Race and Ethnic Relations

Race and Ethnic Relations
▪ 1995


      Elections to the European Parliament in 1994 produced defeats for fascist parties in Germany and The Netherlands, with fascist or ultraright parties winning seats only in Belgium, France, and Italy. The elections did mark a decisive shift to the right and the triumph of nationalist politics, however, with mainstream right-wing parties moving farther to the right on issues of immigration and race.

      The Campaign Against Racism and Fascism recorded 52 racist killings—41 connected to the far right—in Germany in 1993, double the figure for the previous year. On May 27, 1994, Manfred Kanther, the federal interior minister, admitted that there had been an increase in the number of violent anti-Semitic attacks, criminal damage to Jewish cemeteries, and neo-Nazi daubings of synagogues and of Jewish communal buildings and cemeteries—all representing an annual number of anti-Semitic incidents that was higher than the total number between 1926 and 1931. According to the annual 1993 report of the Verfassungsschutz, 42,500 right-wing extremists were operating in Germany; the report concluded that the number of crimes committed by right-wing extremists increased from 7,121 in 1992 to 8,109 in 1993.

      In Britain the Institute of Manpower Studies at the University of Sussex, Brighton, calculated that racial discrimination in the workplace cost £18.7 billion a year. Discrimination against black soldiers, including racial abuse, led in 1994 to an investigation of the Ministry of Defence by the Commission for Racial Equality. A Law Society survey found that British-based white law students had a 47% chance of getting articles (the necessary work experience to become a practicing lawyer) with firms of solicitors, compared with 7% for black law students. An inquiry into allegations of racial discrimination at the Inns of Court concluded that blacks studying to become barristers suffered a "collapse of confidence" that contributed to an examination failure rate three times that of white students.

      The level of racial and ethnic violence in the U.K. increased. According to a report by the Institute of Jewish Affairs, anti-Jewish attacks rose by almost 20% to 346 in 1993 (the last year for which data were available). Complaints of racial harassment and abuse by police officers more than quadrupled in 1993—from 67 to 291—but only 4% of cases resulted in disciplinary action for racial abuse, compared with 10% of investigated complaints as a whole. Black and Asian Metropolitan Police officers announced in August 1994 the formation of their own pressure and support group that would highlight the treatment and experiences of ethnic minority officers within Britain's largest force.

      In The Netherlands two researchers at the State University of Leiden in 1994 published a report saying that racist violence was more widespread than previously thought and many incidents were not recorded. The number of incidents rose from 4 in 1988 to 279 in 1993, with firebombings averaging three a month in 1992 and 1993. Attacks on asylum centres rose from 116 in 1992 to 123 in 1993. The authors concluded that the hardening of the political climate on migration and minorities could contribute to the occurrence of extreme right-wing violence.

      In September 1994 the French education minister, François Bayrou, banned the wearing of the hijab, or Islamic head scarf, under new regulations banning all "ostentatious" religious symbols. A number of Muslim young women challenged the ruling by continuing to wear the hijab—seeing the ban as a violation of their rights and contending that the ruling was unfair by citing the unchallenged wearing of crosses by Roman Catholic students. In October a school in Lille expelled several young Muslim women—a decision described as a "parody of justice" by the women's lawyer, who said that he would take the case higher up the Education Ministry and into the courts. Later in the year there were expulsions from several schools in other parts of France. The attack on the wearing of head scarves was seen by many as part of a wider attack on the very concept of a multicultural society based on cultural diversity and religious tolerance.

      In early 1994 the Consultative Commission for Human Rights published its fifth annual report into racism and xenophobia in France. According to official figures, between January 1980 and December 1993, 25 people were killed by racist violence and 323 people were injured in racist attacks.

      Amnesty International issued a report on "Allegations of Ill-Treatment in Police Custody" in Switzerland that found that many of the cases of ill-treatment involved foreigners and Swiss citizens of non-European descent. In the September national referendum, 54.2% of the electorate voted in favour of a law making racial discrimination, racist propaganda, and denial of the Holocaust illegal.

      Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet bloc witnessed an upsurge in fascism and neo-Nazism. A particular target was the Roma (Gypsy) people. In the Czech Republic skinhead violence against Roma enjoyed the support of 22-37% of the people, depending on the region. Some 30% of Czechs supported deporting or isolating Roma. A law that came into effect on Jan. 1, 1993, excluded nearly half of the Czech Republic's estimated 200,000 Roma from citizenship and from the right to vote. Meanwhile, in Slovakia there was widespread scapegoating of Roma.

      In Bosnia and Herzegovina the civil war between Serbs, Croats, and Muslims showed no real signs of ending. Late in the year fighting broke out between Russian troops and the breakaway republic of Chechnya, led by Dzhokar Dudayev. (See BIOGRAPHIES (Dudayev, Dzhokhar ).) The Chechens, a Muslim people of the northern Caucasus, had declared independence in 1991.

United States.
      In 1994 tensions rose within the African-American community, and relations also were strained between blacks and their longtime Jewish political allies, particularly in response to antiwhite, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic statements made by Khalid Abdul Muhammad of the black nationalist group Nation of Islam. In February the Congressional Black Caucus voted to distance itself from the Nation of Islam and its controversial leader, Louis Farrakhan. Two months later Franklyn G. Jenifer resigned as president of predominantly black Howard University, Washington, D.C., amid widespread criticism for having allowed Muhammad to twice speak on campus. In August the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis was ousted as executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He had been accused of sexual harassment and questionable financial deals and had been criticized for seeking closer ties to the Nation of Islam. In October Chavis settled a wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the NAACP.

      There were a number of contradictory federal court decisions on congressional districts created to ensure black representation in Congress. The Supreme Court's 1993 decision in Shaw v. Reno had questioned the constitutionality of oddly-shaped black-majority congressional districts. In 1994 lower federal courts in Louisiana, Texas, and Georgia held such districts to be unconstitutional, while a U.S. District Court in North Carolina upheld the constitutionality of a serpentine 257-km (160-mi)-long Congressional district on the grounds that it helped remedy past discrimination against blacks. A telephone survey of 3,800 adults by the Times Mirror Centre for the People and the Press revealed that 51% of white Americans thought equal rights had been pushed too far, up from 42% in 1992 and 16% in 1987.

  Ethnic fighting between Hutu and Tutsi exploded in Rwanda after the plane in which Rwandan Pres. Juvénal Habyarimana (see OBITUARIES (Habyarimana, Juvenal )) and Burundian Pres. Cyprien Ntaryamira were flying was shot down on April 6. Underlying pressures between the two groups had been building for years (see Sidebar (Rwanda's Complex Ethnic History ), Map—>, and Chart—>), and the fighting quickly escalated into genocide and mass slaughter by militia squads and civilian extremists. As many as one million people were killed, and another two million fled into exile, mainly into refugee camps in Zaire. At year's end there were indications that the violence was spreading into neighbouring Burundi, which had roughly the same ethnic makeup as Rwanda.

      South Africa's first democratic elections, won by the African National Congress, were held April 26-29, 1994, and more than 19 million people voted, the majority newly enfranchised blacks. Racial divisions constructed and essential to the maintenance of the apartheid system were reflected in voting patterns and represented a continuing challenge to Pres. Nelson Mandela's new government. After more than 40 years of apartheid, seven million South Africans lived in squalor—often without formal housing, running water, electricity, health care, and proper employment. There was a 50% illiteracy rate, and almost all of the arable land was in the hands of whites. In September there were violent confrontations in a number of townships near Johannesburg between members of the Coloured (mixed-race) minority and the police.

      In November the Australian Parliament passed the Racial Hatred Bill, which would make incitement to racial hatred punishable by up to one year in jail. It was uncertain whether the bill would adequately protect minorities, and critics claimed that it would unduly restrict freedom of speech. Two weeks later Aborigines who had been displaced by and/or exposed to radiation from nuclear testing in the 1950s won a $A 13.5 million settlement against the British and Australian governments. In New Zealand, meanwhile, Maoris rejected as inadequate an offer of $NZ 1 billion compensation by the government.


▪ 1994

      The year 1993 was characterized by racial and ethnic conflicts throughout the world, ranging from "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other parts of the former Yugoslavia, new and continuing conflicts in various parts of the former Soviet Union, increasing levels of racist violence in Western Europe, particularly in Britain and Germany, and continuing violence in the Indian subcontinent and South Africa. There were, however, some positive developments, including the Israeli-Palestinian accords and the agreements in South Africa designed to create a multiracial democracy.

Western Europe.
      In Britain the new commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Paul Condon, declared that the police had a pivotal role in combating the growth of the political far right. In a speech at a conference on fairness on February 28, he stressed that police officers had to be "totally intolerant" of racially motivated attacks and of those who used racial hatred for political ends. There were 12 murders with racial overtones during the year. In July, Peter Lloyd, minister of state in the Home Office, told the Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons that racial attacks could be as much as 20 times higher than the reported level. Although the British Crime Survey registered 7,793 attacks in 1993, 78% higher than the 1988 figure, the number could be as high as 140,000. This increasing level of violence was exacerbated in the East End of London in September when the candidate of the neo-Nazi British National Party was elected to a local council seat. His racist supporters celebrated by hurling bottles at anti-Nazi protesters.

      An analysis of the Labour Force Survey found well-qualified Indian, African Asian, and Chinese men to be as likely as white men to hold professional jobs. The situation for people from the Afro-Caribbean, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani communities, however, did not improve. For the period 1988-90 unemployment rates were: white 7%, Afro-Caribbean 14%, Pakistani 22%, and Bangladeshi 24%.

      Racial discrimination in professionals' training and employment also continued during the year. The Commission for Racial Equality announced in January 1993 that it would undertake a formal investigation of the Bar's law school, where blacks had three times the failure rate of whites in 1992. In March 1993 a study published in the British Medical Journal revealed that when 23 hospitals received identical curricula vitae for fictitious doctors, some with Asian-sounding names and others with Anglo-Saxon names—all with the same age, medical education, experience, and qualifications—of the 18 names chosen for interviews, 12 had English names and 6 had Asian names.

      In February, 417,289 Austrian citizens, 7.4% of the country's voters, signed a petition sponsored by Jörg Haider, leader of the right-wing Freedom Party, to force the Federal Assembly to debate a halt to immigration. Haider's plan called for an immediate stop to immigration until the economy improved, identity passes for foreigners seeking work, and a 30% limit on the number of foreign schoolchildren allowed to attend classes.

      That same month in France, Jacques Chirac, leader of the Rally for the Republic, blamed unemployment on immigrants. "Today there are five million excluded from the world of work and we can't accept any more people in France. It is vital to us, and in line with moral principles, to have policies which defend our territory as well as a policy of solidarity and generosity towards countries of immigration."

      On his first day as French prime minister, Édouard Balladur promised to crack down on "illegal immigrants" and change the nationality law to require immigrants' children to apply for French citizenship—a measure long demanded by the extreme right. On that premise police repeatedly raided the Goutte d'Or and other districts of Paris in search of suspected illegal immigrants. Four youths were killed by police in seven days. The new minister of the interior, Charles Pasqua, announced the government's goal as one of "zero immigration." He won approval in the Federal Assembly for such measures as allowing police to demand proof of identity without any justification and empowering the public prosecutor to order police sweeps in any area and for any length of time.

      In Germany 17 deaths in racist- and fascist-related violence occurred in 1992, and at least 20 people were killed in the first 10 months of 1993, including 5 German-born Turks. They were killed in a firebombing in Solingen on May 29, days after the passage of tighter asylum laws. The Solingen murders elicited widespread antifascist and antiracist marches and demonstrations as well as criticism of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's government both by antiracists in Germany and by the Turkish government.

      The national police intelligence office calculated that of the 41,900 Germans belonging to right-wing organizations, 6,400 were "militant and violence-prone." These figures did not include the 25,000 members of the right-wing party the Republicans. The police identified 2,584 proven acts of violence by right-wingers in 1992, a 74% increase over 1991.

      The published findings of a parliamentary investigative committee into the violence in Rostock in August 1992 revealed that an oral agreement had existed between the head of police operations and the racist and fascist mob. The police chief had instructed his men "to pull back for half an hour," leaving the mob free to set fire to a refugee hostel occupied mainly by Romanian Gypsy refugees and Vietnamese. The outcome of the trials of 25 neo-Nazis arrested at Rostock resulted in prison terms of a maximum of eight months, suspended sentences, or probation orders. In February 1993 the interior minister of Mecklenburg-West Pomeria, Christian Democrat Lother Kupfer, was forced to resign after voicing "a certain understanding" for the actions of the Rostock rioters.

South Africa.
      The joint awarding of the 1993 Nobel Prize for Peace to South Africa's Nelson Mandela and Pres. F.W. de Klerk inspired hope in South Africa. The agreement of September 9—to establish a multiparty transition council of some 24 members with authority to oversee the operations of the police, the army, and the civil service—laid the groundwork for the African National Congress (ANC) call to end economic sanctions and provided the basis for elections scheduled for April 27, 1994. Major threats to a peaceful transition to multiracial democracy included the withdrawal of right-wing groups from constitutional talks, a newly established right-wing umbrella organization comprising neo-Nazi groups primed for violence, and a continuing and increasing level of violence, particularly in black areas. It was estimated that more than 10,500 people had been killed since Feb. 2, 1990, when President de Klerk repudiated apartheid and legalized the ANC. The July death toll of 582 was the second worst monthly figure, the 709 deaths in August 1990 having been the worst.

United States.
      In June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the racially divisive case of Shaw v. Reno. In a 5-4 decision the court permitted a group of white voters to challenge the bizarre configuration of North Carolina's 12th Congressional District, which had been created after the 1990 census to remedy past discrimination. The new district carved a 227-km (141-mi) meandering path through eight counties with concentrated black populations and thus helped ensure the election of an African-American lawmaker. This decision was seen as a threat to overturn the philosophical bases of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1982 amendments to the act. One amendment barred any voting practice or procedure that resulted in members of minority groups having "less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice." The court did not, however, order a redistricting. This increasing controversy over the interpretation of the Voting Rights Act—opportunity or outcome—was an issue in the defeat of Lani Guinier, Pres. Bill Clinton's nominee for assistant attorney general in charge of civil rights. A right-wing media campaign, portraying her as a "quota queen" determined to undermine the principles of majority rule, succeeded in forcing Clinton to withdraw the nomination and thus prevented Guinier from explaining and defending her position.

      The resonances of the Los Angeles riots of 1992, which followed the acquittal of police in the beating of African-American motorist Rodney King, continued to affect U.S. race relations. Sgt. Stacey C. Koon and Officer Laurence M. Powell, however, were convicted in a federal court of violating King's civil rights. They were sentenced to two and one-half years in prison by a federal judge, who declared that King had provoked their violence and that they had already suffered from widespread vilification and from prolonged judicial proceedings (see Law ). Damian Williams, a young black man, was convicted of beating three Hispanics, one Asian, and a white during the Los Angeles riots. He was given a maximum 10-year sentence for felony mayhem by a judge who admonished, "It is intolerable in this society to attack and maim people because of their race." A report from the Southern Poverty Law Center in December suggested that the number of racially motivated crimes by blacks in the U.S. was soaring.

      There was evidence during the year of continuing discrimination by the nation's leading mortgage lenders. A computerized nationwide study by Essential Information Inc. suggested—on the basis of Federal Reserve Board data of 1,250,000 mortgage loan applications from 1990 and 1991—that 49 mortgage lenders in 16 major cities had engaged in racial redlining. A Wall Street Journal analysis of the records of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that among whites, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and African-Americans, only the latter group suffered a net job loss during the 1990-91 economic downturn and that some of the nation's largest corporations shed African-American employees at a disproportionate rate. The National Center for Health Statistics reported that whites born in 1991 were expected to outlive African-Americans by an average of seven years. (LOUIS KUSHNICK)

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Universalium. 2010.

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