RACISM has never been more socially unacceptable in Britain. Three quarters of Britons claim to have no racial prejudice whatsoever.

Racial slurs commonly heard in streets, pubs and workplaces a few decades ago have all but disappeared, but discrimination hasn’t gone completely. In some cases it’s been driven underground to simmer, seethe and occasionally burst forth.

The issue is back on the agenda following a story published in Thursday’s Echo about a Muslim who said he’d been beaten up outside a Durham pub after wishing his attackers “a merry Christmas”.

The story has rekindled debate about how we treat immigrants and overseas visitors. It asks questions about how we in the North-East wish to be perceived by the rest of the world. 

Police are investigating the alleged assault and it’s hoped that the full details about what happened that evening will soon become clear. In the meantime we want to reinforce the message that our region welcomes people of all races, religions and ethnic backgrounds.

Terrorism carried out in the name of Islam does not mean it's become acceptable to react like a thug in some twisted display of ‘British values.’ The values which made this country truly great are those of tolerance, friendship, and progressive thinking - it’s there in our music, books, sport, politics and humour. 

The North-East is a warm, welcoming area where friendships flourish between races and ethnicities, but prejudice also exists and we need to confront that fact. To defeat racism we have to talk about racism.