CRE 'must address grievances of whites'

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White, working class men should be a priority for the race-relations industry if it wants to stamp out attacks on black and Asian communities, says the head of the Commission for Racial Equality.

Speaking in the wake of the official reports into last summer's rioting in Oldham, Bradford and Burnley, Gurbux Singh said that the commission now believes it has a duty to address the poverty and the outlook of the white majority – the biggest change of policy in the CRE's 25-year-history.

In particular he urged politicians and community workers to tackle the sense of overwhelming grievance felt by some working class communities and he warned that the British National Party could prosper unless action was taken to change "the climate of envy" between neighbourhoods.

"For the CRE, tackling the perceptions and poverty levels of poor white communities is almost as important as tackling ethnic-minority deprivation," he said. "Our way of thinking is changing. We have always recognised that the CRE is for everybody, but we have to address the fact that, overwhelmingly, racial harassment is carried out by white males aged 16 to 30."

Mr Singh promised that the CRE would visit white areas as well as black in order to hear the views of people "on the doorsteps".

He said: "This has to happen right across the country. While the situation in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford is comparatively extreme, there are many other parts of Britain that have very high levels of deprivation and poverty and lack social coherence as a result. Part of the solution to this is going to be a lot of face-to-face contact and that means going out to talk to people.

"We need to get out there and speak to all groups, and that includes disenfranchised young men of all colours and all faiths, and find some way of getting them to work together. Even those young men recognise that someone has to do something to bring them together."

Last week saw the publication of four reports on the rioting that shook Lancashire and West Yorkshire in May and June. A Home Office team led by Ted Cantle, a former chief executive of Nottingham City Council, found that white and minority communities were leading wholly separate "parallel" lives.

It also found that white communities were often angered by the belief that their Asian neighbours received an unfair share of financial aid from the state.

Mr Singh said: "One thing the commission can do is look at how we work with the public services to help them to ensure that attempts to bridge the gap between different communities are built into the way they work. Sadly, in some cases public services haven't done that because they haven't focused on the people they serve. And the result is that entire communities have been let down."