Racial murders: nearly half the victims are white
Home Office release official figures as police claim that political correctness is stifling the debate
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* Antony Barnett, investigations editor
* The Observer, Sunday 22 October 2006
Nearly half of all victims of racially motivated murders in the last decade have been white, according to official figures released by the Home Office.
The data, released under Freedom of Information legislation, shows that between 1995 and 2004 there have been 58 murders where the police consider a racial element played a key part. Out of these, 24 have been where the murder victim was white.
The disclosure will add to the intense debate over multiculturalism in British society. The figures also overturn the assumption that almost all racial murders are committed against ethnic minority victims.
Senior police officers have admitted that 'political correctness' and the fear of discussing the issue have meant that race crime against white people goes under-reported. One chief constable has claimed that white, working-class men are more alienated than the Muslim community.
Peter Fahy, the Chief Constable of Cheshire and a spokesman on race issues for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said it was a fact that it was harder to get the media interested where murder victims were young white men.
'The political correctness and reluctance to discuss these things absolutely does play a factor', he said. 'A lot of police officers and other professions feel almost the best thing to do is try and avoid it for fear of being criticised. We probably have all got ourselves into a bit of state about this.
'The difficulty in the police service is that the whole thing is being closed down because we are all afraid of discussing any of it in case we say the wrong thing - and that is not healthy.'
Racial violence in Britain has become the subject of intense scrutiny since the public inquiry in 1999 into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. Most of the high-profile cases of hate crime have been focused on young blacks, including Damilola Taylor and more recently Anthony Walker, who was murdered with an axe at a Liverpool bus stop by white youths.
Yet these latest official figures give the most complete picture of racially motivated murders in the UK, revealing the situation to be much more complex. In March 2004 a white Scottish teenager, Kriss Donald, was bundled into a car while walking in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow. He was later beaten, stabbed 13 times, and set on fire. British Pakistani Daanish Zahid was found guilty by unanimous verdict of the charges of racially aggravated murder.
In the same year Christopher Yates, 30, a white man, was beaten to death in an assault by a group of drunken Asian youths as he walked home in Barking, east London.
Politicians and the authorities often face difficulty in raising the issue of racial attacks on white victims for fear that far-right extremists will try to exploit such events to stir up racial tensions.
Fahy also warned of caution in over-interpreting the figures. He said that the 24 white victims also included those who were Jewish, 'dark-skinned' Europeans or gypsies. In addition, seven of those were killed by white attackers, four by black, six by Asian, with seven whose racial background was not identified.
Police have suggested that some white-on-white killings may be a result of attacks between Scots, English, Irish and Welsh people.
Overall, there have been 10 black victims and 16 Asian victims. Of the 58 race murders, 18 have been where a white attacker has killed a black or Asian individual and another 14 where one member of a minority group has murdered another for racial reasons.
'This shows the complex society we are policing,' said Fahy.
'I will be honest with some of this discussion about the alienation of Muslim people. Police officers would tell you there are a lot of young people out there who feel alienated.
'There are a lot of young white working-class lads, particularly on the more difficult estates, who are hugely alienated. Yet very little attention is given to that.
'Sometimes we forget that ethnic minorities actually make up quite a small percentage of the population.'
Three years ago Phil Woolas, MP for the Oldham East and Saddleworth constituency, who is now Minister for Community Cohesion, said 'political correctness' was stopping racism against white people from being condemned. As a result, he said, attacks on whites by black and Asian people are not criticised by politicians and could harm race relations in Britain.
This weekend Woolas refused to comment, but a spokesman for the Department for Local Communities and Government said: 'Racially motivated crime is wholly abhorrent, whatever the background of the victim.
'This government has worked hard to improve the investigation and prosecution of these crimes across all ethnic groups.'
In 1999 the Commission for Racial Equality published a report that concluded that most racial crimes were committed against white people, although it pointed out that at the time white people made up 94 per cent of the population and that, proportionally, black and Asian people were still far more likely to be victims of race attacks.
The report suggested that white people might also be more likely to report a crime such as a street robbery carried out by a black person as a racial incident.
A spokeswoman for the CRE said the Home Office figures raised some interesting issues but she did not want to comment further until the data could be properly analysed.
THE MAJORITY of victims of racial attacks are white, according to a report to be released next week by race relations watchdogs.
The disclosure, days before the release of the findings of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, will provoke intense debate over Britain's future direction as a multicultural society.
The Commission for Racial Equality, which has produced the report, called for detailed government research into the nature of racist attacks on white people.
CRE chairman Sir Herman Ouseley said: "It would be irresponsible for us to not try to take this on head-on and understand it better."
He said: "It's absolutely clear in our view that you can be black and racist. Clearly the evidence we have shows that this is not just a white problem."
The CRE report, called Racial Attacks and Harassment, records that 238,000 white people told researchers they had been victims of a racial offence in a 12-month period, compared to 101,000 Asians and 42,000 blacks.
Race experts believe that many of the white victims could be Jewish, Irish or from other European minorities.
Other incidents result from tensions between the English, Welsh and Scottish, which are increasingly seen as racial.
It also believed that some white victims of crimes such as street-robberies, where a disproportionate number of offenders are black, are reporting the incidents as race attacks.
Sir Herman said that the "white" category was "very broad" and that it did not necessarily follow that a white victim had been racially abused or attacked by someone of a different skin colour.
He said: "It is easy to put interpretations which are not accurate onto figures, and at the moment the figures are a bit too bald."
The CRE report, which draws on a wide range of government and academic research studies, comes as local authorities across England and Wales are conducting audits of race attacks.
Bradford Metropolitan District Council reported last month that police records of racial attacks showed that 52 per cent of victims were white, 9 per cent black and 35 per cent Asian. Suspects were described as 50 per cent Asian, 37 per cent white, 2 per cent black and 11 per cent unknown.
The CRE report points out that, because of their smaller numbers, members of minority ethnic groups are still far more likely to be victims of racial attacks than whites.
Some 8 per cent of Pakistanis reported being victims in a year, compared to 5 per cent of Indians, 4 per cent of Caribbeans and 1 per cent of whites.
The CRE report coincides with findings published today by the Institute for Public Policy Research showing that, as Britain has become more multiracial, parts of the white population have grown defensive and insecure.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, author of the IPPR study, states: "Increasingly, white people of all classes are feeling deep anxieties about the loss of white identity as we go into the next century and into further integration with Europe."
IPPR research in the inner London district of Somers Town, found the five most common words used by whites to describe neighbouring Asians were "scroungers", "dirty", "animals", "pigs", and "not British".
In response to such attitudes, eight young Asian men told the IPPR that they "would retaliate with physical force if they were provoked" and that they "hated these whites". Five said they had attacked white boys and would do so again.
Even in the more affluent London borough of Richmond and Hounslow, researchers found that "some black and Asian families had developed a hatred for white people".
Partly as a result of this, some whites now say they have been victims of racial offences.
But other white victims will be Irish, Jewish, gypsies and travellers, English settlers in Scotland, and Scottish settlers in England. Dane Kim Stevns-borg came to live in England because he was so impressed by the hospitality he received as a visiting football supporter during the Euro 96 tournament.
But in October he took his Sheffield employer to court for racial discrimination after his supervisor repeatedly referred to him as a "Danish bastard".
A report next week by the Refugee Council will show that the latest people to be targeted by racists in Britain are newly-arrived Kosovan refugees.
Rachel Rees, of the Refugee Council, said many Kosovans in Dover are too frightened to speak publicly in their native language in case they are attacked by racists. One elderly couple were forced to flee their home after a brick was thrown through their window.
Meanwhile the IPPR study reveals evidence of discord between some members of different Asian communities.
The research indicates that Britain is following America's path towards a more segmented society. Ms Alibhai-Brown said years of government inaction had inhibited integration and called for a national strategy of multiculturalism to bring the British public closer together.