The Whites

'Some Asian boys said they'd protect my home'
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The Independent Online

Margaret Meeks, 50, housewife

"During the riots the local Asian boys said they would protect my home just like the Asian houses. Daisy, the Asian girl who works in the Bangladeshi Welfare Association next door, has invited me in for lunch with local women. But most don't speak English and I would feel like an intruder. I asked one of my young male neighbours if he would fight for Britain in Afghanistan but he said he could never fight a Muslim brother."

Tina Meeks, 27, housewife, Margaret's daughter-in-law

"I like living in Stoneyholme. Burnley Wood, where I was raised, was all white and full of vandals. But I don't mix with Asian women of my age. When they pass they don't talk. It's just a quick smile. I do think it would be better if they learnt English and our way of life. I get annoyed when I hear they are making our children learn the Koran and Asian ways when it doesn't work the other way round."

David Macfarlane, 18, assistant manager of Top Gear Auto Store

"Race relations in Burnley are worse than the papers say. There is racism on both sides and the parallel universe point is right. In school there were five Asians in my class of 30. They did mix but always as a unit. I have an Asian boss now but since I left school I don't know many other Asians. I think that mixing should be even more important now. I think the communities have an equal distance to come. I do hear some pretty awful comments from the white side but I don't challenge. Sometimes it's sensible to keep your mouth shut."

Gordon Betts, owner of WiseBuys shop

"Generally speaking we do live in parallel worlds, though I don't have any trouble with them myself. When I was in Portugal they told me they have the same problems with the Russians. Different countries have different problems with ethnic groups. I think more English would help. Lots of Asians speak English and then just start speaking to each other in their own language which I think is bad-mannered. Most of the shoplifters we catch in here are Asian but that just might mean that they are not as clever as white shoplifters."

Colin Dawber, newsagent

"Ninety per cent of people round here just want to get up, do their job, and get a good night's sleep. People from outside are making out that this is a race problem because it's a better story. It's a social and economic problem. The vote for the British National Party [4,151 votes – 11 per cent of the total cast in Burnley] in the general election just means that people are disappointed with the economic and social situation here. They are not card-carrying members of the BNP."

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