The Road Ahead: Challenges and Aspirations in Tackling Racism in the UK

To celebrate Black History Month, Judge & Priestley has produced three articles looking at the struggle to overcome discrimination and to create a more equal society. In this third article, we look at the challenges that remain despite the progress made over the last 70 years.

Britain has made huge strides in combating racism and discrimination since the 1950s. In those days, ethnic minorities had no significant protection against prejudice in all walks of life including housing and employment. Landmark legislation like the Race Relations Acts of the 1960s and 1970s means that black people today have far more protections in place. However, despite the progress that has been made, persistent challenges remain, and few would argue that we live in a perfectly equal society.

This article explores some of the key developments and landmark events that suggest there is still a long way to go before we can say there is total racial equality in the UK.

The Macpherson Report (1999)

A watershed moment in the UK's fight against racism was the publication of the Macpherson Report in 1999. This report followed the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager, and exposed systemic racism within the Metropolitan Police.

It defined institutional racism, a critical concept that acknowledged the presence of discriminatory practices within public institutions. The Macpherson Report's significance lies in its impact on policing and government policies. It prompted reforms, including changes to the police force's approach to race relations and the adoption of measures to improve diversity and accountability.

However, despite the warnings and subsequent improvements, concerns remain, and many argue that the police still haven’t done enough to eliminate discrimination and win the trust of people from ethnic minorities.

Windrush Scandal (2018)

The Windrush Scandal of 2018 brought to light the unjust treatment of the Windrush Generation and their descendants. The scandal revealed how many people from the Caribbean who had lived in the UK for decades were wrongly targeted, detained, and deported due to immigration policy changes.

For many people, the scandal came as a wake-up call that despite all the progress that had been made and the legislation that had been introduced, discrimination could still appear, even within government departments dealing with immigration, the very departments that should be most sensitive to race issues.

Black Lives Matter Protests (2020)

In 2020, the global Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum following the killing of George Floyd in the United States. Protests erupted across the UK, with demonstrators demanding an end to racial injustice and systemic racism, particularly within law and order.

These protests drew attention to issues of racial inequality, police brutality, and the need for meaningful change. They sparked important conversations about racism in the UK. Those conversations are still taking place with many protesters claiming that no significant improvements have been made.

Stop and Search Reforms (2021)

In 2021, the UK government introduced reforms to stop and search practices, aiming to address concerns about racial profiling and discrimination. These reforms sought to strike a balance between effective law enforcement and protecting individuals' rights.

The reforms were partly in response to the Black Lives Matter protests but mainly they reflected ongoing efforts to mitigate the disproportionate impact of stop and search on black individuals and promote a fairer and more just policing system.

The Race Equality and Inclusion in Sport (2021)

The Race Equality and Inclusion in Sport report, also from 2021, emphasised the importance of addressing racial disparities within sports. It highlighted the discrepancies in how black people often made up a large proportion of elite athletes, such as professional footballers, but were notably under-represented in coaching, managerial and administrative roles.

It called for increased diversity in leadership positions, better representation of ethnic minorities in sports, and measures to tackle racism in the sporting community.

Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities Report (2021)

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities Report, published in 2021, generated significant controversy when it claimed that the UK was not institutionally racist and downplayed the impact of structural racism. However, it was met with criticism from many quarters for not adequately addressing racial disparities. The report highlighted the ongoing debate surrounding the recognition of institutional racism and underscored the importance of continued advocacy for racial equality and inclusivity.

In conclusion

Over the course of our three articles for Black History Month, we have looked at how black people had no protection against discrimination in the 1940s and 1950s.

Huge improvements were made with the introduction of the Race Relations Acts and subsequent legislation right up to the last few years. Nevertheless, the tensions that have been simmering since the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and the Windrush scandal suggest there is still a long way to go before we can say we have a completely inclusive society, free from racism and discrimination.

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