BRIEFINGS 

We occasionally write short briefings to examine key issues in public policy from an equality perspective. A selection of the most recent are below.

UNCONSCIOUS BIAS: A SILVER BULLET?

Many organisations are currently using unconscious bias training to help staff understand how their biases influence their personal, cognitive decision-making processes. Unconscious bias is an important cause of discrimination in many aspects of workplace activity. Such bias, or judgments about and behaviour toward others that we are unaware of, is all around us. It is now well established that it affects how staff are shortlisted, appointed, promoted, paid, disciplined and even bullied at work. However, as useful as this training can be, a better understanding of the training’s limitations will help organisations capitalise on its benefits. This paper considers the benefits and limitations of unconscious bias training.

 

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WHAT LIES BENEATH: THE LEGACY OF THE TROJAN HORSE AFFAIR

In March 2015 brap, in partnership with the Lunar Society, hosted a roundtable debate to discuss the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham. The event was not a forensic re-examination of the affair, but an opportunity for a more open and honest discussion of the legacy and impact of these events. Nearly thirty participants attended from a range of fields, including head teachers, current and former school governors, voluntary sector staff, elected representatives, safeguarding leads, academics, parents, and activists. The event was held under Chatham House Rules.

 

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TROJAN HORSE REPORTS: AN EQUALITIES OVERVIEW

This paper does two things. First, it summarises the key equality issues arising from inspections and reviews of various Birmingham schools. Second, it outlines some of our own thoughts about what these findings mean. People come at the Trojan horse debate from a variety of perspectives. What you think about it will depend on how you answer particular questions. At what point does something become a ‘plot’? What constitutes the inappropriate promotion of religion in schools? What’s the difference between poor governance and a systemic unwillingness to tackle bad practice? We can’t answer those questions for you. What this paper does is set out the evidence – such as it exists – that relate to these questions. Then it’s up to you.


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THE PLOT THICKENS: RIGHTS AND RELIGION

The so-called Trojan horse incident raises a number of questions about the role of religion and belief in public life. Where do we stand on cultural or religious practices that treat women, disabled, or homosexual people unequally? Where, for that matter, do we stand on the rights of children to define what happens to them in school? This short paper looks at these questions and explores what reforms need to be made to ensure all young people have a good education which upholds their rights.


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GETTING TURNED OFF: LESSONS FROM EUROPE ON POLITICAL PARTICIPATION

Despite particular peaks and troughs, turnout in French, German, Italian, Spanish, and UK elections has fallen by an average of 9% since 1945. The UK fares particularly badly when it comes to voter disenchantment. There’s been a 10% drop in turnout since 1974 and in the last election more than one in three people registered to vote chose not to – the lowest rate out of the five nations What are the causes of this disenchantment? And what about the related issue of increasing support for protest parties? This short paper looks at European experiences of the political process to see what lessons can be learnt.

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RACE EQUALITY AFTER MACPHERSON

This paper uses the recent verdict in the Stephen Lawrence trial as an opportunity to reflect on the lessons that can be learnt from the last 18 years of equalities policy. Exploring the impact of legislation, the role of education, and the meaning of 'diversity' in a modern society, the paper asks searching questions about how to create a more equal, cohesive society.


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REFLECTIONS ON 9/11

This paper explores the impact of 9/11. Against the backdrop of new far right groups, community disorder, and a continued focus on Islamic radicalisation, the paper argues that we are at a crossroads in how we think about, formulate and enact equalities. Ultimately arguing for a British Bill of Rights, this briefing shows the impact of 9/11 on our conception of rights, values, and social justice.


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KEEPING ISLAMOPHOBIA SIMPLE AND STUPID

The term ‘Islamophobia’ first came to prominence in 1997 when the Runneymede Trust produced a report examining a ‘new’ form of discrimination. However, over a decade on we are still simplistic in the way we speak about and understand Islamophobia. Why has a more nuanced usage of the term failed to evolve? And why, ultimately, has Islamophobia failed to be addressed let alone begin to go away? This briefing answers these questions and calls for a new approach to tackling Islamophobia.


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COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION IN 'GOVERNANCE': OLD MEDICINE, NEW BOTTLES?

Community participation, it might be argued, is almost as old as the hills. Under the Blair government, however, the term has taken on a more specific meaning focused on the involvement of ordinary citizens in the governance of public services and public institutions, and as such has emerged as a key idea in what has been called the new localism. In this paper we take a critical look at current strategies of participation, and whether they are producing the kind of empowered and active communities of citizens that the government wants to see.


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TAKING LIBERTIES

Church versus state, gay rights versus religious rights...such battles have in many ways overshadowed the transition occurring as regards Britain's handling of equalities: adopting a more human rights based approach. In this paper we consider the new legislation as well as its implications to try and find a way of negotiating 'whose rights' have the most right.

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RACE INTO ACTION

The Macpherson Report highlighted that many organisations are plighted with problems of institutional racism. In this paper brap argues that equality must be driven out of the margins and into the mainstream of organisations so that lasting and sustainable change can be achieved.


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THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF RACE

brap argues in this paper that the weight of evidence supports the idea that race is not a biological construct. The concept of races was conceived primarily to enslave and persecute people. Challenging our own and others thinking around this issue is a crucial mechanism in challenging our past and current approach to tackling the causes and effects of racism in our society.

 

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ISLAMOPHOBIA ECHOES OF THE PAST?

This paper is a response to the recent and more overt panic-fuelled hysteria around Islam and Muslims. Is this reminiscent of the inaccurate and dangerous portrayal of Jewish communities during the Nazi occupation? Lest we forget the lessons history has taught us, we think it is important to hear the echoes of a past we vowed never to repeat.


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COMMUNITY COHESION AND ASYLUM

At present, community cohesion is catchy rhetoric, but we must transform it into meaningful reality. This involves more than just pushing people with different backgrounds and differing beliefs into one common present. Indeed, this vision must look further than peoples inculcated traditions it must also be built on a shared future, a future that offers a favourable outlook for all. In other words, we must not just work to eliminate discrimination. We must also work to increase equality of opportunity for all.


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FROM ANTI-RACISM TO DIVERSITY

In many respects, we might have expected the passage into law of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act to bring with it a greater clarity on race equality issues. But the reverse seems to be the case. We now seem less clear about what race equality seeks to address. Is diversity the most important factor in combating racism? Or should the focus of our efforts be on institutional racism, eradicating disadvantage and inequality in the delivery of public services? Or should we place the greatest value on cohesiveness, seeking to build and strengthen strong personal and social relationships within and between communities at a grassroots level?

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MYTH AND MAXIM: MYTH BUSTING REPORT ON ASYLUM SEEKERS AND REFUGEES

The issue of asylum now stands at the centre of political discussion and social conflict. Barely a week passes by without some form of media coverage exposing the problems with the asylum system. At a political level, both opposition and government continue to debate and amend a raft of policies to deal with an issue that for many is an important electoral concern. Unfortunately, two parallel developments have shaped recent debates focusing on asylum.

 

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THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES: COMMUNITY COHESION

Foremost amongst these was evidence of an increasing segregation between white and black and minority ethnic (BME) communities and the widespread incidence of what Cantle called parallel lives white and BME communities failing to touch at any point. Since then, the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 has passed into law, the Community Cohesion Unit has been established within the Home Office and a rash of initiatives launched.

 

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DO THEY MEAN US? BME COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT IN BIRMINGHAM

Engagement, involvement, participation. We use these words almost interchangeably, as if their meanings are self-evident and their purpose uncontested. But for BME communities this is far from the case.


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COMMUNITY CONSULTATION: A GUIDE

It seems strange that at a time when many people feel at their most powerless regarding the big issues  war, terrorism, mounting racism, globalisation, the environment  consultation on the smaller, local issues has become something of a fetish. Does consultation matter? Can it change anything?


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