The Blanket

Segregation In Oldham - A Short Comment

Mark Hayes

The news that an eight-foot high brick wall is to be constructed to segregate the white and Asian communities in Oldham (according to the Manchester News) will strike a familiar chord amongst those people acquainted with political and social life in the north of Ireland, especially Belfast.

The “Hathershaw Wall” will replace the temporary fence at Royle Close which was erected after the much publicised riots, when Asian homes were attacked and inter-communal violence ensued. Doubtless many Asians in the area will breathe a huge sigh of relief, given that the indiscriminate intimidation of their community will henceforth become marginally more difficult, whilst others will view the wall as an entirely necessary evil. Such perspectives are perfectly understandable, but tend to obscure a deeper, more disturbing reality - in the long run the wall will probably make things worse.

Despite its short-term utility, the communal divide will have the ultimate effect of accentuating racial antagonism because, in essence, it re-enforces a mindset that views society in terms of ethnic categories. In this sense, rather than reflecting a coherent attempt at conflict resolution, the wall is emblematic of the failure of the (local and/or national) state to resolve racial antagonism in the area. The wall is, in essence, an admission of failure. Moreover, this type of policy response conforms clearly to the logic of those who argue that racial integration simply does not work. Indeed those political parties that precipitate and exploit racial tensions, like the BNP, probably stand to gain most in the long run. This is because, although doubtless well-intentioned, this act of expediency and crisis control will further segregate an already marginalised community, and reinforce the political perspective that precipitated the barrier in the first place. This is the mindset that perceives ethnic minorities and cultural diversity as “the problem”, and advocates racial apartheid as a preface to some kind of “re-location” programme.

Tackling these political parties, that feed off of white working class alienation, requires more consideration, and in the final analysis a strategic commitment to resource re-distribution and equality. Not very likely, of course, and it's easier and cheaper to build walls. In the meantime, it is perhaps worth remembering the prescient observation of Steve Biko, that one of the most powerful weapons at the disposal of the oppressor, is the mind of the oppressed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Index: Current Articles

4 October 2002

 

Other Articles From This Issue:

 

Revealing Secrets
Editorial

 

At Last We Know the Human Cost of Gerry Adams

Paul Bew

 

The Boys of the Old Brigade Are Not Happy
Brian Mór

 

Segregation in Oldham
Mark Hayes

 

Common Denominators

Aine Fox

 

SF - Stormont First
Anthony McIntyre

 

Dispatches from the U.S. Anti-War Movement
Julie Brown

 

Preventing the Bush Turkey Shoot
Steve McWilliams

 

29 September 2002

 

Landlordism and the Housing Question
Liam O Ruairc

 

No Rest Days

Anthony McIntyre

 

The Meeting
Davy Carlin

 

It Shall All Come Tumbling Down
Sam Bahour

 

 

 

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