Leading Article: The reality of racism in a multicultural nation

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The Independent Culture
THE COMMISSION for Racial Equality should be praised for compiling the figures, which we report today, showing that more white people than black and Asian people suffer racial attacks. These figures are bound to be misused by the CRE's opponents, who will overlook the fact that the relatively small numbers of ethnic-minority citizens in this country are still four to eight times more likely than whites to be subjected to violence with a racial motive.

It must be evident, not least from the police handling of Stephen Lawrence's murder, that black and Asian people have some way to go before they achieve full equality of status in Britain. And that a reformed and more ethnically balanced police force is an important means to that end. Not that we should be too pessimistic; despite all this, race relations in the United Kingdom are in a better state than in many other European countries.

But it is important, in building a society free of racial prejudice, to acknowledge that prejudice is not a one-way street. Racially motivated violence should be unequivocally condemned, whatever its source and underlying causes. Racial attacks motivated by a sense of grievance among an under- privileged minority, against a majority that is seen as dominant and hostile, are as unacceptable as straightforward anti-immigrant violence on the part of whites.

Equally, however, today's figures underline the folly of the Government's decision to make racially motivated violence a more serious offence than other kinds of violence. The CRE's research shows how difficult it is to define racial motivation. If a white person robs a black person, the victim may see the attack as racially motivated, and vice versa. If one gang of youths beats up another gang because they "look different", does it make it worse if their skins are different colours, rather than their football scarves?

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