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Letter: Racial violence

Sir: E. Paull (letter, 28 June) appears to be criticising the recommendations of the Home Affairs Committee on the basis of a very limited understanding both of the law and of the nature and causes of racial attacks.

The questions he poses to illustrate the difficulties of interpretation raise interesting political questions about the nature of racism. Do racial attacks and harassment include only attacks by members of the white majority on members of ethnic minority communities, or do they include 'racial incidents' - acts of violence or harassment which cross racial lines and in which a racial motivation is alleged?

The answer depends on whether we accept that racism is exclusively about the oppression of ethnic minority communities by a white majority.

Happily for the Home Affairs Committee, the law tends to give such debates short shrift. The courts determine the existence and nature of motivation on a daily basis. The meaning of 'racial' is hardly problematic; a statutory definition is provided by the Race Relations Act 1976, and has been elaborated in subsequent case law.

The real question is much simpler; do we wish to take the issue of racial attacks seriously? As Beatrix Campbell points out ('White society, black victims', 28 June), the Home Secretary and the police legislated swiftly in favour of car owners when joy-riding became an issue. Are the victims of racial attacks less deserving?

Yours sincerely,



Camden Racial Equality Council

London, NW1

28 June