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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Equalities and Race

Martin Francis takes up the issue of Brent Council's equality policy and the behaviour of its head of human resources here.  I don't propose to go in to the details of the issue, where the Council is giving contradictory answers, and effectively fails to deal with the problem.  I have been highly critical of Brent Council's human resources department on this and other issues before

What I wanted to pick up on is Martin's view that "Consideration of the Equalities issue would perhaps carry more weight and be more robust if some Cabinet members stepped aside in favour of substitutes who are members of the BAME community."

I think this is a very old fashioned view which is actually quite wrong.  Firstly, there is the obvious point that we should all be concerned about racial discrimination, whatever our ethnicity.  I don't agree with the implication that only someone from an ethnic minority can properly make a judgement. 

The second, wider, point is that a modern understanding of equalities goes well beyond race.  Current legislation, and the wider political culture, recognises a number of different strands where discrimination can come into play, including sex, religion, age, disability sexuality and so on.  We all of us, meet at least three of what the law calls "protected characteristics".   The characteristics (such as disability for example) can in any case be catch all groups that actually cover a range of people with very different problems.  It is also true that people in one or other of these strands are not exempt from prejudice simply on that basis (e.g. anti-Semitic white people can discriminate against white jews).

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