A survey published today reveals that while whites are increasingly ready to embrace a multi-ethnic society, and believe that old prejudices are disappearing, four out of five young blacks feel that race relations are getting worse.
The report, by the University of Warwick's centre for research in ethnic relations, shows that black people are three times more likely than whites to believe that race relations are deteriorating.
The findings are in stark contrast to a similar exercise conducted a generation ago, which found that ethnic minorities were far more optimistic than whites about future race relations in Britain.
Last night, the author of the report, Professor Muhammad Anwar, said second-generation blacks and Asians were more conscious of discrimination and less willing to tolerate it. The young people have had a British education and they are aware of how things happen. They have a more demanding attitude than their parents who had a mostly submissive attitude in general terms."
Chris Myant, of the Commission for Racial Equality, said the gulf between the views of black and white people on race relations was directly linked to discrimination in the job market and police stop-and-search tactics. He said: "There has been a decline in prejudice on the part of the bulk of the population. But young black men, in particular, have a very hard time in the labour market, and they are more likely to be stopped by police. This is bound to increase their perception that race relations are not going to improve."
The Warwick report found that people aged between 18 and 24 were the most pessimistic, with 79 per cent of blacks, 50 per cent of Asians and 38 per cent of whites predicting that relations would get worse over the next five years.
In all age groups, whites had the most harmonious view, with 41 per cent saying race relations would get better over the next five years, and only 12 per cent believing they would deteriorate. Whites were less likely to acknowledge discrimination, with only 41 per cent saying ethnic minorities were comparatively worse off, compared to 65 per cent of blacks and 51 per cent of Asians.
The researchers also found that 29 per cent of Asians thought prejudice would increase, with only 21 per cent believing it would diminish. Among black respondents, 36 per cent thought race relations were set to worsen, with 22 per cent saying they thought they would improve.
The picture is very different from that painted by a 1975 study, also involving Professor Anwar, which found that 44 per cent of ethnic minority respondents believed race relations were improving, compared to only 32 per cent of whites.
Lee Jasper, chair of Charter 88's Operation Black Vote campaign, which commissioned the research, said the findings helped explain why 27 per cent of people from ethnic minorities did not appear on the electoral register. "Is it surprising that so many reject a system that often ignores black people's concerns and at times actually works against them."
The Warwick report was based on over 1,400 face-to-face interviews with people in multi-racial inner-city areas.
It also examined the voting patterns of ethnic minorities in the last election and found that all parties had an interest in trying to attract more black and Asian supporters. Although Labour had the most ethnic minority support, many Asians backed the Conservatives, with 61 per cent of Pakistanis in the Bradford West constituency voting Tory, and 60 per cent in Birmingham Edgbaston. But Professor Anwar noted that there were still only nine MPs from ethnic minority groups, and he added: "Equality of opportunity in the political process is crucial if we are to achieve equality in other fields."
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