Trevor Phillips: Our goal must be to achieve a fully integrated society

From a speech for Black History Month by the chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, given at the Royal Opera House
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We are still a long way from becoming an integrated society. But we do know what it could look like: It must be economically integrated - there must be equality of opportunity in employment and equality of access in the provision of services. It must be socially integrated, that is to say that there should be no no-go areas for anyone who lives here. And it must be culturally integrated - it must have a national culture which embraces and celebrates difference.

We are still a long way from becoming an integrated society. But we do know what it could look like: It must be economically integrated - there must be equality of opportunity in employment and equality of access in the provision of services. It must be socially integrated, that is to say that there should be no no-go areas for anyone who lives here. And it must be culturally integrated - it must have a national culture which embraces and celebrates difference.

These features are all interdependent. We cannot have social integration without economic integration: why would anyone want to belong to a society which treats him or her as a second-class citizen at school or in the workplace? On the other hand we cannot be economically integrated if we are not socially integrated.

In the USA nine out of 10 African-American children study in black majority schools; nine out of 10 white Americans live in all-white districts. These may look equal from a distance - but guess whose schools are better and whose districts are more crime-ridden, run-down and neglected?

If you want to see where the consequence of giving up on cultural integration gets you, look across the Channel at France's decision to repress expressions of religious identity - the hijab, the yarmulke and the turban. We now have the absurd situation that the French President is telling French teenagers what they should and should not wear.

This is supposed to be a way of making everyone adopt a French identity - but actually it is the opposite. Suppressing symbols of diversity says that there is only one way to be French - and that is the surest path to forcing French Muslims to retreat into their historic identities, becoming more Muslim than French, rather than coming to an accommodation with modern France, and enriching its culture.

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