When Commonwealth immigration to Britain began in large numbers half a century ago, newcomers faced instinctive and engrained bigotry.
Race relations legislation has stamped out most public expressions of prejudice and two generations of white youngsters have grown up used to seeing black and Asian faces on high streets around the country.
For all the progress, though, ethnic minority Britons often find themselves at a disadvantage compared with their white neighbours in their everyday lives. Many are more likely to be expelled from school, jailed, unemployed, poorly paid, living in sub-standard housing and victims of crime.
And the surge in support over the past two years for the British National Party suggests that racial prejudice is still not far below the surface in many white communities.
The population of the United Kingdom now stands at just over 60 million, of whom about 4.6 million (8 per cent) come from an ethnic minority background. That includes 2.3 million people who describe their background as Asian, 1.1 million who are Black Caribbean or Black African, and nearly 700,000 of mixed race.
A review by the former NatWest chief executive, Sir Derek Wanless, last November revealed that black children were five times less likely to be registered as "gifted and talented" than white children, and three times more likely to be excluded than whites.
Home Office data published last autumn showed that black people were still six times more likely than whites to be stopped and searched, and Asians are twice as likely.
Research has also suggested that black and Asian people are more likely to be imprisoned than white defendants - and, if found guilty, receive longer sentences than whites.Last month, the Crown Prosecution Service revealed statistics pointing to an increase in race-related crime, with prosecutions for racially or religiously aggravated offences up by more than a quarter on the previous year.The CPS said police and the courts had become more sensitive to race-related crime, and part of the increase in the numbers may simply be down to better reporting by the police.
By the numbers
20% The proportion of people jailed who come from an ethnic minority community - they make up only 8 per cent of the population
28% The increase in prosecutions for racially aggravated offences last year. The total in 2005 was 7,430
10% The proportion of non-white people whose details have been added to the national DNA database, compared to only 5 per cent of white peopleReuse content