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Divisions created by those in power

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Issue 1758


Divisions created by those in power

HERMAN OUSELEY’S report into Bradford last week painted a grim picture of growing racial divisions in the city.

It reflected most people’s abhorrence at the idea of segregation along racial lines. But it failed to explain either its extent or why it exists.

Instead it talked of a drive for “racial self segregation” by ordinary people-Asian and white.

In other words, there are divisions along racial lines in Bradford supposedly because people simply do not want to live alongside one another or go to the same schools.

You would not know from this report that the way people in Bradford live has been shaped by central government, the local council, the police and other powerful institutions.

It voices the opinions of representatives of organisations invited to give submissions to the inquiry, without providing any evidence of whether those opinions reflect reality.

So you can read that junior police officers “fear arresting Asians” in case they are branded racist.

You are not told that the West Yorkshire police are five times more likely to stop and search Asians than whites, according to recent figures.

Real racism against black and Asian people, from employers and state institutions as well as from some white people, is glossed over with vague talk of a “lack of trust between communities”.

And the hardship which most Asian and white people share, and which fuels racism, barely gets a mention.

Despite all these pressures, the majority of people in Bradford-black, Asian and white-want to live alongside one another.


“THE MEDIA is blowing the segregation issue out of all proportion,” Chris Cantrill, a student at college in Bradford, told Socialist Worker.

“Of course there is racism. But I have Asian friends. People mix at my college and at the Argos where I work. Most people want to get along. And we have to address all sorts of issues such as the economics of the city.”

The same message came from scores of white, Asian and black people as they queued at an Anti Nazi League stall in Bradford city centre on Saturday. Pam, Jane and Shabana are friends. All three rejected the idea that they and their friends want to separate along racial lines.

But people were also aware that there is racism. Josh Robin, an 11 year old school student, said, “There are only a few Asian kids in my school. They get bullied by some of the white kids.

“I stand up against the racism, so I get bullied too.” His mum Debbie added, “Most people don’t want this racist division. We need to confront this racism or it will just grow.”

That is absolutely right. It is no good those in authority throwing up their hands and blaming ordinary people for the divisions that the powerful have encouraged.

But it is also no good anti-racists pretending that those official policies have not become reflected in racist myths about Asians, masquerading behind talk of “cultural differences”.

The danger is that the tiny minority of hardened racists will be able to exploit despair and division.

That is what the BNP is trying to do after leading Nazis caused the riots in Bradford two weeks ago by attacking Asians and threatening to march. The Ouseley report talks of bringing communities together. It condemns the government-imposed national curriculum for schools, which provides little space for challenging racism.

It rightly says that different neighbourhoods are forced to compete with each other to bid for scarce grants for urgently needed regeneration projects.

But the official structures that the report calls on to bring people together have lost the trust of most working class people-black, white and Asian. It offers no radical answers. That would mean a fighting challenge to the racist structures that divide people, and fighting for a huge redistribution of wealth.

It would also mean a concentrated fight against the BNP, which polled 11 percent of the vote in the Eccleshill ward of the Bradford North constituency at the general election.

Anti-Nazis and socialists have taken important steps to doing just that over the last two weeks.

Social deprivation increasing divide

BLACK AND Asian people make up about 20 percent of the population of Bradford. The largest of those groups is Pakistani.

They are concentrated mainly in the Manningham, Heaton, Girlington, Leeds Road, West Bowling, Guardhouse and Otley Road areas-all in the inner city. They moved into these places in the 1960s and 1970s to work mainly in the textile mills which then dominated the local economy.

Mill owners segregated workers along racial lines. It was common for Asian and white workers to be on different shifts, or for Asian workers to do more menial jobs.

Asian people were largely denied access to council housing, which itself became harder for everybody to get from the 1970s on. So they ended up often in rundown areas where several adults could club together to buy a house. That meant overcrowding.

Today just 2.24 percent of council housing is occupied by Asians. Most council housing is outside the inner city. The result is large predominantly white estates around Bradford, and areas with large minorities of Asian people in the centre.

Transfers to sought after council houses mean tenants (who are mainly white) having to leave the inner city. The council’s response in the 1980s was not to build more council housing where people could mix.

It passed the buck to housing associations, such as the Manningham Housing Association set up in 1986. These were to cater for small areas. This reinforced the divide. The Tory/Liberal Democrat council’s latest policy is to abandon any responsibility for housing.

It wants to sell off all the city’s council housing under New Labour’s privatisation programme. Privatisation and free market policies have also helped to polarise Bradford’s schools.

Bradford briefly became a flagship Thatcherite council in 1988, ruled over by right wing bigot Eric Pickles.

The Tory government, and now New Labour, created a free for all for school places.

That undermined comprehensive education by preventing local authorities from providing a mix of children from different backgrounds and all abilities in schools.

Across England and Wales the result has been two tier education, with poor working class schools on the one hand and better funded schools in better off areas.

The working class Asian population in Bradford are even poorer than their white counterparts. Young Asian men are three times more likely to be unemployed than young white men.

So the class divisions created by attacks on comprehensive education lead to racial divisions. Schools in the poorest areas are largely Asian. It provides the basis for racist myths about Asian pupils pulling down a school’s success. Those myths reinforce the polarisation into mainly white schools on the one hand and mainly Asian ones on the other.

The government is pouring petrol on the fire by increasing the number of Church of England schools. Three new schools are to be built in Bradford on the back of a reorganisation that has closed many others. Two of them are to be Christian and the third Muslim.

There is no funding to create comprehensive schools open to all. And from September of this year the education service in Bradford is due to be in the hands of private company Serco and a quango. Neither of these is democratically accountable to people in the city.

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