To counter racism, you must know what it is – start with the definition in UK law
If we have a thousand definitions and it becomes a subjective occurrence we shall never eliminate it.
A critique of racism should surely start with a definition of what we think racism is. I for one begin with the legal definition, starting with the 1965 Race Relations Act, which refers to less favourable treatment on grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins. The Equality Act 2010 has a similar definition. It is not reverse discrimination if racism is done by a black person towards a white person, it is racism; the law in Britain has been thankfully consistent, but it has also been largely unknown and ignored. Renni Eddo-Lodge is right to describe what is and has been happening to black people as a consequence of racism (Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race, 30 May) but if neither she nor the Guardian know or understand what the law says we shall make no progress in eliminating it.
Racism in the UK has changed significantly since I was a child in the 1950s but it is as ill-understood and consequently unaddressed as it was then. It was not until the Race Relations Amendment Act of 2000, after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, that police were required, as local authorities had been, to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination. There was, for a few years, activity that trained police officers to understand what “less favourable treatment” looked like and who and why it should be avoided. But as soon as the coalition government came to power almost all equality training was stopped.
If journalists and police officers do not know what the definition of racism is, how can they be expected to counter it? It is not merely whatever we think it is. And people need to know what they are required to do to comply with the law. If we have a thousand definitions and it becomes a subjective occurrence we shall never eliminate it.
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