Letter: Britain fails to meet 'racist' criteria

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The Independent Online
Sir: Yesterday (1 July) you carried a two-page advertisement from the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE). This alleged that Britain is a racist country. A former vice-chairman of the CRE, Professor Bhikhu Parekh, has said this:

I do not at all wish to suggest that Britain is a racist society, nor that every Briton is a racist. Such a suggestion would be utterly false and grossly unfair. When all is said and done, Britain is one of the most decent and civilised societies in the world, and is characterised by a considerable sense of fairness and humanity.

I suspect that Professor Parekh is nearer the truth. We know the characteristics of a racist country. Recent history provides three examples: the southern states of the US before the civil rights laws of the Sixties, Nazi Germany in the Thirties, and apartheid South Africa. These were very different societies, but they shared certain beliefs and practices: the state propagated a theory of white racial superiority, provided a legal and educational framework that implemented the theory and transmitted it to future generations, and provided a police force and army for monitoring and enforcing the relevant legislation. None of that is true of this country.

We do not underpin our institutions with an odious racial theory. We do not relate civil liberties to skin colour. And we do not regulate access to education and welfare according to ethnic origin. On the contrary, Britain positively favours its minorities, both in terms of protective legislation and additional public funding.

No one doubts we have our lunatic fringe, but by constantly and stridently stressing the negative aspect, the CRE - which can scarcely claim to be objective in matters to do with race relations - runs the risk of generating the sort of resentment on which hostility and discrimination flourishes. We need a much more balanced and informed view of our multi-racial selves than can ever be provided by the CRE - one that while owning to our faults is able to reflect our ethnic successes.

Yours sincerely,

RAY HONEYFORD

Bury, Lancashire

2 July

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