RACISM among young people is less vocal but remains entrenched in Thamesmead and Bexley, a report by two charities suggests.

In a report titled Are You Saying I’m Racist?, think-tank the Runnymede Trust and Trust for London said: “Most young people explicitly condemned racism but at the same time would articulate negative attitudes and stereotypes relating to specific groups.”

A zero tolerance approach, whereby young people are excluded from school for racist behaviour, “fails to address the underlying causes of their attitudes and behaviour”, the report added.

It focussed on three projects which proactively tried to tackle racist violence, including Leap Confronting Conflict (Leap) in Bexley and Working With Men (WWM) in Thamesmead.

Greenwich was chosen, the report reasoned, because it had come to international attention as “a cauldron for racist violence” following murders of black teens, including Stephen Lawrence, in the early 1990s, although the community was divided on whether racism was still an issue.


Responses to an initial ‘conflict audit’ carried out by Leap included the following statement from a Welling resident: “All the trouble comes from the black people, the Pakis. I’m not racist but I’ve always been mugged by black people.”

Another said: “We should only let in Italians and Chinese. Blacks are just blacks - they run around with tazer guns killing white people for no reason. The Muslims came and bombed London.”

After difficulties with the project in Welling - where youth centre staff felt racism was not a problem - Leap moved borough-wide with a well-received ‘peer educator’ scheme.

At Bexleyheath School in January and February 2010, 14 one-hour sessions were given to 360 Year 9 pupils on the wider issue of identity before 46 pupils were trained for five days as ‘peer educators’ in order to pass down what they learnt to younger pupils.

Leap also worked with coaches and staff at Charlton Athletic Community Trust to develop skills about how to deal with inappropriate remarks or racism.

A Bexley Council spokesman said: "We saw the report for the first time last week and are reading it with great interest.

"While the researchers examined three projects in east and south-east London in great detail - including the Leap project in Bexley that ended two years ago - it is clear that the issues they explore affect every part of the country.

"We believe that community relations in Bexley are generally good, but we are not complacent.

“The fact that people from different backgrounds can live happily and safely together is fundamental to community life and to society as a whole.

"In Bexley we have been successful in developing the kind of multi-agency cooperation that the report advocates.

“Our work with the Leap project also demonstrates our commitment to the type of innovative and proactive work with young people that the authors of the report recommend.

"We are committed to doing everything we can to build strong communities and we know that this view is shared by policy makers in the government, the Greater London Authority and other councils."


WWM involved a black project worker having regular, informal contact with young men aged 10 to 18 in Thamesmead.

WWM arranged a successful football project with the young men to bring them into contact with other youths from different backgrounds and also provided Citizenship lessons at Woolwich Polytechnic and worked with pupils who faced exclusion, as well as helping at Greenwich College.

In an early session, students gave opinions about asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants such as: “They shouldn’t come over and act like they own the place.”

“This country is just so unfair to its own.”

“We are a minority in England, especially around here.”

Later, a youth worker revealed to the youths that he was a Somalian asylum seeker.

The project worker noted: “Their jaws hit the floor... He told them his story, which was about fleeing the war, they just lapped it up and the questions just kept coming.”

Erith and Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce said: “The first step to finding solutions is to accept there is a problem.

"This report accepts there is a problem and goes some way to trying to find solutions.

"However there are some sweeping generalisations in this report and factual inaccuracies which are worrying.”

Ms Pearce said an assertion the BNP has been inactive in Bexley since its headquarters closed in 1995 was wrong, since the party finished second by just eight votes in a by-election in East Wickham in 2009.

Ms Pearce said: “I agree wholeheartedly that sport can be an excellent way to break down barriers and that widening young people’s horizons is key to giving them opportunities and social mobility.”

She added that a multi-agency approach involving community groups, schools, police and local authorities is essential but said a zero tolerance approach is needed against all forms of discrimination as well as tackling its causes.