chapter  6
27 Pages

Making sense of racism

It is 1950 and you are invited to offer a forecast on the future of race relations in Britain. Figures suggest that migration from the Caribbean and South Asia is rising. Your immediate reaction might be to look for precedents. Over the .centuries, the British Isles have accommodated all manner of persecuted refugees, religious minority groups and an assortment of settlers, including Huguenots, Flems, Jews and Irish. All have been successfully assinlilated or 'absorbed' into the mainstream culture and have become socially indistinguishable. On this evidence, it might have been plausible to speculate on a further assimilation, blacks and South Asians being progressively accepted by British society and, in time, being able to make inroads economically, socially, even politically. This would have been a somewhat roseate view. The reality turned out to be much grinlnler. The presence ofblacks and South Asians in the UK was not at all marked by their progress, but by their lack ofit. "[here have been three 111ain features ofthe UK's black and South Asian population: social and geographical imnlobility; educational underachievenlent; and dislocation from the criminal justice and political systenls. In this chapter we will exanline each of these, closing with an explanation ofwhy the features have proved so resistant to change.