Finished Dreaming? The Post-Racial Delusion Is Over - Back to Work

16/10/2013 12:56 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

'No dogs, No Blacks'. Although many of us would like to believe that we have moved beyond the racism of the of the 1960s, a number of studies have shown that while racial discrimination is less often blatant; it still very much exists, and has shifted into more subtle and insidious forms.

Earlier today Runnymede released the results of a survey, which found that over a quarter of Black Caribbean, Black African and Pakistani participants have felt discriminated against when seeking a place to live. These results were released alongside an investigative report by the BBC, which found that letting agents in London were prepared to outsource the discrimination of landlords against would-be tenants on the grounds of race. These results are shocking not only because they show a total disregard for the law, but because they also illustrate how racial discrimination can still negatively affect even the most fundamental rights in the UK, like shelter.

Our results, alongside a number of other surveys and reports which were published under the cover of the party conferences are finally giving rest to the post-racial fallacy that those in power have been trying to sell us for the past couple of years. Namely that racism is a thing of the past, after all we're now all too enlightened, they argue, to engage in activity that would deny people opportunities based on something as irrelevant as the colour of their skin, ethnic origin or nationality. Unfortunately the evidence exposes the post-racial argument as mere wishful thinking.

For the post-racial fantasists it is only logical to abandon positive action to address racial inequalities, claiming that such action is divisive. We are encouraged to look instead for other reasons to explain the persistent inequalities that people from minority ethnic communities face - the most popular alternative reason; it is the victim of racism's fault. If nearly 50% of young black men are unemployed in comparison to 20% of their white counterparts, it is purely a result of these men's fecklessness. If Bangladeshi women seeking work are twice as likely as white women to be unemployed it's a result of their 'culture'. If black people are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police in our streets, then there is no smoke without fire.

The seductiveness of the post-racial fantasy has led our government to point-blank refuse to set out a strategy to address racial inequality or even to see this as among the responsibilities of the Government Equalities Office. It has seen virtual silence from the political leaders of all parties as the hard-fought for Equality Act has been neutered along with the body set up to enforce it, the Equality and Human Rights Commission which now only spends its allocated budget with Treasury oversight for fear that it will be too critical of government.

Last month we released a survey, which highlighted that three out of five people from minority ethnic backgrounds are worried about discrimination and harassment. Worse, 96% of Pakistani respondents worried that they would be subjected to harassment or attack due to their colour, ethnicity or religion. The same survey found that 40% of black respondents had experienced some form of racial discrimination in their workplace. For the post-racialists this is some sort of mass delusion but, to borrow a phrase, perhaps they need to check their privilege.

Don't just take our word for it. A BBC Newsbeat poll highlighted that over a quarter of young people, normally thought of as more socially liberal than their parents, thought that Britain would be better off without Muslims. The 30th British Social Attitudes survey found that a quarter of the British public declared themselves a 'little bit prejudiced' (not sure what this means - is it like being a little bit pregnant?). Research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that social mobility was likely to be slower for ethnic minorities because of stereotyping by employers.

When did we become so deaf to the concerns of the ethnic minorities who are seeking an equal stake in our society - accusing them instead of seeking special treatment just to have access to the social goods we all aspire to?

Post 2001, the language of 'cohesion' came to the fore in public policy, signalling a turn to greater emphasis on 'race relations' rather than the 'race equality' paradigm that had marked the 1990s. Some would argue, cohesion came at the expense of equality, opening the door to the increasing securitization of the way we understand race relations in the UK. Coming at the same time as the application of the provisions of the Race Relations Amendment Act, this focus on cohesion and integration rather than equality signalled the disconnection of the popular struggle for racial justice from bureaucratic decision-making processes.

Post 2010, this disconnection between reality and bureaucracy opened a space for fantasy to replace the hard facts of discrimination experienced by too many of our compatriots. Seeking to wish away, rather than acknowledge racism and the subsequent moral imperative to do something about it, has lead to entrenched and new forms of racial inequality and injustice taking hold, while removing the tools to address them.

Well it's time to wake up from that dream. Those of us with our eyes open have committed to refocus our efforts to address racism. At the end of last month we launched our End Racism This Generation campaign and through our new online platform we are pooling our ideas, resources and commitment to address racial injustice and inequality where we see it. We're heading back to work. Let's hope our leaders can join us soon.