Trevor Phillips’ 2005 speech in which he said that society was sliding into a dangerous segregation, and Muslims in particular were most at risk of doing so, is quite hard to find on the internet for some reason….at least I found it so.
In light of that I thought I would publish it in full here for you to read at your leisure…and as an easy place to find it in future…..
Here is the full text of the Trevor Phillips’ speech.
Britain: pride in diversity
America: a segregated society
The British balance
What makes us British
The path to integration
The drift to segregation
The integration agenda
Since extracts of what I will say tonight became public, some have rushed to comment on what they thought I intend to say. Some have even used the opportunity to have a go at the CRE and its partners. Others have decided, incorrectly, that I want to criticise the government. I don’t intend to answer these critics directly tonight except in one specific area, concerning the work of the CRE itself.
What I want to focus on tonight is a question many Britons are asking themselves: how much has 7/7 changed the prospects for race relations in Britain? How will that affect the CRE family and its work? And how should we respond?
Some people have been surprised, I think, by what they would see as the Commission’s relative silence over the past few months.
It is true that after the initial reaction, in which we focused on appealing for calm and unity, we played little part in the public debates which followed about the causes of 7/7, multiculturalism, and the place of the Muslim communities.
This was partly because much of the debate involved issues outside our scope (foreign policy for example); and because on some of the underlying issues – such as the ‘meaning’ of multiculturalism – we already have a public position, which has been stated and debated many times.
But also we may have seemed silent because at this moment of national crisis, the CRE family needed to act rather than ponder.
In the weeks following 7/7, Commission personnel and more importantly, the thousands of folk we support in communities around the country, were concentrating on three crucial tasks:
- encouraging communities to come forward with information that would help us to tackle the threat of terrorism;
- reassuring communities from which the perpetrators of the 7/7 and 21/7 outrages came, that they should not be the targets or scapegoats of retribution; and
- combating the divisions that these events threatened to open up within communities, and preventing those who would exploit those divisions for racist or Islamophobic purposes from doing so.
In practice this meant that we and our voluntary sector partners were in constant dialogue, collating information and sharing it around the country; preventing rumours taking hold; anticipating where trouble might flare and taking steps to defuse tensions; and encouraging all public authorities, from Ministers to local authorities to the police, and the media, to tread carefully.
People talk a lot about the race relations industry, usually disparagingly. I am proud to say that this summer, our industry did its part in holding communities together at a time of great stress. We experienced no major conflicts, and despite the fact that there definitely was an upsurge in anti-Asian activity post 7/7, we understand that this has now subsided; the GLA tells us that in London for example, the level of such activity is lower now than it was before 7/7.
This is in no small part due to the work of the people often casually abused as race relations busybodies, working on the ground, calming, cajoling and conciliating. Many are paid, but tens of thousands are unpaid, and do it because they want our country to be a better place.
So I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those who worked with us in that period: the so-called race relations industry showed itself in reality to be a vital post-emergency service.
And our job has only just begun.
After the emergency services have done their lifesaving; the police have done their detection; the lawyers have done their prosecuting and defending; and the politicians have done their reassuring and legislating, they will pass on to new challenges. But we know that there will still be work for us to do.
It is the work of healing divided communities, reconciling black to white to brown, of Jew to Muslim to Hindu.
It is the work of reaching out to those so far out at the edge of our society that values common to the rest of us no longer have meaning for them.
It is the work of forging the common bonds of identity that should make it unthinkable for any of us to want to harm other people in pursuit of a political goal.
And it is about how we start that work that I want to speak tonight.
Britain: pride in diversity
As the mists have cleared over the summer, it would be all too easy to start congratulating ourselves on the silver lining to this cloud.
On July 6, the day we won the Olympics of 2012, Britain emerged as a beacon for diversity across the globe. There is no doubt that the IOC saw London as a place where anyone, whatever their background, could come and feel at home, could visit and know they would find a kindred spirit.
This is a tribute to the team that put together the bid, to our capital city, but most of all to our nation. And it provides part of an answer to that currently vexed question: what is Britishness?
I would put that question differently now, and ask instead: what makes us British?
July 6 and the days after showed that one thing that makes us special is our comfort with diversity.
Even in the desperate adversity of the days that followed the London atrocities, the fact of our multi-ethnicity and our ease with it stood out. Those who died came from myriad backgrounds. Likewise, those who rescued the survivors and reassured the city. It became clear that the people who planted, or wanted to plant, bombs, stood alone, without the comfort of any community that would support their actions.
Earlier this month, as we watched the tragedy of New Orleans unfold, many people, I think – and some said this to me – consoled themselves with the thought that such a thing could never happen here.
By such a thing I do not mean the hurricane itself. I mean the manifest neglect of a poor, largely African American district, and the criminal disregard of citizens who did not have the resources to get out of the way of Katrina. The fact is that these people were socially, economically, culturally and psychologically marooned outside the mainstream of American society.
It wasn’t that nobody cared about them. What happened was worse. The fact is that nobody who mattered even remembered that they existed. In a society where whites and blacks choose to live entirely separate lives, the black poor become invisible to the decision-makers and the powerful, unless and until they get themselves some guns and start to terrorise their own neighbours.
We, here, watching, could not imagine British people behaving like this.
Maybe we too have become blind to anything that isn’t on the TV news or tabloid newspapers. Perhaps it’s time that the cameras returned to the slow massacre of young men and women that is taking place on our streets in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham, for example. Perhaps it’s time that the newspapers showed us the gang warfare that goes on just yards away from our front doors or in children’s playgrounds, in communities we pass through but do not see.
We cannot and must not be complacent. We should learn from America’s failure to act until they were in too deep to get out of the state they are now in.
America: a segregated society
Until New Orleans held up the mirror to the USA, Americans, too, prided themselves on having found the holy grail of integration, with black millionaires, academics, business people and politicians alongside the sports and entertainment stars.
But in New Orleans the truth broke the surface. It showed us a society in which the average black child still attends a black majority school. A society in which the average white person returns home at the day’s end to all-white suburbs, where they won’t see a non-white face until they go back to the city the next day. A democracy in which black politicians, with a few notable exceptions, represent black districts, gerrymandered in order to provide the minimum of black representation. An economy in which black businessmen sell their wares largely to a black middle class. And an education system in which most black academics are teaching at all-black colleges or in urban institutions disproportionately packed with ethnic minority students.
This is a segregated society, in which the one truth that is self-evident is that people cannot and never will be equal. That is why, for all of us who care about racial equality and integration, America is not our dream, but our nightmare.
I think here we also have a different idea of what integration means. There I think the focus is purely on equal rights for different groups. Amongst America’s hyphenated identities, the part of their identity that marks them out as different seems to have become as important, even more important, than the part that binds them together. Americans have all fetched up at the same restaurant; but every group has its own separate table, with its own menu, its own waiters and its own way of paying the bill.
The British balance
I think we have a richer interpretation here that prizes both our individuality and our nation over and above our ethnicity. There are some old-fashioned types who think of integration as just another word for assimilation. But no-one seriously believes that we should all, speak, look, dress, worship and act the same.
However, there has to be a balance struck between an ‘anything goes’ multiculturalism on the one hand, which leads to deeper division and inequality; and on the other, an intolerant, repressive uniformity. We need a kind of integration that binds us together without stifling us. We need to be a nation of many colours that combine to create a single rainbow.
Yes, that does mean recognising diversity and rejecting assimilation. But I believe we are in danger of throwing out the integrationist baby along with the assimilationist bathwater. In recent years we’ve focused far too much on the ‘multi’ and not enough on the common culture. We’ve emphasized what divides us over what unites us. We have allowed tolerance of diversity to harden into the effective isolation of communities, in which some people think special separate values ought to apply.
Evangelical African churches that see it as acceptable to traumatise a child, claiming they are ridding her of evil spirits.
Sikh activists who think that their feelings of offence caused by a play are more important than the principle of freedom of expression.
The almost casual acceptance that the majority of children in the African Caribbean community grow up without a father-figure, in spite of all the evidence that this causes immense damage both to them and to the community as a whole.
And white communities so fixated by the belief that their every ill is caused by their Asian neighbours that they withdraw their children wholesale from local schools, and allow their children to make a sport of persecuting every local family that is not white.
The fragmentation of our society by race and ethnicity is a catastrophe for all of us. That is why the most important outcome of this summer’s events should be a new resolve to bring our people together, and to remind them what being British is about.
What makes us British
Too much that is too abstract is already being said on the subject of Britishness, but there are some simple truths that should bind us together.
First and foremost, our shared values: for example an attachment to democracy, freedom of speech, and equality, values which anyone who expects to live in Britain must respect and abide by, both notionally and in practice.
Second, we share common traditions which, whatever we do at home, we all agree to respect and observe in our everyday encounters. Central to these I would say are our common language, our good manners, our care for children.
We also cherish a tradition of poking fun at politicians, priests and do-gooders, and – though I qualify for mockery on two counts – I think that is a tradition not to be tampered with lightly. And as long as new customs do not conflict with our values, let’s embrace them as part of the fabric of our community life. They too will one day join our shared traditions, the outstanding example of course, being the Indian restaurant – now not Indian at all but almost wholly British.
Thirdly, we maintain diverse, individualistic, even eccentric lifestyles in our private lives. No-one tells us how to speak, how to dress, what we should eat or how we should worship. These are all individual choices, to be respected as long as they do not interfere with our fundamental values, or our long-cherished traditions. And unlike some other countries, we tend to embrace new additions to our lifestyle choices – whether it is new music, or new kinds of clothes.
The path to integration
Having set that out, I think we must also be clear that integration has to be a two-way street, in which the settled communities accept that new people will bring change with them. Newcomers realise that they too will have to change if we are to move closer to an integrated society.
We already know a lot about what an integrated society looks like. It has three essential features:
- Equality: everyone is treated equally, has a right to fair outcomes, and no-one should expect privileges because of what they are.
- Participation: all groups in the society should expect to share in how we make decisions, but also expect to carry the responsibilities of making the society work.
- Interaction: no-one should be trapped within their own community, and in the truly integrated society, who people work with, or the friendships they make, should not be constrained by race or ethnicity.
This is a big agenda. It won’t happen without positive action and loads of effort.
Some people believe that with time and goodwill we will inevitably move towards a more integrated society.
Others say that it isn’t inevitable, but that what we need is more law and more aggressive enforcement of anti-racist principles.
Yet others argue that integration has little with race or identity. That if we can get the economics right – more jobs, more equal pay – then all will be fine.
I believe all three views are wide of the mark. Let me deal with the first two now; I’ll return to the ‘it’s all economics’ school a little later.
Where we work at the CRE, and on the front lines patrolled by our REC colleagues, we know that we need strong anti-discrimination law, as discrimination is undoubtedly one cause of inequality. But it’s not the only one. It may no longer even be the most important one.
As the United States has proven, powerful anti-discrimination laws, including affirmative action, will not, by themselves, lead to an integrated society. In much of America, non-white Americans are relatively poorer and more excluded than ever before.
In fact the dismal truth is that sixty years after segregation in American schools was ruled illegal, and massive resources were pumped into backing up that decision, the integration process is in reverse gear.
And by the way, in case you think this is political, that process began just before Bill Clinton took office and continued unabated through his eight years and the five years of George W Bush’s administration. So the law, though necessary, will never be sufficient by itself.
What, then, about the passage of time? Won’t familiarity and goodwill, given enough opportunity, close the gaps, bring us together, and instil fairness? I don’t think so. I agree with Geoff Mulgan, speaking at a CRE conference in July, when he said that integration doesn’t just happen:
Integration is a learned competence – like maths or driving a car. It is not instinctive. And these skills determine whether events escalate
or dampen down. In the way that they know what to say and what not to say, when to be firm, when to turn a blind eye …………These are very subtle skills, and where they are abundant societies can cope with great shocks. Where they are thin on the ground small issues can become crippling crises.
So we can’t rely on law, and we can’t just sit waiting for trouble to take place.
The drift to segregation
In fact, I believe that time is becoming our enemy in the fight for an integrated society. Here in the north I think you see things more clearly. We who live in London can all too often persuade ourselves, as we sit around the dinner table, that we are a model for the world, because we eat exotic foods, we watch foreign films, we take our children to the park to play with children whose names are not like ours; and because we ourselves would never dream of discriminating racially.
But the writer Max Hastings, formerly the editor of both the Telegraph and the Evening Standard, where he made strenuous efforts to diversify his newsroom, cut through this smugness recently when he wrote that, having though about it, he could not remember ever having invited a Muslim to his house, and rarely saw a black face at parties. I know he is right about the latter, since I was often one of those isolated black faces.
Yes, some individuals and some ethnic groups are doing comparatively well. But many are not. And among those who are not doing well are some white groups: poor white boys are failing at school. New migrants from Eastern Europe are struggling to make ends meet.
Nor is this just a matter of class, though as ever in Britain, who and what your parents were cannot be ignored. What your parents earn and own still matters. But where they came from and how they worship may now be just as significant in determining what sort of life you have, how you do at school, what work you do, who you marry, where you live, and indeed, when and how you die.
The fact is that we are a society which, almost without noticing it, is becoming more divided by race and religion. We are becoming more unequal by ethnicity. Our schools – and I mean the ordinary schools, not faith schools – are becoming more exclusive.
Our universities have started to become colour-coded, with virtual ‘whites keep-out’ signs in some urban institutions; and if you look closely at the campuses of some of our most distinguished universities, you can pick out the invisible ‘no blacks need apply’ messages.
Residentially, some districts are on their way to becoming fully fledged ghettoes – black holes into which no-one goes without fear and trepidation, and from which no-one ever escapes undamaged. The walls are going up around many of our communities, and the bridges that so many of you in RECs and the voluntary sector have laboured to build are crumbling.
If we allow this to continue, we could end up in 2048, a hundred years on from the Windrush, living in a New Orleans-style Britain of passively co-existing ethnic and religious communities, eyeing each other uneasily over the fences of our differences.
This is not only, or even principally, about Muslims. But the aftermath of 7/7 forces us to assess where we are. And here is where I think we are: we are sleepwalking our way to segregation. We are becoming strangers to each other, and we are leaving communities to be marooned outside the mainstream.
We could have a different future. But if we want that different future, we have to put policies and programmes in place to stop the drift towards disaster. If we don’t, two things will happen.
First, when the hurricane hits – and it could be a recession rather than a natural disaster, for example – those communities are set up for destruction.
And second, even if there is no calamity, these marooned communities will steadily drift away from the rest of us, evolving their own lifestyles, playing by their own rules and increasingly regarding the codes of behaviour, loyalty and respect that the rest of us take for granted as outdated behaviour that no longer applies to them. We know what follows then: crime, no-go areas and chronic cultural conflict.
We have the chance to prevent this happening; but we have to act now. We have a vital duty: to make sure that, insofar as it lies in the hands of our own communities, we are a safer society, not just next week, or next year, but in the next generation and the one after that.
The integration agenda
The integration agenda for the next two generations rests squarely on our shoulders.
We know that the next generation’s migrants won’t look like the last. They are likely to be more European, more diverse in their origins, not English speaking. Whatever their faith – Somali Muslims, Polish Catholics, African evangelicals – they will, unlike most of us, probably take that faith very seriously and live by what they profess.
They will be both highly skilled and unskilled, fitting the requirements of the so-called hourglass labour market. They will probably, for a while, be more male, and many may not stay as long as did the post-colonial, Windrush wave – and as a consequence may not regard the need to ‘fit in’ as being so important.
None of this should disturb us, as long as we are prepared for it, and as long as we make a positive effort to integrate these newcomers – many of whom may become new Britons.
Some people will think that because of their personal experience, things are getting better. They (especially if they live in London) see teenagers of different races chatting together in the streets; they work with diverse groups of people; they stand in the bus queue or on the underground platforms with folk of every shade or shape imaginable. But personal experience may not tell the real story. New research from leading academics is giving us a different picture about both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ segregation in the UK.
Increasingly, we live with our own kind. The most concentrated areas, what the social scientists call “ghettoes”, aren’t all poverty stricken and drug ridden. But they are places where more than two-thirds of the residents belong to a single ethnic group.
- Residential isolation is increasing for many minority groups, especially South Asians. Some minorities are moving into middle class, less ethnically concentrated areas, but what is left behind is hardening in its separateness.
- The number of people of Pakistani heritage in what are technically called “ghetto” communities trebled during 1991-2001; 13% in Leicester live in such communities (the figure 10.8% in 1991); 13.3% in Bradford (it was 4.3% in 1991).
- To get an idea of what this looks like, compare it with African Americans in Miami and Chicago, where 15% live in such communities.
Even among those who don’t live in the most concentrated areas, the ethnic separation is far too high for comfort.
Social scientists now use what they call the index of dissimilarity to describe just how segregated a district is. The figure tells us what percentage of any given group would have to move house to achieve an even spread across the district. Below 30% is regarded as low or random (for which read tolerable, even if we don’t like it); 30–60% is moderate (for which read cause for concern); and above 60% is high (for which read that if a black person is seen in a white area, it’s time to call the police; and if a white person is seen in a black area, he’s lost).
Happily, we aren’t yet in this range – mostly. But too many communities, especially those of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage in some cities, are up around the 60s and the 70s, even in London.
This is not primarily a class problem. Professor Ceri Peach of Oxford University suggests that less than 10% of ethnic segregation is explained by economic factors; much more is down to history and to choice.
Most of us would hope that, even if this level of residential separation stays put, we can make the future look different by ensuring that children meet each other at school. New work from Bristol University throws some cold water on that hope. Professor Simon Burgess and his colleagues, in an exhaustive study, show that far from schools becoming sites of integration, children are slightly more segregated in the playground than they are in their neighbourhoods; and that means that not only are the children not meeting, but nor are their parents.
A study by the Young Foundation in London’s east end, to be published as ‘The New East End’ next February, shows that, despite heroic efforts by the local education authority, the choices made by parents themselves in Tower Hamlets are also entrenching segregation. There:
In primary schools in 2002, 17 schools had more than 90% Bangladeshi pupils; 9 schools had fewer than 10%.
In the 15 secondary schools, figures from Ofsted reports since 2000 show that three denominational schools (of which two are Roman Catholic) had fewer than 3% Bangladeshi pupils, whereas two schools had over 95% Bangladeshi pupils and a further three over 80%.
I want to emphasise one point here. People make the mistake of believing that most racial segregation in school arises from faith schools. This is wholly incorrect.
First, where such schools tend to be exclusive because of the faith qualification – Jewish, Sikh and Muslim schools, for example – the numbers are tiny and unlikely to grow substantially. There are just five maintained Muslim schools out of 25,000 schools in England and Wales. Even a twenty-fold increase would still be educating a tiny minority of Muslim children.
Second, the third or so of schools which owe their existence to the Catholic or Anglican church, where the faith qualification is less of a hurdle, actually tend to be more diverse than most, in the true sense of the word.
Data from OFSTED shows that when we look at the ethnic mix of schools, Catholic schools tend to be far more mixed than local authority schools. A healthy mix might be a school with a proportion of ethnic minority pupils somewhere between 5% and 40% – where these children neither predominate, nor are they isolated.
Among state schools, about a quarter (25.6%) fall into this group. But among Catholic schools, a third (32.5%) would fit this description. So the passion being spent on arguments about whether we need more or fewer faith schools is, in my view, misspent. We really need to worry about whether we are heading for USA-style semi-voluntary segregation in the mainstream system. That would be a grim prospect.
In the USA, according to the 2000 Census, whites form 69.1% of the population; African Americans are about 12.5% of the population; Hispanics the same; and ‘Asians’ around 3-4%. For some years in the 1950s and 1960s, levels of segregation decreased; but in 1970 the process went into reverse.
The average white child now attends a school that is 78% white, 9% black, 8% Hispanic, 3% Asian; the average black child attends a school that is 57% black. The proportion of the average black child’s schoolmates who are white has dropped from 32% in 89/90 to 28% in 99/00.
Nine out of ten white children are in white majority schools – and nearly half (45%) are in schools where more than 90% of the children are white.
Among African American children, nine out of ten go to black majority schools, and one third are in schools where they account for 90% of the pupils.
Why does all this matter? First, for the obvious moral reason that no human being should have their destiny determined by the colour of their skins.
And second, because segregation destroys talent. The evidence shows that the quality of school in the US is also colour coded; most black children are in rubbish schools, most whites in good ones. We believe that data on universities will show tell the same story.
If we all lived separately but knew, liked and mixed with people of different races and backgrounds, we might regard that as a tolerable compromise. But we know that human nature is not like that. And our own research at the CRE is damning.
Alongside hard, spatial segregation, we increasingly inhabit separate social and cultural worlds. Attendance at football matches where there are black players, the odd bit of identity tourism in Chinatown, or the local Indian restaurant really doesn’t cut it.
When we leave work, most of us leave multi-ethnic Britain behind.
Last year, we showed that most Britons could not name a single good friend from a different race; fewer than one in ten could name two – and even in London, which is one-third black or brown, a derisory proportion of whites had non-white friends. Just as alarmingly, we showed that young people from ethnic minorities were twice as likely to have a circle of pals exclusively from their own community, as were older ethnic minority folk.
This year we repeated the exercise.
Behaviour in white Britain has not changed a bit. Last year, 94% of white Britons said that all or most of their friends are white. This year it is 95%. Once again a majority – 55% – could not name a single non-white friend, and this was true of white Britons of all ages, classes and regions.
What the figures tell us about the behaviour of ethnic minority Britons is even bleaker. Last year, 31% of ethnic minority Britons said that most or all of their friends were from ethnic minority backgrounds; we found that this trend was stronger among the young than the old. This year the figures show a marked turn for the worse.
The 47% of ethnic minority Britons who last year said that most or all of their friends were white has now shrunk to 37%; and the proportion who have mainly or exclusively ethnic minority friends has grown from 31% to 37%. This is way beyond any statistical fluctuation.
It also remains true that younger Britons are more exclusive than older Britons. It must surely be the most worrying fact of all that younger Britons appear to be integrating less well than their parents.
I can imagine the glee in some quarters at the picture we are reporting. But those who see this as an argument against immigration should not take comfort from what I am saying. History does not support their case. The speed and scale of immigration have had little impact on the levels of integration in the past sixty years.
For example, among minority groups who seem to have found integration easiest, East African Asians arrived in a rush – over a period of months, whilst Jews took decades to get here in numbers. There are twice as many African Caribbeans as there are Bangladeshis, but their levels and ease of integration are very different.
More relevant is a new issue on the horizon: the majority-minority city, where the majority of the citizens are not white.
This will come about within the next decade in Birmingham and Leicester, as well as in Amsterdam and one or two other European cities. There is no intrinsic problem with a city in which white people are in a minority – it’s true of many cities in the world.
But research by John Logan in the USA suggests that when minority groups form over 20% of a city’s population, it becomes harder to reduce their isolation.7 It will take all the ingenuity and skill of the leaderships of these new majority minority cities to arrest the trend towards separate and competing ethnic fiefdoms within their city walls.
I’ve painted a pretty bleak picture. But the point is that it does not need to be like that. In this as in other things, Britain can walk its own, better path than its American cousin, or its European neighbours.
We can start by deciding what we want to achieve. In my view, there are two clear priorities for government and the nation:
- Now: protection of citizens, and reassurance on security.
- Soon, very soon: maximising integration, minimising extremism.
We do not want the second to compromise the first: we shouldn’t seek to achieve integration by sacrificing security. But we won’t find lasting security without integration; so achieving the first should not be allowed to compromise the second.
I identified earlier the three preconditions for an integrated society: equality, participation and interaction. This is a three legged stool – without all three, none of them will really be achieved. As I showed earlier, people who are unequal do not interact; societies where not everyone participates don’t treat everyone equally. And so on.
So there are ways in which we could get it very wrong. One crucial error we could make is to forget that equality is an absolute precondition for integration. A society in which most ethnic minority Britons are poorer, less well educated, less healthy and less politically engaged won’t be integrated. Another is to imagine that because we don’t have battles in the streets we are content with each other. To paraphrase Spinoza’s remark about the absence of war, the absence of racial riots does not imply the presence of racial integration.
But we do start with a great advantage. Modern Britain is ready for the challenge of integration.
CRE research shows that for the first time in sixty years we are growing more relaxed about our ethnic differences. We accept that there is a need for immigration:
- in our April YouGov poll, one quarter of our respondents said there should be no arbitrary limit on the proportion of the UK’s population which is immigrant; while
- two-thirds think a proportion of over 15% is okay.
Since the migrant and ethnic minority populations are still below 10%, we have a way to go before Britons feel threatened by pure numbers.
But, while we are tolerant of more immigration, we are clear that we need to be sure that newcomers will fit in. We are very specific about what’s expected of migrants: first, a job or qualifications, and demonstrable skills including English; second, good health; and third, some evidence of loyalty to Britain. In short we are looking for migrants who have the ability to participate in our national life, and the willingness to interact with the rest of us.
Minority Britons by and large share these sentiments. They would understandably like a greater focus on equality. Some minority communities are restive about the relentless public focus on Muslim communities, feeling that perhaps this might lead to their communities being neglected.
But there is no doubt that Britain has a clear demand from us, the CRE family: to make the process of integration real, active and urgent. So this autumn the Commission is setting out its plans for an ambitious new programme to encourage greater integration. It will inform everything we do, and we want the whole CRE family to play a part in this work.
At its heart will lie three aims:
- a relentless focus on greater equality;
- a drive towards more equal participation; and
- steps to promote renewed interaction between Britons of different backgrounds and different traditions.
At the core of our equality work lies our enforcement of the Race Relations Act. We are this year spending over a million and a half pounds on support of meritorious legal cases brought either to the CRE or to our local grassroots partners. We intend to continue that support.
There has been some suggestion that the CRE has, in recent times, been less than vigorous in its enforcement work. This is particularly surprising since we have just seen a record award in an employment tribunal in a case of race discrimination – an award of £1.6m. It is surprising given that the CRE is spending well over a million pounds on grassroots legal support, in addition to handling several hundred cases directly. This year we expect to win in excess of a million pounds in settlements of cases handled by CRE staff; this will be multiplied several times by our partners in grassroots law firms, RECs, trades unions and CABx.
We have begun and concluded nearly 300 enforcement actions against public authorities in the past 18 months; we started and completed the largest ever formal investigation – into the police – in the Commission’s history; and we have just expanded our enforcement team after many years of its being starved of resources.
It may be that in the past, people got used to the CRE talking a lot and doing little. We now prefer it the other way around.
But we intend to go further. We will step up our efforts to work with government and public authorities to enforce the race equality duty. A vital weapon in this work is our raceequality impact assessment. We will expect public authorities, including government departments, to conduct serious impact assessments on anti-terror laws, or whether, for example, the move of jobs from London will have a disproportionate and adverse impact on ethnic minorities.
If the answer is yes, we expect the policy to change. And let me be clear, if it does not change, we will seek redress in the courts.
But in our equality work we won’t ignore the fact that racial inequality and disadvantage strikes all kinds of people. Our investigation into the treatment of Gypsies and Travellers is all about people who are white; and the work we are doing on the educational achievement of boys may pay as rich dividends for white boys as I hope it will for black boys.
We will also be seeking new approaches to tackling institutional racism in both the public and private sectors: equality audits, new powers for company directors to demand information about equality performance of potential partners, and new incentives for shareholders to hold their boards to account on equality issues.
However, we know that real commitment to equality in government, in our neighbourhoods, and in the workplace won’t happen until minorities have a voice. That is why this year we will be working with you to increase the diversity of those appointed to public bodies and positions such as health boards, school governors and cultural institutions.
We also intend to start the drive early to make political parties more inclusive in their nominations for parliamentary and council seats. Since 2001 the proportion of ethnic minority councillors in the UK has slumped. There are still only 15 ethnic minority MPs when there should be more than 50. That has to change.
The work in equality and participation will be taxing enough. But I believe that it is in ensuring greater interaction that we face the hardest challenge and the most urgent need. I have already spoken about the way that our communities are drifting apart. We need practical action to reverse the trend.
The CRE intends to bring consult with its partners on concrete steps and to put serious resource into this area. We need big ideas and radical steps. Let me give you a flavour of what we have in mind.
We have already announced that we will, over the next three years, with our partners in Sport England, spend over £2m in supporting integrated sport.
We heard that one of the bombers of 7/7 was a keen cricketer. The suggestion was that made him puzzlingly normal. Unfortunately if he only ever took the field in a team of eleven people exactly like him, playing another eleven from the same community, his sporting activities may have served to separate him from the real life of Britain, rather than to encourage a sense of commonality with the rest of us.
As we’ve seen this summer, sport can bring all of us together; but it has to go beyond the rare occasion of national triumph. It has to do that job every evening in every gym or sports centre, and every weekend on every playing field. That is why we will be making grants available to create more integrated sport, especially for young people.
I hope that some time in the next twelve months we will be able to announce a similar scheme in relation to the arts and music – activities which can either serve to keep us in our separate ghettoes, or to bring us together.
We believe that bringing young people together has to be the key to eliminating isolation and prejudice. Contact won’t necessarily make you like someone, but it may stop you fearing them and regarding them as an enemy. That is why we believe that American style summer camps, or French colonies de vacance, offer an exciting prospect for integration.
Whether it is football camps, music camps, or art courses, where young people do the thing that interests them, perhaps under the tutelage of professionals – think of the David Beckham football camp, or the Jamie Oliver cooking week – any opportunity that puts young people in the same place as people they would not otherwise mix with, has to be a contribution. That is why we will also be working with government ministers and the private sector to promote a growing programme of summer camps for young people of all backgrounds.
These are important initiatives and we believe they could make a difference. But none of this will work if we find that young people are daily separated in the place where they spend the greatest part of their time: schools and universities.
I told you earlier about new research demonstrating that schools tend to be more segregated than the neighbourhoods they are in. I also pointed out that partly as a result, our universities are becoming racially coded. The impact on jobs and life chances is inevitable.
I wish that we could reverse these trends without government or statutory intervention. But we may not be able to do so.
That is why the time may soon come for us to consider how best we prevent schools becoming mono-ethnic and monocultural – whether the ethnicity is all white or all Asian, or the culture all Christian or all Muslim.
Let me be clear. I do not favour quotas, and I think that bussing showed itself to be a failed solution. But we cannot simply stand by and see the next generation schooled to become strangers. We need to think of creative solutions.
For example, should we be considering using the funding system to encourage schools to attract a diverse range of children? Should we, the CRE, as part of our monitoring of local authority race equality schemes require them to show us that their catchment areas are being drawn in a way that encourages integration, rather than cutting people off from others who do not share their race? Ultimately, should we have a national understanding of what kind of mix is desirable and what undesirable?
These are all difficult questions, which will no doubt provoke cries of “social engineering”. So be it. I would rather bear that albatross than allow our children to continue marching into educational ghettoes.
Much of what I’ve said tonight is controversial, I am aware. But my job as chair of the CRE cannot involve sitting on the sidelines when we are facing such a huge challenge. And you would rightly feel betrayed if we continued playing the same old, failed tunes while you are facing new realities.
I know that there are many who would rather I did not raise these issues in this way, or indeed at all. Others I am sure will say that I am being alarmist. But isn’t this the way it’s always been when we fight for racial equality? When we are polite and euphemistic, our friends criticise us for being too soft. When we tell it like it is, and say what has to be done, they attack us for being too strident.
Well, we all of us have a job to do, and we need to start it now. Race campaigners are fond of quoting Martin Luther King, speaking of his dream. But it’s time to wake up.
In a letter written during one of his regular incarcerations in jail, he wrote this:
Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say “wait”…… But there comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.
We are a long way from that abyss. But we can see it and unless we stop our drift now we too will one day look over the edge. That is why, as King said, “We can’t wait”.