The Life Mag - Race Relations: Minority within a Minority

Article excerpt

AS manager of the African Caribbean Resource Centre in West Bromwich, Shane Ward is better placed than most to discuss racial integration.

The last census, taken 10 years ago, showed that the 290,000 population of the borough of Sandwell included more than 42,000 residents from minority ethnic groups - nearly 15 per cent.

Out of that sizeable community, just under 10,000 residents were of African or Caribbean descent compared to, for example, people of Indian extraction, who totalled well over double that number.

A minority within a minority then, and Shane believes the borough's black community faces a host of challenges which are not shared by other ethnic groups.

'If you look at all the relevant social indicators like health, educational achievement and employment, it is clear that African Caribbean communities are still experiencing high levels of disadvantage,' he says.

'I think it's important to realise that one ethnic group can have a quite different experience to others.'

Shane chooses his words carefully. It is a frustration of trying to get to grips with such sensitive issues that most people are, understandably, reluctant to comment on ethnic groups other than their own for fear of causing offence.

But if, as he believes, the African Caribbean community does not access institutional support structures such as healthcare and social security as readily as others, then what are the historical forces that have led to such inequities?

Sandwell Council leader Lord Tarsem King believes the suggestion that different ethnic minority groups have quite different experiences is accurate - but he is at a loss to explain why that should be.

'I think it might be fair to say that,' he says. 'But we just don't know the reasons behind it. …