JUST Yorkshire expresses deep disappointment at the outcome of the Casey Review because it believes that it unfairly stigmatises ethnic minority communities for the so-called failure of integration. In overlooking the failure of successive governments to tackle deep-rooted inequalities that disproportionately impact on ethnic minorities and white working class people, the Review is unlikely to address the real barriers to integration.
The 2011 Census clearly challenges the view of BME communities living segregated lives as the data clearly highlights that nearly 1 in 10 people in England and Wales or 2.3 million people are living as a couple, in an inter-ethnic relationship. In percentage terms only 4% of the White population live in a mixed relationship, whilst the figures for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, purportedly the least integrated communities in Casey’s Report, is 9% and 7% respectively. In all other ethnic minority categories the figures show a marked increase – Indian 12%, Chinese 31%, Other Asian 32%, African 22%, Caribbean 43% and Other Black 62%.
The Review’s tendency to censure minority groups who live in close proximity to each other as segregated communities plays into the divisive rhetoric that has come to characterise the integration debate. The reality is that compared to ethnic minorities, proportionately the majority of White Britons live in mono-cultural enclaves and send their children to White-majority schools. The Review fails to address the issue of white flight which has led to much of inner-city Britain being abandoned by white residents. Critically it fails to acknowledge the lack of integration of a wealthy tax-avoiding elite isolated from the rest of us in their penthouses, gated communities and tax-haven retreats. Dame Casey’s failure to attribute joint responsibility for cohesion and integration on both White and ethnic minority communities is a major shortcoming of her Review.
The Review also fails to acknowledge the existence of ‘white’ populist xenophobia and racism within British society. The recent 41% spike in hate crimes against the backdrop of a virulent anti-immigrant EU Referendum campaign, highlights a country that is not only ill at ease with its multi-cultural identity but continues to perceive ethnic minorities as the ‘other’. The Review also fails to properly acknowledge the contribution of migrants to the UK over the decades and the critical role they play in sustaining the UK economy.
The Review’s tendency to view ethnic minorities and particularly Muslims as a problem is hardly surprising. The Review was set up with a clear brief to address the issue of integration as part of the Cameron government’s efforts to tackle extremism. The conflation of extremism with integration is misguided as it labels all ethnic minorities as potential suspect communities. It also negates the fact that many of the extremists were well integrated into British society – they had generational roots; were educated and proficient in English; they worked alongside white colleagues and were as likely to live in affluent rural and suburban areas as they were in the inner-cities.
Ultimately the Review’s failure to be even-handed in addressing the multiple barriers to integration is its major shortcoming. For instance, it fails to implicate government ministers for their role in inciting community division. The toxic narrative used by government ministers during the Brexit debate; the stoking of a climate of Islamaphobia in the London Mayoral elections and in the government’s so-called ‘war on terror’; the vilification of asylum seekers in its ‘Go Home’ campaign, demonstrates a failure of leadership and compassion at the very heart of government, particularly if it is to be believed that it wants to create an inclusive society.
We believe that the Review fails to offer constructive and pragmatic solutions to what it deems to be problems of integration. In particular, the Review’s assumption that taking an oath of integration and teaching school children British values will promote integration is naïve and misconceived. Indeed, this begs the question of what counts as British values – given that hate crimes have been a feature of British life, given that successive governments have consistently deployed the toxic narrative of the ethnic minority ‘other’, it is pertinent to ask whether intolerance, racism and xenophobia are also core British ‘values’ – and if they are not, then perhaps we should also require government Ministers to take an inclusivity oath promising to abstain from divisive ‘dog-whistle’ rhetoric.
The Review’s prescription of English proficiency as the antidote to what it terms ‘regressive practices’ within Muslim communities misses the point altogether. Firstly, it tars all Muslims as potential misogynists and patriarchs and secondly it fails to recognise that the problem is not one of integration but gender inequality. Even if one did accept the Review’s presumption that gender equality offers a route to integration, the government has singularly failed to address the issue. There has been limited investment in gender equality work; the Equalities legislation which upholds the rights of women and ethnic minorities has been steadily undermined; and funding for English language classes has been pared to the bone.
The Casey Review notably identifies Yorkshire as a region that presents particular challenges. In places like Bradford, the Review highlights the prevalence of transnational marriages among South Asian communities as posing major barriers to integration. It cites a cohort study at the Bradford Royal Infirmary, where 80% of babies of Pakistani ethnicity in the area were recorded as having at least one parent born outside the UK who are not in education or employment. If the inference is that transnational marriages leads to poor academic performance and the constriction of future opportunities, then the data has to be rigorously assessed against the performance of families who marry British citizens. Critically if a link can be ascertained, then it is imperative that OFSTED, local educational authorities and independent educational providers target resources, teachers and support to areas of need. If the generational disadvantage that has led to poor educational performance among ethnic minority children (and white inner-city children) is to be reversed, we clearly need to explore innovative models that enable schools, pupils and their families to work collaboratively.
In relation to Sheffield, the Review highlights that around 6,000 Roma and other Eastern European people now reside in Sheffield, predominantly in the Page Hall area of the city. The Review blames such migration trends for increasing pressure on schools and public services. Other cities around Yorkshire, particularly where property is cheap, have also seen an increase in EU migrants and asylum seekers. It is clear that if integration is a government priority, then the May government needs to not only urgently reverse the scrapping of the Migration Impact Fund, in fact it needs to boost funding so that local governments can constructively respond to the challenges of rapid migration, particularly in inner-city areas.
The Review highlights a higher employment gap between White and ethnic minority people living in Yorkshire compared to the South East of England. The figure is starkest in Bradford where the White employment rate is 70.6%, compared to 47.7% for ethnic minorities. We believe that these figures get much worse when comparing employment in the public sector, not just in predominantly white areas but equally in areas with significant ethnic minorities. It is clear that the ethnic employment penalty is disadvantaging Yorkshire’s ethnic minority communities. If the Casey Review is serious about creating the conditions for integration, then it is imperative that recruitment, employment and retention policies have race equality at the heart of both public sector and corporate culture underpinned by a robust equalities legislation and a well-resourced Equalities Commission with an independent scrutiny brief.
The Review clearly identifies the disaffection and alienation among many white working class communities’ in former mill towns in the north of England and in areas where heavy industries have declined as posing significant barriers to integration. It is clear that in these areas the problem of white populist driven racism has to be acknowledged in stoking community divides. Critically the failure of successive governments to address the economic abandonment of inner-city Britain, particularly in the North of England, poses an even greater challenge to integration than communities living segregated lives. The Casey Review would have been taken seriously had it recommended major government investment in kick-starting regional economies and rolling back the disproportionate burden of austerity that many of the poorest councils in the North are carrying.
JUST believes that in the light of the Casey Review it is time for regional MPs to step out of their Westminster bubble and demand investment in a transport and economic infrastructure for Yorkshire and the North. Until the debate on integration stops the blame culture and begins to look at the multiple factors that contribute to community divides, it is likely that the Casey Review – like many of its predecessor reports – will end up gathering dust on Westminster bookshelves.
Ratna Lachman and Nadeem Murtuja
Shortly afterwards Nadeem Murtuja was interviewed by Sunday Politics.