The BME Third Sector says racism is still prevalent 11/05/09
The BME Third Sector says racism is still prevalent a decade on from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry recommendations.

This is highlighted by a publication from Voice4Change England which has marked the tenth anniversary of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry with the release of a new booklet Eliminating racism: Are we there yet?

The booklet assesses the impact of the Inquiry’s recommendations a decade on in shaping the work of the BME Third Sector and the future role of the sector in creating a successful multi-racial Britain.

According to V4CE, the booklet enables the BME Third Sector to speak for itself in saying whether the recommendations have reduced racism and created a more equitable society. It also allows funders to comment on the legacy of the Inquiry on the decisions they make.

Eliminating Racism: Are we there yet? contains the perspectives of twenty eight leading figures including representatives of BME Third Sector organisations, key bodies funding BME groups, and senior civil servants. There are also contributions from Doreen Lawrence and Dr Richard Stone, who was an official advisor to the Inquiry.

Commenting on the reflections of the contributors Vandna Gohil, Voice4Change England firector, said: “The contributions illustrate that there is more to do and that racism is prevalent and insidious in undermining people from BME communities to achieve equitable outcomes. Racism prevents them from achieving their fullest potential.

"We need existing legalisation to work better in combating this through firmer enforcement and it is vital that there is no dilution of the provisions of the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 and the role of race in the Equalities Bill. Long term investment is overdue to support the BME Third Sector playing its full part in building a thriving multi-racial civil society.”

In addition, the booklet contains a summary of the Inquiry’s recommendations that relate to the work of the BME Third Sector, and outlines the continuing inequalities for BME communities across areas such as employment, education, criminal justice, health, housing and income.

It provides the Inquiry’s definition of ‘institutional racism’ which it saw 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 was this embedded nature of racism that led to the introduction of the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 requiring public authorities to act against discrimination and promote racial equality.

The substance of the booklet is the lively and informative contributions from the many informed and respected figures in the BME Third Sector.

According to Rob Berkeley, director of the Runnymede Trust, the Inquiry was a ‘watershed’ in enabling the BME Third Sector to work with public authorities to address the challenges and opportunities of ethnic diversity. He concludes: “there remains a need for vigilance, research and advocacy to build a successful multi-racial Britain.”

A number of contributors express concern that there hasn’t been the progress expected since the recommendations were published.

Abdul Khan, chief executive of the North East BME Network BECON, says that despite good progress in some ways there still plenty of examples “where race equality and equality and diversity issues fail to be addressed”.

Ila Chandavarkar, chief officer at East of England BME Network MENTER, believes the problem to be that many public authorities and mainstream Third Sector organisations despite the Inquiry “still fail to recognise that an organisational ethos and culture which is perceived as neutral can fail to reach BME communities or operate to exclude them”.

Some contributors note that some important progress has been made. For Doreen Lawrence: “One of the positive improvements over the last ten years is that racism is discussed more openly and that the Inquiry’s recommendations were not only for the police forces but for other institutions that had to have policies in place to address inequality that had existed in the work place.”

Funding organisations also recognise the importance of the Inquiry on their work in challenging them to accept they were excluding BME groups.

According to Gaynor Humphreys, director of London Funders: “Deliberate changes have been made since then in many programmes to support small organisations, while others have led on strengthening BME infrastructure funding.”

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund, notes how the Inquiry lead to them creating mechanisms that staff to “carefully consider and address the (race) equality impact of our grant programmes, policies, and practices, both direct and indirect”.

The booklet is available from the V4CE website at

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