Inside outsiders

17th February 1995 at 00:00
Jewish Perspectives on Racism By Dr Edie Friedman Pounds 7.95 The Jewish Council for Racial Equality, 33 Seymour Place, London WIN 6AT

Jews know about racism, as the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz has reminded us over the past few weeks. But like any group, Jews can carry around prejudices and stereotypes too.

Dr Edie Friedman addresses this reality in Jewish Perspectives on Racism, an updated and expanded version of Prejudice by Rabbi Tony Bayfield. Friedman, who is director of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, concerns herself with Jewish children and young people in religious and mainstream schools.

Offering a history of racism in Britain and elsewhere in the world, she masterfully conveys the commonality of racist experience. This is what has happened to us, she shows the reader, and that is what has happened to others, be they Ugandan Asians or West Indians or refugees from Somalia.

Racism is shown to be not only a scourge of the football terraces or dark streets after closing time; it occurs in governments, even democratic ones, gentlemen's clubs, and in our everyday lives.

The interactive component of this book allows students to understand the nature of prejudice. As well as psychological and economic explanations (the pecking order of oppression, displacement, rationalisation), the author offers exercises to reveal the latent prejudices and stereotypes we carry around with us. A factual, multiple choice quiz on minorities in Britain exposes the lies behind popular assumptions - that immigration exceeds emigration, for example. Figures are also revealing: more than half of the 2.4 million black and Asian people living in Britain (5.5 per cent of the population) were born here.

Refugee issues are covered with case studies, role play (imagine you are an airline ground attendant in Karachi and have detected a forged passport being used by a Tamil) and exercises in which students explore what it's like to be the new person or outsider.

The book's effectiveness lies in its mix of interactive, empathetic work with easily digestible facts, case histories and chronologies. While this is a very accessible, powerful resource for Jewish children, teachers may well wish there was a non-denominational version for others. The need is sadly, but definitely, there.

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