Changes to recruitment procedures have arguably made a difference to the employment of minorities, but black and minority ethnic staff continue to make slower progress than white counterparts within organisations, according to the authors of a new book assessing available British research.
The review, by Dr Reena Bhavnani, Professor Heidi Mirza and Veena Meetoo of Middlesex University finds that although laws against racial discrimination and harassment have led to a plethora of written workplace policies, they remain ineffective in improving the quality of life for different ethnic minority groups.
This is because they fail to address underlying everyday attitudes and behaviours, which frequently go unchallenged. These subtle and overt behaviours quickly become an expected part of everyday life. They are not publicly acknowledged, and constantly reappear.
Tackling the Roots of Racism, published by The Policy Press, is being launched at the House of Lords by speakers that include Baroness Valerie Amos (See Note to Editors). It argues that although there are many types of racism, there are two categories that stand out.
Reena Bhavnani said: "The complexity of the way that 'race' issues interact with inequalities arising from class, gender, age and disability suggests that a more holistic approach to tackling the roots of racism is needed. Patterns of behaviour are ingrained in the British establishment and its structures and in everyday British 'culture'. Individuals do not necessarily act in racist ways, but attitudes and ideologies based on ideas about the supposed inferiority and subordination of certain groups are still deeply embedded in British society."
The research review also warns that failure to acknowledge underlying attitudes and behaviours between people can cause problems. Ethnic monitoring arrangements in organisations can have the unintended consequence of reinforcing racism by focusing on black and ethnic minority employees in isolation. The authors note, for example, that the 'positive action' that has traditionally benefited white, middle-class men through membership of social clubs and professional associations is taken for granted, rather than monitored.
Heidi Mirza said: "The key reason for the limitations of most current interventions on 'race', equality and diversity in organisations is that they do not address the root, underlying causes of racism and the ways in which they are constantly being reproduced. Although there are many diversity and racial equality documents and action plans in circulation, very few organisations have real evidence or understanding of interventions that will actually reduce racism."
Alongside its analysis of research, the book reports on varied international initiatives that appear to have been successful in challenging and reducing racism. In Britain, these include: