Mother fights racist bullies

Paul George reports on the children who live in constant fear
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RACIAL bullying is commonplace in the lives of black and Asian children and frequently involves violence, according to research by the NSPCC.

The charity has conducted the study in the run-up to its first ever national conference on racial bullying and the way it affects children, to be held in London this week.

The study, which draws on other surveys, shows that the effects of the harassment and violence on the wider family of victims can be profound, leading to rifts in relationships and depression. The bullying can take place at school or within the local community.

One family living in the multi-racial London borough of Islington is highlighted in the survey: Mrs M, a 41-year-old Anglo-Asian, her husband, a 49-year-old black, and their five children.

The survey documents how the five children have been racially harassed ever since the couple moved to their housing association flat in Highbury, how their marriage has been destroyed and how Mrs M has suffered a nervous breakdown.

The racial bullying began two months after the move to Highbury. Mrs M's son, Greg, who was nine at the time, was beaten up by a gang of white teenagers while playing in the street. Three weeks after the first incident, Greg was attacked by a group of white teenagers while riding his new bike in the street. He was racially abused, punched in the face and had his bike stolen.

When Greg moved to secondary school, white children persistently bullied him and called him racist names. Mrs M says teachers at the school, who were all white bar one, were generally unsympathetic to Greg's plight. One even referred to Greg and his black friends as "the niggers".

Greg's younger brothers, David and James, have also been called racist names while playing in the street and on their way to and from school.

Mrs M alleges that throughout the time her family has lived in Highbury, Greg has attracted undue attention from the police, constantly being stopped and even on occasion being racially abused.

Two years ago, the family started to get National Front leaflets and racist hate mail through their front door. Some of these included death threats.

Two years ago, the continued stress took its toll and Mrs M suffered a complete nervous breakdown. She was advised by her doctor to go away from the family home for a rest.

Mrs M had already separated from her husband, so she left her daughters and youngest son with a neighbour whose son, Kevin, aged 13, had called her children racist names on several occasions. While the children were there, Kevin sexually assaulted Mrs M's daughters, who were aged two and three, and James, aged eight.

Mrs M says she often gets depressed. "The people who have mistreated my children should have had the book thrown at them, but all too often the authorities don't seem to care. So I hope to take civil action against several of the racist bullies myself."

A police spokesman denied that Greg had been picked on by officers. He said: "Police have to have a specific reason to stop someone. There are strict rules governing this area of policing." He added the police have taken seriously and investigated all the complaints made to them by Mrs M about racial harassment.

The aim of this week's NSPCC conference, which is being funded by the European Year Against Racism, is to bring young people together with policy makers and care workers to develop a strategy to combat the racism that affects children.

Olivia Vincenti, of the NSPCC, said: "We hope the conference will show how serious the problem of racial bullying is and that it is an issue that affects not just ethnic minority children, but also white children as witnesses and perpetrators."

For further information about the M family's campaign to take civil proceedings against alleged racist bullies, contact 0961 843895.

All names have been changed to preserve anonymity.