Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Policemen are racist because our society is

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The Independent Online

I can't point the finger at police officers who racially abuse and assault black and Asian citizens. In the last fortnight 10 complaints have been brought against the Metropolitan Police by different black men who allegedly suffered racist insults and violence after arrest. A fresh inquiry has been launched into the case of 53-year-old bus driver Kester David, found burnt to death two years ago in Enfield. The police treated it as suicide, though the coroner recorded an open verdict. His family strongly believe the Met didn't investigate with due care because David was black. Mr and Mrs Lawrence faced that stonewalling when Stephen was killed. The IPCC remains, as ever, utterly hopeless.

Now Police Chiefs and Top Tories promise to rid the land of prejudiced coppers. Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of the Met, has declared he is their "implacable enemy" and will drive them out.

Why place all the blame on policemen? This is displacement, a way of avoiding collective responsibility. Bob Morgan of Thatcham, Berkshire sent a pithy letter to this paper. Racist police officers, he wrote, only reflect our society, "where even discussing racism is so uncomfortable it is rarely done". Britain has decided racism is over or an unsightly scratch on its self-image or a profitable lie used by citizens of colour or, worst of all, perfectly OK and even understandable.

Disagree with any of that and you get slapped by the right and bullied by an army of malevolent internet "nationalists", or are categorised as trouble and dealt with accordingly. I try hard not to bring up British racism because what follows is scary.

Race is buried under an avalanche of outrage over political correctness and of prejudices whipped up by the press against non-European immigrants and Muslims, the whole lot of whom are thought to be active or passive terrorists. Frank Field's obsessive anti-immigration campaigns have made outsiders of us all. Now those who give jobs to whites feel they are being patriotic. Nobody cares when Muslims are parcelled off to the US, and Blair and Straw casually wave off their complicity in rendition. The English Defence League and BNP have been accommodated by a nation that fought Nazi racism. That's how bad it is. The police reflect what Britain has become. Racist cops burnt on the stake of righteousness makes our leaders feel better, but doesn't address that terrible truth.