Letter: Minorities need more than divisive pats on the back

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The Independent Online
Sir: Jason Bennetto ("Asians emerge as the new money makers" 12 June) strikes a warning bell. Urban social policy must become part of the solution to the ills of racialised postmodern cities or, misguided, it will be part of their most obstinate problems.

The prognosis for the future is explosive. Politicians and city-builders who aspire to leadership in the new market-led global economy ignore major problems of poverty and racism. Hard-pressed city managers chase hi-tech, capital-intensive projects, but fail to introduce long-term renewal programmes. A recent tour of European cities reveals a similar pattern of defining immigrants and ethnic minorities as "problem people" and applying makeshift poultices to serious urban deficiencies.

Clearly, major policy issues of social inclusion and integration have to be addressed if black people, the progeny of workers who helped build post-war urban economies, are not to become a stigmatised, devalued throw- away underclass. There must be improvement of disadvantaged districts with high concentrations of people from racial and ethnic minorities. And this must mean increased support for community and black enterprise, as well as the dismantling of racially discriminatory restrictions to city-wide job markets, education and housing.

Socially sensitive, community-led research is also needed, rather than mass-produced official statistics interpreted by discredited notions of "Jewish futures" for Indians and "Irish futures" for Afro-Caribbeans, as mentioned in your article.

Above all, new directions in urban policy are necessary to achieve a clearer picture of the black community, not as impotent spectators of inexorable forces, but as key actors in postmodern cities who are able to participate in and influence the future.


Urban Development Consultant