Prejudice, Politics, and the Fight for Equality
Thirty one years after it was established by the Race Relations Act, the Commission for Racial Equality has issued its final report. The CRE will be subsumed at the end of the month into an overarching "Equality Commission". So have the CRE's founding objectives of eradicating racial prejudice and discrimination from British life been achieved? Far from it.
Of course there have been improvements over the past three decades. Outright racial discrimination is no longer acceptable. As the report notes, the days when boarding houses could put out signs saying "No blacks, no Irish, no dogs" are over. The National Front is no longer a force in British politics. The Scarman and Macpherson reports have led to a general improvement in the behaviour of the police with respect to ethnic minorities.
But things have been slipping back on the criminal justice front. The number of young men from ethnic minorities being stopped and searched has rocketed in recent years, as the police make full use of their sweeping anti-terrorism powers. The National DNA Database is another screaming example of how the criminal justice system remains biased against ethnic minorities. The database contains the DNA of nearly 40 per cent of black men and 13 per cent of Asian men, many of whom have not been charged, let alone found guilty of a crime.
Education is another area where prejudice persists. Black boys are far more likely to be excluded from school, despite the fact that their behaviour is often no more disruptive than that of their white counterparts. And so the list of inequalities goes on. Ethnic minority groups are less likely to have access to decent health treatment. They are more likely to live in substandard social housing. The ethnic minority faces in positions of power in the worlds of business, the law and the media are disproportionately few. …