The Man Who Predicted the Race Riots
Not since I lived and worked briefly in South Africa under the apartheid regime have I seen a city as racially segregated as Bradford in the north of England. In South Africa, of course, the racial segregation was a matter of law: and the single road that separated the African townships from the white residential and business districts could be sealed off easily by an armored car or two. Then, if the blacks rioted, they would (in the words of my Afrikaner informant) “only foul their own nest.”
It goes without saying that there is no law to separate the races in Bradford. But stone walls do not a ghetto make: which is why it is possible in one part of Bradford to conclude that it is a typical northern British city, dominated almost completely by a white working class, and in another (reached by driving along a single major road that bisects the city) that it is an outpost of Islam, whose people have changed their hemisphere of residence, but not their culture or way of life.
Once a thriving woolen-manufacturing town, Bradford reached an acme of prosperity in the second half of the nineteenth century, before its success evaporated, leaving behind a legacy of municipal pride and magnificence, of splendid public buildings in the Gothic and renaissance-revival styles. (It was on the head of a Bradford millionaire that Eliot sarcastically stuck a silk hat in “The Waste Land.”) Even many of the terraced working-class homes are elegantly and expensively faced in stone, so that large areas of the city resemble nothing so much as Bath with textile mills added.
One beautiful part of the city, Hanover Square, is a small masterpiece of Victorian town architecture: it was long the residence of Margaret McMillan, who some 90 years ago founded the British nursery-school movement and agitated for improvements in working-class education. Nowadays, there is not a white face to be seen in the square, nor that of any woman. It is strictly men only on the street, dressed as for the North-West Frontier (apart, incongruously, from their sneakers); a group of them perpetually mills around outside the house that functions as a madrassa, or Muslim school. Horace’s famous line of two millennia ago comes to mind: they change their skies, not their souls, who run across the sea.
The informal ghetto that separates the races almost as effectively as South Africa’s formal ones nevertheless makes interracial rioting much easier. And in July last year, only a few weeks before September 11, serious riots (the worst in Britain for 20 years) did in fact break out in Bradford and other similar northern English cities, such as Blackburn and Oldham. White gangs clashed with Pakistani ones, indulging for several days in the pleasures of looting and arson, under the comforting illusion that they were fighting for a cause. The young whites believed themselves to have been dispossessed of something by the young Muslims, without the young Muslims believing that they had inherited anything from the young whites. Both groups were united in—though not, of course, by—their resentment.
One man was not at all surprised at this outbreak of inchoate racial fury. He was Ray Honeyford, the headmaster of a middle school in an immigrant area of Bradford in the early 1980s. He knew that the official multiculturalist educational policies that he was expected to implement would sooner or later lead to social disaster such as these riots: and when he repeatedly exposed the folly of these policies in print, the advocates of “diversity”—who maintain that all cultures are equal but that opinions other than their own are forbidden—mounted a vicious and vituperative campaign against him. For at least two years, the Honeyford Affair, as it was known, was a national preoccupation, calling forth endless newspaper and broadcast commentary, the man himself often branded a near-murderous racist and ultimately drummed out of his job. Hell, it seems, hath no fury like a multiculturalist contradicted.
The scene is set for a battle of competing resentments. If we had only listened to Ray Honeyford, we should not have sown what we are now reaping and what we (and others) shall reap for many years to come.