Bill to Amend Race
Relations Act Does Not Deal with the Issue of Racism
Today the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill receives its third
reading in the House of Lords.
The Bill was introduced by the government in response to
the Macpherson report into the death of Stephen Lawrence. The problem that the
Bill is supposedly designed to tackle is that of "institutionalised
racism" in public bodies such as the police. The Race Relations Act of
1976 has been held in law to be only applicable to acts of such bodies if they
are of a similar kind to acts of private individuals. The responsible minister
in the Lords, Lord Bassam of Brighton, explained during the Bills second
reading in December last year that its aim is to ensure that public authorities
"set the pace in the drive for equality through leading by example".
Only thus, he said, can we "transform Britain into a society that is
inclusive and prosperous".
It appears that the Bill is being introduced by the
government to give the impression that it is taking action against the racism
of the police in legislative terms, while in fact dealing with the whole
problem in a superficial and outmoded form.
In a modern society, the rights of all must be guaranteed
and recognised as inviolable, irrespective of nationality, gender, religion,
country of origin or any other characteristic. In other words, in such a modern
human society, rights are recognised and guaranteed based on no other criteria
that one is a human being. In terms of the rights of citizens of a given
country, all that should be necessary is to ascertain whether that person is
resident in the country, and the exercise of all citizenship rights be granted
on that basis.
While introducing its new Race Relations Bill, the
government has been making a big hue and cry on a racist basis about
"illegal immigrants and asylum seekers", and has also been defeated
on its plan to eliminate trial by jury in certain cases which also had been
criticised for the fact that in practice it too would have been directed
against national minorities and others to put in place a two-tier justice
system. These alone are indications that if the government itself is proceeding
on a racist course, a new Race Relations Bill must be examined with great
circumspection about its intentions.
The Bill is not based on the modern definition that the
rights of all must be recognised as inviolable on the basis of a persons
being human, nor does it even attempt to deal with, for example, the
responsibility of a modern society to people of different national backgrounds,
in terms of assistance in promoting their national languages and cultures, and
of protecting all those who are vulnerable. That is, it does not start from the
premise that all have an equal right to participate in the polity and exist
without discrimination. It does not even have any relation to the
Ministers claim of ensuring that Britain is transformed into "a
society that is inclusive and prosperous", though that formulation in
itself is one which does not recognise the rights of all.
On the basis of the analysis of "institutionalised
racism", particularly of the police, it instead is directed to ensuring
that Chief Officers of Police are made vicariously liable for the acts and
omissions of the police officers relevant to race relations legislation, as
they would be if they were employers under the 1976 Race Relations Act.
However, this latter Act has not eradicated racism nor altered the fact that
racism is and has been used by the state to attack the vulnerable and prevent
the people from struggling together to open the door to the progress of
society. Since the British state itself arose on the basis of a racist and
religious division of the polity, such "reforms" as the new Race
Relations Bill will not solve the problem. This racist division has been
perpetuated through the British Nationality Act and other legislation which
deliberately mixes up the conceptions of citizenship and nationality.
Even as a "reform" the Race Relations (Amendment)
Bill will not deal with "institutionalised racism". It deliberately
excludes "indirect" racist discrimination, in other words those
systematic practices which treat national minorities as second class citizens.
The issue is that minorities must take their place in society as second to
The programme of the working class is to bring about a
modern society which protects those who are the most vulnerable, where
state-organised racist attacks and every other attack on rights are opposed and
eliminated, in which the rights of all are recognised by virtue of their