Ghettoisation is widely blamed for the simmering racial unrest in Oldham and Bradford. Yet, astonishingly some 'anti-racists' argue racial separatism is the solution. A. Shaw investigates.
To anyone who has grown up in Britain in the last 30 years the word 'discrimination' is a familiar one. In the '70's it was commonly associated with the Special Patrol Group, the rise of the NF, and eccentrics like Robert Relf who went to jail, and then on hunger strike, rather than be faced with having to sell his house to a black family.
While today large parts of the urban landscape are racially integrated it is still not to everyone's liking. And because the nature of racism has mutated; less 'in your face', with even the BNP employing more select language, to therefore read of a call for a return to 'racially segregated housing' comes as something of a shock. All the more so, when it is discovered that the author is not some obscure, academic, right-wing crack pot, but the chair of a Lottery-funded tenant advisory housing body called the Tenants Participation Advisory Service (TPAS).
In a speech to an Amsterdam conference at the beginning of February, Parmjit Uppal insisted that as well developing strong bonds of "mutual aid and self help, segregation also means sustainable communities, family, cultural and friendship ties [which] should all be valued in the housing allocation policies." In elaborating on the persistent 'discrimination' against Asian families which justified such a scenario, she drew particular attention to the fact that "Asian applicants were being denied the opportunity for Council housing on similar terms to other applicants". This, it turned out, proved necessary because local authorities imposed a 'general rule' whereby owner occupiers are refused access to social rented housing. And even when applied to everyone, black and white, it proved "particularly discriminatory against Asians who are more likely to be owner occupiers than other ethnic groups". Mainly because as Parmjit Uppal explains: "discrimination in housing has led Asian people to buy their own properties as they do not want to live on council estates, which are hostile environments, too white and too rough."
As if that wasn't sufficiently discriminatory, the speech also drew attention to the fact that the "size of housing [on offer] disenfranchises black communities because it is based on the need of white families." What are needed, it is urged, are more racially segregated housing associations to "provide culturally sensitive services and culturally appropriate housing in terms of number of bedrooms, two living rooms to allow, say, separation of sexes where appropriate and shower facilities." Put another way, the discrimination complained of is not that ethnic minorities were being offered different housing conditions, rather the objection is that they were subject to the same conditions as everyone else.
It is also impossible not to detect within this 'special pleading' the inference that sometimes squalid overcrowding in many estates adequately 'meets the needs' or are, in any case, good enough for 'rough white families'.
Previously in this publication we have flagged the glaring contradiction between the acceptance of basic anti-racism, which demands everyone be treated the same and the hidden dangers of a multicultural ethos, which as the logic of the TPAS chair graphically illustrates, demands that everyone be treated differently. While the former tends toward the socialising of racial issues, multiculturalism sets its face against such an objective by racialising social issues like housing as determinedly as the Far-Right. Anti-racism is designed to take race out of the equation, racial separatism designed to put it in. You can choose either one or the other. While it could be possible to still see merit in either strategy, as the TPAS speech illustrates, it is not possible any longer, to sincerely see merit in both.
Reproduced from RA vol 4, Issue 11, May/June '01