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 You are in: Analysis
The Segregation factor
 

By Barnie Choudhury
Social affairs correspondent

Aftermath of Bradford rioting, 2001


What has driven some of the violence that Britain experienced last year in northern towns? What does it say about where some people in ethnic communities see themselves in society?

From the end of May to the middle of July, towns and cities witnessed disturbances the likes of which Britain had not seen in 20 years.

Once the dust had settled, the Home Office believed that more than 1,500 people had taken part in the disorder and some 400 police officers had been injured. Damage to property was put at more than 12m.


Muslims believe they have faced more racial abuse and feel more insecure ... the government knows it has a great deal to do to recapture the hearts and minds of disillusioned youth.
It was clear that the rioting had a distinctively racial aspect, questions began to be asked about the cause.

The government commissioned three independent reports to look at what caused the riots and how they can be avoided in the future.

The reports concluded that racial segregation, social deprivation, lack of political, police, civic and community leadership and the work of the far right were the main reasons.

The reports that followed suggested that segregation of communities had led to isolation, causing fear, misunderstanding and distrust to rise between different communities.

In short, the riots did little for racial integration. And, in some respects, they symbolise the dilemma of acceptance in Britain that many Asians feel.

Community success

Success within a community is hard to define. But under the most obvious criteria of education, employment, wealth and social conditions, there is clear evidence of under achievement among ethnic minorities.

The Department of Education recently reported that ethnic minorities are over represented in higher education institutions, making up 13% of undergraduate students.



Lord Ouseley: Called for new sense of unity
Black people - both of African and Caribbean descent - are disproportionately likely to be mature students, indicating that many may have returned for a second chance of a full education after missing out in earlier years.

When it comes to finding work, only 66% of all ethnic minorities are "economically active" compared to 80% of white people.

BBC News Online's own survey into race in the UK revealed some interesting figures related to personal experiences of seeking work.

One third of black respondents said that they thought they had lost the chance of a job because of racial discrimination. Among Asian respondents the figure was just one point lower at 32%.

The Department of Education report, published before the BBC's major survey, concedes that discrimination cannot be ruled out as a key factor in large differences in employment rates.

Collective experience

According to the latest Labour Force Survey, the official statistical analysis of employment in the UK, only half of Bangladeshi and Pakistani adults who can work have jobs.



Rioting: Hundreds of police deployed.
In Bradford, unemployment rates among these two groups are up to three and a half times higher than among white residents.

These differences in employment fortunes have affected the way the communities within the town have developed to date.

The city's large Asian areas are likely to be more socially deprived and poorer than those of white residents.

For example, in Bradford's University ward. 66.3% of residents are of South Asian origin.

The government uses a complicated but trusted system for calculating social deprivation across the nation's 8,000 electoral wards, the worst-off area being ranked at number one. University ward in Bradford ranks at 104.

According to the Institute for Social and Economic Research, ethnic minorities in Britain are four times more likely to be living in poverty than white people.

So it is against this backdrop of housing segregation, patchy success in schools and low job market expectations that the government began investigating the cause of the riots.

One of the main thrusts of the reports was that Asians thought white people were getting more cash from the local council while white people thought Asians got all the help.

In Oldham and Bradford this false impression bred suspicion.

The suspicion manifests itself in many forms. There is simple racist name-calling by both side. In the case of the towns that we are looking at, this has led to whole scale violence.

Communities become increasingly physically divided as one group or the other chooses to live in their "own" areas. Many streets and housing estates are either purely white or purely Asian and this is reflected in schools.

But this is not just about race. It is also about class.

Lord Ouseley the former Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, makes that point in his report for Bradford City Council.

He said that white and middle class people were fleeing the city, leaving behind "an underclass of relatively poor white people and visible minority ethnic communities."

Crime within communities

Lack of prospects not only leads to disillusionment, it can also lead to crime.

The most recent Home Office figures reveal that South Asians make up around three percent of the prison population.

Between 1990 and 2000, the number of South Asians in prison went up by more than 40% to about 1840.

Workplace success

Research by the Policy Studies Institute concludes that racism is one reason for ethnic minorities becoming self employed.

One way out of this predicament has been for Asians to set up in business for themselves.

For Pakistanis, says the study, running their own business means greater self esteem and greater independence. It also allowed them to perform their religious duties more freely.

But disillusionment has also grown since the terrorist attacks of 11 September.

Muslims believe they have faced more racial abuse and feel more insecure despite supportive measures, such as extra police security around mosques.

The government knows it has a great deal to do to recapture the hearts and minds of disillusioned youth.

Only when Britain really makes them feel they have a stake in society, regardless of race, colour or creed is that likely to happen.

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