had the qualifications, I had the necessary experience. I had a friend, a white guy who worked in that company and he told me that they had employed someone white who had less qualifications than me’. [14]

Exclusion from the labour market is so deep that some Asian workers refer to ‘white industries’. In the riot-hit towns one of the biggest sectors of local employment is the council. Yet the Oldham Independent Review showed that, despite the 1976 Race Relations Act outlawing racism in jobs, out of 11,621 employees in Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council only 2.63 percent are recorded as being from the ethnic minorities. The ethnic minority population of Oldham MBC is 11 percent. The breakdown is even more revealing – just 74 (out of 11,621) are Bangladeshis (0.65 percent of the workforce), 137 Pakistani (1.18 percent of the workforce), four black Africans, 23 black Caribbeans and six Chinese. None are at senior management level. Only 7.5 percent of the Oldham NHS Trust is from the ethnic minorities. [15]

A measure of the collapse of industry in the mill towns in the north and racism in the job market on a national scale is the astounding figure that one in eight male Pakistani workers is presently employed as a taxi driver or chauffeur and over half of male Bangladeshis work in the restaurant business (compared with the national averages of one in a 100 workers in each trade). [16]


Despite racist assumptions otherwise, the vast majority of Asian parents wish to have their children educated in mixed schools. One 1997 study found that most Pakistani and Bangladeshi parents either had no preference about the ethnic mix of their child’s school or wanted them to be in a school with a balance of pupils from different backgrounds. [17] In fact there was very little difference across all groups including whites, with most people showing no desire to go to separate schools. Yet in Oldham that desire on the part of adults for their children to mix has clearly been undermined. As one ex-teacher put it, after Eastern European and black Caribbean families moved out of the Glodwick area:

At our school the proportion of children with Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds soon rose to 95 percent, and it was no longer a multicultural school. Many parents were concerned about this, worried that their children were not mixing enough, and that their acquisition of English would be affected. As teachers, we raised these concerns through local politics. We felt that a situation where half a dozen schools had 90 percent-plus children from Asian backgrounds, while the rest were practically all white, was disadvantaging all our children, who needed to grow up learning with and from one another. Our warnings fell on deaf ears, with the result that we now effectively have a segregated education system. [18]

The marketisation of the education system under Tories and New Labour has compounded this situation. One aspect is the creation of under-resourced and declining schools through the operation of league tables. Another factor is the way local education authorities have lost any effective control over where pupils go to school. Now if a white parent does not want their child to go to a particular school for racist reasons then it is allowed under the guise of ‘parental choice’.


Much has been said on the ability or otherwise of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis to speak English and the supposed effects of this on their ability to integrate. This is a central argument because it goes to the heart of the notion being pushed by the government and others that if you don’t speak sufficient English then you cannot be regarded as having an ‘allegiance’ to Britain. Of course language is a factor in people’s ability to operate in society, but the debate over it has been skewed so as to lay the blame at the door of Asians. Keighley Labour MP Anne Cryer has campaigned against Asians arranging marriages with a partner from the subcontinent. She says that many cannot speak English and therefore are guilty of disadvantaging their children and segregating themselves. Cryer complained in a destructive intervention in the aftermath of the 2001 riots, ‘When they [children] go to school they don’t have any English, because nearly always there is one partner in the family who doesn’t have English...therefore we are having children going to school at four and five without any English. This delays their start to academic life’. [19] Cryer’s argument was taken up by Blunkett who said that Asians should be discouraged from arranging marriages with people from the subcontinent.

Yet recent educational research has shown that language is not the key determinant to the success or failure of Bangladeshi or Pakistani pupils. Virtually all of those in the school system today were born here and are bilingual rather than monolingual. In any sane society the fact that a child could speak more than one language would be seen as a boon, not a handicap. It is racism that means children who can speak another European language are regarded as high achievers while those who speak Urdu as well as English are seen as backward (this is despite the fact that somewhere around half a billion people globally can speak and understand Urdu).

Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, recently commissioned a definitive study showing that language was not a central explanation for lack of educational achievement. DaviD. Gillborn and Heidi Safia Mirza’s report pointed out that Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are not the only South Asian group who speak another language at home. The report showed that Indian school pupils who are also bilingual were, as a group, the highest performing of all the South Asian categories. As the report concluded:

This is a highly significant pattern. For one thing, the attainment of Indian pupils suggests that having English as an additional language is not an impenetrable barrier to achievement. The most comprehensive survey currently available on this matter suggests that a majority of all [my emphasis] British Asians speak a non-European language: 88 percent of Indians, 92 percent of Pakistanis and 97 percent of Bangladeshis. In some British Asian communities there has been a decline in the use of the community languages between adults and children; about a third of Indians, African Asians, and Pakistanis normally spoke to younger family members in English. [20]

Therefore, if speaking another language at home was the key determinant to educational success, Indians would be down at the bottom of the pile with Bangladeshis.

It is not language, but class and economic position, combined with effects of racial discrimination and stereotyping, that are the key factors holding Pakistani and Bangladeshi children back. Indeed the level of Pakistani educational achievement is much more complex than popularly put. Latest research shows that, ‘although at the national level Pakistani youth are less likely to attain five higher grade GCSEs than their white peers, this pattern is reversed in some areas’. [21] This disproves the theory that a homogenous cultural inferiority is innate in Pakistani groupings – that they are destined to do badly because of who they are.

Figures show that, in four out of ten local educational authorities that monitor by ethnic origin, Pakistani pupils are more likely to attain the benchmark of five higher grade GCSE’s than white pupils locally. [22] The same goes for Bangladeshi school students. Studies show that in the 1980s these were at the bottom of the educational ‘achievement heap’, but by the 1990s this had begun to change. In particular inner city areas they had begun to close the gap with their peers. As Gillborn and Mirza observed, ‘Bangladeshi pupils in Tower Hamlets (where a full quarter of the country’s Bangladeshi pupils are educated), were attaining higher average exam scores than their white peers as early as 1991’. [23] This phenomenon has since been repeated in other geographical areas. This proves once again that having an additional language to English, speaking a south Asian language at home or having parents who may have limited English has not been the main factor affecting a child’s education. The notion of the ‘language disadvantage’ of Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils is a racist construction. As one educationalist has pointed out, ‘Too often bilingual children are perceived as being merely non-English speakers; they are perceived as a problem’. [24]

Yet the myth of language being at the root of the problem facing Asians is still widely accepted. The Oldham Independent Review insists:

Parents have a responsibility to ensure that their children start speaking enough English for lessons to be conducted in English, but this is impossible at present when many parents do not themselves have enough command of the language to help their children. This is particularly the case where young parents have arrived from the subcontinent with no knowledge of English. [25]

And David Blunkett, citing Asians’ supposed resistance to learning English, has put in his new nationality measures the speaking of English up to test standard as a prerequisite for British citizenship. [26]

As has been pointed out, young rioting Asians had no difficulty in articulating why they were so angry at the racism they were protesting against. As the Cabinet Office report pointed out, ‘Lack of language fluency is certainly not a factor in explaining unemployment among young ethnic minority males. High rates of fluency among the young suggest that other factors have a much greater impact on young people’s employment opportunities than language’. [27]

‘Asian racism’

In the run-up to the northern riots one of the ‘facts’ pushed by the local and national media and picked up and exploited by the British National Party was that of a wave of ‘racist attacks by Asian gangs’ on whites. In Oldham the local police chief had been asserting for years that ‘racist attacks’ on whites outnumbered those on Asians – a situation unique to the whole of the Greater Manchester area. This problem of ‘Asian racism’ was repeated as fact in the Oldham report into the riot: ‘Racism is not just a one way process and there have been many examples of attacks by Asians on whites’. [28]

But closer scrutiny of these much touted figures shows a different phenomenon entirely – one springing out of the general hostility towards the Asian population by those in authority. As authors of a recent in-depth study into racist perpetrators in Oldham say, this definition of Asian racism ‘emerged initially with the full authority of the police and was reproduced with little or no critical commentary in the local press. The trend towards white victimisation was then treated as an established fact in the local authority’s [1999] crime and disorder audit’. [29]

The researchers found what they termed a ‘spiral of media and police perceptions’ that effectively forged racist myths into fact. The police exaggeration of Asian ‘racism’ has been partly helped by the new definition of a racist attack as a result of the Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence: ‘A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.’ The police have clearly used this wide definition – which was intended to force them to take racist attacks seriously – to define racism according to their own prejudices. In addition there is an understandable reluctance from Asians to contact unresponsive and racist police. This has led to an under-reporting of attacks on Asians. As the researchers point out:

Perhaps the figures on racist incidents have been produced by a greater readiness on the part of whites than of Asians to report incidents they believe to be racially motivated (and willingness to believe this has itself been encouraged by the police and media accounts of the problem since the mid-1990s). It is also likely that Asians...might come to believe that there is no point in reporting incidents to the police, on the grounds that they are likely to be met with disbelief or victim-blaming. The pattern of reporting racist incidents could thus become systematically skewed, with important social effects ... The repeated representation of [young Asian men] as a threat to social order and in particular to innocent whites might also promote fear, suspicion and hatred among sections of the white population – a possibility not lost on far right political groups. [30]

The most notorious case of skewed reporting was the branding of a street robbery by Asians on Oldham pensioner Walter Chamberlain as ‘racist’ following its categorisation as such by the police – thus handing the BNP a propaganda coup on a plate. The subsequent trial of the Asian youths involved found that there was no racial motivation to the attack – but by that time the myth had become ‘fact’.

Of course there are some examples where Asians, pushed beyond endurance by racism and attacks from whites, and having no recourse to the police, have hit out not just at Nazis or racists, but at wholly innocent white people. But such incidents are rare and should be viewed as a response to the racism Asians face.

The false promise of assimilation

The New Labour government, backed by various reports and think tanks, has responded to the riots and 11 September by demanding the forced assimilation of Asians, asylum seekers and poor migrants. It argues that a combination of tightly controlled immigration of certain groups, the compulsory learning of English, an oath of allegiance to the queen, a period of extended two-year ‘probation’ for Asians coming here to marry, and so on, will lessen racial tensions. Over time, the argument goes, Asians thus managed will embrace ‘British culture’ and in crude terms ‘be more like us’. This is a domestic reflection of the message that the Western powers are promoting (and enforcing) internationally – that everything else is inferior and must be remade in the image of Western market capitalism. [31]

But does assimilation into the sort of British ‘national culture’ that Blunkett might want all of us to adhere to automatically lessen racism – especially of the institutional type?

If this were true then black Caribbeans would be a group largely freed from the effects of racism. After all, black Caribbeans nowhere live in black ghettos, they speak English as their first language, they intermarry into the general population, their children mix with white children in integrated schools, and if they have a religion it is most likely to be a branch of Christianity. In short, they have no supposed cultural barriers stopping them becoming part of the mainstream of British life. Yet for all the black newsreaders, fashion designers and artists, athletes, the smattering of black businessmen and politicians, the celebrated contribution of black musicians to popular music and the general level of integration into the working class, the position of most black people in economic terms is no better than it was 50 years ago.

The above-cited Cabinet Office report contradicts much of the racialised ideology pushed by the government that commissioned it. On assimilation the report argues that:

Some research has suggested that groups such as Bangladeshis and Pakistanis have low levels of assimilation ... however, assimilation is a blunt tool to measure the social and economic success of groups, as it is prone to counter-examples. Arguably, some groups have low levels of assimilation, but are still prosperous (for example, the London Arab communities), whilst others are well assimilated but still suffer problems [such as black Caribbeans]. [32]

The report demonstrates that the assimilationist thrust of government policy not only stokes resentment towards ethnic minority groups, but also lays the blame for racism on the victim.

The Cabinet Office report refers to ‘bridging social capital’ – in other words, the degree to which a group has the ability to get itself out of social and economic isolation. The government’s argument is that Pakistanis and Bangladeshis cannot get out of poverty because they lack the skills (which include the English language and British ‘norms’) to do so. The argument runs that if they were more assimilated then they could ‘bridge the gap’. But, as the Cabinet Office report points out:

While the lack of bridging social capital might perhaps help to explain the large disadvantages for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, it is not clear how it can explain the fact that disadvantages are also quite large for black Caribbeans, who are socially perhaps the most integrated of all the visible ethnic minorities (as indexed for example by their rates of intermarriage with white people). Chinese relative economic success is also quite hard to explain by this kind of argument. [33]

Economic indicators show that British-born black Caribbeans, arguably even more ‘mainstream’ than their parents, still suffer institutional racism in the labour market. The Cabinet Office report comments that in the 1970s black Caribbeans were twice as likely as their white peers to be jobless and that ‘there is no sign that matters have improved for the second generation in the 1990s: indeed, we find the case of second generation black Caribbeans [and Pakistanis] the unemployment rates were over twice those of the white British men of the same age’. [34]

So black Caribbeans as a group are economically ‘down there’ with poor Asians, regardless of their differing levels of assimilation.

The ‘ethnic penalty’

Racism is deeply embedded in capitalist society. Some commentators in the aftermath of the 2001 riots have crudely reduced racism in housing and jobs purely to economic factors – but what we see in fact is a synthesis and an interaction of the two.

The Cabinet Office report shows that, even after taking out all factors affecting people’s employment chances such as educational qualification, training, experience and parental status (all of which themselves may be influenced by the workings of racism), there is still a clear gap in the position of blacks to their white counterparts that can only be explained by racism.

Statisticians call this persistent gap the ‘ethnic penalty’. The existence of this penalty challenges the notion that the general lower position of black people in society can be explained by either their culture or their supposed lack of desire to mix with other ‘races’ (or in the case of young black men their supposed ‘ghetto love’ of guns and violent rap music). A summary of this research shows that, taking all the variables into account, if a typical man was black rather than white, he would, on average, be 2.5 times more likely to be unemployed. There is a similar gap of 2.38 times between white and black women. [35]

The Cabinet Office study shows that, taking all variables into account:

The study concludes that:

The report points out that 30 years of race relations legislation has not led to an end to institutional racism:

Racial discrimination and harassment persist today despite the enactment of existing anti-discrimination legislation and measures ... Moreover, the evidence suggests that this persisting and changing form of harassment and discrimination has served to block significantly the opportunities of first and second-generation visible ethnic minorities in the labour market. This has inhibited their economic integration into British society, and, arguably, has negatively affected other aspects of the wider integration process. [38]

Racism is not only confined to economic factors. Black people remain the targets of police racism. The number of violent black deaths in custody shows no sign of relenting. Despite the public exposure of racist police stop and searches, they continue at epidemic levels – partly fuelled by New Labour’s ‘crackdown’ on street crime in London. Figures released during the Macpherson inquiry showed that black people were on average five times more likely to be stopped by police than their white counterparts (the figure was even greater in places like Merseyside, and Devon and Cornwall). Although the number of stop and searches dropped following the public outcry after Macpherson, the proportion did not drop for blacks, and indeed went up to the point where they are now seven times more likely to suffer police stops than their white counterparts. As the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) commented, ‘The new figures show ... that more and more black people are being stopped by the police, while the number of white people being stopped has declined ... The figures ... explode the myth that the Stephen Lawrence inquiry has made the police reluctant to stop and search black people.’ [39]

Some commentators, especially those close to the police, have argued that there is no racial bias in police stop and searches. Yet even a Home Office study found, after examining the 2000 British Crime Survey, that ‘black people were more likely than any other group to be stopped by the police while on foot or in a car’. The report showed that, when it came to car stops, ‘after taking other demographic factors into account, being black still remained a predictor of this form of stop, as did being Pakistani or Bangladeshi’. [40]

Are racist attacks on the rise?

Recent polls show that many black people believe racism is getting worse. Institutional racism, highlighted by the Macpherson report, is clearly a major element in this conviction – people are rightly angry at continued police racism, government anti-asylum measures, racism in the labour market and so on. And they are less likely to accept it after Stephen Lawrence. However, when it comes to racist attacks, the picture is contradictory. According to police figures there has been a rapid rise in the reporting and logging of racially motivated incidents since the Lawrence inquiry (a 75 percent increase in reporting between 1998 and 1999). However, the 2000 British Crime Survey, a more accurate measure than police figures, shows lower estimated rates of racially motivated offences than in the 1995 survey (280,000 in 2000 against 390,000 in 1995). [41]

It is impossible to tell whether racist attacks are on the increase or not from the figures. What we do know is that racist violence leaps up whenever government or press scares against asylum seekers are whipped up, or when fascist parties gain a foothold in any particular area. Past experience of such scares shows that whenever racism towards asylum seekers is fuelled British-born blacks and Asians also suffer attacks. The suspected killers of Stephen Lawrence were secretly filmed pouring out racist bile against ‘immigrants’ yet it was a British-born integrated young black man who was murdered. Given this reality, it is a tragedy that some black people articulate deep prejudice against asylum seekers and groups of new immigrants.

Black people and racism in education

One of the deepest expressions of institutional racism affecting black people, and one that has been long documented, is the unequal treatment of their children by the education system. The previously citeD. Gillborn and Mirza report graphically sketches this downward slide:

At the start of their compulsory schooling black pupils are the highest attaining of the main ethnic groups in (a particular) LEA, recording a level of success 20 percentage points above the average for the authority. At Key Stage 2 [age 106ndash;11] pupils in the same group are attaining below the LEA average and in their GCSE [age 16] examinations they attain 21 points below the average. Information such as this raises important issues. That any ethnic group could enter school 20 points in advance of the average but leave 21 points behind opens up an important area for educational debate on ethnic minority attainment. [42]

Recent figures show that the exclusion of black Caribbean pupils still runs at a disproportionate rate. They are still three times more likely to be excluded from primary schools and four times more likely to be excluded from secondary schools than their white counterparts. [43] Some have sought to explain this disparity by advancing the notion that male black Caribbean pupils become alienated from school due to special ‘cultural’ factors that lead to a turning away from schooling. Gillborn and Mirza refute this:

Research evidence ... challenges such stereotypes about alienation, disenchantment, and lack of motivation. In comparison with white peers of the same sex and social class background, for example, studies show that black pupils tend to display higher levels of motivation and commitment to education. This has been documented in relation to pupils’ enthusiasm for school, rates of attendance and support for homework. [44]

The focus on the supposed particularities of black Caribbean boys also ignores the fact that black Caribbean girls are also disproportionately excluded from school. [45]

Studies also show that black pupils are more likely to get encouragement from home to go on to further and higher education. Black Caribbean pupils are motivated, but knocked back by their experiences of the school system. Gillborn and Mirza say that ‘a good deal of qualitative research ... argues that black pupils are often treated more harshly (in disciplinary terms) and viewed with lower teacher expectations on the basis of teachers’ assumptions about their motivation and ability’. [46]

Again there is an interaction between race and class. Generally speaking pupils from better off families of whatever colour do better than their manual working class counterparts of whatever colour. So working class black Caribbeans find themselves alongside working class white and Pakistani pupils in the lower sets in the school streaming system. Once in a lower set, the more difficult it is to rise, regardless of colour. But again, as in stop and search, this is not the full picture. Such is the racist bias against black Caribbean pupils that the effect of social class difference is much less pronounced than for whites. Gillborn and Mirza argue that in one study ‘the data suggest that even when controlling for social class, there remain significant inequalities of attainment between different ethnic groups. For example, only white pupils improved year on year regardless of their class background. During the research period there were points of relative decline in the attainment of African-Caribbean and Pakistani/Bangladeshi pupils from both manual and non-manual backgrounds.’ [47]

Education policies by successive governments are aggravating this situation. Present figures show that black Caribbean pupils are less likely to attain five higher grade GCSE passes than anyone else. This was not always in case: ‘In 1988 [the year of the Tory Education Reform Act] black pupils were the most successful of the groups from manual backgrounds. The relative decline of working class black pupils has, therefore, been marked.’ [48] Similarly New Labour’s ‘get tough’ policy of allowing schools to exclude children more easily will result in more black Caribbean children being barred from education.

The politics of ethnicity and community

Labour’s history of tight control of immigration combined with ‘race relations’ laws has been the basis of its policies towards black people since the mid-1960s. The overall position of British reformism to race was summed up by Roy Hattersley’s 1965 formula: ‘Integration without control is impossible, but control without integration is indefensible’. As one commentator has pointed out, Hattersley was ‘really arguing that in order to eliminate racism in Britain, it was necessary to practice it at the point of entry into Britain’. [49] Anti-immigration law from the mid-1960s onwards has been accompanied by an extension of race relations legislation, but that black immigration is a ‘problem’ to be managed remains at the core. The New Labour government has followed this pattern by enacting new anti-asylum measures while simultaneously amending the Race Relations Act.

There has been an intellectual decoupling by which racist attacks are unacceptable – but racist laws are not. The most recent embodiment of this has been Home Office minister Mike O’Brien, who in New Labour’s first term could simultaneously be the minister in charge of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and be in charge of steering his government’s anti-asylum law through parliament.

The passing of race relations laws has also given governments a lever by which to attempt to influence and incorporate struggles against racism. One of the strategies of the state has been to draw black activists into niches in the system. This is a general strategy employed by capitalism to blunt resistance, but it has taken on a specific form in the arena of race and racism. Each new Race Relations Act and its policy spin-offs have created a layer of professionals whose job has been to police and enforce aspects of legislation. Their funding has largely been dependent upon central government. Whatever the motives of individuals who enter that system, the tendency is for them to bend to pressure from above.

Those at the very top of the profession have consciously been used by those in power to exercise downward control over what has become known as ‘the black community’ or the ‘ethnic minorities’. Under New Labour, especially in the wake of the Macpherson inquiry, this incorporation has accelerated – with the creation of high paid ‘race advisers’ in various government departments, race advisory committees at the Home Office and Scotland Yard and the handpicking of ‘safe pairs of hands’ to top jobs such as the leadership of the Commission for Racial Equality.

Black New Labour MPs such as David Lammy have been positioned to ‘take on’ black ‘Old Labour’ figures such as Diane Abbott – so in April of this year Lammy argued directly against Abbott in favour of segregated education of asylum seeker children in a House of Commons debate. [50]

The strategy of incorporation has roots in the period of post-war immigration. In 1964 CARD (the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination) was founded to pull together the Labour left, moderate blacks, peace activists and church organisations. CARD was an openly reformist organisation that lobbied for laws against racism. [51] The then Labour government co-opted CARD’s leadership to posts on an official advisory committee and successfully stopped CARD campaigning against new anti-immigration laws. CARD collapsed a couple of years later under challenge by the left and black nationalists, but the strategy of state incorporation of groups and individuals continued over the next decade – culminating in 1976 with the creation of the Commission for Racial Equality. The Tories, faced in the 1980s with inner city riots that involved black and white youths, also sought to incorporate black leaderships by handing out money to black organisations.

For more than a decade following the demise of CARD more radical groupings and individuals sought to confront racism, including entering united fronts such as the Anti Nazi League. However, the downturn in workers’ struggles both nationally and internationally in the 1980s not only pushed back the general fight against the system but also pushed back the fight against racism. With the downturn there was a fragmentation of the struggle against racism and a reassertion of demands that the system could accommodate. This move away from struggle saw ‘black politics’ that had sought to unite blacks and Asians under the same banner, replaced by ‘ethnic politics’ by which various groups sought their ‘own identity’ distinct from the others. This development was speeded by black separatists who constructed splintered ‘identity’ politics and hierarchies of oppression.

Black activists were encouraged to enter the Labour Party in order to change it. They pushed for a ‘black section’ (against hostility from the Labour hierarchy). But some 15 years later not only do we still see a mere handful of ‘ethnic minority’ MPs and ward councillors (12 MPs in the Commons and 530 councillors out of 21,000 in April 2002) but most of the initial ‘rebels’ have made their peace with the party and the system – note the antics of Keith Vaz and his links with the billionaire Indian Hinduja brothers, and the transformation of Paul Boateng from civil rights firebrand to enthusiastic backer of authoritarian and anti-immigrant policies.

The limits of multiculturalism

In working class areas ‘ethnic’ politics saw ‘community’ leaders begin to argue that not only were they not ‘black’ (yet ‘black’ was never a descriptive term – it was always a political one) but they were not ‘Asian’ – they were Pakistani, or Kashmiri, or Gujerati and so on, and should be negotiated with on a separate basis. In the same way black Caribbeans were encouraged to define themselves apart from Asians and the other groups previously under the ‘black’ banner. This ‘ethnic’ ideology ignored the question of class entirely – the one factor that could unite not only blacks and Asians but also working class whites in a common struggle.

The 2000 report The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, commissioned by the Runnymede Trust and headed by a Labour peer, articulated this fragmented analysis par excellence, when it proclaimed, ‘Citizens are not only individuals but also members of particular religious, ethnic, cultural and religious communities ... Britain is both a community of citizens and a community of communities, both a liberal and a multicultural society’. [52]

The politics of ‘ethnic’ fragmentation dovetailed with the state’s strategy of incorporation of black leadership and the dividing off of one against the other. The state pushed back anti-racist polices that challenged the system, eradicating them in the first instance from the education system through the Tory Education Reform Act and dismantling bodies such as the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA), alongside the promotion of, or at least toleration of, an official version of ‘multiculturalism’. This shift was contested at the time by anti-racist and socialist educators who rightly argued that race could not be delinked from class, whereas the advocates of multiculturalism argued that ‘extremism alienates’ and that ‘there are so many things that can be worked for – gently, tactfully and politely’. [53]

As understood by most people multiculturalism is of course a step forward. Aspects of multiculturalism can and do have a role to play in challenging the racist notion that there is one culture – ‘British’ – and that others are either non-existent or at best inferior. This is a widespread feeling in society. In May 2002 a poll carried out by MORI found that 86 percent of people disagreed with the proposition that ‘to be truly British you have to be white’ (with only 9 percent agreeing), with 78 percent of people agreeing that ‘it is important to respect the rights of minority groups’. [54] It is clear here that support for multiculturalism is an expression of basic anti-racism.

However, as a formal political strategy to defeat racism multiculturalism has proved to have serious limitations. It has developed into a narrow strategy that seeks to push the state into granting ‘space’ for ethnic minorities, rather than arguing for radical change of society as a whole. This is not a new idea – in 1967 then Labour home secretary Roy Jenkins rejected what he called the ‘flattening’ of assimilation for promotion of a policy of ‘equal opportunity accompanied by cultural diversity in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance’. The difference was that in the 1960s and 1970s this was a definition rejected by most of those engaged in the fight against racism, but by the 1980s it had re-arisen during a general period of defeat to be embraced by elements of black nationalism and the minority elevated into ‘race relations’ jobs. It has also been given a philosophical veneer by postmodernist theorists who argued that individuals’ identities are so separate that not only is there no shared experience between them but shared communication is barely possible. [55]

This concept, increasingly pushed through the 1980s and 1990s, of different hermetically sealed and static cultures practised by distinct ‘ethnic’ groups outside any material analysis of society in which people live, has provided ammunition for the right.

The multicultural slogans of ‘different but equal’, ‘tolerance and diversity’ and the boiling down of Asian cultural aspects into a national dish, dress or religious practice has allowed the racism of ‘separate development’ in through the front door. Anti-racism strives to unite black and white against racism and to expose the class relations at work – but it is clear that a type of multiculturalism can be promoted by those who have no intention in challenging racism whatsoever. [56] It could only be a matter of time before opportunists on the right and far right would begin to demand their ‘cultural space’ and ‘rights’ in response to multiculturalism.

Thus the BNP argues a ‘theory’ that apes multiculturalism. Its leadership say the BNP is not racist, but that it merely holds that ‘cultures’ are separate and incompatible – the English, its argument goes, have a ‘natural’ need for their culture just as Asians and blacks have theirs. Of course this is a cover for their fascist politics, but nonetheless claims a legitimacy within the official doctrine of ‘multiculturalism’. BNP leader Nick Griffin has unfortunately had some success in promoting this idea among blacks themselves – in the spring of 2002 he was invited to write an article on race and culture in a glossy black professional men’s magazine, Untold.

Yet the idea of separate cultures, which dictate the way in which people view themselves and others around them, is not reflected in reality.

For instance, the government’s insistence that Muslims (and future black and Asian immigrants) become more English begs a crucial question: what is this English or British culture we are all supposed to sign up to? A moment’s thought shows that there is nothing in common between the ‘culture’ of the royals or top businessmen or most politicians and the way of life of working people (black and white) in Britain.

Across the world, Britain included, ordinary people’s culture is increasingly merging. Culture in its widest sense means the way people live their lives, their social practices, attitudes and sense of the world around them. Culture in artistic terms – works of art, performance, rituals and so on – is the smaller part of people’s everyday cultural existence. Globally working class culture tends towards the same reference points. Not only do workers everywhere increasingly wear the same clothes, enjoy the same films and so on, they also have access to the universal political language of anti-capitalism. A growing number of British people identify with an international feeling that the rich have too much power and that governments give in to the powerful. But Blunkett is not encouraging Bangladeshi children or Somali asylum seekers (let alone white children) to embrace this global culture of revolt.

When it comes to fragmentation on ethnic lines the idea of separate cultures makes even less sense. Kashmiris, Gujeratis and Punjabis in Britain (as in the subcontinent) share the vast majority of their cultural outlook. They most likely understand the same languages. They dress similarly, watch the same Bollywood movies and Asian cable TV, and eat the same sorts of food. Their different religious affiliations do not represent a great gulf between them. And when it comes to their white neighbours and workmates, they increasingly share a commonality of outlook and way of life, especially in the inner cities. [57]

Community and class

One of the major areas where the politics of ‘ethnicity’ have had a divisive effect is in local politics. Ethnic groupings, each represented by a ‘community leader’ have been encouraged by state policy, for example through local government and ‘urban renewal’ and ‘regeneration’ funding policies.

Groups are expected to define themselves as separate communities to bid for little bits of funding for social facilities. Those who fall behind are left out. So, for example, a 1991 study into the Muslim population of Coventry found that local Gujerati leaders felt that ‘the attitude of the council is that the Sikh community are powerful, so give them something. If we don’t give something to the West Indians, they will fight on the streets, so let’s keep them quiet. But they know we are not going to fight.’ [58] The report also found that local authority officers tended to ‘attribute a cohesiveness to supposed ethnic minority “communities”, which they would not expect to find among indigenous whites, and to assume that a small number of “leaders” speak with authority’. [59]

The ‘ethnic community’ model, with leaders representing their fiefdom, crucially plays down class divisions and tensions. As with the rest of society, there are different class interests involved. In Bradford, for example, even as early as 1981 a study indicated that between 7 and 10 percent of Bradford’s Pakistanis were already living in ‘the most affluent suburbs or in comfortable semi-detached suburbia’. [60]

Latest figures show that nationally 17 percent of Asians and 11 percent of blacks are in ‘higher managerial and professional’ jobs [61], with a similar percentage of both groups also concentrated in the lowest income brackets. Specific groups have done better than others, with 47 percent of Indians deemed to be in the top social class (this compares with a figure of two fifths of whites and black Africans and a quarter of black Caribbeans, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis). [62] But there is also a class division within the Indian population – Indians who follow the Muslim religion are over-represented in the lowest income brackets.

Those who have influence in any ‘community’ to do with their class position or connections can hold back the struggles of the majority. When Asian youth riot, ‘community leaders’ are invariably found to condemn them and any attacks on property, although they may try and balance this with criticisms of those in authority for fear of being isolated. Under particular circumstances leaderships and organisations may arise to lead struggles against racism and exploitation, to find that they have also to lead a struggle against conservative ‘old guard’ elements within their own ‘community’. The crucial question, as in all conflicts based on class difference, is which wins out to carry their strategy forward.

As much as ‘ethnic’ communities are divided by class, they may also be divided through place of origin, family groupings and ties, and religion. For example, in 1959 in Bradford there was just one mosque that everyone (mostly male immigrants) attended, but by 1994 there were 30 mosques, each aligned to different national, regional and ideological strands of Islam. [63] This pattern is also true of other religious affiliations in the city. These religious leaders tend to play a conservative role – for example against the freer integration of young men and women across religious and caste affiliations as well as in wider society. To say, therefore, in towns such as Bradford there is one Asian community to be treated as one undifferentiated bloc is to overlook class and other divisions that exist.

Labour’s racialised politics

The notion that community leaders only represent ‘their kind’ has been strengthened by the operation of the Labour Party in local government – which has historically had a paternalistic attitude to black voters and organisations.

The Labour Party has relied on the allegiance of black and Asian voters – not an insignificant factor in many inner city constituencies. A study into voting patterns in the 1997 election that brought New Labour into office found that 88 percent of black Caribbeans, 82 percent of Indians and 80 percent of Pakistanis voted Labour, compared to 46 percent of whites. [64]

Labour has consistently taken its black and Asian supporters for granted – on the one hand, urging Asian members and local councillors to deliver the ‘ethnic vote’ while stifling any demands for political representation. One commentator writes how, in Birmingham, ‘patronage politics went unchallenged by the party while it was used to secure the position of key white politicians but created an outcry when the same patterns were emulated by Asians’. [65]

The overall relationship of the Labour Party with black voters has been ‘racialised’ – in other words, they have been related to only on the basis of their race. This has manifested itself in various assumptions: that ‘ethnic’ leaders could deliver mass votes; the suspicion that Asians were motivated by ‘takeover’ and ‘back home’ politics; and the placing of its few black parliamentary and council candidates in ‘black’ or ‘ethnic’ constituencies where they were assumed to have colour allegiance, regardless of their politics.

In Bradford this policy of dealing in a top-down fashion has inevitably distorted what remains of emasculated local politics. As one study into voting patterns in the town describes:

The dynamics of the process are as follows: a Kashmiri politician mobilises his kinship network to gain control of a local party ward. When he wins a seat as a Labour councillor, his Kashmiri rival decides to offer himself to the Tories. Clan and caste rivalries are then played out on the streets and bewildered voters wake up to discover that this or that party’s safe seat has fallen to the opposition. This has happened every year since 1995 with wards continuing to be suspended ... The future Lord Nazir Ahmed was twice victim of such exclusion. In an interview with Q News [Muslim youth magazine] after his appointment to the House of Lords, he mentioned that he had first sought parliamentary selection in 1992, only ‘to come unstuck at the hands of predominantly Indian Muslim party members who insisted on asserting nationalist rivalries [against himself as a Pakistani/Kashmiri] ... in 1997 he tried again, this time in Bradford West, only to be denied by caste factionalism [within the Kashmiri community]. [66]

One does not need to have a stake in Lord Ahmed’s political career in New Labour to appreciate the destructive nature of the fragmentation of the struggle against racism into ‘ethnic’ rivalries for local influence.

These divisions also strengthen the idea that ‘ethnic minority’ councillors deal with the problems of their ‘own kind’ while white councillors should look after their ‘own kind’. As the Oldham Independent Review cites, ‘We have heard complaints that the council officers tend, in wards where there are both Asian and white councillors, to use the Asian councillors for dealing with problems in the Asian areas and vice versa.’ [67]

This was bound to provoke competition between workers on the basis of colour, especially in run down areas, and to provide political space, as we have seen in Burnley and Oldham, for the far right to gain a foothold in local politics.

The roots of racism

Marxists have a unique analysis of racism, its roots and its role in present society. Racism arose at the beginnings of capitalism as a justification for the transatlantic slave trade. Marx in Capital precisely located ‘the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black skins’ in what he caustically termed as ‘the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production’. As historian Eric Williams wrote, ‘Slavery was not born of racism: rather racism was the consequence of slavery.’ Williams explained that the formation of racist ideology followed the establishment of the slave trade:

The features of the man, his hair, his colour, his dentifrice, his ‘subhuman’ characteristics so widely pleaded, were only the later rationalisations to justify a simpler economic fact: that the colonies needed labour and resorted to negro labour because it was the cheapest and the best. The planter would have gone to the moon, if necessary, for labour. Africa was nearer than the moon. [68]

Racist ideology emerged as a way of overcoming the contradiction of early capitalism that advanced the creed of equality, yet relied for its early accumulation on mass slave labour. The way of overcoming this contradiction was to push Africans down beneath the rest of humanity. Thus could Thomas Jefferson write in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ while at the same time being an owner of slaves.

Part of the consequence of early racism was to drive a wedge between white and black, where previously poor whites transported to the colonies had been regarded by their plantation masters and the upper classes in Britain as on the same level as Africans. So, with the rise of slavery and racism, slaves in tobacco colonies in Virginia were barred from Christian baptism, while white labourers were recoded as ‘Christian white servants’. Whites were no longer allowed to have sexual relations with Africans, whereas previously they had mixed freely. As historian Edmund S. Morgan argues, this elevation ‘placed the white servants psychologically on par with their masters’. [69] It made the poor whites feel part of the dominant group, but without improving their economic position in relation to the ruling class. Not only was there the racist construction of a ‘black race’ – later buttressed by pseudo-scientific theories – but there was also the construction of a ‘white race’. This was an early example of racism as a tool of divide and rule.

Although the African slave trade was abolished, racism, lodged as it was in capitalism, expressed itself through the racism of empire – in which subjugated peoples were regarded as ‘backward races’ that needed European rule as a civilising force. Ideologically it enabled the rulers of the various European empires in Africa and Asia to plunder the colonies at will, while suppressing with the utmost brutality those who fought for their freedom.

However, it would be wrong to think that racism today is merely a hangover from slavery. If that was the case, racism might be eradicated through education combined with ‘race relations’ laws against its worst manifestations. Marxists, however, argue that modern racism grows out of and is sustained by the material conditions of late capitalism. Its basis lies in economic competition between workers and it has benefits for the ruling class as a weapon that weakens the entire working class. Capitalism, as Marx argued, brings workers together at the point of production, but then pits them against each other. One of the ways in which the ruling class has historically managed this is by stoking resentment between indigenous workers and groups of new workers – immigrants who because of their economic position are often brought in to work for less pay and worse conditions. This is part of the history of the northern English towns, where the mill owners were happy to recruit cheap Asian labour and then segregate them from whites in the workplace. As one account of Asian immigration into Bradford describes, ‘Those [Asian immigrants] without formal education, the majority, worked the night shifts in the textile mills. Most were wool combers – a dirty job traditionally done by women – who were excluded by factory legislation from working the night shift.’ [70]

This capitalist process has been a constant pattern in Britain and other European countries. Each new group of workers has faced racism, both from racist politicians and explicitly racist parties who have found levels of support among sections of hostile white workers who felt their own precarious economic position threatened.

Conditions in the northern towns show clearly how racism can arise out of the competition for scarce resources. The material basis for racist antagonisms is plain: the report into the riot in Burnley found that 40 percent of the town’s homes are dependent on some sort of state benefit, with 42 percent of children reliant on free school meals. Burnley residents’ health is worse than the national average, with the town suffering ‘high levels of teenage pregnancy, mental illness and increasingly high levels of drug and alcohol misuse’. Four of Burnley’s 16 wards are within the worst 20 percent in England when it comes to education and skills levels. Nearly 27 percent of the town’s houses are deemed unfit for human habitation, 15 percent are vacant and house prices have fallen so far as to make them virtually unsellable – saddling mortgage payers with huge amounts of negative equity. [71]

It is out of these conditions that the scapegoating of Asians could take hold, compounded as we have seen with segregation and the politics of ‘ethnic’ divisions.

The nature of racism today

Racism today has fluidity – its immediate focus can shift quickly and is not necessarily defined by colour. For example, racism towards asylum seekers can be aimed at Eastern Europeans as much as at Africans. All the stereotypes and beliefs of inferiority employed in the past against black Caribbeans are now employed against Kosovans. This is partly because globalisation and the collapse of the former Soviet Union have changed the nature of international migration – the poor migrants are not, as they were in the colonial past, exclusively defined by having a differing pigmentation to the indigenous population.

At the same time previous immigrant populations can express prejudice towards new arrivals – so some black Caribbeans do articulate racist stereotypes against West Africans, Eastern Europeans and asylum seekers. Similarly, some ex-immigrants who consider themselves to have ‘made it’ and identify strongly with ‘Britishness’ may use the same racist arguments that were once employed against themselves or their parents. In other parts of the world racist stereotyping can express itself outside the lexicon of colour. A modern example is the prejudices whipped up in West Africa at various points between Ghanaians and Nigerians. In 19th century Britain the main focus of racism was Irish immigrants.

However, when racism finds new victims it does not turn away from its original ones. So racist attacks continue to be carried out against easily identifiable targets – people with a dark skin – and, as this article has detailed, the brunt of institutional racism continues to be borne by blacks.

It has been argued that modern racism has an entirely new manifestation, which Tariq Modood has termed ‘cultural racism’. Modood says that although ‘colour racism is the foundation of racism’ there is a separate racism ‘which uses cultural difference to vilify or marginalise or demand cultural assimilation’. He argues that this new racism specifically affects religious groups such as Muslims, and demands new measures that fall outside existing anti-racist strategies – namely the extension of race relations legislation to cover Islam. [72] Even setting aside the limitations of pursuing legislation as a strategy to defeat racism, Modood overstates the shifts in the nature of racism. In fact, racism has always employed supposed cultural difference as a cloak for its core thrust. Racism against Jews at the turn of the 20th century had cultural overtones:

People of any other nation, after being in England for only a short time, assimilate themselves with the native race and by and by lose nearly all of their foreign trace. But the Jews never do. A Jew is always a Jew. [73]

The 1965 Labour government openly argued its justification for immigration controls in cultural terms:

It must be recognised that the presence in this country of nearly 1 million immigrants from the Commonwealth with different social and cultural backgrounds raises a number of problems and creates various social tensions in those areas where they have concentrated. If we are to avoid the evil of racial strife and if harmonious relations between the races who now form our community are to develop, these problems and tensions must be resolved and removed. [74]

Again in 1968 Tory MPs argued in favour of controls against Kenyan Asians on cultural lines: ‘We cannot overwhelm ourselves with large numbers of people, who, however worthy, are alien, have alien cultures, different temperaments, totally different backgrounds and habits and different ways of life.’ [75] Infamously it was Margaret Thatcher who argued in 1978 that Britain was in danger of being swamped by those of a ‘different culture’.

Do whites benefit?

Marxists reject the argument that ‘all whites are racist’, with its implicit assumption that the white working class is somehow fascism’s ‘natural’ constituency. The logic of this belief can have a damaging effect on anti-racist strategy, for example leading to writing off ‘white areas’ in constituencies where the Nazis are trying to build a base in favour of campaigning exclusively in ‘black areas’. This idea of an innate racism in whites gained influence in the 1980s when it formed the basis for ‘racial awareness training’ (RAT), mainly used in the public sector. RAT was theoretically underpinned by the writings of an American academic, Judith Katz, who believed that racism is ‘a psychological disorder ... deeply embedded in White people from a very early age on both a conscious and an unconscious level’ [76], and that ‘being White ... implies being racist. White people are responsible for the perpetuation of racism in a White racist system.’ [77] Katz’s solution was to shift away from a collective response to racism towards confronting individuals, who needed to be ‘re-educated’ out of their racist attitudes. Katz defined racism as an individual psychological ‘sickness’ afflicting a whole group rather than a product of society. It is significant that RAT’s forerunner was HAT – ‘human awareness training’ – developed by the US military during the Vietnam War period to try and mitigate against racism towards black GIs undermining its operational ability. [78]

For Katz’s theory to stand up it has to be proved that (i) all whites are racist and (ii) all whites benefit from racism. Yet even a cursory examination reveals many historical and contemporary examples of where white people have fought racism and furthermore have chosen black leaders to represent them in their struggles against the system. For example, historians have now uncovered the extraordinary depth of white working class support in Britain for the abolition of slavery. [79] The civil rights movement in the US had many white activists prepared to go on ‘freedom runs’ into the Deep South to challenge segregation. The London Chartists chose a black man – William Cuffay – to lead them in the 1840s, and the white workers of Battersea, south London, twice elected an Indian Communist, Shapurji Saklatvala, to represent them in parliament during the 1920s. In recent times the Anti Nazi League has mobilised tens of thousands of white workers and students against the threat of fascism.

Marxists crucially argue that racism is not in the material interests of white workers. The northern mill towns are a good example of how white workers do not benefit from racism. Segregation and high levels of ‘popular’ racism against Asians over decades have created a weakened working class, and brought no benefits to whites (or Asians).

Studies have also shown that, the greater the grip of racism on white workers, the worse their level of exploitation by the ruling class. In the 19th century Marx argued that the antagonism of English workers towards Irish immigrants was ‘the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power’. An American Marxist, Szymanski, looking at the economic position of white workers in the southern states, found that the more racist they were the easier it was for the bosses to exploit them on the basis of an imaginary white solidarity. He concluded that white workers ‘appear to actually lose economically from racial discrimination’. [80] Another study in Australia found that white workers lost out because of their racism towards Aborigines: ‘Whites on NT [Northern Territory] cattle stations had the lowest wages of any white workers in Australia and worked longer hours without proper overtime “because they allowed the bosses to treat the Aborigines like dogs”.’ [81]

Conversely, the more solidarity there is between white and black workers, the better off they are collectively – a 1992 CRE study, Part of the Union, found that there was ‘a link between greater involvement of black trade union members and effective [trade] union organisation’. [82]

New Labour props open the door

New Labour has declared that it wishes to oppose racism and halt the rise of the far right. But its economic and social policies all flow in the opposite direction. Its racist anti-asylum and immigration policies continue to poison the debate around race and racism, as does its targeting of Muslims. Blair has also set himself against wealth redistribution-the growing gap between those at the top of society and those at the bottom is not of concern to him. But it is the poverty in some areas of Britain that is contributing to a feeling of hopelessness and division that can nourish racism. Oldham is the 38th most deprived local authority in England, yet the town has been ‘awarded’ a pitiful £211 million in special regeneration funding for the 18-year period 1993 to 2011. [83] As the Oldham Independent Review points out, the money that has been allocated to Oldham has been made up of small ‘penny packages’ of funding which are supposed to ‘lift up’ geographically small areas. These scraps of funding have to be fought for by local representatives, with ‘winners and losers’ being the built-in outcome. Racists have latched onto and amplified complaints that ‘they’ are getting more than us – when ‘they’ are people of a different skin colour. These myths can take hold, even if they are not true. The Oldham Independent Review points out that, in reality, ‘rather more than half the funding has gone to areas with low proportions of minority ethnic inhabitants’. [84] Yet not only is the amount of money in total pitiful, but the competitive market model imposed by New Labour on every aspect of funding of public services is stoking resentments.

The government says it wants people to integrate, yet the segregation of children is set to widen. The government is committed – in its effort to undermine the comprehensive system – to a ‘plurality’ of schools, from more private companies being let into education, more specialist schools that pick their pupils, and more religious schools. As has been pointed out in the various riot reports, this drive is disastrous. The Cantle report commissioned by the government found that ‘one Church of England school ... in the midst of an Asian community had a policy whereby pupils had to produce a letter from their local vicar to prove they and their parents were regular churchgoers. Consequently, Muslim parents rarely bothered to apply to send their children to this school and were effectively excluded from it.’ [85] This scenario will multiply as more and more faith schools are established. In a desperate attempt to square the circle, the government is proposing that faith schools should practise ‘inclusiveness’ – but how can they do this while barring groups of students with the ‘wrong’ or no religion from the school roll? In a bizarre move the government has picked up on the proposal that schools should practice ‘virtual’ integration instead, by having religious schools video-conference and internet link with other schools! [86]

New Labour’s central ideological response to the northern riots has been to concede the main plank of the racists’ argument – that divisions among sections of Britain’s working class are permanent, and that ‘ethnic’ boundaries naturally predominate. This is a facet of the crisis of reformism.

Thus New Labour, because it refuses to enact policies that meet social need, argues that the only option open to it is to mediate between different ethnic groups while spreading a general message of ‘tolerance’. It follows that for New Labour the problems that exist in towns like Burnley are not to do with poverty and racism, but to do with ‘cultural factors’ – language, religion, ‘self segregation’, the ‘natural’ desire of people to stick to their ‘own’ and so on. Home Office documents thus argue that segregation is not fundamentally a product of particular economic, political and social factors, but an expression of the desire of ‘different ethnic groups’ to retreat into ‘comfort zones made up of people like themselves’. [87]

This has resulted in the government either giving in to or promoting racist arguments. The response of government environment minister and Oldham MP Michael Meacher to the riots was to utterly concede the BNP case, announcing:

We are not talking at this point about extra money [my emphasis]. It is important that money which had previously been targeted at a particular area, and which has produced a very strong perception of unfairness – that certain parts of the community are being favoured over others – goes borough wide. [88]

Home secretary David Blunkett then deliberately opened up a debate on citizenship on the eve of the publication of the various riot reports to deflect away from the deprivation pointed to in the reports, while in the run-up to the May 2002 local elections he used the phrase ‘swamping’ in connection with asylum seekers in an open bid to tempt racist votes.

In a similar manner racism and deprivation among the black population in the inner cities has been turned on its head, with a focus switched to ‘black crime’ and supposed violent cultural aberrations among black youth that somehow lead them to alienate themselves from the rest of society. Unfortunately this turn away from material explanations towards cultural theorising has been echoed by some black leaders – so, for example, prominent London figure Lee Jasper has called for co-operation with the police against so called ‘black on black’ violence (revealingly there is no equivalent term ‘white on white’ violence), while the head of the CRE, Gurbax Singh, has backed more ‘stop and search’ of inner city blacks.

The basis for unity

The polarisation in British society creates opportunities for the left as it does for the far right. There exists in Britain a large potential for a united class-based fightback that has the struggles against inequality and oppression at its core. There is a revolt in Britain against the politics of globalisation and US imperialism that has produced an internationalism that actively opposes racism and scapegoating. The movement against the war on Afghanistan, followed by demonstrations in defence of the Palestinians, has seen Britain’s Muslims take to the streets in a mass political fashion as never before – opening up the possibility of activists, especially the younger generation, allying with the broader movement and joining the ranks of anti-capitalist and far left organisations. Of course religious leaders and small Islamist sects will attempt to keep control over what they regard as their constituency, but this is far from inevitable. Objective circumstances mean that the gap between Britain’s Asian population and the wider working class is not as large as it is generally portrayed. In very real terms, most of the Bangladeshi and Pakistani population, for example, are in the ranks of the working class and increasingly integrated with their fellow workers.

The segregation and antagonisms present in British society show only a partial picture. Most people (84 percent) from what are termed ‘ethnic minorities’ live in the inner cities – just under half live in the Greater London area. The capital is one of the most mixed cities in the world. Nearly a quarter of all Londoners were born outside the UK. [89] Four fifths of Britain’s black Africans and three fifths of all Bangladeshis live in London. [90]

These workers have a young age profile in general: ‘The ethnic minority population of the UK ... is projected to account for more than half of the growth in the working age population over the next ten years.’ [91] And over 85 percent of ethnic minority young people stay on in full time education (compared with 67 percent of whites) and therefore mix with other young people from different backgrounds. [92]

There are large variations across different groups, with high levels of employment among black Caribbean and Indian women and low levels among Bangladeshi women. However, in general blacks and Asians are increasingly present in Britain’s colleges and workforce, with a greater level of integration present among the young.

Young Asians have a more relaxed attitude to the society they live in than their parents. Even as far back as 1983 some 65 percent of young Asians did not see anything wrong with wearing Western clothes. As one study put it, ‘There was ... a feeling that girls should be free to wear what they wanted. Others mentioned that clothes were not important and made no difference to cultural traditions.’ The main reason for wearing Western clothes was to help them mix in more easily. [93]

The trend for social integration is upwards. Black Caribbeans are the most integrated group socially, with the 1991 census showing that 40 percent of black Caribbean men and one in five black Caribbean women aged 16 to 34 are currently living with a white partner. There are indications that mixed relationships are generally becoming more common, with the 1991 census showing that over half of men and women classified as ‘black other’ were living with a white partner. The figures also show that ‘the proportion of couples who are ethnically mixed is higher among younger couples’. [94]

The 1991 census also found that 7 percent of Indian men and 4 percent of Indian women were living with a white partner. There is little doubt that new census figures, once analysed, will see this figure rise. The trend across all ‘ethnic minority’ groups, especially in the second generation, is towards mixed relationships. Even among Pakistanis, given the hold of the arranged marriage system, there seems to be a trend (from a low base, as one would expect) towards marrying across ‘ethnic’ and religious lines. Figures from 1991 show that 5 percent of Pakistani men and 1.2 percent of Pakistani women had white partners. A study has found that ‘there appears to be some indication from the detailed analysis of data that inter-ethnic unions are more common among “second generation” Pakistani men’. [95] One would expect this as Pakistanis’ general integration into society, especially in the inner cities, continues.

The impetus for more mixed relationships partly lies in changing attitudes of white people towards blacks. A 1996 survey found that ‘74 percent of whites said they would not mind [if one of their close relatives was to marry an Afro-Caribbean], rising to 88 percent among young people. When it came to Asians, seven out of ten whites said they would not mind, rising to 85 percent among younger people. [96]

This ‘everyday’ integration exposes the nonsense of exclusive ‘ethnic’ and ‘cultural’ groupings. In areas such as inner London it would be more accurate to identify a common youth culture drawn from many sources than a number of distinct ones, for example. It is also significant that in the present period fascists have by and large given up on trying to organise in areas such as inner London where there are large mixed populations – preferring to base themselves in outlying areas with relatively few black and Asian people. Surveys show that racist attacks are more likely to happen outside the inner cities. A 2001 survey found that in the previous 12 months ‘one in 12 of the ethnic minority population in Northumbria have reported a racist incident ... compared with one in 200 in the West Midlands’. [97]

There have been two developments that have put the politics of anti-racism, as opposed to ethnic politics, back on the agenda. The first has been the determination of Asian youth in the northern towns not to be stereotyped as passive and under the control of conservative community leaders. Their taking to the streets to defend their areas from attack by the BNP and their willingness to take on the police show they want to challenge racism, both of the fascist and the institutional kind.

The second has been the campaign for justice for Stephen Lawrence. This has had a deep impact on British society. It exposed the workings of institutional racism, and provoked popular anger at the police. It was public pressure that made the incoming Labour government grant a public inquiry, not the campaign by the Daily Mail. This pressure showed itself during the inquiry as people, black and white, showed their solidarity with the family. The willingness of people to sign petitions in support of the Lawrences’ demand that Metropolitan Police commissioner Paul Condon should be sacked was as strong in small towns in Scotland as it was in inner London. The main plank of support for the Lawrence campaign came from the trade unions, from collections by individual members and through large donations by the TUC. The Lawrence campaign was seen as a working class cause.

A section of the white population changed their perception of the police during the inquiry. An ICM poll on the eve of the publication of the inquiry report in February 1999 found that one in four people now believed that most police were racist. [98] This attitude shift was partly to do with white working class people’s own experience of the police, but also an understanding taught through the inquiry that the police singled out black people for ‘special treatment’.

One of the achievements of the Lawrence campaign was to have the concept of ‘institutional racism’ cited as the main reason for the police’s failure. Although the police fought a rearguard action against its inclusion in the report, it was a step forward from the Scarman report into the 1981 Brixton riot that put police racism down to the ‘bad apples’ theory of individual officers’ attitudes. In the wake of the Macpherson inquiry came a whole number of other campaigns – supporting the family of Indian student Ricky Reel who was found drowned after an encounter with racists, and campaigns against deaths in police custody (which united black families such as Roger Sylvester’s in Tottenham with the white Harry Stanley family in Hackney). In every town in Britain these campaigns could pack a community hall. These campaigns have fought an uphill struggle – although they rest on the support of the public they rely at the end of the day on the system to deliver justice. However, they may be considered as crucial rallying points towards a wider fightback against racism. Alongside these have run a number of campaigns in defence of asylum seekers and against government policy such as the demeaning voucher system, which leaders like the TGWU’s Bill Morris have made into an issue for trade unionists. In the 2001 general election the Tory attempt to play the race card fell largely on barren ground, although since then New Labour has pandered to the racist arguments of the right and far right.

There is no unbridgeable gap between the lives of black and white workers. The left not only has to win white workers to anti-racism in their own interests but it has to reveal the commonality of the lives of the class as a whole. Workers of whatever colour or religion are being simultaneously blamed for their own situation and subject to harsher controls under New Labour’s social authoritarianism. Curfews, heavier policing and means testing for the urban poor have their racist reflection in new rules of citizenship and demands for forced integration for Muslims and asylum seekers. New Labour’s contempt for its working class base extends both to Pakistanis and to their white counterparts in the northern towns.

Under capitalism the great mass of workers have a contradictory consciousness. They can move towards the left and the right. When workers shift to the left and into struggle, ideas and prejudices about other groups of workers are increasingly challenged – but nothing is inevitable about this process. Socialists cannot afford to sit back and wait – especially when the far right is posing a false alternative. In the coming period a principled stand against racism combined with a strategy that unites in action all workers in their common interest will prove to be crucial.


Thanks to Rahul Patel, Brian Richardson, Charlie Kimber, Molly Mahamdallie, Yuri Prasad and Kevin Ovenden for useful comments on drafts of this article.

Terminology – I have used black Caribbean for those who used to be called Afro-Caribbeans because this is the term now favoured by statisticians. The term ‘ethnic minority’ is an amorphous term, usually a shorthand for people with a different skin colour, but it can also cover groups such as the Irish and Jews, etc. When I use the term ‘black’, I use it as a political term (not a descriptive term) to encompass Africans, black Caribbeans and South Asians. The term Asian covers Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Indians and those Indians who came here from East Africa and the Caribbean.

1. Quoted in Y. Alibai-Brown, Who Do We Think We Are? (Allen Lane 2000), p. 10.

2. Oldham Independent Review Report 2002, p. 9,

3. Muhammad Anwar Centre for Research in Ethnic Studies, British Pakistanis: Demographic, Social and Economic Position (1996), p. 17.

4. Ibid., p. 13.

5. N. Ginsburg, Racism and Housing Concepts and Reality, in P. Braham, A. Rattansi and R. Skellington, Racism and Anti-Racism: Inequalities, Opportunities and Policies (Open University 1997), p. 119.

6. Oldham Independent Review Report 2002, op. cit., p. 16.

7. Ibid., p. 16.

8. Ibid., p. 17.

9. Ibid., p. 16.

10. Ibid., p. 8.

11. Ibid., p. 16.

12. Cabinet Office, Ethnic Minorities and the Labour Market: Interim Analytical Report (2002), ch. 1, p. 63, [Note by ETOL: This link has not been checked.]

13. Ibid., p. 64.

14. Ibid., p. 65.

15. Oldham Independent Review Report 2002, op. cit., p. 34.

16. Cabinet Office, op. cit., p. 56. The use of psychometric tests that businesses increasingly favour has the effect of barring certain ethnic minority groups. As one psychologist commenting on psychometric tests used by British Rail put it, ‘If I designed a system to discriminate against Asians, I could not have done it better.’ Ibid., p. 65.

17. See T. Modood and R. Berthoud, Ethnic Minorities in Britain: Diversity and Disadvantage (Policy Studies Institute 1997), pp. 320–322.

18. Commission for Racial Equality, Connections (Summer 2001), p. 12.

19. Anne Cryer quoted 12 July 2001 on BBC Bradford News. Cryer et al. state that Pakistani and Bangladeshi children are ‘underachieving’ at school. The term ‘underachievement’ is a throwback to the prejudiced notion applied to black Caribbean children in the 1950s and 1960s that their ‘culture’ and ‘language difficulties’ were stopping them advancing at school, and was used as a justification for putting them in ESN (educationally subnormal) schools. This racist myth was exploded in Bernard Coard’s 1970 pamphlet How the West Indian Child is Made Educationally Subnormal in the British Schools System. It should also be noted that Cryer has a less than consistent attitude to arranged marriages – she is only against them if they involve a ‘Punjabi or Bangladeshi’ speaker. Also note that an estimated two thirds of those described as of Pakistani origin were born in the UK. Of those not many were born in Pakistan but bought into the country by their fathers at a very early age and therefore are, for all intent and purposes, ‘British’, and certainly not ‘immigrants’ by any stretch of the imagination. Also note that over the past decade the trend for arranged marriages with a partner from abroad has been downwards. For example, in 1993 nationally 250 male fiancés and 300 female fiancées from the subcontinent were admitted. In 1995 the figure was 140 male and 250 female. The idea that this tiny figure can have such a debilitating impact on the Pakistani community as claimed by Cryer et al. is a nonsense. For more details see M. Anwar, Between Cultures: Continuity and Change in the Lives of Young Asians (Routledge 1998), p. 112.

20. D. Gillborn and H.S. Mirza, Educational Inequality: Mapping Race, Class and Gender – A Synthesis of Research Evidence (Ofsted 2000), p. 10,

21. Ibid., p. 10.

22. Ibid., p. 10.

23. Ibid., p. 11.

24. I. Siraj-Blatchford, The Early Years: Laying the Foundations for Racial Equality (Trentham 1995) p. 46.

25. Oldham Independent Review Report 2002, op. cit., p. 11.

26. It should be noted in contrast to the furore round the Asian ‘language problem’ that nurses recruited from Spain to work in hospitals in Manchester and the north west in 2001 were robustly defended by the Department of Health after they were criticised in some quarters for having insufficient English to understand medical terms.

27. Cabinet Office report, op. cit., p. 78.

28. Oldham Independent Review Report 2002, op. cit., p. 4.

29. L. Ray and D. Smith, Racist Offending, Policing and Community Conflict (unpublished paper delivered to British Sociological Association Conference, March 2002). Thanks to the authors.

30. Ibid.

31. Blunkett’s oath of allegiance or citizenship pledge is as follows: ‘I [swear by Almighty God] [do solemnly and sincerely affirm] that, from this time forward, I will give my loyalty and allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors and to the United Kingdom. I will respect the rights and freedoms of the United Kingdom. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.’ (It would be interesting to find out how many people in Britain would sign up to such monarchical nonsense.)

32. Cabinet Office, op. cit., p. 85.

33. Ibid., p. 86.

34. Ibid., p. 50.

35. Ibid., p. 105. This statistical process is called multivarient regression analysis – crudely, the difference in gross and net rates.

36. Ibid., p. 107.

37. Ibid., p. 110.

38. Ibid., p. 112.

39. NACRO press release, 11 March 2002.

40. Home Office Research Study 223, Crime, Policing and Justice: the Experience of Ethnic Minorities: Findings from the 2000 British Crime Survey, p. 70. The report also found that in 1999 black people were more likely to suffer multiple stops than their white counterparts and that they were more likely to be searched –

41. L. Ray and D. Smith, op. cit. There is a huge gap between reporting of racially motivated crimes and prosecutions – only about one in five of those reported even make it to court.

42. op. cit., p. 16.

43. Ofsted, Achievement of Black Caribbean pupils: Good Practice in Secondary Schools (Ofsted 2002), [Note by ETOL: This link has not been checked.]

44. D. Gillborn and H.S. Mirza, op. cit., p. 12.

45. Ofsted, op. cit.

46. D. Gillborn and H.S. Mirza, op. cit., p. 17.

47. Ibid., p. 20.

48. Ibid., p. 20. This decline has not only hit black Caribbean boys. Black Caribbean girls attain higher than their male peers, but still lag behind their white counterparts. Ibid., p. 24.

49. R. Miles and A. Phizacklea, White Man’s Country: Racism in British Politics (Pluto 1984), p. 57.

50. See Hansard, 24 April 2002.

51. See D. Banton, Racial Minorities (Fontana 1972), ch. 1.

52. The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, The Parekh Report (Runneymede Trust/Profile Books 2000) p. ix. The report was semi-commissioned by the government.

53. See R. Hatcher and J. Shallice, The Politics of Anti-Racist Education, in Multiracial Education, vol. 12 no. 1 (1983).

54. The Voice of Britain: Britain Beyond Rhetoric, MORI Social Research Institute for the Commission for Racial Equality, May 2002.

55. See N. Davidson, The Trouble with Ethnicity, International Socialism 84 (Autumn 1999).

56. One graphic example of ‘official’ multiculturalism is a series of recruitment postcards produced by the Metropolitan Police, one of which depicts curry ingredients with the slogan ‘Bring your culture to the mix’, and another utilising the ‘I have a dream’ photo of Martin Luther King!

57. For a fuller discussion see A. Kundnani, The Death of Multiculturalism, in Race and Class (April 2002).

58. J. Ellis, Local Government and Community Needs: A Case Study of Muslims in Coventry, in New Community, CRE, vol. 17, no. 3 (April 1991), p. 370.

59. Ibid., p. 359.

60. P. Lewis, Islamic Britain: Religion, Politics and Identity Among British Muslims (I.B. Tauris 1994), p. 23.

61. Cabinet Office, op. cit., p. 30.

62. Ibid., p. 57.

63. P. Lewis, op. cit., p. 58.

64. S. Saggar, The General Election 1997: Ethnic Minorities and Electoral Politics (CRE 1998), p. 36.

65. K. Shukra, The Changing Pattern of Black Politics in Britain (Pluto 1998), p. 85.

66. P. Lewis, In Between Lord Ahmed and Ali G: Which Future for British Muslims, Bradford Vision paper no. 6, [Downlod] In the 1997 general election in Bradford a survey showed that in Bradford West 61 percent of Pakistani voters backed the Tory candidate (Mohammed Riaz) compared with the 35 percent who backed the Labour Party candidate (Marsha Singh). See M. Anwar, Ethic Minorities and the British Electoral System (Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, 1998), p. 20. The Bradford West vote should be compared to the national figure by which 80 percent of Pakistani voters backed Labour in 1997 (S. Saggar, op. cit., p. 36).

67. Oldham Independent Review Report 2002, op. cit., p. 60.

68. E. Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, (Andre Deutsch 1989), p. 20. It is significant that some of the earliest ideologues of racism were slave owners themselves, such as the Jamaican planter Edward Long.

69. E.S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (W.W. Norton 1975), p. 331.

70. P. Lewis, op. cit., p. 54.

71. Burnley Task Force 2002, pp. 8–9: [Note by ETOL: This link has not been checked.]

72. T. Modood, Racial Equality: Colour, Culture and Justice (Commission on Social Justice/IPPR 1994).

73. East End Advertiser, 6 May 1889, quoted in C. Holmes, John Bull’s Island: Immigration and British Society 1871–1971 (Macmillan 1988), p. 68.

74. R. Miles and A. Phizacklea, op. cit., p. 54.

75. Ibid., p. 63. It is ironic that those Labour and the Tories were eager to keep out – Kenyan Asians – are a group now hailed by those in power as an economic success story.

76. J.H. Katz, White Awareness Handbook for Anti-Racism Training (University of Oklahoma Press 1978), p. 14.

77. Ibid., p. 23.

78. See A. Sivanandan’s trenchant article, RAT and the Degradation of Black Struggle, in Race and Class, Vol. XXVI, no. 4 (Spring 1985).

79. See J.R. Oldfield Popular Politics and British Anti-Slavery: The Mobilisation of Public Opinion against the Slave Trade 1787–1807 (Frank Cass 1998).

80. See A. Callinicos, Race and Class (Bookmarks 1998), chs. 5 and 6.

81. M. Armstrong, Aborigines: Problems of Race and Class, in R. Kuhn and T. O’Lincoln, Class and Conflict in Australia (Longman 1996), p. 67.

82. Findings quoted in Labour Research Department, Black Workers and the Trade Unions (June 1993).

83. Oldham Independent Review Report 2002, op. cit., p. 53.

84. Ibid.

85. Community Cohesion: A Report of the Independent Review Team, chaired by Ted Cantle (Home Office 2001), p. 16

86. Ibid., p. 35. The debate on faith schools has tended to concentrate on Muslim schools. However, the figures show that these schools are a minority – presently in the state sector there are 4,716 Church of England schools, 2,110 Catholic, 27 Methodist, 32 Jewish, four Muslim, two Sikh and one Greek Orthodox.

87. Building Cohesive Communities: A Report of the Ministerial Group On Public Order and Community Cohesion (Home Office 2001), p. 12,>

88. Michael Meacher quoted in The Guardian, 15 June 2001.

89. In Without Prejudice? Exploring Ethnic Differences in London (Greater London Authority 2001), Search at web site for ‘without prejudice’.

90. Cabinet Office report, op. cit., p. 21.

91. Ibid., p. 24.

92. Ibid., ch. 4, p. 72.

93. M. Anwar, Between Cultures, op. cit., ch. 9.

94. D. Coleman and J. Salt (eds.), Ethnicity in the 1991 Census, Demographic Characteristics of the Ethnic Minority Populations (HMSO 1996), p. 199.

95. M. Anwar, Between Cultures, op. cit., p. 34.

96. IPPR Attitudes to Race Survey, NOP/IPPR, 5 Feb 1997.

97. The Observer, 18 February 2001.

98. ICM/Guardian poll, The Guardian, 9 February 1999.

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