Independent anti-racist organisation Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) has today accused Newham Council of trying to ‘whitewash’ racism out its Equalities Framework agenda, after viewing a document (see below) that appears to reveal attempts by the council to downplay and remove references to racism reported to them by the public.
NMP reports that the discovery came to light after it downloaded a copy of Newham’s Council’s ‘Equalities and the Local Development Framework in Newham: December 2010’ document, available on Newham Council’s website, on Tuesday 5th November.
Unlike other documents on Newham Council’s website, NMP believes that in error it has been published in a draft form, allowing the public to view the deletions and comments made before being finalised.
NMP claims the series of deletions and comments appear to reveal a pattern of targeting references to racism within the report and attempting to replace them with ambiguous terminology to downplay their significance. Some of the references were reported to them by the public during equalities monitoring and public consultations.
NMP points to two examples in particular, which it claims support their allegations, regarding a youth consultation in 2010, where young people had named racism as a top issue of concern for them:
Indeed, a recent corporate survey suggests that some young people at least, continue to have concerns about racism (26% find it an issue of concern, falling within the top 3 issues). [p18]
The ‘editor’ highlights the word racism and comments:
While this issue is of concern I think without wider context of the question this could be misinterpreted. It would be better to say that promoting community cohesion is of concern – as this is something the LDF can influence.
In reference to the same youth consultation’s findings later in the report, the same editor deletes the original phrasing:
Significantly, racism is within their top 3 issues facing Newham, just behind crime and the availability of jobs [p21]
And inserts a rephrase deleting the word ‘racism’, replacing it with ‘community cohesion’ and placing it at the end of the sentence thus reducing its emphasis:
Crime, the availability of jobs and issues relating to promoting community cohesion are the top 3 issues facing Newham
A spokesperson for NMP said today:
“The edit mark-up in the Equalities Framework report shows an unmistakeable pattern of downplaying or deleting references to racism. This is an appalling situation, which leads us to only one conclusion: that Newham Council has deliberately and cynically tried to push race off the agenda.
The council has a duty to accurately report levels of inequality in the borough, instead it appears to have attempted to mislead the public by whitewashing the issue of racism. If this is the case, it calls into question the legitimacy of Newham Council’s agenda of recent years following the publication of this document, promoting policies of integration and cohesion as if they had public backing. These policies have been widely criticised locally for avoiding to address and deprioritise pressing issues of racism. They have resulted in a number of moves including the withdrawal of foreign language papers and cuts to translation and interpreting services.
The outcome of this leaves black communities suffering racism without recognition or support and left to spiral downwards, facing greater discrimination and greater levels of marginalisation and deprivation. All communities should rightly be up-in-arms about this if it is proven there has been a calculated approach to undermine the representation of their needs by the public servants elected to represent them.”
The document is available on Google Docs