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ALL WHITE NOW - ANOTHER STRANGE ADVENTURE IN BIRMINGHAM

The Stirrer's blog for Tuesday

05-09-2006

I'm a Brummie, proud of my city's many and diverse cultures, so why do I keep going to going to high-level meetings that are overwhelmingly white?

A couple of months ago I sat in on an official council launch of plans for Eastside - an inner city area due for regeneration.

From memory, there were about 18 people in the room reflecting a wide range of interests - architects, planners, environmentalists, protestors.

Given Birmingham's multi-cultural heritage, it was reasonable to assume that there might be a least a couple of African-Caribbeans in the room, possibly a Sikh or two, or a member of the Chinese community.

If nothing else, some these groups are directly affected by the changes in that part of the city, and should also be reflected - you would think - in the professional community.

As it was, there was just one identifiably Asian face in the room. And the rest of us were white.

German-Jewish, Irish-Catholic white in my case, but white nonetheless.

Maybe, I thought, that was a one-off - a statistical freak perhaps.

Not if my experience yesterday was any guide, it wasn't.

I was asked to take part in a session at the council house as part of bold scheme by Mike Whitby to develop a Birmingham Prospectus.

A select group of the city's “great and good” were gathered together - and yes, that included me - to discuss one element of it; the “growing city”.

Birmingham will have an extra 100,000 people in 20 years time and the challenge was to come up with a few ideas to ensure that they are as well-educated and wealthy as possible.

All in all, a laudable venture.

But hey-ho, here we were again - 14 people gathered in a room discussing among other things the fact that 50% of the city's population will before long come from ethnic minorities - and there was just one non-white face.

I'm not one for quotas, or positive discrimination, believing that if given the chance people of all backgrounds are all equally able to succeed or fail on their own merits.

Instinctively, I hate the idea that anyone should be called to a position of influence on account of the colour of their skin.

Maybe it's time to reconsider though.

The make-up of any workaday grouping involving the council in Birmingham should naturally encompass a far greater range of skin tones than I'm coming across.

This doesn't mean that individual members of the hierarchy are racist - though the absence of non-white faces on the ruling cabinet doesn't help the perception - but it does speak of deep-rootedinstitutional racism.

And we've seen where that can lead us.

Let's stop ignoring the harsh truth that is literally in front of our eyes, and start examiningwhy after 50 years of mass immigration “official” Birmingham still feels like a white man's town.
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