Racism is a disease that is spread across the higher tiers of the society in Britain. Agreed that UK promotes a multi cultural diversity in all its communications, but has it really turned the table in terms of social management is concerned? Statistics proves otherwise: Ethnic minorities in the higher tiers of judiciary, civil services, heads of universities, and cabinet is quite small. Britain with less than 2 % minority representation in major positions (Meehan, A. J. and M. C. Ponder, 2002) reflects a predominantly “white” profile abroad and this can seriously harm its relations when it seeks close trades with emerging economies such as China and India .Even though stringent policy reforms have been made moulding the New Labor’s policy on social inclusion and muti culturalism, still “institutional racism” is one thing that Britain is still not out of 10 years since the reforms.
The belief in racial hierarchy between groups is a central defining characteristic adopted by many theorists to define racism. For example, Jones defines Racism as a belief in the superiority of one’s own race over another.
However it has been argued that this definition of racism is quite restrictive because contemporary racism is less about beliefs in the biological superiority/ inferiority of groups and increasingly about beliefs in a cultural hierarchy. Contemporary racism justifies and legitimates in equities between groups, not on the basis of biology or skin colour, but on claim that certain groups transgress fundamental social values such as the work ethic, self reliance, self discipline and individual achievement
2.0 Racism: Deep Rooted in British Mindset?
Unemployment of the blacks is 13% which is double that of whites.More than 20% of people with Pakistani or Bangladeshi origins are out of work. Class division even though is not publicaly discussed is wide spread with Racism multiplying its effects.Infant mortality is more than 100% among the so called “unwanted” in the society.
They lack confidence in the establishment and it is in dealing with the criminal justice that the British establishment fails the most and the effects of racism is sharply experienced.This is evident from the fact that less than 20 % of offences are reported as many feel than nothing substantial would come out of such complaints instead they would be subjected to further victimization. It is very sad to note that a prosperous country both in terms of its economy and culture there lives a section who struggles for getting their lives right and earn decent living.
Stop and Search levels among Black youth is five times more than that of others, they are two times more likely to go to jail (Miles, R, 2004). And more over the sentence period is much higher compared to that of others.these bare facts show how deep rooted this evil in the lifestyle of British.If they are to move into forming an all inclusive economy this is one issue that needs to be addressed immediately but often conveniently ignored.
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3.0 Current Legislations and its Implications
The Race Relations Act 1976 and its amendments protects the people from being discriminated on the grounds of colour,race or nationality.The act doesnt consider whether the act of racism is done intentionally or not.It basically protects individuals against four main types of discrimination such as
- Direct discrimnation
- Indirect Discrimination
- Harassment and
Various offences that can be charged under the act are discrimination of anyone on the grounds of race, color, and nationality, ethnic and national origin in the field of education, public services, and employment and for the provision of goods and services.In order to establish that the rules are followed the Act also established the Commission for Racial Equality.
It was later amended in 2000 in which it made clear to the public service institutions compulsory to promote race equality and implement effectively the procedures preventing racial discrimination. In an additional legislation in 2006, Racial and Religious Hatred Act inciting religious hatred and violence was also included into the list of offences.
One of the landmark reports that changed the legal landscape of modern Britain was Lord Macpherson’s report on the inquiry of the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 which was suspected to be on racial grounds, that had to be withdrawn later due to pressures from the higher authorities. There was a complete disregard in protection of around 20 witnesses that were named and in addition to that the Home Office was going all out to protect the police from any possible repercussions from the investigations (Rowe, M., 2004).
The inquiry convened only after a tireless campaign by Lawrence’s parents which gained widespread public support .The credibility of police were in ruins as many cases of gross inequality came into light ; cases of many frame ups and custody deaths especially that of black people came into light after the report was published. Increased hostility and Stop and searches against the blacks due to the racial behavior of the police have resulted in a huge uprising amongst the common British population as no one felt safe in the country.Opinion polls conducted across the country revealed that the people felt that police and judiciary enjoyed an all time low support from public.These institutions have been viewed as an instrument for social oppression particularly against the most depressed ones.
The Lawrence inquiry has been effective in putting the enforcing agencies on public trial. The allegations of “institutional racism and corruption have been brought to front. It was for the first time that institutional racism caught the public eye.It vindicated the long standing complaint of the blacks that they are often discriminated in various forms especially in case of jobs and education. His findings were widely accepted and his definition of institutional racism became the standard one which is used in public sector parlance.: “The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate service provide an appropriate and professional service to the people because of their color, culture or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behavior which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people”. (Bridges, L. (2001).
Seventy recommendations made by Macpherson have lead to legislation which mandated more severe offences for racial discrimination compared to other offences. Almost all local and central governing policy gave thumbs up to the changes and they assure that they would be committed to the cause.
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4.0 Institutional Racism
The term institutional racism is defined as “the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their color, culture, or ethnic origin” (Jones J, 1997)
As mentioned above institutional racism was brought to public attention after Macpherson report but the findings reveal that these discriminatory actions in stop and search are the product of not only individual actions but major flaws in national and local policies.Prejudice that the society holds on class and gender is another factor that result in such outcomes. Media also plays a major role in hyping up such issues which results in further delineating the two factions.
5.1 Stop and Search in UK
Stop and Search is considered to be a tool for British Police in detecting and preventing crime.It is not only an embarassing moment for those who suffer from those but it is a gateway to the criminal justice system.It has been continuosly been shown that they are used against Black and Asian Men, and those who are sentenced suffer longer terms in jail compared to the avaerage stay of a British criminal in jail.
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act has tried to control the use of power of police by mentioning the level of reasonable suspicion.But this level of reasonable suspicion was often misinterpreted or loosely interpreted.The cocept remains vague and when some cases are taken to court, even they have done little to define the same (Sanders and Young, 2000).
Studies further show that it was up to the officers that conduct the stop and searches to decide on whther the suspicion was reasonable or not.The disturbing fact is that even after the legislation many Ploice officers never cared about the “reasonable suspicion” clause.Very few number of complaints have been received against Stop and searches compared to the actual number that takes place (Miller, J., N. Bland, et al., 2000). This is basically because of the fact that minorities no longer trust the Police in delivering justice instead they don’t want to be victimised later.Adding to this the courts are often unwilling to give enough time for the trial of such cases and many of the public are not aware of the police powers making it easy for the police to by pass the criteria of reasonable suspicion as mentioned in PACE.
5.2 Who are stopped?
One thing that has been consistent through out the findings are that black people are disproportionately stopped and searched compared to that of Whites. But the results in case of Asians have been more or less mixed even though the rates have gone up since the terrorist attacks in 2000 (Brown 1997). Even-though there is an allegation that officers are partial in their decisions there is a counter argument that this is more because of the fact that the offence rates amongst the blacks are higher, hence they are more suspicious in similar circumstances (Smith, 1994) there has been many cases where the objections from the Blacks when stopped is much higher compared to that of others resulting in legal actions.
It was also noticed that the observed behavior during police stop and searches there has been a disproportionate number of blacks being arrested as compared to that of whites.It has been observed that about 40 % of blacks who are searched are being arrested compared to 22 % of whites (Norris, Fielding et al., 2002) . It has been found that both the sections behave equally likely to be calm and civil towards police under similar circumstances.
This is believed to be because of the collective memries of the participation of blacks in riots and hostitily against the establishment.They are being steriotyped as suspicious and aggressive who are more likely to do street crimes and buglary.Asians enjoyed a mixed feeling but they were ill treated in areas where they were minorities.There are enough evidences that police do abuse their power and when they do so they are more likely to be racially discriminating.
Eight years after Macpherson report BBC conducted a program called “Secret Policeman” and in that there were footages of many police officers under training who boasted about the ways in which they would like to harrass the ethnic minorities given that would get away with the crime.This shows that even though stricter laws have been formulated, their implementation would take a longer time as they require a basic change in behaviour among the public (McLaughlin, E. and K. Murji, 1991).The programme showed that police training in the initial phases insisted on avoiding racial overtones in language of the trainig officers but later a representative fromthe Police Federation was seen to be saying that they would defend the official in case he does anything of that sort.
5.3 Further actions against Stop and Search
Later as the government found that the abuse of power by police has been rising at an alarming rate the Stop and Search Action Team was set up in 2004 by the Home Office to ensure that police is fair and effective in implementation of the stop and search power.There has been specific measures that have been adopted to reduce the discrimination against the ethnic minorities and increase the confidence of the weaker sections in the establishment. They have developed a stop and search Manual listing out the behavioral framework within which the police is expected to work with.ch powers. There has been a change in the performance management system saying that the officials would not be rated based on the number of Stop and Searches but instead on the solid leads that can come out of it.This was in view to avoid police officials targeting the minorities to increase their rating points.
Many critics are of the view that the legal constraints to control the actions of the officials are due to a number of reasons (Quinton, P., N. Bland, et al., 2000): The first being the legal framework which doesn’t clearly demarcate what is to be done and what is not. The general public who are unaware about complex legal rulings often fall victims at the hands of partial policemen.the second rationale given by critics are that the benefits that a police official would receive in case of carrying out a successful stop and search outweighs the punishments that they might get in case of falsely convicting the individuals.They find the minorities an easy target as many a times they doesn’t register a complaint.
It is now well known that even though there are rules to regulate the action of the police but they arenot effective in controlling them especially in an unsupervised environment.Only thing that these lawsa are able to do are that they can act as markers to the policeThe officers use of power has rarely been reported or even if it is reported it has been seen that nothing substancial came ot of the investigations so far.Recording stops would be an effective way to tighten the control on thes system eventhough there are chances that they may go undetected.But still having such a system of check is an important way foraward dealing with the problem. Taking the incentive part away from the no of stops conducted have in a way reduced the motivation for many officials to register cases just to increase their ratings.Coercive system of rewards may be used against those who discrimante people on the basis of the race.Higher level support in cases of racism should be completely avoided and instead they should show a commitment in eradicating this mass evil. Police intelligence network should co-ordinate with the stop and search team to avoid any false information leading to the conviction of innocents from minorities.
Life after Recession have shifted the class equations in UK, rather than discrimination on the basis of race now people are increasingly discriminated on the basis of their jobs income etc.Whatever the case may be discrimination of any sort is simply not acceptable in an evolved multicultural nation like UK. Espicially in these times when emerging markets such as China and India are becoming key allies to many World poers. If Britain is looking forward to have fruitful relations with these countries so as to sustain its economic super power they should accept diversity in their culture.It is a long drawn process as we all know and you cannot simply wipe it off its phase in a single day.But slow and steady progress in this direction needs to be made so that they are widely accepted.Being a racist nation sends out a bad signals to others and this can result in the isolation of Britain in front of others.Thus by having coercive measures to suppress the level of discrimination to curb the existing practices and at the same time concentrating in molding a generation that doesn’t delineate people on the basis of race should be the aim that they should have.
- Brown, D. (1997). PACE ten years on: a review of the research. London, Home Office, 603 -618.
- Bridges, L. (200 l) “Race, law and the state.” Race and Class, Pg 342-349
- Jones, J. M. (1997), “Prejudice and Racism” New York: McGraw-Hill, Pg 371 – 385
- Meehan, A. J. and M. C. Ponder (2002). “Race and Place: The Ecology of Racial Profiling African American Motorists. ” Justice Quarterly
- McLaughlin, E. and K. Murji (1991), “After the Stephen Lawrence Report. ” Critical Social Policy