Trevor Phillips on race: an important argument, but nowhere near the full picture

A fact cannot be racist, but if not properly explained it can be explosive

trevor

 

Offence – the right to give it and how to take it – has been the hot topic of 2015. Trevor Phillips’ C4 documentary ‘Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True’ entered that debate with a well-intentioned forcefulness, laying the charge that our reluctance to talk about race has led to a climate of fear and enhanced segregation.

Phillips, a former chair of the Equality and Human Right Commission (EHRC) – which he partly blames for the ‘racket of multiculturalism’ – says many wise and interesting things, although the programme is not as ground-breaking as the crowing of the Mail would have us believe.

For example, he talks about how the confused mantra of political correctness, whose rules are ever shifting, has facilitated the rise of UKIP, and even more right-wing parties in Europe, because it gives them a weapon: the ability to say they are the only people who speak the truth. As Phillips wrote in a column for the Mail,

“Nothing could be further from reality. But the po-faced political correctness that cramps all the conventional parties is allowing these frauds to get away with it.”

This seems about right. The moment people feel that their opinions are suppressed they start to feel that they are victims of the state, and begin looking with renewed suspicion at their original scapegoat. This is what Phillips means when he says that political correctness is making segregation worse.

What the programme doesn’t do is explore the anatomy of racism. Phillips sets out a list of statistics that play into racial stereotypes but are, nevertheless, true: Romanians in London are far more likely to be pickpockets; black Britons are twice as likely to be sentenced for violent crime; Jewish households are twice as wealthy as the rest.

But these are behaviours, not characteristics. ‘ A fact cannot be racist’, Phillips says. This is true, but the problem is when facts lead people to conclude ethnic or racial traits. So while it is not antisemitic to point out, as Phillips does, that there are a relatively large proportion of influential Jewish businessmen in the UK, it is antisemitic to conclude that Jews must be money-grabbing. It would have been braver to explore why Jewish households tend to be richer rather than hiding behind numbers.

Similarly, Phillips does not look into the socio-economic factors behind his statistic about black Britons – he does say that we need to do this, but I think he should have used the programme to do it. Otherwise he’s just preaching to a choir who already think that black people are inherently more prone to violence, and not dismantling that connection at all.

Also: Stop and Search. Not only does the fact that black Britons are six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white ones cast doubt on Phillips’ figures about sentencing, it puts a hole in his argument. Because if all white people are so afraid of being called racist that they accord ethnic minorities special treatment, then why are black – and Asian – people so much more likely to be stopped and searched by police?

The documentary showed Phillips talking to a strangely frozen-faced Tony Blair about the failure of the EHRC. They discuss Phillips’ view that the EHRC’s work to eliminate bigotry had the unwanted effect of making it impossible to report or investigate crimes with an ethnic dimension because everybody feels too awkward about it. Blair tells Phillips he is being too hard on himself and I’m inclined to agree.

The few high-profile cases where the fear of seeming racist has hampered the pursuit of justice – the Rochdale sex abuse scandal, the murder of Victoria Climbié – have blown this idea out of proportion. What about the case of Baby P, or the Jersey child abuse investigation, or the historic sex abuse at the BBC and in the Catholic Church? There were failures and cover-ups in all these cases, but not because of concerns about race.

Ann Cryer, the MP for Keighley who accused Blair’s government of covering up the Rochdale sex scandal was decried for blaming the abuse on ‘cultural practices that have been imported into this country from Pakistan’. This is the kind of thing that we need to be able to have a debate about – is there any truth in this idea?

And afterwards, can we look at the cultural backgrounds of white sexual abusers? What do they have in common? We shouldn’t only be looking at the cultures of minorities (incidentally this programme did end up being more about culture than about race).

Phillips is adamant that the failure of the EHCR was that it assumed that if people couldn’t express their prejudices, they wouldn’t feel them. Phillips has recanted on this, but it doesn’t mean that the opposite is true. People tend to talk about race and politics with people they trust, their friends, who are likely to hold similar views, so it’s not the case that airing bigoted views will spark a debate capable of stamping them out.

But this is not to say that there isn’t truth in what Phillips is arguing. And it’s not only the perpetrators of crimes we should be talking about, but the victims. The International Development Select Committee estimated that up to 20,000 girls and women in the UK were at risk of FGM because officials wouldn’t report their suspicions in case they were accused of racism.

We need to dismantle the idea of cultural and moral relativism, which so often makes women from ethnic minorities – the very people it is trying not to offend – its victim. And as Phillips says, we need to acknowledge that it’s time to create new rules about how to live and thrive in a diverse UK.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

24 Responses to “Trevor Phillips on race: an important argument, but nowhere near the full picture”

  1. damon

    The programme was a beginning of a debate, but one that can’t actually be had in Britain fully, because of the kind of people who chased Nigel Farage out of his pub on Sunday.
    You have one of that type lurking here on this website who acuses everyone he disagrees with of being a ”UKIP Nazi”.

    Why are so many young black boys stopped and searched by the police?
    Ask the police. They are trying to stop young black youngsters who live in the ”hip hop street culture” from killing each other. They get called racist for not caring about black lives when another black teenager is killed, and get accused of racism when they stop and search young people who appear to fit that profile.

  2. Dacus

    Trevor Phillips statement that
    Romanians are “most likely to be pickpockets” is a racist statement
    because it associates a criminal behaviour
    to the Romanian ethnicity and nationality.

    And how can Trevor Phillips claim that discussing Romanians as likely to be
    pickpockets is taboo when for nearly 3 years, criminal and theft were the most
    associated words to Romanians? Even the Romanian Ambassador Ion Jinga has
    complained against the “Romanian as thief” stereotype and there are
    even academic studies:
    http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/reports/bulgarians-and-romanians-british-national-press

    The facts don’t support Trevor Phillips racist claim that Romanians are more
    likely to be pickpockets. Even Daily Mail says that there were only 760
    Romanians out of 125000 arrested, of which 414 for theft. 414 out of 125000 make
    0.3% of the total of Romanians living in the UK. In other words, only 3 out
    1000 Romanians in the UK are thieves and pickpockets. The rest of 997 out of
    1000 are decent, working people. Romania’s Ambassador said that the official
    figures he received showed 0.6% Romanian criminals in the UK. Does a 0.3%
    percentage of pickpockets make Romanians more likely to be pickpockets?????
    What about the 997 Romanians out of 1000 who are law abiding? They do not
    count? Or maybe innocent until proven otherwise applies to all but Romanians,
    who are likely to be pickpockets because that the guru of race relations said
    it?

    Trevor
    Phillips statement about Romanian is beyond abjection.

  3. damon

    I think you are getting what Trevor Phillips said totally wrong.
    He wasn’t saying statistics show Romanians are most likely pickpockets, but they were more pickpockets from that nationality than would be the norm if all things were equal.
    So maybe you’ve just willfully misunderstood what he was saying.
    The same with saying that black people were more likely to be violent. Twice as likely than the population as a whole. The way you’re arguing here, you’d be saying that Phillips claims that most black people are violent.
    Which he certainly wasn’t. But this is pretty typical of the way the left twist every discussion about these kind of issues.

    Also there is the Roma issue. The Romanian Roma are the people most likely to be living the marginalised lives that can include some criminality. Certainly taking the mickey anyway. You only have to be in central London to see Roma people who have come to England to seek out opportunities that don’t require paying your way in legitimate tax paying jobs and paying your own rent etc.
    Some do of course, and they are being tarred with the same brush as the chancers who are here to live lives that are not so different to what Charles Dickens wrote about.

  4. Dacus

    Trevor Phillips said that Romanians are “most likely to be pickpockets” and I stick to what he said, not to your translation/interpetation. A percentage 0.3% is not statisticaly significant to call Romanians
    “most likely to be pickpockets”. I stand to every single wrote I wrote about Trevor Phillips.

    Secondly, what have Roma to do with the topic?? Trevor Philips never mentioned them so the issue is a red herring. Roma are only 5% of Romania’s population, not to mention that Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Russia have even higher percentages.

    Finally, Trevor Phillips has a selective memory. He mentions Indians as pharmacists but fails to mention that in terms of benefit recipients, they are in top three foreign nationals of the DWP benefit list, along to Pakistan and Somalia. In comparison, Romania ranks 38 with 2500 people in the DWP benefit tables.
    Germany, France and PIGS countries have far more benefit seekers than Romania.

    Or the fact that Vietnam with 1.36% of population in the UK, Albania 1.26% and Algeria 0.81% have a much higher percentage of convincted people that Romania. The criminality of these countries is higher yet only Romanians are singled out. Trevor Phillips was proven to hate Eastern Europeans. Singling out Romanians is NO suprise

  5. Dacus

    Trevor Phillips said that Romanians are “most likely to be pickpockets” and I stick to what he said, not to your translation/interpetation. A percentage 0.3% is not statistically significant to call Romanians “most likely to be pickpockets”.

    Secondly, what have Roma to do with the topic?? Roma are only 5% of Romania’s population, not to mention that Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Russia have even higher percentages. Trevor Philips never mentioned them so the issue is a red herring.

    Finally, Trevor Phillips has a selective memory. He mentions Indians as pharmacists but fails to mention that in terms of benefit recipients, they are in top three foreign nationals of the DWP benefit list, along to Pakistan and Somalia. In comparison, Romania ranks 38 with 2500 people in the DWP benefit tables.
    Germany, France and PIGS countries have far more benefit seekers than Romania.

    Or the fact that Vietnam with 1.36% of population in the UK, Albania 1.26% and Algeria 0.81% have a much higher percentage of convincted people that Romania. The criminality of these countries is higher yet only Romanians are singled out. Trevor Phillips was proven to hate Eastern Europeans. Singling out Romanians is NO suprise.

    Fact based evidence on Romanians do not support any of Trevor Phillips’ statements about them. I stand to every single wrote I wrote about Trevor Phillips.

  6. Dacus

    Facts cannot be racists but fact based evidence on Romanians do not support any of Trevor Phillips’ claims about them. Trevor Phillips presented racist stereotypes about Romanians as “facts”. He was beyond comtempt.

  7. Leon Wolfeson

    You’re not thinking as usual! You just contradicted yourself, as ever, within your sentences.
    And you’re after Travelling Peoples, the standard warning sign of the rise of violence from the far right. The entire reason they’re fleeing and trying to scrape together some cash in the first place is the bigotry against them!

    And yes, chancers like you, like Dicken’s Scrooge…who seems to be very much a hero for you…

  8. Guest

    Oh yes, you can’t prevent debate, so sorry, as you whine about your Hero’s cowardice.

    You make up accusations, when you’re the only one using that term, and hence you are talking about yourself.

    And no, it’s quite simple, Police harassment of people for being black and of a “culture” you see as inferior, creating the entire disconnection from society and the law in the first place, as you condone harassment 100% based on skin colour and nothing else.

  9. damon

    I’m not saying that it was a particularly good programme.
    The contribution of the retired top Asian policeman, who left the Met with accusations that he had faced racism in it himself, was pretty poor I thought. Particularly that bit where they looked at a map of greater London and pointed out where different types of ethnic crime occurred.
    The greater majority of Romanians in the UK are just regular workers.
    I work with a couple myself. But the minority that are criminals have specialised in a few areas.
    Like cash machine crime and pickpocketing. Also there’s a lot of begging from that part of the community that is not here to do honest work. When I lived in Belfast, the beggars and the Big Issue sellers were there at a dozen different locations EVERY DAY. And those ones were from Romania, because I used to talk to a couple of them.

  10. Dacus

    Just because there are some Romanians involved in begging and various criminal activities, in the UK, France or elsewhere does not give Trevor Phillips the right to associate Romanians to pickpockets. Responsibility is individual, not collective so shaming an entire people for the crimes of 0.6% few is beyond
    abjection.
    Associating a nationality to a type of crime is discrimination by association, which ERHC considers a race crime. Trevor Philips should have known that. He either doesn’t (incompetence) or he thinks he is above the Law (arrogance).

    By his statements, Trevor Philips denies Romanians’ the right to be presumed
    innocents until proven otherwise. Romanians are declared criminals by default (“most likely to be pickpockets”) , collectively shamed and forced to prove their innocence.

    By entering Romanians into a discussion about race, Trevor Phillips is also denying Romanians the right to be considered Europeans by origin, religion and culture. Romanians were the only Europeans included in his so called “truths” about race (what race Trevor Phillips thinks Romanians belong to anyway????).

    PS: I speak fluent French so I know the situation of Romas in France. Trevor Phillips never spoke about Romas, he spoke about ROMANIANS only.

  11. Leon Wolfeson

    The EHRC acts on the basis of complaints, I remind you. Not proactively.
    Also, you need to exhaust your domestic options first.

  12. damon

    I think the way you are arguing this is as problematic as what you are saying Trevor Phillips did in his programme. Where did this Romania/pickpocket idea come from?
    Why not Chinese pickpocket, or Irish?

    You have to pick through articles like this in the Daily Mail to see how much of it might be true. Here it says that half of all convictions for pickpocketing on the London underground are from Romania. Though the figures for convictions are still quite small.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2537619/HALF-convicted-pickpockets-tube-Romanian-officials-say-figures-tip-iceberg.html

    What we don’t know is whether the crimes of pickpocketing on the tube that aren’t prosecuted are done in similar proportions by Romanians.
    It would be strange if they nearly always got arrested and there were so few of them, and all the other non Romanians were getting away with it.
    Someone in that article also states that he thinks that Romanians and Bulgarian criminals do the majority of ATM crime in western Europe. Moving from country to country.
    If you are that sort of criminal, being very nomadic is a positive help to you as you can disappear when you get too well known by the police etc.

  13. chow

    @dacus indians in the top 3 foreign nationals of dwp benefit list? what rubbish indians in the uk are one of the richest ethnic minorities in the current they are in many fields, finance, medicine law and i.t. to mention a few, have one of the highest past rates in education and the one of the highest rates of home ownership get your facts right your worst than trevor phillips

  14. Guest

    No, it’s not strange. It’s targeting.

  15. damon

    Oh that must be it Leon. They arrest ALL of the Romanian pickpockets on the underground (see – there were only half a dozen of them who ever did that) and they benignly let most of the others carry on with their pickpocketing.

  16. Guest

    Your bankers are not Romanian, that does explain it.

  17. billericaydickie

    What Phillips should have said was that, as you have pointed out, it the Romanian Roma who are the pickpockets as my Romanian friends and colleagues are quick to point out. Take the figures for that proportion of the Romanian population in this country and the percentages are somewhat higher.

  18. billericaydickie

    Ruby, I don’t know what else you do or have done besides being a staff writer at Left Foot forward but you are, as they say, onto a hiding for nothing.

    For the last forty years, since the now fortunately abolished CRE came into existence, there has been a tendency on the liberal left to throw the charge of racism at anyone who suggested that possibly not all immigrants and ethnic minorities were blameless of wrongdoing and were all a total asset to our societies.

    I think Phillips makes reference to the race relations industry which certainly existed and contributed to much of the hostility that white people certainly feel toward ethnic minorities. An unelected group of non entities who couldn’t get jobs anywhere else were allowed to police and enforce an increasingly anti white series of pieces of legislation that contributed to the rise of the BNP and now UKIP. As I say, fortunately, the power that be saw what was happening and non other than Mr Phillips was brought in to shut the whole farce down. And not before time.

    The lie, and it was that, that there was a BME or BAME community was fostered by this race industry and self appointed leaders of these non existent communities were invited into the corridors of power and onto the media to give their opinions. They were also given millions of pounds of public money most of which never reached any of the supposedly deprived communities but disappeared into the pockets of the self appointed leaders.

    There are many ethnic groups in this country and, by and large, they not only don’t know they are members of the BME/BAME communities but when this is pointed out to them are in fact quick to deny the fact and, in my experience, make some very derogatory remarks about other ethnic groups.

    Sikhs have the highest proportion of home ownership in the country. They are followed by Indians, principally those from Gujarat. Both groups have very high levels of self employment and academic achievement. Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, grouped by the liberal left as all Asians and BME/BAME members have low levels of self employment and home ownership.

    Chinese and Vietnamese also have high rates of self employment as well as high academic achievement. All four groups perform better than white working class families whose children get free school meals or are headed by one parent.

    African Caribbean young men are disproportionately involved in street crime, low level drug dealing and violence involving guns and knives. No amount of juggling the figures will get around this undisputable fact. Take the figures in terms of ages and this group between the ages of fifteen to twenty five absolutely dominate this form of crime.

    The problem the writer of this article and others like her have is that having denied reality for several decades they are now having it forced on them and they don’t like it. Sorry people, you can produce as many reports as you like. Two and two make four and not what you would like them to.

  19. Guest

    Ah yes, it’s always the travelling peoples. Then the Jews.

    It’s how the far right starts their next Jihad.

  20. Guest

    It’s all a conspiracy! Or….nope.

    You are trying to handwave away your racist views, as you invent industries and make exusses for your hatred of minorities, free speech…as you make excuses for your far right and blame anything other than your own views.

    “power that be”

    Uh-huh.

    As you justify the harassment of communities and how the police inevitable find low-level offences or create them in some areas, some police being plain and simply bigoted – the Met being the worst offender – as you rejoice in that.

    Saying that people have denied your hate…nope, it’s on display, as you demand that not being White Christian Male makes you inferior, Good old untermensch crap.

  21. damon

    Were eastern Europe’s Roma population still travelling about under communism?
    I think they were more settled and have only started back to this wandering life as they have moved into western Europe, countries they have no recent history of travelling in, but do so now because they can get away with so much more in the west, and the rewards are so much higher of course.

    When people are living in these kinds of conditions, and they are breaking the residency rules of only being in the country after three months if they are working and settled, what should governments and councils do?
    https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5099/5581112151_c65b6c5d4e_z.jpg

    Maybe councils should offer all these people free housing.
    Is that what you’d recommend Leon? Free flats for anyone who comes.
    To Westminster and Kensington too.

  22. Guest

    Ah, you want to be like communists. To suppress people.
    Right.

    “Get away”. Oh, you mean they’re not kept in with soldiers and barbed wire. My my.

    Keep highlighting how you think they have far too much. How it’s too good for them. As you, Lord Blagger, make up nonsense about housing as you are simply being racist as usual.

  23. damon

    This is why this Leon bloke is a joke.
    How can you have a conversation with such a two dimensional fundamentalist?

    The Eastern European Roma had no tradition of travelling around Western Europe.
    But now there must be hundreds of thousands who have moved west.
    If they had gone to make a new start and to try to put the poverty of their lives and the discrimination they faced behind them I’d have no problem with it.
    But they went to countries like Ireland and carried on like they had at home. Or took the mickey in ways that they could never get away with at home.
    Like with the begging and the rest. The Romanians ones in Belfast would go off from their half a dozen houses in the student accommodation part of the city where they ended up, pushing carts into which they would put in all the bits and pieces they would pick up in the day – looking in bins and skips, and sometimes taking stuff that wasn’t even meant to be taken away. (They were known to visit the charity shops before they opened and take stuff left outside the shop).
    Others would spend the day selling the big issue and begging.
    At night time they would pester smokers outside pubs or in the night club queues.
    Selling roses and spangly bracelets.
    And they would come and go from the houses that they had.
    A core of people would remain, their children in school etc, and new people were always turning up, both from Romania and from other parts of Ireland and Europe.

    Leon, read this. You’ll see I’m not making it up.
    belfastmediagroup.com/locals-‘we’re-not-racist’/

  24. Guest

    “JEWS R JOKES”

    How dare you actually discuss rather than spew hatred and blind racism, attacking people who are poor because of their race.

    You then raise spectres of magical “keep coming”, Lord Blagger, as you demand the poor live on the street.

    How *dare* someone not White British communicate with you, for instance.

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