Masarykova univerzita Filozofická fakulta Katedra anglistiky a amerikanistiky Magisterská diplomová práce

IV. 5. Reflections on the reports

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IV. 5. Reflections on the reports

Reports coming out after the 2001 disturbance pointed at the divided and polarised community that was characteristic for the cities where the riots occurred. The reports deal with the question of multiculturalism and stress the importance of debate on this issue. Based on their research, the reports pointed at the long-term segregation which not only individuals but also authorities practise and which caused the problems. The BBC comments on the riots and their conclusions and quotes the Ritchie Report, “Segregation, albeit self-segregation, is an unacceptable basis for a harmonious community and it will lead to more serious problems if it is not tackled” (“Race segregation caused riots“).

The reports called for an action on both national and regional levels. They discussed into great detail areas such as housing, education, employment and economy, health, policing, leisure, and culture. They have made many findings and recommendations. David Blankett, Home Secretary of that time commented on the reports for the BBC, “Today’s reports show that too many of our towns and cities lack any sense of civic identity or shared values. Young people, in particular, are alienated and disengaged from much of the society around them, including the leadership of their communities” (“Race segregation caused riots”). He also added that it is essential to find the “shared values and common citizenship” among all the diversities. Prime Minister Tony Blair also agreed with the reports and welcomed a debate they initiated.

The BBC summarized the key findings of the Oldham Independent Review (the Ritchie Report). The report identified deep-rooted segregation among communities. It blamed local authorities that they did not manage to see the causes of racial problems. It concerned the question of identity, as people should consider themselves more as “Oldhamers” and not e.g. Pakistanis or Bangladeshis. The ethnic groups should live next to each other rather than isolated from each other. This concerns education; that is establishing of mix-raced schools and faith schools. As for housing, people should not live in the suburbs occupied by just one minority, but the areas should become multicultural as well. Employers should not give preference to whites over the Black and other minorities’ candidates. The report calls for the changing of the police structure and improving health service (“Race reports at a glance”).

The official response and the opinions of many politicians were very optimistic about the reports. It is also important to know the standpoint of the local people on the reports and listen to possible solutions they suggest. Leaders in the riot cities urge to follow the reports, as they depicted the most important issues. The Head of Oldham Bangladeshi Youth Association, Ashid Ali, advised, “We need to act on the recommendations immediately, so we can tackle issues of segregation and misunderstanding. We need to have better understanding of each other’s communities rather than living our separate lives in the same town” (“Communities urge action”). The Local Council leader also admitted that social exclusion and deprivation are the cause of the disturbances in many parts of the town. Great Manchester Police also commented on the reports, promising to follow the recommendations suggested in them to improve the service and living conditions of the people of the town.

As for the more academic approach, some theoretical issues concerning race, ethnicity and social cohesion are discussed in the essay “Conflict and Cohesion” which debates the riot reports and sees community cohesion and segregation as the main issue.

According to the essay, The Cantle Report, produced by an independent Community Cohesion Review Team, is not so much analysing the reasons why the riots occurred, it does not ask political questions, but it concentrates on community cohesion and common values and ways to achieve this. (Bagguley 3).

The Ritchie Report, funded by the Home Office, puts less emphasis on social cohesion and community values and it is more devoted to economic and social issues, the problematic of institutional racism and the policy of local authorities towards the questions of housing, education etc. However, Bagguley points out, that the report does not analyse the riots themselves into greater detail, it does not deal with the reasons, but more or less concentrates on social and economic context (Bagguley 3).

Central to the reports is the issue of segregation as opposed to the community cohesion. Bagguley quotes in the essay the introduction of Denham’s report “Building Cohesive Communities”, “Cantle, Clarke, Ritchie and Ouseley have all identified segregation, along racial lines, as a growing problem, and a significant contributory factor to the disturbances” (qtd. Bagguley 4). The Ritchie Report explained segregation as “the preference both within the indigenous and Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities to live with their own kind” (Ritchie 9). Social cohesion is the second term discussed in the reports. It is argued that the areas with good social cohesion are stronger economically, whereas the areas with the lack of it are considered to be economically deprived.

This part of the thesis examined the race riots reports and discourse concerning the riots of 2001. The reports analyzed the overall background of Oldham community. The Ritchie Report of 2001 has resulted in many findings and conclusions and suggested many recommendations. The Cantle Report of 2006 was produced five years after the riots. Although it has noticed significant improvements since 2001, there are still a lot of issues which need to be dealt with and the report came up with new suggestions on improvement.

In conclusion, five years is a short period to improve the attitudes and relations and establish the community cohesion. Although the reports were approved by the wider public, it seems that they concern more or less the context and they do not examine causes and consequences of the riots which would be necessary for the whole understanding of the disturbances of 2001. As the central theme for both the reports is social cohesion, the following quotation from Denham’s report “Building Cohesive Community” summarizes what the goal of a multicultural society should be:

Common citizenship does not mean cultural uniformity. Our society is multicultural, and it is shaped by the interaction between people of diverse cultures. There is no single dominant and unchanging culture into which all must assimilate. The public realm is founded on negotiation and debate between competing viewpoints, at the same time as it upholds inviolable rights and duties. Citizenship means finding a common place for diverse cultures and beliefs, consistent with our core values (qtd. in Bagguley 7).

This quote concerns the multicultural society but it does not say, how it should be achieved, especially in the society where the patterns of segregated cultures are already established. What is more, the patterns of classes have always existed in British society, especially pattern of class segregation in housing and the ethnic minorities only seem to copy those patterns.

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