We Are All Equal Before The Law : How Racism Is Subsided By UK Legislation

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Question :


Write a report on "We are equal before the law" to what extent is this common statement about the law reflected in practice?

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Answer :


Equality is one of the primary rights of every individual and it is acknowledged by most of the constitutions of various countries worldwide. It is important to understand the gravity of the term equality and its implication under the law. Equality is one of the moot responsibilities that lie upon the society and it is considered to be the duty of civil society to fulfill it. Racial discrimination is one of the grave issues prevailing in society. This report attempts to shed light upon the Racial discrimination and the laws and legislations that are associated with this issue. It is a significant fact whether the legislation and laws have further complicated the issue or helped to resolve it or decrease it potently. This report highlights upon the impact of several laws and legislations upon the social issue of racial discrimination.

Racism and societal discrimination

As far as UK is concerned racism has been severely rooted in the history of Britain. With the construction of “Britishness” and white visions of identity racism emerged from the deep rooted imperial attitudes and assumptions. As far as the history of Britain is concerned racism has been deep rooted in the black presence that was visible after the large scale immigration.

 Societal discrimination became prevalent due to racism and it from the 1840s racist ideology started being deliberately promulgated in the country. This is considered as one of the moot results of the wars that brought into existence a new Asiatic and African empire and it served as the major source of employment for the ever increasing middleclass. It significantly functioned to impregnate the idea of other and discriminated this “other” as the insignificant half of the society under the umbrella of “civilizing mission” (Dolezsar et al, 2014). It is evident that UK saw an overwhelming influx of economic migrants after World War II and most of these immigrants were from different Commonwealth countries. As per the statement of the Museum of London color prejudice is considered as one of the most casual phenomenon and it was a part of the daily life for most of the people.

Related law and legislation and its impact over the issue

Introduction of Anti-discrimination Acts

Though the attitude towards race significantly changed after the 1940s but Notting Hill riots of 1958 and Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963 do not indicate the same.  The racial discrimination was introduced in UK by the legislation of Race Relations Act of 1965 (Banton, 2015). As far as the law is concerned the law had outlawed the possibility of discrimination on the basis of colour, race, national or ethnic origins in public places. This legislation further catalyzed the creation of The Race Relations Board in order to consider complaints under this act. The major reason behind introducing the act was the infuriated people that have faced several discriminatory issues due to their color and race. This is important to understand that racial discrimination significantly brought forth a group of people who are facing inequality on daily basis in their workplace and even on the streets (Kapoor, 2013). These marginalized subsection of society used to be consider as the insignificant other and thus it became important for the constitution to resolve the issue of discrimination by implementing laws in accordance with the situation.

Overview of the act

Anti-discrimination law has several sections that facilitates the process of equality among the citizens of the country. The moot concern of the Anti discrimination law was to protect the rights of the people living with HIV from discrimination in UK but gradually with several amendments and additions it seeks to promote equality and it also significantly addresses the issue of racial discrimination.

UK anti-discrimination act is currently functions through three sections or divisions of the act. The three main statues are dealing with sex, race and disability and these acts can be classified as the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, the Race Relations Act of 1976 and the Disability Discrimination act of 1995 (Meer and Nayak, 2015). It is important to understand the function of the Equal Opportunities Commission in respect to abolish societal discrimination. As far as racial discrimination is concerned the Commission for Racial Equality is the agency that is in charge of the monitoring and administration of Race Relations Act of 1976 (Richeson and Sommers, 2016). In December 2003 the Employment Equality Regulations were introduced and the new regulations have been implemented in order to prohibit discrimination in both private and public sector.

The Race Relations Act 

As amended by the Race Relations the Race Relations Act 2000 and the Race Relations Act of 1976 attempts to prohibit discrimination on race, color, ethnicity and nationality in the arena of employment, education and provision of goods and services. The law is applied in England, Wales and Scotland (Miles, 2014).

This act is significant as it made it a civil but not a criminal offence to refuse to serve any individual, to serve with unreasonable delay or to overcharge on the basis of colour, ethnicity or national identity. This is considered unethical to discriminate the citizens on the basis of their racial identity. The act created the offence of “incitement to racial hatred” (Song, 2014).

The first conviction under the act of Race Relations came in October 1967 and in this conviction a member of the National Socialist part was found guilty of racial discrimination and he had been prosecuted under the act.

Limitations and impact over the society

The major limitation of this act is it did not extend to Northern Ireland and it specifically excluded several private boarding houses and shops. The act only considers racial discrimination in the public sphere to be offensive and it is an important fact that outlawing discrimination in the places of public resort is equally offensive if the incident happens in the places of private resorts. Initially the Race Relations Board was not being competent enough and can be considered rather weak in the enforcement of the act (Lavalette and Penketh, 2014). It significantly remained limited to conciliation and the conciliation used to be based upon the assurance of not returning to the discriminatory behavior. Overall considering the cases of the initial years after implementation of the act it remained a weak piece of legislation or an attempt that was not capable enough to end racial discrimination in UK.

Considering the issues it is an important fact that UK indeed needs a Single Equality act in order to prevent discrimination. The reasons of having a single Equality Act is evident from the discussion. It is not effective enough to abolish discrimination because of the following reasons.

  • The current legislation associated with equality and Equal opportunity is not consistent enough and it is also very much complex in nature. The multiplication of statues is one of the primary reasons that has led to the current inconsistency and inequality as far as the anti discrimination act is concerned.
  • Multiple discriminations can not be challenged by the current law. This law is inadequate and not potent enough to fight against discrimination (Lavalette and Penketh, 2014). Racial discrimination is a sensitive issue as it is associated with the pride, self respect and sentiments of an individual. Therefore, it is important to address and challenge the issue of racial discrimination on multiple grounds.

Effect of the act

The race Relations Act had been derided by the activists and it was a great let down for them. 309 complaints were received between implementation of this act and 31 March, 1967. Among these complaints only eighty five fell under the scope of the legislation which were related to housing, employment and financial services. As a result an immediate campaign was held by the newly founded Race Relations Board and it had further strengthened the scope and implementation of the law (Kapoor, 2013). Government passed the 1968 Race Relations Act through extending the scope of the 1965 act by making it illegal to refuse housing, employment or public services on the basis of skin color or ethnic background and this was implemented in order to promote the idea of harmonious community relations.


It is an important fact that the long lasting legacy of imperial and racist ideologies have significantly raised the issue of discrimination in the post-war periods. And experts have had several discussions in order to implement appropriate policies in order to dismantle the ideology of discrimination. On the other hand another important fact is that the attitudes towards race had been significantly changed since the 1940s and introduction of Equality Act and Anti-discrimination Laws have functioned significantly in decreasing the affect of racism from the victims. However, the important factor in this case is to remember that as far as law and legal rights are concerned everyone is considered equal subjects of the state and equality is one of the basic rights that come with birth. It is often argued that the fight for racial justice that the Claudia Joneses and Frances Ezzrecos began sixty years ago goes on even today. The dominant discourse of racism makes it even harder to argue for equality.