Frontline role for schools in racism battle

Ian Burrell
Wednesday 14 April 1999 23:02

LESSONS ARE to be introduced in school to teach children that it is "not British" to be racist. Pupils will be taught the benefits of living in a multi- cultural society as part of the "citizenship" lessons that are to form part of the National Curriculum.

The Home Office minister Mike O'Brien said the work would involve the parents of teenagers who show racist tendencies. Schools will also be encouraged to carry out "early intervention" initiatives to try to limit racist indoctrination at home. Racists will also be forced to pay reparations to the victims of their attacks.

Mr O'Brien said the problem of racism among some young whites had been starkly illustrated by the covert police film of the five men suspected of killing the black teenager Stephen Lawrence and the account of their actions in Sir William Macpherson of Cluny's report into the murder.

He said: "For many white people the report made deeply shocking reading. Perhaps some people needed to be shocked to get a passing idea of what it's like to be black or Asian in Britain."

Mr O'Brien, who pointed out that not all racists were white, and that young people as a whole were increasingly anti-racist, said the the programme could only succeed with the support of institutions. "It's going to be a long-term struggle. For the impact on white youth, it is important that we have more people from ethnic minorities in positions of authority in our society."

But the Home Office has been encouraged by the results of a series of projects aimed at challenging racism. In Bermondsey, south London, the National Youth Agency has backed a scheme which involves directly confronting known racist gangs and questioning them about their attitudes. The project, which included taking young people out of their predominantly white neighbourhood to mix with those from more ethnically diverse areas, led to a reduction in racist attacks in the area.

Meanwhile the father of Stephen Lawrence reacted angrily yesterday to the news that Gary Dobson, one of the five men suspected of killing his son, will take part in a radio phone-in programme today. Neville Lawrence said he was upset that Talk Radio was proceeding with the programme despite the family's opposition to the decision by ITV to broadcast interviews with the five suspects on last Thursday's Tonight programme.

"In the same way that we wanted nothing to do with the Tonight programme we want nothing to do with this ... I think [Talk Radio] have been completely insensitive and unconcerned about our feelings and our views."

A spokeswoman for Talk Radio said: "We decided it was a matter that was in the public interest and would give our listeners the first chance to speak to somebody involved in the case." She said Mr Dobson had approached the station with the idea and he was not being paid.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments