All White Is Still All Right
Yesterday the news was dominated by some mildly injudicious remarks about the economy by a junior Minister.
The big story of the day was almost totally ignored by all media: a BBC West documentary had uncovered racial discrimination in the employment and accommodation sectors on a truly massive scale.
Of 30 employment agencies, all but five agreed to send only white workers for the job. It was all done with a nod and a wink of course, and often an acknowledgement that it wasn't allowed. But they still agreed to break the law. As one woman charmingly put it, she would just send "normal people", i.e., white people.
The figure was less for letting agencies but, even so, more than half (17) out of 30 agreed not to send non-white tenants to view properties.
I've sometimes wondered if I'm guilty of exaggeration in asserting that racism remains deeply-rooted and endemic in our society. But this research (admittedly small-scale and unscientific) does seem to confirm my belief that the political establishment are hopelessly out of touch when they say that racism is a minority problem and that Britain today is a "tolerant" society.
Similar discrimination is found in the B & B and Guest House sector. The laws of 30 years ago removed the 'No Blacks' signs from windows but the discrimination just became covert.
I laughed at the recent rumpus over guest houses being forced to accept gay couples (assuming they could identify them) because they could simply do what they do with blacks - say they are fully-booked. It's incredibly difficult to prove discrimination. If a white a person is offered a room just a few minutes after a black person was refused, the owner simply says they'd just had a phone call cancelling a booking. You have to show a pattern of refusals over a period of time in order to bring a prosecution.
I knew of a guest house owner who always demanded to know the race of prospective clients. If challenged, she would say this was so that she could buy in the appropriate ethnic food to make them feel at home which seemed to show her in a good light. In reality, it was so that she could say 'no room at the inn.'
Can anyone deny that the BBC's findings are vastly more important than Prince Harry privately calling a colleague a 'Paki'?
The only way to reduce the scale of discrimination is to use the equivalent of 'mystery shoppers' to expose it and bring prosecutions. It wouldn't change the underlying attitudes but it might force compliance with the law when word of court cases went round the employment agencies, letting agencies and other sectors.
Link to programme website: