RACE AND CULTURE: Whites need not apply

Leo McKinstry says that racial difference has been elevated into a system of governance

Text settings

The ideology of multiculturalism is theoretically meant to build a more tolerant, inclusive Britain. But in practice it is a deeply racist concept, one that judges people by their ethnic origin and thereby promotes division in our society. The very basis of multiculturalism is a contradiction of the democratic principle that everyone should be treated equally, regardless of their background or skin colour. Through its obsession with racial identity, this pernicious creed actually encourages discrimination.

The first anti-racism campaigners in Britain fought for equality, demanding government action to combat overt racial prejudice in employment and the provision of public services, especially housing. But since the early 1980s the agenda of anti-racism has changed. The goal is no longer equality but the very opposite: the institutional recognition of racial separation.

Two decades ago multiculturalism was the preserve of the extreme Left in local government and Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Council. Everything from the recruitment of staff to the award of grants was driven by ethnic considerations. Tragically, what was once on the municipal fringe is now part of the political mainstream. In the name of celebrating diversity, we now have a civic culture that has elevated racial difference into a system of governance. Right across the British state, institutions are driven by a concern to address the competing demands of different ethnic groups. And in the process any ideas of fair treatment and equal access have been lost.

In the publicly funded arts, for instance, ethnicity is now a key factor in the making of grants. Almost 10 per cent of bodies subsidised by the Arts Council describe themselves as black or ethnic minority organisations. ‘British culture is not a single entity; we should rightly speak of British cultures,’ says the Arts Council. So Kala Sangham, the Bradford-based Asian arts company, received £1.5 million to establish a new centre of excellence for South Asian arts. Similarly £2.75 million is earmarked for the East Midlands African–Caribbean Arts and Apna Arts to build a black arts centre in Nottingham.

Individuals can benefit too. There is now an explicitly discriminatory book prize for the black or Asian writer of the year, presided over by the Arts Council. At theatres in Birmingham, Ipswich and Manchester, the posts of writer-in-residence are reserved for ‘blacks and Asians’ while, in the name of ‘positive action’, the Nottingham Playhouse, Manchester Royal Exchange and West Yorkshire Playhouse have recruited three black directors.

In the same vein, a bursary of £30,000 was recently given to the Nottingham visual artist Hetain Patel, as part of the Decibel diversity programme, ‘a national initiative to raise the profile of artists who are from African, Asian or Caribbean backgrounds’. Taxpayers will be pleased to know the vital purpose to which this cash will be put. Mr Patel decorates his body with materials such as henna and kanku paste, which are used in traditional Hindu ceremonies. His work is said to ‘demonstrate the displacement of Indian culture throughout the UK’.

Anyone suspected of not fully embracing cultural diversity is threatened with an axe. Earlier this year, the Lake District National Authority sought to drop its guided walks organised by volunteer rangers because the participants were ‘too white and middle-class’, while a mountain rescue team in the Pennines and an RNLI crew on the Severn were reportedly both turned down for lottery funding because they did not do enough to help the disabled and ethnic minorities.

Yet there is not a murmur of protest at the open racial bias towards blacks and Asians which is now routine across the public sector. In the Metropolitan Police, applications from ethnic minorities are prioritised, which means that white male recruits may have to wait three years before being interviewed. One of the ingenious ways the Met has avoided breaking the law in respect of direct racial discrimination is by introducing new criteria to fast-track applicants, including the ability to speak a second language and ‘knowledge or experience of a community group’.

Ethnic favouritism is also rife at the BBC, where cultural diversity has become a corporate fixation. One BBC manager admits, ‘I had a guy write to me the other day asking for advice on how to start a career at the BBC; he had studied at a red-brick university and done a postgraduate course at City University. I told him to forget about trying the BBC; as a middle-class Anglo-Saxon male you’ve got no chance.’ Even some of the ethnic minorities can feel aggrieved by this approach. Anvar Khan, a freelance presenter, has said, ‘No self-respecting black or Asian person wants to be pushed ahead because of their colour. It’s patronising. If anything, I think the BBC’s push to recruit and promote ethnic minorities will mean that the really bright black and Asian people will leave the BBC to go and work for companies where people don’t assume they’ve made it because of their colour.’

Every area of public life is riddled with discrimination and segregation masquerading as ‘positive action’. Social housing is racially divided, with more than 140 black and ethnic minority housing associations trumpeting their services to non-white clients. Apart from the police, many other recruitment campaigns work openly in favour of ethnic minorities. The Museums’ Association annually offers ten traineeships and two bursaries to ethnic minority graduates to work in the museum sector. The National Archives is now advertising a ten-month ‘Positive Action Internship’ worth £15,300 to ‘individuals of African, African–Caribbean, Asian or Chinese descent’. The Inland Revenue and Civil Service are following the same route, providing specialised work-experience placements for ethnic minority students, while Birmingham City Council offers traineeships worth £16,000 a year for ‘black and minority ethnic individuals’.

So-called ‘cultural awareness’ has also led to racial fragmentation in healthcare, education and social services. The machine of state is now awash with specialised outfits such as the Drug Action Team for the Bangledeshi and Somali communities in Tower Hamlets, or the Black African and Caribbean Mental Health Consortium in Brent, which is presently recruiting an office manager. ‘All applicants must be of black African/Caribbean origin,’ states the advertisement. Similarly the Leicestershire Community Projects Trust is seeking an Asian Drugs Worker, for which ‘a high level of cultural sensitivity and fluency in at least one South Asian language is essential’. And the Aids organisation the Terrence Higgins Trust is searching for a £29,000-a-year Senior Black Gay Men’s Officer.

Nowhere is free from such divisions. In childcare, the government recently announced that it wanted to see all pre-nursery provision ‘responsive to the needs of local black and minority ethnic families’ through the purchase of ‘culturally sensitive toys, books and resources for staff’. In Bristol there is the Kuumba community resource centre, which provides a black arts programme, the Jumoke nursery ‘in a culturally sensitive environment’, the Bwerani multicultural and inclusive play centre, and the Sankore Afrikan Caribbean lending library.

In a typical piece of multicultural nonsense, Ken Livingstone’s adviser on race policy, Lee Jasper — who has advocated the creation of black-only schools — says that ‘you have to treat people differently in order to treat them equally’. But this relentless focus on difference is only breeding grievance, resentm ent and social dislocation. Where racial identity lies at the centre of public policy, there can be no sense of shared belonging, no spirit of national unity. Urban Britain is in danger of becoming nothing more than a landmass inhabited by competing ethnicities.