Letter: When racism is not the relevant issue

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The Independent Online
Sir: Kenan Malik's article on racism is so wrong-headed that it is difficult to know where to start. He criticises the notion that black sports stars and entertainers might serve as role models for young black people; does he seriously suppose that the role models adopted by white youngsters are bakers, toolmakers, shop assistants or postmen?

More importantly, he, like too many commentators, confuses racism with cultural comparison: to say that someone is inherently inferior because of race/skin colour is racist and, as such, indefensible. It is a different thing entirely to say that someone's behaviour is unacceptable because they belong to a culture with uncivilised values.

The fact is that there is an underclass in the United States and its problems arise from its culture, which, like so many cultures of deprivation throughout history, is based on poverty and ignorance. Black families in the US underclass are dysfunctional not because they are black but because they are poor and, to use an archaic term, do not know any better.

Yours sincerely,

ROGER A. FISKEN

Burneston,

North Yorkshire

17 August

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