Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Equality & Diversity News: Issue No.1

In this issue:

  • Stephen Lawrence: Justice at Last?
  • Doctor wins £4.5m over discrimination and harassment
  • First ever Government action plan to advance transgender equality
  • Hate crime laws extended
  • Can you pass the British Citizenship Test?
  • Test your attitudes
  • Actuate Training and development
Stephen Lawrence: Justice at Last?
The racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, the South London Black teenager in 1993, was probably the most significant catalyst for change in the UK on issues relating to equality and racial justice since the civil rights movement in the US in the late 1960s.

The fact that a racist murder had to occur for this sea-change to take place reflects, unfortunately, on how our society changes and responds to such challenges. Unfortunately I suspect that this will not be the only time such a murder will act as a spur for change.

At one level the recent conviction of two of the perpetrators of the crime may bring some comfort to the Lawrence family – who have waited for nearly 20 years for the criminal justice system to bring someone to account for their son’s murder. At another level, however, the focus on the two individuals convicted may imply that there is now some sort of “closure” on the affair and we can now all move on, safe in the knowledge that the zeitgeist of racism has be exorcised from our contemporary body politic. This would be a great mistake.

The death of Stephen Lawrence resulted in one of the most significant investigations ever held into racism in the UK, under the auspices of Sir William Macpherson. Its report took us in completely new directions and its ramifications are still with us. Whilst acknowledging that individual acts of racism and hate are important for us as a society to address, the report went on to say that “institutional racism” deserved even more attention and that a radical overhaul was needed to challenge racial inequality and injustice across all areas of society – particularly the institutions of local and central government. The definition of “institutional racism” was challenging and controversial, but it is worth reproducing it in full as there has been much false and misleading comment and vilification, particularly from some sections of the populist media.

Institutional Racism was defined in the Macpherson Report as:

"the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin", which "can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes, and behaviour, which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping, which disadvantages minority ethnic people"
This definition has subsequently informed our understanding of equality and diversity issues, and the legal framework underpinning it (the Equality Act 2010 - which we now operate under today) – not just in respect of “racism”, but also other forms of inequality or unfairness as well (e.g. around other protected characteristics).

Whilst we don’t hear so much about institutional racism (or the wider term “institutional discrimination”) today is probably due to the fact that it is more widely accepted and less contentious than it was twenty years ago. Nonetheless, it remains a vitally important tool in our understanding of how our society works to perpetuate and re-enforce inequality; how progress can be judged and, more importantly, a tool which can help us take action to address continuing prejudice and inequality.

Owen Jones, in a very thoughtful and challenging article in the Independent, (5-1-2012), looking at contemporary racism, said:

“But race and racism continue to loom large over British society. In the aftermath of the August riots I spoke to a number of young black men about their experiences with the police…many had endured being stopped and searched…Black people are 26 more time likely than whites to be stopped and searched…”
“… some forms of racism have actually become worse since the Stephen Lawrence was murdered. The Conservative Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was right to say that Islamaphobia now passes the “dinner table test”. A study at the end of 2007 revealed that 91 percent of articles about Muslims… were negative. For the British National Party – as is the case for the far right across Europe – Muslims are now the target of choice.”
“That’s why it’s so important that we heed Doreen Lawrence’s words. Racism and prejudice retain their ugly presence at every level of society. The fight against it has a long way to go.”
Whilst the Lawrence family may feel they have got some limited justice at last following the convictions of Dobson and Norris, the remaining legacy of Stephen Lawrence is whether or not we can rise to the challenge to eliminate the kind of inequalities, prejudices and hate that resulted in his murder in the first place. In this respect justice for Stephen and his family is still elusive – although some progress has undoubtedly been made.

Doctor wins £4.5m over discrimination and harassment
If a reminder were needed about the importance of employers taking harassment in the workplace seriously this case is it! Whilst the facts of the case are perhaps unusual – thus resulting in a record ever tribunal award for discrimination of over £4.5 million – there are clear warnings for all employers:

  • If you don’t take harassment seriously it can cost you a great deal of money
  • Individual employees who harass can also be individually liable to pay compensation
  • The effects of harassment on the victim and their immediate family can be devastating
  • The effects on workplace relationships, culture and working arrangements can be severely disrupted for long periods of time
  • If you don’t nip harassment/workplace conflicts in the bud at an early stage it can escalate
A Leeds employment tribunal found that Dr Eva Michalak suffered race and sex discrimination at Pontefract General Infirmary. It said colleagues mounted a "concerted campaign" to bring her employment to an end while she was on maternity leave.” The trust and three senior staff members have been ordered to pay Dr Michalak £4,452,206.60 for the sex and race discrimination. The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has apologised to Dr Michalak.
See :

In another case an NHS manager, Elliot Browne, has been awarded nearly £1 million pounds for racial harassment and unfair dismissal against Central Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust after working for the NHS for over 34 years. See:

First ever Government action plan to advance transgender equality
In December Lynne Featherstone, the Minister for Equalities, launched the first ever Government transgender action plan – Advancing transgender equality: a plan for action. It lays out “the vision and focus for the Government’s commitment to deliver equality for transgender people and includes firm actions across the breadth of social policy aimed at making a real difference to transgender people’s lives”.
The plan can be found at:

Hate crime laws extended
In December the Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke announced that people who murder disabled or transgender people in hate crime attacks will face life sentences with a starting point of 30 years.

The Ministry of Justice plans to amend the Criminal Justice Act 2003 so that murders motivated by hatred or hostility towards disabled or transgender victims will have the same starting point as for murders aggravated by race, religion and sexual orientation. This will double the current starting point for disability and transgender hate crime murders.

Can you pass the British Citizenship Test?
Why not see if you can pass a version of British Citizenship test? This test (albeit that the questions are changed periodically and there is a range of different questions that are chosen) is give to all applicants for British Citizenship. It’s not as easy as you might suspect.

Have a free go at:

Test your attitudes
It is well known that people don't always 'speak their minds', and it is suspected that people don't always 'know their minds'. Understanding such divergences is important to scientific psychology. This web site presents a method that demonstrates the conscious-unconscious divergences much more convincingly than has been possible with previous methods. This new method is called the Implicit Association Test, or IAT for short.

Although the tests are largely produced for an American audience, they may give you some insight into your own subconscious attitudes – a key component of individual prejudice and stereotyping. Why not have a go and be prepared to be surprised! Don’t take it too seriously – but you may find it insightful to one degree or another.
Go to:

Events and Activities in January and February
At the end of January and into February there are a variety of commemorative events and actives for Holocaust Memorial Day (which is on January 27th). For further information see:

The month of February is designated as Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans History Month. For further information visit:

Actuate Learning
If you are looking for skilled professionals to deliver equality and diversity training you might wish to consider contacting Actuate Learning and Developmnet based in Northampton/UK. For information on their services visit:


1 comment:

  1. If you like this newsletter, which I hope to produce monthly from now on, please let me know by send me your comments. If there are particular news items or issues you would like me to cover in future editions, please also send them to me.