Socialist Worker

But these 4 are failures

by Theresa Bennett
Issue No. 1768

FROM THE channel that brought us the sensationalist fly on the wall documentaries Jamaican ER and Lagos Airport we now have How Racist is Britain? The four-part series has been screened in the run-up to Black History Month in October.

The programmes are Channel 4's response to a summer of racial tensions. In the general election the Nazi BNP conned an alarmingly high number of people into voting for it in the wake of a string of racist attacks on Asians in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham.

Even without the impact of racism at the very forefront of political events, so many interesting things could be said about multiracial Britain. It's a great opportunity to give a voice to ordinary people and an all too rare insight into how people from an array of ethnic backgrounds live in Britain. As there are a varied range of black experiences, these programmes could have reflected some of these complexities.

Instead the programme makers fall into some of the familiar cliches. The series is a mixed bag.

Angela Griffin, of Coronation Street and Holby City, presents Brown Britain. She grew up in Chapeltown in Leeds in one of the only mixed race families. She looks at what it means to be mixed race and stumbles upon some interesting and progressive conclusions that question the whole idea of race.

Love in Oldham is a fly on the wall documentary that looks at love across the racial divide. It was filmed during the Nazi National Front attempts to march in the town and a BNP terror campaign earlier this year that led to a spate of racial attacks in the area. However, the overall series is sensationalist.

'I know people are going to accuse me of stirring up trouble, but the fact is there is a conspiracy of silence here,' says the maker of Black on Black, Sorious Samura, an award-winning Sierra Leonean journalist.

'We black people just don't want to admit that we can be prejudiced.' Samura is absolutely right on one thing-he is just stirring up trouble. Samura claims he wants to 'tear down the wall of silence' on this issue. Far from there being 'a wall of silence', right wing commentators and newspapers regularly highlight it, and a whole series of police initiatives blame a culture of 'black on black violence'.

Samura simply does not question the agenda and motivations of these people, many of whom try to hide the suffering and consequences of racism suffered by all black people behind black on black prejudice.

I'm Not Racist But... is presented by Blair supporter Matthew Taylor, director of the Institute of Public Policy Research. How good do you expect a programme to be that says it wants to 'focus on the views of the one group that seem to have been ignored for decades by policy-makers and the race relations industry-the white majority'?

Not surprisingly, Matthew Taylor fails to ask why no money is being spent in areas where people complain that they feel forgotten. Although alarmed by increasing segregation in education, where multiracial schools in Bradford and Leeds had been closed, the programme doesn't attempt to find out why. Sadly, Channel 4's How Racist is Britain? fails.

It fails to recognise the desires and aspiration of everyone who is a victim of racism. The New Labour government ignores people who oppose racism and want to see a better world. We are the real majority.

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Article information

Sat 29 Sep 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1768
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