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.
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