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Tackling institutional racism

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 06 March 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:679
  1. Joe Collier, professor of medicines policy
  1. London

    The public inquiry into the London police force's investigation of the murder of the black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, concludes that racism is rife in the police and that it was a major factor in the failure of the police to uphold justice. Other professions in the United Kingdom are also open to allegations of institutional racism, and in the view of the Macpherson report they too now face a stern test of their resolve to eradicate it. But can much of this come as a surprise?

    The oddest thing about institutional racism is the blindness of the perpetrators. In a racist organisation outrageous thoughts and behaviour are acceptable, and all apparently without questioning. Racist jokes or jibes are part of office banter, racist acts or statements pass without comment, hurt goes on as though it did not matter, as though those subjected had no feeling. Worse still, the victims are caught too as they seem paralysed, unable or unwilling to protest in case they suffer more. And in this there is the assumption that racist views are held only …

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