Under the Equality Act 2010, the Protected Characteristic of Race means: A person’s skin colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin. Race/ethnicity includes White British people, but those at most risk of prejudice and discrimination are those from ethnic minority communities.

Can you educate people not to be Racist?

Bearing in mind that some families have brought up by racists, and have racist friends, how does one change these people?  Is it even possible or desirable to have racists hide their true feelings?  Racism is being proved to shorten the lifespan of ethnic minorities or immigrants in a predominantly white country. If it is not via murder or attacks, it is the quiet stress of putting a brave face forward when dealing with evey day racism or occasional verbal attacks, or barefaced barriers to progression in work, or worse still being denied a job because of skin colour.  Doors are shut at every stage of a job process, and for those in a job, they may be the first to be made redundant or fired.  Maybe if people knew black history, or knew their own history in relation to black people, that could help some.  Other hardened souls don't care, and never will.  They've become the master of deceit in pretending that they do not see colour. Just don't step on their toes.

What is BAME?

The terms BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) people refers to people who are not White British, by the Census definition. It includes people who would classify themselves under ‘White Other’ such as a White person from Eastern Europe. BAME people include:

Arabic people
Asylum seekers and refugees
Asian or Asian British people
Black (African/African Caribbean) or Black British people
Chinese people
Irish people (‘White Other’)
People of mixed heritage
Travellers and Gypsies
‘White Other’ e.g. White Australian, White European

What do we mean by ‘race’ and ‘culture’?

‘Race’ is an umbrella term used to describe aspects of a person’s identity that is generally linked to their own or their ancestor’s homeland. It covers nationality (for example, British), national origin (for example, English), skin colour and ethnicity or ‘ethnic origin’. Ethnic origin is defined by a shared history/ancestry, language, or distinctive shared culture. Nationality is determined by what is on your passport (British) and national origin is the country you are from (English).

Racial/ethnic groups have been defined through equality case law and Census classification and can include: Pakistani, Black American, Irish Traveller, Roma/Romany Gypsies, Chinese, White British, Jews and Sikhs.

Muslims are not a racial group but religion/belief and ethnicity can overlap because religions often have a geographic pattern to them.

We tend to use the term ‘culture’ when talking about broader aspects of ethnicity and religion/belief. Culture can include values, behaviours, practices and preferences (diet, expression, fashion, leisure etc.) and these can be influenced directly or indirectly by religion/belief as well as laws and customs of a country. This is why we talk more about ‘cultural competence’ rather than ‘racial competence’.

Many people have a mixed heritage and there can be different cultures within nationalities and faiths. The reality therefore is quite complex and a key message is:
It’s OK to be curious because this means you won’t jump to conclusions and make assumptions about people, which can lead to prejudice.

"I don't see colour"

We need to ensure we do not adopt a ‘colour blind approach’ or focus too much on cultural diversity. This means we should recognise the relevance of, and prioritise, racial equality and ensure we challenge inequalities as well as celebrate diversity.

Having a ‘colour-blind approach’: this is where racial equality is not seen as relevant in predominantly White areas and ethnic minority communities are ignored. In some cases ‘low numbers’ has led to low prioritisation, despite the fact that people from ethnic minority communities are more likely to experience barriers in accessing services, discrimination or Hate Crime.

‘Invisibility’ can result in products made only for paler skin and pictures always of White people.


"The Problem or Denial

Ethnic minorities are perceived as ‘the problem’ but ‘the problem’ is often other people’s perceptions or a result of embedded social inequalities such as a poor understanding of needs including language support, cultural awareness and the need to build trust and confidence between ethnic minority communities and public services.

Focusing too much on ‘cultural diversity’: this approach recognises the need to respect, accommodate and celebrate different cultures and traditions but does not address racial prejudice and discrimination. The organisation will fail to take steps to tackle disproportionate under- or over- representation in access to services or employment or address racism head-on, even denying racism exists because of the positives.  Too often we have heard firms say no racism exists at their establishment, only to hear tearful stories follow later on.

White country

The United Kingdom remains a predominantly White country, with only 14% of BAME people reported in the 2011 Census. However, it is more in some regions such as London, Birmingham, Bradford, Reading and Leicester with BAME could account for up to 60% of the local population.

There are however vast swathes of the country that have little or no BAME population. This can mean there is a lack of knowledge amongst staff on how to meet the needs of BAME people, due to lack of regular contact.  There are bound to be incidences of lack of racism, even from well-meaning people who have no idea that their microagressions are causing internal turmoil for their workmates.

Poor Practice

Anecdotal evidence in 2015, from some community organisations indicated that there have been pockets of poor practice towards ethnic minority communities, including a ‘fear’ of discussing race issues and inappropriate use of family members as interpreters, despite there being arrangements for professional interpreting in place. In addition, there are a number of national and international influences affecting the experiences of ethnic minority groups.

Far-right activity is often seen to be fuelling prejudice, stereotyping and hatred, which often increases as a result of global migration and the fear and mistrust of other cultures.

Why are BAME people here?

The main reason most BAME are here, is that their parents arrived either to work, or to study, and remained in the UK to build a life with a family, while supporting relatives back home.  They do not come to "sponge" off the state.  They are hardworking and diligent in their work and can be found in jobs that white people don't want to do, in addition to professional roles.  Second generation BAME tend to do well in school, and go to university with the aspirations to get a good professional job. Some have developed businesses and are doing well.  Others find the path to success illusive and may try illegal routes to survive.

How third generation BAME survive in the UK, is dependent on where they live and what their parents do.  These children will typically sound just like white British children and have all the opportunities at school.  If they face rejection or unfair treatment, they are likely to rebel. Working class parents will back them up, and attainment could spiral downwards. Educated parents will tend to strive for their children to become professionals like themselves, and provide experiences for children to aspire.  They are more likely to take the school to task for errors in judgement.

Migration can be triggered by economic needs as well as human rights abuses, war, famine and other natural disasters.
Increased awareness of the need to address abuses including modern day slavery, human exploitation, female genital mutilation (FGM), breast ironing and forced marriage which some ethnic groups have an increased risk of experiencing (noting that these abuses can also be experienced by the White British population and not all ethnic minority groups or people from high risk groups practice such abuses).

Variations of Culture

Examples of variations in culture/race (which may overlap with religion/belief)
Behaviours/cultural norms:
Courtesy such as handshaking and use of eye-contact (may be perceived as aggressive and no eye contact is showing politeness and respect rather than shyness or avoidance).

Presence of members of the opposite sex. Male workers should check if it is appropriate to visit a female service user on their own, for example.
Diet – access to favourite foods.
‘Dinner manners’ – these things are particularly relevant where services involve personal care or visiting people in their homes.

Attitudinal differences based upon laws/culture of country of origin – for example, attitudes about domestic violence, disability and homosexuality can vary across the globe and progress to achieve equality is slower in some countries (in some, it is faster).

Driving laws and attitudes to drink driving may be different, requiring targeted education programmes, for example. Practices such as Female Genital Mutilation and Forced Marriage are illegal in the UK but practiced in other countries. Whilst it is not acceptable to stereotype and label all people from an ethnic group, it is not racist to challenge and safeguard against illegal, cruel and harmful practices.

Intonation and ways of expressing can vary between cultures. For example, African Caribbean cultures can be more expressive, which may be perceived as noisy or disruptive by more conservative personalities. This could, for example, result in African Caribbean children being disproportionately disciplined in youth settings.


Clothing and hair styles/condition. For example, African or Caribbean hair needs to be treated in a particular way because it can be very dry. There may braids, afros, straightened hair, wigs, weaves or a combination of all of these.

In traditional Chinese culture, it is rude to show bare feet.

Naming systems. For example, family name first, religious names etc.

Difference of skin colour/condition between ethnic groups. For example, policy or guidance that includes reference to skin colour (such as ‘if the patient is pale’ in First Aid training) also takes into account darker skin colours.

Skin types also have different care needs (BAME skin is often naturally dry and requires regular moisturising) however, Black skin can still burn in summer and therefore requires sun protection cream.


Familiarity and assimilation:

Isolation or low trust and confidence because of previous negative experience including a lack of appropriate service provision which caters for cultural needs. Fear of authority may also be present, due to experiences in countries with poor human rights records.

Isolation and limited ability to source support (including emotional support) because of exclusion from community life or not having close family or cultural connections nearby. Staff, for example, may need additional support through BAME networks or buddies/mentors.

Lack of access to ‘bricks and mortar’ accommodation, access to a postcode or ‘landline’, people who are highly mobile – particularly relevant for Traveller and Gypsy communities and asylum seekers.

For people newly arrived from another country: lack of access to bank loans, credit history and references which can cause problems for things like renting or purchasing housing or a car, on top of costs of visas and, sometimes, relocating the family too.


Race Equality Checklist

Is the best person for the job hired, or is it always best fit?

Is there anything which could lead to racial/cultural bias? For example, in guidance – to judge lack of eye contact as a negative thing.

Is there an opportunity to ask what needs or preferences someone has based upon ethnic culture?

Once racial incidences have been discovered, what are the policies of the company?  What happens to the perpetrator, and what happens to the complainant?  What happens when there is denial?

Do issues of a sensitive nature require careful communications to ensure they are not at risk of negative racial

Are staff culturally competent?

Where relevant, are things like diversity of skin colour, appearance, dress, diet etc. taken into account?

Where relevant, are things like family circumstances, familiarity/assimilation and immigration status taken into account?

If someone has limited English language skill, or is communicating across a distance, in what way can this be supported?

Whether all racial groups have equal access to the service or benefits? What evidence do you have?

Whether there are any barriers to participation such as low numbers compared to the population? What evidence do you have and what can you do to mitigate those barriers?

Is active inclusion sought in all opportunities which arise whether in promotion, courses or leisure activities?

Do staff events ever celebrate cultural differences?

Would a Truth and Reconciliation soul searching project reveal hidden burdens and eventually produce positive results?

If some ethnic groups always miss the drinking sessions after work, has the workplace considered other activities that may encourage more participation?


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *