Socialist Worker

Tackling the myths and lies on racism

Issue No. 1806

ARE YOU sick of the media and New Labour politicians poisoning the issue of race with claims of 'swamping' and 'isolationist' Muslims? Then read 'Racism: Myths and Realities' by Hassan Mahamdallie, in the latest International Socialism. Racism is a very real problem today. The recent election successes of far right parties across Europe have worried millions of people. In Britain we have seen the election of three Nazi BNP councillors in Burnley.

'Racism: Myths and Realities' arms readers with the facts to challenge the media's distortions. It explains current issues in Britain by linking them to wider world events, like the failures of neo-liberalism and the 'war on terrorism'. Hassan documents how these have been exploited to fuel alarming increases in anti-Asian and anti-Muslim racism.

This shows how politicians with a Fortress Europe agenda whip up the 'refugee crisis', and exposes where racism comes from. Home secretary David Blunkett responded to last year's riots in Burnley, Bradford and Oldham by blaming Asian people for their own segregation and poverty.

Regrettably this false idea has been accepted in many quarters. Hassan exposes how institutional racism created segregation in the northern mill towns. The article documents the studies showing that both Asian and white people want to live together and would like their children to go to the same schools. Hassan argues that lies about self segregation are based upon sweeping generalisations about Asian people.

The idea that ethnic minorities do not wish to mix is part of the repackaging of racism. Assimilation into society is too often officially reduced to measuring the economic prosperity of each ethnic minority group. Those groups that are poor are deemed to have failed to assimilate or to lack the skills to make it in mainstream society.

The experience of black people of Caribbean origin is that they are even more part of 'mainstream' society than their parents, yet still suffer high levels of discrimination.

Despite being the most assimilated ethnic minority, black people remain twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts.

Left wing Labour MP Ann Cryer's call for an English language test for all immigrants, which was taken up by David Blunkett, rests upon widespread myths. Asian people do not have a language problem. Many speak two languages fluently. However, speaking a second language if you're Asian isn't viewed as an educational achievement, but as a problem. This is in stark contrast to when people speak a second European language.

Speaking English as a second language has no real impact on educational achievement. There are sharply different educational achievements and experiences of people from south Asia.

Hassan lays bare the impact of institutional racism today. The failure of the New Labour government to deliver for both black and white supporters has disoriented many people. Hassan concludes by restating the Marxist understanding of racism, which is more relevant than ever for everyone interested in fighting against racism and challenging the far right.

The new International Socialism also includes an important article by Jim Wolfreys analysing the recent French elections and the rise of the fascist Le Pen.

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Sat 29 Jun 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1806
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