Bradford 'in the grip of fear', says report

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The Independent Online

A long­awaited race relations report today set out a blueprint to build bridges between communities in a riot­hit city.

A long­awaited race relations report today set out a blueprint to build bridges between communities in a riot­hit city.

The independent study of life in Bradford was carried out by Lord Herman Ouseley, the former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, months before the weekend's mayhem which caused an estimated £25 million damage.

The report, entitled Community Pride Not Prejudice, attacks the divisions which have been allowed to form between racial groups in the city and criticises schools for doing little to promote racial understanding.

It depicts Bradford as a city in "a grip of fear" and reveals a depressing scene of increasing racial intolerance, a lack of racial integration and an inability to address problems.

It also questions policing methods, saying rank and file officers were fearful of being called racist and damaging their career prospects if they tackled black and Asian offenders.

But it recommends a series of initiatives to improve relations between black, white and Asian communities and to promote equal opportunities for all racial groups.

"The challenge is to reverse the trend of 'them and us' and promote a sense of pride in the district and its people."

It calls for better leadership and improved partnerships and says emphasis must be placed on children and young people, who it considers are best placed to champion the changes.

It recommends that Bradford embraces the theme of citizenship in its schools to ensure all its young people learn about diversity and the need to respect people from all backgrounds.

It proposes the creation of a centre for diversity, learning and living ­ and says all organisations should introduce a framework to ensure their staff are aware of the district's many different social, cultural and religious communities and their needs.

The report, officially released today, comes just days after more than 200 police officers were injured, properties firebombed and businesses looted in the worst disturbances on mainland Britain for 20 years.

The review was commissioned by Bradford Vision ­ made up of Bradford Council and other key organisations in the area.

As part of the review, Lord Ouseley and his panel consulted thousands of people of all ages and from all communities and backgrounds across the city.

It found plenty of good initiatives already in place and said the city had to develop and expand on these to build a better future.

But the report warns: "There is a fear of people talking openly and honestly about problems because of possible repercussions, recriminations and victimisation.

"There is the fear of challenging wrongdoing because of being labelled racist.

"There is the fear of confronting the gangs culture, the illegal drugs trade and the growing racial intolerance, harassment and abuse that exists."

It says that people at street level are rarely told what is really going on by political or community leaders and warns victims of discrimination are inadequately supported.

It recommends: "What is now desperately needed is a powerful unifying vision for the district and strong political, municipal and community leadership.

"It needs a people programme that creates social harmony, rejects racial hatred, brings communities together and shows them how to value people of all backgrounds."

The report pinpoints changes to education as the key to bridging the gap between the different communities.

"There must be learning with and from each other about differences. The reality of all­white and all Asian schools cannot be wished away.

"But there is no reason why those schools should not be successful, both for academic achievement and in preparation for citizenship."

Lord Ouseley added: "The main thrust of our recommendations are centred on people. It is the people, especially the young people, who are the key.

"There are no quick fixes ­ deep changes in attitude and behaviour must be achieved across all communities to make all people proud of Bradford as a place to live and worship.

"It is a time for us to listen and learn and it is time for us to deliver."

Bradford Vision, the organisation that commissioned the review, said a special implementation team would be put together in an effort to ensure action was taken as soon as possible.

Margaret Eaton, chairman of Bradford Vision and leader of Bradford Council, said: "Some people could say the timing of this report and its launch is unfortunate.

"However, others like myself feel that given the situation we have all experienced over last weekend, today offers us a strong platform on which to start to build a better platform.

"The issue of race equality is a sensitive one and I think that Bradford should be both praised and proud to be the first to say this cannot continue, to publicly address its problems, open itself to criticism and hopefully point the way, not only for Bradford, but for the country in how to make diversity work.

"Ours is not a northern problem, it is a national, if not international one, which has roots in a more general tide of public feeling ­ a disaffection and disinterest in civic pride and citizenship.

"We were all appalled by the scenes of last weekend. My most harrowing scenes was one of a young child no older than eight hurling stones at the police ­ I have to ask the question 'how did we get to this?'

"I believe this report begins to give us a clearer insight of the 'why' and a sense of direction of 'where do we go from here?"'

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