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About this book

Race Relations in Britain since 1945 provides a critical overview of the origins, development and present state of race relations in Britain. Highly contentious, the field of race relations is closely related to a number of issues which are regarded to be at the very heart of contemporary British life. Professor Goulbourne draws on a variety of historical, sociological, anthropological and political analyses to construct and advance a convincing and persuasive argument about differential incorporation into British society or inequality based on colour in the imperial and colonial era as well as the contemporary period.

Table of Contents

1. The Question of a Field of Race Relations

Abstract
The inelegance with which we nearly always place the word race in inverted commas when writing about race relations illustrates our unease in dividing people into racial categories. This unease is a recognition that the social relations we describe as racial have been seen as highly problematic since the 1939–45 war against Nazi Germany. But our discomfiture is increasingly felt in an age of mass migration and the greater participation of nearly if not all countries and communities in the global economy. In Britain, the problematic of race and ethnic relations has spawned an impressive body of literature concerned with both academic and policy issues, and this corpus of literature may be said to set the parameters of the field of British race and ethnic relations. None the less, there still are surprisingly few attempts made to define a set of social relations which may be unambiguously designated as the field of race relations. Indeed, it often appears that the search for a definition of this field and its historical beginnings is a futile enterprise. The result is that commonsensical understandings and vague historical markers are the best we can hope for. The principal aim of this chapter is to suggest, therefore, what we have in mind when we speak about race relations and what these relations might mean in the historical and sociological contexts of post-imperial Britain.
Harry Goulbourne

2. Imperial and Post-imperial Backgrounds

Abstract
The notion of a multi-cultural Britain denotes, as we saw in the last chapter, recognition of the existence of a citizenry composed by people of different colours and celebrating a diversity of cultures. But this has been so for only the last three decades at the very most, and it is not universally embraced. Until mass migration from the Commonwealth Caribbean, the Indian sub-continent and Africa from 1948, Britain was seen as a white country; indeed, in many parts of Britain and the contemporary world, the country is still seen as ‘white people’s country’, reflecting the image of an exclusive imperial order. This perception of Britain is still unambiguously projected by Her Majesty’s Government in embassies and high commissions abroad. But even if it is conceded that this perception of British society may have been close to the reality at some point between the Union of England and Scotland in the early eighteenth century and the demise of British imperial power during the second half of the present century, it may be argued that this was not so before nor during the last four or so decades. It is suggested here that it has been the migration flows from the Caribbean, South Asia and Africa, in the years between the late 1940s and the late 1970s, that established the basis for significant change in British society, it is no longer possible meaningfully to speak of it as being exclusively so.
Harry Goulbourne

3. The Political Context

Abstract
The discussion so far suggests that the political dimension of a society is of considerable relevance to the sociological understanding of race relations and this is as true for multi-cultural Britain today as it was for the imperial order considered in the last chapter. Issues or problems of race and ethnic relations are discussed and solutions sought in a variety of institutions of civil society, but the resolution of such problems is generally pursued within the political system. Of course, sometimes these problems are deliberately avoided, often because a political system may not have the capacity or will to address them, or their avoidance may serve powerful interests. As we noted in Chapter 2, the attitude of the imperial British state towards the multiplicity of peoples throughout the empire was important in shaping the patterns of race relations that developed. But in post-imperial Britain, the unitary state has not discouraged these groups’ adaptive political capabilities. Thus, whilst society may be described as multi-cultural, the state remains the traditionally unified construction it became from the seventeenth century. To be sure, in the late 1970s there were talks of devolution of state power to Celtic Britain, and in October 1997 the Blair government conducted two referenda in Scotland and Wales to gain support for such devolution.
Harry Goulbourne

4. Practical Problems of the Multi-cultural Society

Abstract
The concept of a multi-cultural society in post-imperial Britain entails, as we have seen, more than toleration of cultural pluralism. The ideology embraces notions of fairness and equality, and the proponents of multi-culturalism presumably do not intend that celebration of difference should be used to justify inequality as the promotion of difference in Jim Crow America and apartheid South Africa was used to establish grossly unjust social orders. There are, however, considerable problems to be confronted in the endeavour to build a fair and equal multicultural society in Britain. Those issues which I considered to be of a theoretical nature were discussed in Chapter 1, but it is now necessary to look closer at some of the practical problems which have had to be, and are being, confronted in the effort to make the multi-cultural society a reality in the lives of people from both majority and minority communities. In drawing a general outline of these problems I wish to suggest that some problems have been long-standing or historical, whilst others are of relatively recent origins. Both old and new problems reflect the increasingly complex incorporation or integration of new minority ethnic groups into British society. The historical problems have been characterised by struggles to achieve equality of opportunity in employment, fairness in the criminal justice system, equal access to good housing and obtaining a satisfactory education. Increasingly, however, the problems of health, social and community services, and representation of new minorities in the media have become important areas of concern for policy-makers, providers of services, community organisations and politicians, as new minorities become more easily identified as parts of the British social and political fabrics. It is not necessary to attempt a description of all the problems minority ethnic groups, researchers and policy-makers have been concerned with in these areas over the past three decades or more, because not only has a voluminous literature developed around most problem areas, but there has also been a high degree of specialisation in race relations research since the 1970s.
Harry Goulbourne

5. Outlawing Racial Discrimination

Abstract
The state’s attitude to relations between groups of people distinguished by racial or ethnic characteristics is of enormous importance to the ways in which the problems emanating from such relations are tackled within the various institutions of the state itself and in civil society generally. We have already seen how the plurality of attitudes of the imperial state, as represented in different colonies, was important in shaping the patterns of race relations. In post-imperial Britain, the state’s policies regarding new minorities are equally important in setting the context for the development of what is widely regarded as ‘good’ race relations between minorities and the majority and between minorities themselves. For much of the second half of the twentieth century a significant aspect of the struggle to advance social justice in Britain has therefore taken the form of a protracted fight against racial discrimination in public life. One aspect of this has been the concerted effort to convert abstract or formal rights into practical, realisable rights for the enjoyment of black and brown citizens on the same social and economic bases as any white fellow or sister citizen. Legislation in 1965, 1968 and 1976 sought to grapple with the problem of racial discrimination, and to a significant degree has succeeded in not only outlawing but also limiting the legitimacy of such discrimination in the public arena.
Harry Goulbourne

6. ‘Good Race Relations’ and the Production of Knowledge

Abstract
There is a strong view in Britain and elsewhere that the production of verifiable knowledge is in itself significant in the effort to reduce racial discrimination. In part, this came from the American experience of fighting Jim Crowism in the states south of the Mason-Dixon line in the state of Virginia and which formally sanctioned the universal incorporation of black Americans into the wider society. More generally, the belief appears to be rooted in an assumption that knowledge is likely to erase prejudicial values and therefore obnoxious and unacceptable social behaviour based on ignorance. It is worth remembering, however, that whilst this view has continued to be a fundamental assumption in British race relations theory and policy, some of the most knowledgeable sections of British and American societies — the academic and intellectual establishments — furthered racial theories and colluded with plans to discriminate against vulnerable groups. Fortunately, as we have seen, the view that knowledge is a corrective to the injustices of discrimination, has been balanced since 1965 by legislation against racial discrimination in British public life. None the less, the propositions that racial discrimination in Britain can and will be undermined by verifiable knowledge and that this knowledge is likely to inform policy, remain basic but partly erroneous principles. This is a disturbing hypothesis. It raises questions over the realisation of the multi-cultural society, because, as we noted earlier, education is at the centre of the effort to accomplish the ideals of multi-culturalism.
Harry Goulbourne

7. British Race Relations in Perspective

Abstract
This essay started with a discussion of whether it is possible to demarcate an area, or identify some patterns of social and political life that may be properly, or at least acceptably, described as a field of race relations. In Chapter 1 we saw that the term itself is unacceptable to some writers who prefer to speak about racism and racialisation, and there are any number of books with titles to suggest that these concepts are becoming more widely preferred to the notion of race relations. When, however, we looked into the matter more closely it became difficult to avoid the concept where relations between groups of human beings who believe themselves or are believed by others to be different from other groups of human beings are concerned.
Harry Goulbourne
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