Aaron Reid – boss at Birmingham Professional DiverCity, which helps the city’s professional services sector value and manage race diversity – states disadvantaged sections of the white community will increasingly see the appeal of the BNP unless they feel they are an equal priority.
“Issues around being disadvantaged are not necessarily only about ethnicity, but also about class. Just as ethnic minorities are potentially disadvantaged by their colour, working-class white people are potentially disadvantaged because of their background, rather than their colour,” he said.
In the run up to their annual conference in November, Mr Reid states that given Birmingham’s changing demographic – it is set to become Britain’s first ethnic minority-majority city by 2010 – white people must not feel their needs are overlooked in favour of ethnic minority needs.
Mr Reid sees Birmingham Professional DiverCity as part of the solution. He said, “Although we are focused on race, our work is contributing to the inclusion of these disadvantaged white communities.
“By breaking down the barriers that are excluding ethnic minorities from being part of the professional services sector, we are at the same time breaking down some of the barriers excluding white working class communities from the same sector.
“This is because both communities suffer disadvantage; and by breaking down the barriers for one group we also break down the barriers for other excluded groups.”
Evidence supporting Mr Reid’s comments comes from Karamat Iqbal, director of Birmingham based consultancy, The Forward Partnership.
Karamat states that education is just one example of how ‘white minorities’ faced generational disadvantages.
His research has shown that the white working-class population holds the highest rate of underachievement in schools both locally and nationally.
“We need to acknowledge the fact that continued neglect of white underachievers in education will widen the social gap and create resentment amongst this community. There is little discussion about white underachievers and their needs; instead it is just put on the back-burner which then results in organisations, like the BNP capitalizing on any
discontent by purporting to represent their views”.
He added that the exclusion of white people when there is discussion of ‘ethnic groups’ could have serious implications for community cohesion.
“It is essential that all agencies acknowledge the problems faced by disadvantaged sections of the White community through a joined up strategy.”
Aaron Reid put the challenge to politicians, policy makers and business leaders to recognise the problem and take positive action.
He said: “History shows that if minority groups – including white minority groups – feel they are being ignored, this will result in social disturbances, like those seen in Lozells, and support for extremist parties.”
Birmingham Professional DiverCity was formed four years ago to help the city’s professional services sector manage and value diversity issues and is supported by the Learning and Skills Council, Birmingham Forward and Advantage West Midlands.