John Denham: Tackling racism means tackling all forms of discrimination

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The Independent Online

Over the past decade, the Government has worked tirelessly to build a fairer, more equal society. A society where a person's chances and opportunities in life are determined solely by their talent and effort – not by their class, gender, religion, sexuality or race.

The Macpherson Report in 1999 was a wake-up call for all public services and has transformed the way they serve black and minority ethnic communities: no longer simply passively addressing individual racist incidents but actively promoting racial equality and better race relations. This has helped us to make substantial strides towards racial equality.

Across government, our efforts to raise incomes, reduce poverty and promote equality – whether through the minimum wage, Sure Start or housing – has made a real difference to the lives of the most disadvantaged, including those from BME communities.

However, there is still much to do. We know that there are still areas of concern, especially in school exclusions, the national DNA database, and stop and search. But we must also recognise that Britain today is not the same place as it was a decade ago. Migration, the growing importance of community cohesion, and our better understanding of the way in which race interacts with class and other factors, such as religion, have all changed the terms of the debate and made promoting race equality a much more complex challenge.

So we must recognise that we will not succeed in tackling racism without tacking all forms of discrimination, prejudice and inequality. We have to redouble our efforts to promote greater equality for all, and combine that with action to target the specific problems faced by particular groups.

And we have to do that in ways which are fair, and seen to be fair, so that no group is neglected or overlooked. Regardless of class, race, beliefs or anything else: in every community, in every corner of the country – we are on people's side. No favours. No privileges. No special interest groups. Just fairness.

Today, we are a society more comfortable with diversity than ever, more willing to celebrate the many benefits diversity brings. But we cannot yet say we are a society wholly free of prejudice, discrimination and inequality.

Taken from the Communities Secretary's foreword to a report launched yesterday, 'Tackling Race Inequality'