Black racism is every bit as bad as white racism

We become very indignant over Islamophobia, but how many Muslims rage against so many mullahs' anti-Christian views?

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I believe that racism and ethnic prejudice are execrable evils. I think too that I have an absolute responsibility to condemn any malign act perpetrated by xenophobes and to fight institutions which discriminate against people on grounds of their racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds. Does that mean that I should damn black and Asian people who assault and abuse victims because they are white? Yes. Do I say this often enough? No.

I believe that racism and ethnic prejudice are execrable evils. I think too that I have an absolute responsibility to condemn any malign act perpetrated by xenophobes and to fight institutions which discriminate against people on grounds of their racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds. Does that mean that I should damn black and Asian people who assault and abuse victims because they are white? Yes. Do I say this often enough? No.

Such dereliction, such disregard could now have serious consequences unless people like me shape up. Vaclav Havel, the Czech writer and politician, said in 1985: "Truth is not merely what we are thinking, but also why, to whom and under what circumstances we say it." That is not the truth, but political expediency and it is such expediency which has undermined our anti-racist movements.

Our entire struggle, its moral and ethical foundation, stands to be discredited because we do not pay the attention we should to white victims of black and Asian hatred. The British Crime Survey figures which report on racially motivated incidents do show that substantial numbers of white people feel themselves to be victims of racially motivated attacks, just as many black and Asian Britons do the other way around. In many cases, crimes may be seen as "racial" when they are simply acts of colour-blind felony or anti-social behaviour, but that still leaves many instances where race and ethnicity are partly responsible for very real violations of black as well as white Britons.

This is something which has just been raised by Phil Woolas, a government whip whose constituency is in Oldham East which experienced race riots two years ago. In January this year, the number of attacks on white people in Oldham noticeably increased and some undoubtedly had racist motives. Mr Woolas has written to the Commission for Racial Equality saying that race relations in Britain will be damaged unless prominent people and bodies like the CRE come out of the closet on this problem: "Politicians across the party divide have failed to be seen to condemn racist, violent attacks against white people as strongly or as forcibly as such attacks against Asian and black people. I urge you not to diminish anti-discrimination work by allowing the perception that racist attacks on white people are not taken seriously."

He is right and we need to take this warning seriously. But hark, caution now. You don't want to hand even more useful poison to neo-Fascist parties to add to their supremacist broth. (Look at the National Front website and you get emotional accounts of "150 murders of innocent whites by savage, low-IQ negroes let into the country by treacherous politicians".) And you don't want to encourage even greater paranoia among conservatives who are convinced that all victims of racism in Britain are white and that most criminals are black or Asian and that soon many parts of the green and pleasant land will turn black.

It is unacceptable for society to revile and punish black and Asian miscreants more savagely than whites and we have just seen some evidence of how this may have happened with the Muslim men convicted of the riots in Bradford in 2001. First-time offenders who delivered themselves to the police have been given punitive sentences which, I think, would have been less severe for white rioters.

Unfortunately, fighting against these injustices has created a set of new assumptions which are just as unacceptable. Black and Asian people behaving badly are too readily excused, their crimes hidden or explained away, which is unjust, unhealthy and corrupting of the communities themselves. Concentrating only on white racism means other forces which destroy lives are never confronted. This is one reason why so much black-on-black violence was barely addressed until the deaths of two young black women on New Year's Day. A File on Four programme on BBC Radio 4 recently examined the flourishing heroin trade in areas of Bradford – a trade entirely in the hands of second-generation British Muslims, who, I am sure, are very devout. We don't talk about that. Real equality should mean equal rights and equal culpability.

We are, as I have often said recently, living in the most wretched of times, where bitter hatred is aggressively stalking the streets and threatening all that is good about us as a nation. In such times it is hard to hold on to this, but Britain has come a long, long way from the Fifties and Sixties when thousands of white people used to take to the streets of London, Cardiff and Liverpool looking for "niggers" to terrorise because they were black. White and black anti-racists have managed to keep up the battle for equality and justice through the decades, never giving up even through the dark days of Powellism and, later, Thatcherism.

Racism still exists and maybe always will, but we have managed to get some change within institutions (not nearly enough) and even Tories are now enthusiastic champions of diversity (what wondrous transformations are brought about by sliding political fortunes). Most encouraging of all are those intimacies and friendships across the tribes which you do not often see in most other Western countries.

This country, which we are slowly remaking, could be torn apart by black and Asian bigots who do not want to see an integrated new Britain and who have come to believe that all whites are fair game because of slavery, because of colonialism and because of the undoubted racisms we have all had to live with. Racism can cause lethal damage and maybe it did to Abu Hamza, the cult leader in the Finsbury Park mosque who says that he is the way he is because of all the racism he faced all those years ago. But is that any reason to tolerate what he is now doing, inciting impressionable young Muslim men to oppose and demean white British cultures and faiths? Again, we become very indignant if we discover Islamophobia, but how many Muslims rage against the anti-Christian views of so many mullahs?

If gangs of young white men openly said that black and Asian girls are easy sluts to be knocked about and used, what would anti-racists say and do? Yet, again and again, I come across black and Asian men who freely express such objectionable views about young white women who themselves rarely realise just how they are dissed by the men they fancy, trust and even love.

As for the beatings and killings of Asian women who make the mistake of falling in love with white or black men, well, they may call that culture but it is pure, murderous racism. White supporters have always turned up to mourn the racist killings of black and Asian victims, so shouldn't black activists march and remember victims like Ross Parker, a white teenager murdered in Peterborough by three Muslim men with a hammer and a foot-long knife? Our values are worthless unless all victims of these senseless deaths matter equally.

Black and Asian Britons may fear a more open and honest exposure of the worst among us. But we can't keep these dirty secrets any longer – it does not help the cause of racial justice, it does not make a good society. As Milton wrote: "When complaints are freely heard, deeply considered, and speedily reformed, then is the utmost bound of civil liberty attained that wise men look for."

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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