Furthermore, each race often operates within its own silo. Besides interacting in the offices andsometimes during sporting and music events, people of different races rarely engage with eachother. Most aspects of daily life in the UK are segregated, with people of different races living inseparate residential areas, attending separate educational centres and congregating at separateplaces of worship. As a consequence of these attitudes, there is an atmosphere of racial misalignment as peoplehave little understanding about other races, thereby resulting in mutual suspicion, stereotyping andracism. This environment of racial misalignment often results in the build up of racial tensions,which could remain suppressed for a long period of time. However, once in a while when thesetensions reach an intolerable level, it usually triggers a reaction, which explodes beyond control.For example, some of the riots of the eighties were triggered by high unemployment, poor housingand racism faced by the Black communities.With the current financial crisis entering its fourth year, racial tensions are once again at elevatedlevels and traces of these tensions can be seen in the rise of racism. Black footballers are beingracially abused on and off the field, anti-Semitism is on the ascendency, the far-right is on theincrease, a number of African and Asian men and women have been racially insulted on the trains,there have been a number of hate crimes – in one instance an Asian man was killed inManchester in a racially motivated attack by a white man, while in another case, a white boy wasbeaten up by a group of Asian boys. It is important to note that these incidents though reported inthe press are not isolated incidents and understate the true scale of the suppressed racial tensionsprevalent in the UK.Due to the sensitivity of race matters in the UK, racial matters are rarely discussed; on one hand,some fear that if they express their views regarding other races, they may be branded racists,while on the other hand, some fear that if they complain about being ill-treated because of their skin colour, they may be accused of being too sensitive, using the race card or having a victimmentality. This has resulted in people keeping their views on racial matters to themselves, therebyincreasing the racial tensions. A National Conversation on Race (NCR) would provide a forum for people to express their viewson racial matters and thereby bridge the racial divide by improving racial understanding among thedifferent races and promoting positive race relations in the UK.
Structure, Participants and Success Factors
In the USA, Bill Clinton the former US President called for a national dialogue on race in 1997.Furthermore, Eric Holder, the US Attorney General also called for a national dialogue on race.However, despite these calls, there was no effective structure in place and so consequently, thedialogue did not kick off on a national basis and therefore failed to have any meaningful impact or coverage in America. To avoid these mistakes, the British NCR should adopt a top-down andbottom-up approach. It should involve a cross-section of British society. To get the buy-in from theBritish public, it is important that the initiative is led at the beginning by the Prime Minister. Bychampioning the NCR, the Prime Minister would be sending a strong signal to the public that thegovernment is determined in seeking a lasting solution in improving race relations.The Prime Minister could start the NCR by publicly announcing the programme and directing theSecretary of State for Communities and Local Government to draw up a year-long programme tofacilitate a national dialogue on race throughout the country. After announcing the programme, thePrime Minister could commence the first National Conversation on Race by participating in atelevised town hall format dialogue with a selected number of citizens including but not limited tosenior religious leaders, business leaders, academics, media representatives, racerepresentatives and members of civil society.The NCR should also take place at the grassroot level, covering different parts of Britain.Furthermore, other members of the coalition government (including senior ministers) could visitdifferent parts of the country to discuss issues relating to race. A broad spectrum of participantsincluding people of various races such as Blacks, Arabs, Asians and Whites (including EasternEuropeans, Jews and Travellers) should be encouraged to participate in the dialogue. In addition,members of the far right parties such as the English Defence League and British National Partycould be included in these dialogues; however, the moderators of the dialogue would have toensure that participants do not constitute a disruptive influence during the conversation. Moreover,