Letter: Racial harassment of white households

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Sir: The figures published on racial harassment in ' 'One in ten' non-white families suffer racial harassment' (11 March) make sad reading for anyone who respects human dignity, regardless of race or colour.

May I add a point that was not, however, brought out in the article. The 1991 census figures (which were used by the London Research Centre) indeed showed that there were some 48,000 instances of racial harassment against households classed as ethnic minority, and 10,000 against households of the white majority.

But statistics must be treated with caution, since all their implications may not be apparent. The ethnic-minority households in London numbered 480,000, and the white households, a figure your correspondent did not quote, numbered 2,263,000. A little simple arithmetic, comparing the number of cases of harassment with the size of the group which apparently caused them, shows that the rates of causing harassment were almost equal for both sides. Thus in each group there was one case of harassment (directed against the other) for just about every 48 households. Since the ethnic minorities are small, the proportion of ethnic families that actually suffered was, of course, much larger.

Clearly, even one case of racial harassment for every 48 households is quite unacceptable in any civilised society. But the figures are scarcely 'an appalling indictment of British society', as claimed by the Commission for Racial Equality. I think the white majority is, on the whole, quite tolerant and the facts available lend some support to that belief. Inadequate arithmetic and intemperate language do nothing to solve the problems that remain.

Yours sincerely,

MERVYN MATTHEWS

London, SW1

12 March

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