There is no racism in Britain. Discuss

Enoch Powell ignored my hand and looked as if he would incinerate me with his flaming eyes
Click to follow
AS FAR as I can ascertain, there are no racists in Britain. I have been writing on race for 12 years and I have never met anyone who believes that he or she is a racist. I have had a colleague confess to me : "I am not a racist but I wouldn't want my children to go to a school with too many Asians." I have sat for hours clutching myself with fear as BNP supporters who had swastikas drawn on the arms of their babies explained they were not racists, only nationalists.

Politicians of all hues have described Enoch Powell as a great statesman and patriot, when what I remember is how in the green room of a Midlands television studio years ago, he ignored my outstretched hand and looked at me as if he would incinerate me with his flaming eyes.

We Black Britons are also constantly reminded how this country is not nasty Germany or violent, racist America. Only this week, ex-headmaster Ray Honeyford, who seems to be from another planet (if only) reminded us on Heart of the Matter, that it is those naughty "race industry" people who create racism by talking about it. White Britons can carry out racist acts and discriminate against black and Asian Britons more easily than they can ever accept a description of what they are doing. So powerful are the denial mechanisms that those carrying out surveys on racial attitudes often ask interviewees about other people's prejudices rather than their own in order to gauge what is happening. Remember what Joseph Conrad - a writer tortured by his own xenophobic fantasies - wrote in Under Western Eyes: "Words ... are the great foes of reality." And never more so than in the case of race.

This helps to explain Paul Condon's quibbling about "institutional racism" - a term put about by Lord Scarman to explain what he found in Brixton. This term has created more confusion than clarity.

Institutions have no free will. They are managed by people, mostly white people. And in far too many key organisations these powerful white people, instead of rooting out racism because it is morally repugnant, feel duty bound not to look the beast of racism in the eye.

The Met knows how racism and sexism are soaked into the fabric of the force. In 1983, David Smith, now Professor of Criminology at Edinburgh University, wrote a report on policing in London. After observing officers for two years, he found that there was a pervading culture of racism. The writer and filmmaker Roger Graef confirmed this in his book, Talking Blues.

But knowing something is not to accept it. No racist policeman has ever been sacked. Instead, millions of our pounds have been wasted on useless "cultural awareness" training, out-of-court settlements and on endless campaigns to get more ethnic recruits, the latest of which was announced by the well intentioned Jack Straw only this week. I would not join the force, as it is now, if I were paid a million pounds per annum. This culture of untackled racism is going on in many other state and private institutions too. And only a fool or a knave would now deny that racist violence and abuse seems to be blighting an increasing number of British lives.

What is so disheartening is that so many Black leaders also misrepresent the reality of racism. They devalue the term by over-using it in inappropriate situations and fail to reflect the complexity of what is going on.

The recent controversial Commission for Racial Equality poster campaign was felt to be wrong by many, not because it was provocative but because it unduly simplified the issue.

I despair too when I hear (understandably) furious activists who bang on and on about endemic, all embracing racism.

It is absurd to suggest that there has been no progress or that all whites are racist or that everything which happens to black and Asian people is because of this thing called racism.

This year British broadcasters excelled themselves with the unprecedented number of moving programmes on the Empire Windrush. White people have reacted to the case of Stephen Lawrence with feelings of anger and shame which have not been seen since the funeral in 1959 of Kelso Cochrane a young black man who was killed by racists in north Kensington.

At a recent public meeting in Ealing I saw hundreds of white residents weeping as Myrna Simpson described the death of her daughter Joy Gardner in front of her four-year-old son as police taped her face up so she couldn't breathe.

The way to deal with racism is to name it exactly, shame it and where necessary punish it. Nothing else will work and nothing else will do.