22 SEPTEMBER 2007, Page 16

A fond farewell to the Commission for Racial Equality

Rod Liddle says that the CRE, now being merged into a super-commission, never grasped that the disparities between ethnic communities reflect cultural forces within them Le ss a rage against the dying of the light, more a prolonged, highpitched whine of complaint and self-justification, the sound of a swarm of badly earthed strimmers, heard from a distance on an early autumn morning. The Commission for Racial Equality has issued its valedictory press release before its duties are acquired by the Commission for Equality and Human Rights next month. The new organisation, headed by Trevor Phillips, will co-ordinate all manner of whining on behalf of absolutely anybody who considers himor herself to be oppressed and victimised and discriminated against by the vindictive white male hegemony. Good luck to it.

The CRE, meanwhile, has left us with a threat that 15 government departments may be taken to court — at our expense, presumably — because they haven't checked the precise ethnic origin of everyone who works for them. There is no suggestion that the departments have discriminated against British Caribbeans, or British Bangladeshis, or British Static Travellers (yes, there really is that wonderful category); merely that they haven't yet asked everyone if they're properly and nicely white or not. The crime is one of 'non-compliance'. And along with that, the report churns out the usual stuff about how Britain is ever more segregated, socially and in the workplace, and that extremism 'both political and religious' is on the rise. To which we might say: well, yep — and whose fault is that, then?

For the first 25 years of its 31-year existence, the CRE was cheerfully wedded to the notion of multiculturalism, wherein Britain's disparate communities were encouraged to remain apart and preserve their own cultural values, which were every bit as valid, in a very real sense, as those of the indigenous white majority. At the same time, of course, white working-class communities were urged not to remain apart, but to embrace change, or risk being called racist. It was only with the arrival of Trevor Phillips at the CRE (and coincidentally, the growing suspicion that quite a few members of the Muslim community weren't entirely on board with this old democracy, equal rights for women business) that this uniquely damaging policy was, almost overnight, reversed. The imperative now is for everyone to integrate, smile politely, and try to share in their collective vision of what society should be like. But having promulgated precisely the opposite view for the last quarter of a century, it seems a bit rich of the CRE to blame the rest of us for having allowed segregation to occur.

However, let us move on to the end of their report, which, while it concedes that we no longer have signs up on boarding houses saying 'No Blacks, No Dogs, No Static Travellers', there is still great inequality. An ethnic minority baby born today is sadly still more likely to go on to receive poor quality education, be paid less, live in sub-standard housing, be in poorer health and be discriminated against in other ways than his or her white contemporary,' the report concludes. Well, forget the tortuous construction for a moment: is this true? And if so, is it as a result of vindictive racist discrimination by the white economic elite?

The evidence would seem to suggest precisely the opposite.

A Chinese baby born today, for example, would be much, much more likely to grow up to be better paid than his or her white contemporary. And also likely to receive a better education and live in a nicer home. The latest figures available suggest that 77 per cent of Chinese girls and 72 per cent of Chinese boys receive five or more A-levels at C grade or above — way ahead of the figure for occidental boys and girls. They are also less likely (as you might expect) to end up doing manual work and have the highest proportion of any ethnic grouping for attendance at university. Except, I should add, for the smaller 'East Asian' community, whose performance outstrips not only the indigenous whites, but even their Chinese cousins. If I can use the word cousins in its colloquial sense.

That's not all. A child born to an Indian family today can expect, on average, almost precisely the same educational achievements, housing, employment and good or bad health as his or her white counterparts. Meanwhile, Pakistani kids do slightly worse, on average, than their white counterparts but are more likely to end up self-employed and less likely to be found doing menial work. Black African girls are likely to do rather better out of the education system than white British boys; they are also slightly more likely to get a job requiring qualifications than either white boys or white girls. A child born to any one of the following ethnic minority groups is far more likely than a white British child to get a job in the top managerial and professional class: Indian, Chinese, East Asian, Irish. A boy born to a white British working-class family will do worse at school than every ethnic minority other than those from the Caribbean, Bangladeshi and travelling communities (static, or the more usual kind of traveller, those who like to move about every now and again).

That brief summary of statistics may have bored you rigid; it is, I suppose, another manifestation of our continual and, I reckon, injurious obsession with race. But it does at least suggest that the CRE report is wrong not merely in substance — that ethnic minority kids are more likely to do worse in life than white kids — but also in its analysis of the problem. If, for example, black African girls do rather well at school, better than white boys, and British Caribbean boys do less well, it suggests that either teachers or the education system are very discriminating about their discrimination, to a quite unbelievable degree, or that something else must be at work here. Similarly, is it likely that the white hegemony, in the form of those who run the economic system and our schools and our property markets, decide that Indians should be given a fair crack of the whip while Pakistanis should be left to stew in their own juices — and fail. Why is it that the Chinese and East Asians do so well out of life in Britain? The logic of the CRE must surely be that if negative discrimination places one ethnic group at the bottom of the pile, it must surely follow that those at the top have experienced positive discrimination — and what's more, at the expense of our good old indigenous white British community. Is that likely? None of it stacks up.

The argument that discrimination on the part of a predominantly white society is to blame for the underachievement of one or another ethnic group no longer has the remotest basis in fact. If there are disparities in achievement between the various ethnic communities in this country it is solely down to the cultural forces at work within those communities. Chinese kids do well at school because the Chinese community places a very high value upon education. Caribbean boys do very badly at school because of a corrosively macho anti-educationalist ethos among Caribbean boys, which is gradually transmitting itself to white boys. This is something Trevor Phillips — and other black community leaders — have recognised in the past.

The CRE's problem is that it was set up to counter white discrimination against ethnic minorities and it cannot drag itself away from that now long redundant and counterproductive state of mind. It persists in seeing our various minority ethnic communities as a sort of weird, undifferentiated morass of oppressed people — defined, politically, by their deeply regrettable lack of whiteness. It is, to my mind, a racist assumption — but also patently false. A Chinese girl growing up in Manchester has far less in common with a Bangladeshi girl growing up in Tower Hamlets than she does with a white girl growing up pretty much anywhere. The Bangladeshi girl is about as likely to go to university as a Jewish girl is likely to end up in a pie factory in Melton Mowbray, because of the cultural imperatives of the community from which she originates. And the CRE still assumes — as is clear from that bone-headed conclusion to its report — that our ethnic minorities are equally persecuted and discriminated against and that the guilty party is the white majority. One supposes that it takes this demonstrably erroneous view because otherwise it would have no reason to exist — but then, having said that, it is about not to exist, so one might have hoped for a moment of clarity and perspective to have emerged from its death throes. But no such luck.