Skip to main content

Multicultural cant keeps whites in power

Whatever happened to joined-up government? Does new Labour ever think through its policies and actions? Earlier this month, Peter Hain, the Europe minister, said:"We need to work much harder to integrate Muslims ... with the rest of society... there is a tendency amongst a minority to isolate themselves."

If this is so, can someone explain to me why ministers seem determined to set up more "faith" schools, where children of different denominations can remain isolated from one another? Why do we have a system that makes it all too easy for white parents to keep their children away from blacks and Asians?

The race issue is wrapped up in vast amounts of hypocrisy. I do not doubt Hain's sincere commitment to anti-racism and I admired his long fight against apartheid. But I fear his comments on Muslims are an example of blaming the victims. If ethnic minorities "isolate" themselves, it is because white house owners, white estate agents and white landlords long conspired to keep them out of white housing areas. If they sometimes run their own small businesses, employing and serving other members of their minority, it is because in the past they often found it difficult to get employment or custom from whites. If they play in their own cricket and football clubs it is because the white clubs were reluctant to admit them. And if Muslims now want their own schools, it is because they find it hard to gain admittance to what they, like other parents, perceive as the best state schools.

If ministers are so keen on integration, what proposals do they have to achieve a better racial (and social) mix in schools?

If David Blunkett is concerned about the children of asylum-seekers "swamping" a small number of schools, does he have ideas about how it could be arranged for more of them to attend the posher schools? Like the London Oratory perhaps? But we could not possibly consider bussing children around our big cities for the sake of racial integration; bussing is the exclusive privilege of members of the white middle-classes, such as the Blairs, and we accept it only when it allows parents to gain competitive advantage for their children.

We shall no doubt hear lots of waffle about multi-culturalism. But will lessons about Sikh gurus and Hindu gods or about how the Arabs invented maths really make us a non-racist society? Not, while a black graduate has significantly less chance of a job than a white peer.

The more racist the society or the institution, the more fuss there is about multi-culturalism and correct language. The United States, where blacks still suffer appalling discrimination, and where one in three young black people serves a spell in prison, is the most scrupulous country in the world in avoiding racially or culturally offensive terminology, particularly in schools, universities and media. There the police - notorious for treating most blacks as potential criminals - lead the way in political correctness; as the Police Federation conference heard recently, officers are advised not to talk of "the nitty-gritty" because it originally referred to the debris left at the bottom of a slave-ship after a voyage.

Multi-culturalism is fine and dandy, but it does not challenge the power structures that keep black men and women out of jobs, black teenagers out of universities (and inside prisons) and black children out of favoured schools. And neither Peter Hain nor any other new Labour minister, I venture, would dare to challenge those structures.

Peter Wilby is editor of the New Statesman.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you