‘Let’s have an open and honest discussion about white people’

Gary Younge“Any candid discussion of race, immigration and asylum that was not racist would not just acknowledge fear and prejudice but challenge them both. Since ministers are not able to do that about ethnic minorities, maybe they should start off with a subject with which they are more familiar. Let’s have an open and honest discussion about white people.

“Let’s start by talking about how they don’t want to integrate. The stubborn rump of around 10% of whites who, according to a 2002 Mori poll, are hostile to racial equality and antagonistic to the very existence of non-white people in this country. Given a percentage point either way, that is the consistent figure who believe that to be truly British you must be white and who do not believe it is important to respect the rights of minority groups.

“Let’s discuss their inability to choose moderate leaders and the propensity of the leaders they do choose to murder innocent civilians abroad by their thousands. Let’s analyse their vulnerability to extremists such as the British National party, not to mention elsewhere in Europe, where fascism is once again a mainstream ideology.

“Let’s talk about the religious intolerance that rages in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and can be found in the highest levels of the state, where only Protestants can marry into royalty. And let’s not forget the terrorists white people have been rearing at home for years, whether they are bombing Brick Lane, parliament or shopping centres in Manchester, and the no-go areas in housing estates, football terraces and boardrooms.

“Only then perhaps will it become sufficiently apparent for those with insufficient imagination just how crude and crass the framing of the debate about Muslims has been. Any group of people will rightly bristle at the demand to answer collectively for the acts of individuals with whom they share an identity but over whom they have no control.

“The tolerant, secular, liberal society into which Muslims are being asked to integrate lies somewhere between mythology and a work in progress and, the responsibility for transforming it into a lived reality lies with all of us.”

Gary Younge in the Guardian, 2 October 2006