Trevor Phillips has been accused of holding “misguided and dangerous” views about race after suggesting that multiculturalism in the UK has become a “racket” which discourages proper integration.
In a newspaper article, the former head of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) said politicians and the media had become “terrified” of discussing race issues in case they were accused of bigotry.
He cited child sex abuse scandals in several UK towns including Oxford, Rotherham and Rochdale and the murder in 2000 of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie as examples of institutions failing to act for fear of offending minority groups.
“The perverse and unintended consequences of our drive to instil respect for diversity is that our political and media classes have become terrified of discussing racial or religious differences,” Mr Phillips wrote in the Daily Mail. “Our desperation to avoid offence is itself beginning to stand in the way of progress. And all too often the losers are minority Britons.”
Anti-racism organisations have suggested that Mr Phillips has “lost touch with reality”. A spokesman for the Show Racism the Red Card campaign said: “It is not multiculturalism which has created a belief ‘that you can’t say anything’ or the concept of a ‘PC Brigade’ – and it was not the CRE, community groups or charities which came up with the idea of ‘branding people racist’.
“The narrative we see in the Daily Mail and by Mr Phillips himself feed into a misguided belief that there are minority communities up and down the county trying to curtail debate and freedom of speech. This diverts our attention, perhaps conveniently, away from having conversations about the daily occurrences of discrimination experienced by minority communities and the complex conditions which create unrest.”
In his article, Mr Phillips said that after spending a year at the CRE – which later became the Equality and Human Rights Commission – he had lost all faith in multiculturalism. While “beautiful in theory”, he said it had become “a racket in which self-styled community leaders bargained for control over local authority funds that would prop up their own status and authority”.
Stand Up To Racism organisers Weyman Bennett and Sabby Dhalu said in a joint statement that multiculturalism in Britain was “under attack”. The group is holding a national demonstration in central London on Saturday, which was last year attended by more than 10,000 people.
“All oppression – racism, homophobia, sexism and misogyny – must be rooted out of society. Failing to challenge racism and other forms of oppression simply makes it worse,” they said. “Now, more than ever, we must challenge racism and other stereotypes. Instead of conceding to racism, Trevor Phillips should be campaigning against it.”