Racism is a socially constructed phenomenon, evident within mainstream society’s individual and institutional value systems. The corrosive effects of racism seriously impinge upon the life chances and life expectancy of ethnic minorities, living within the United Kingdom. Within this essay I will attempt to highlight the social implications of racism, illustrating the relationship between racism, poverty and social exclusion. I will also consider recent government legislation and the contribution required from Social Services to combat the perpetuating effects of racism.
Within today’s society racial classification creates a dominant framework of superior and inferior beings, some still believe superiority of one race over another is a result of biological indifferences. According to De Gobineaue “the white race possesses intelligence, morality and will power superior to those of the others” [other races] (Giddens 1993:264). Alternatively, black races are considered to be, in educable, deviant and inferior to their white counterparts.
These stereotypical viewpoints embody the essence of racism; Giddens (1993) defines racism as falsely attributing inherited characteristics of personality or behaviour to individuals of a particular appearance. The negative affects of racism profoundly impact upon institutions such as education, housing, employment and health to name but a few. Institutional racism is an accepted concept existing within both the public and private sectors. The Macpherson Report defines institutional racism as: ….
the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin… (Macpherson Report, 1999) The reality of such a damning statement confirms the disadvantage ethnic minorities’ encounter in their every day lives; furthermore the negative effects of racism correlate with statistics illustrating, ethnic minorities’ experiences with poor standards of housing and lower levels of income. Within the United Kingdom, ethnic minorities represent approximately 5.
5 per cent of the population (Commission for Racial Equality 1999); most minority ethnic groups live in socially and economically deprived areas, experiencing limited access to quality services. Poverty is a fundamental disadvantage afflicting many ethnic minority groups; amongst the diverse population contained within the label “ethnic minority groups” Bangladeshi and Pakistani families are by far the poorest groups, research carried out by (Foundations 2000) reveals that 60 per cent of Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities live in poor conditions.
The effects of poverty significantly contribute towards lower social status, poorer life chances and a feeling of powerlessness; the consequences of poverty not only deprive individuals of material necessities but when combined with racism, exacerbate social inequalities that further compound the disadvantage that already exists. Residing within socially and economically deprived areas, places limitations on the quality and standard of education ethnic minorities receive (Giddens 1993). Many inner city schools fail to recognise, the intrinsic needs of children from different races.
Furthermore, under-representation of ethnic minority teachers and a curriculum that emphasises white dominance contribute towards accusations that the educational system is institutionally racist. Maxie Hayles, chair of the Birmingham Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit quotes;- Black children are often labelled by teachers as disruptive and less intelligent than white pupils; creating a self fulfilling prophecy. Black youths need something: they feel debased; they need something to identify with. (Hinsliff and Bright 2000)