Stoke-on-Trent isn't racist but issues exist, says new report
A REPORT into racism within the Potteries claims that many Asians and Muslims feel they have no choice but to resort to ‘self defence’.
The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) report into Stoke-on-Trent blames the collapse of industry and political and judicial failings for what it says is the breakdown in race relations across the city.
The report’s author Dr Jon Burnett highlights examples of recent racist abuse and violence including racist chanting against former Port Vale player Exodus Geohaghon by his own fans in March last year, an attack on Hackney cab driver Mohammed Sajed in January 2010 and the English Defence League march through the city – and subsequent violence and vandalism –, also in January 2010.
Dr Burnett said: “I never wanted to say Stoke-on-Trent was a racist city and there’s racism embedded here, it isn’t, but at the same time we have to highlight there have been pockets of racist violence and there are issues. The city has suffered from some real inequalities such as the collapse of industry."
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Dr Burnett’s report argues that the roots of racial tensions took hold in the collapse of the city’s traditional industries and widespread unemployment.
The findings are based on analysing 660 racist attacks in the city between 2001 and 2009, interviewing people in ethnic minority groups, studying local and national government documents and speaking with organisations set up to tackle racism.
He says the British National Party (BNP) exploited tensions in the city when it started actively campaigning in the 1990s, while national and local policies from the ruling Labour party had alienated many white voters.
Dr Burnett also claims many ethnic minorities believe they will not be protected by the law, should they suffer racism.
The report says: “It is the presence of the far right which has been the factor forcing Asians and Muslims to resort to self defence, of themselves and their communities.
“Beneath the surface of a carefully cultivated image of thriving community relations, those, whose confidence in the criminal justice system has been eroded, are in their desperation turning to their own forms of resistance against ongoing racist violence.”
Over the past year, Stoke-on-Trent Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) has seen a seven per cent increase in inquiries relating to racism, discrimination and hatred towards minority groups – with 292 inquiries.
Jude Hawes, of the CAB, said: “While we are concerned that these figures suggest that hate crime is increasing in North Staffordshire, we are pleased more and more people feel able to report such incidents.”
Stoke-on-Trent City Council disputes the claims made in the report which were discussed at a meeting last night.
Councillor Olwen Hamer, the city council’s cabinet member for equality and diversity, said: “We do not agree that racism is widespread in our city but like many cities we do recognise it exists and needs to be robustly tackled. We strongly believe any hate crime is deplorable and will not be tolerated by us or the police.”