A year after public authorities were supposed to have their race equality schemes in place, only a handful have fulfilled their legal obligations, according to a new survey. Richard Kenyon and Henrietta Hill report
This time last year, public authorities were frantically trying to get their Race Equality Schemes in place by the 31 May deadline to comply with their latest obligations under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 (RR(A)A). This Act places a 'general duty' on specified public authorities to take steps to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and promote good relations between people of different racial groups. It also places 'specific duties' on certain public authorities to help them meet the general duty.
The specific duties require public authorities to publish and maintain an RES and the results of ethnic monitoring. These may provide a complainant with valuable data to support a county court or employment tribunal claim. Failure to comply with the minimum requirements puts the authority at a disadvantage in any litigation, as it suggests it does not take the issue of race discrimination as seriously as it should, leaving it vulnerable to allegations of race discrimination and 'institutional racism'.
The legislation makes no mention of institutional racism, although that concept was the catalyst for it. The Macpherson Enquiry into the Metropolitan Police's handling of the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation described it as: "the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people."
Crucially, the report highlighted unconscious, unwitting and unintentional prejudice, equating its consequences to more overt forms of racism. Unwitting prejudice is, by nature, difficult to identify not least because the perpetrators are unaware they are discriminating.
However, the consequences of discrimination may be apparent from statistical analysis. This is where the RR(A)A should be making a difference. The specific duties should help provide that statistical analysis and the general duty should provide the obligation to corr