chapter  1
12 Pages

Racism, Prejudice, and Social Policy

It is ironic that in the 1980s in Britain, whilst the belief in the objective existence of races remains consensual in everyday speech and in considered opinion, there is a considerable unwillingness to examine the ramifications of racism throughout British life. The irony lies in the fact that race is not a real entity, whilst racism as a range of personal and institutional practices is very real in its existence and impact. The core of racism consists of people acting as though race concepts were valid criteria for differentiating among human beings; yet there is wide support for the view that there is no adequate biological basis for believing in ‘race’ as the idea is so frequently used in Britain. After the Second World War, and with the tragic and brutal consequences of Nazi race policy very much in mind, UNESCO in a series of ‘Statements on Race and Race Prejudice’ virtually buried the notion of biological races beneath the weight of criticism from the international academic community. More recently Banton and Harwood (1975:8) assert that

‘As a way of categorising people, race is based upon a delusion because popular ideas about racial classification lack scientific validity and are moulded by political pressures rather than by the evidence from biology.’