Letter: Statistics and definitions of racial attacks

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The Independent Online
Sir: Ray Honeyford's attack on the Commission for Racial Equality's commendable advertising campaign (Letters, 7 July) seeks to limit our understanding of what constitutes a racist society to 'the southern states of the US before the civil rights laws of the Sixties, Nazi Germany in the Thirties, and apartheid South Africa'. In so doing, Mr Honeyford excludes from consideration the day-to-day experience of most black people in this country. Just because discrimination is not positively required by law does not mean that it does not exist.

Members of ethnic minorities encounter proven discrimination on racial grounds in every area of British life, including access to education, housing and employment. Discriminatory treatment in the provision of services by local authorities and the National Health Service, and in the treatment ethnic minorities receive at the hands of each of our criminal justice agencies, is a matter of record, not imagination.

Black people in this country are more likely than whites to be unemployed and, if employed, more likely to be doing poorly paid manual labour. That is because British society denies them equal access to the vocational, professional and commercial opportunities that would allow them to contribute fully to the economic life of this country. The rights of black British citizens may be identical to the rights of their white counterparts, but the reality of securing and enjoying the quality of life to which those rights entitle them is very different.

There is no contradiction between Professor Bhikhu Parekh's observation that

Britain is one of the most decent and civilised societies in the world, and is characterised by a considerable sense of fairness and humanity

and an honest and open recognition that, as the commission noted:

In many ways, Britain is a racist society. In 1993 alone the police recorded over 9,000 incidents of racial harassment, abuse, assault, arson, and murder. Thousands more incidents go unreported. As many as 120,000 a year, according to the Home Office.

Better than most, but a long way from perfect.

Yours faithfully,



Camden Racial Equality Council

London, NW1

7 July