Just Sociology

Exploring Policy Approaches to Combating Racism: Strengths and Shortcomings

The issue of racism has plagued societies for centuries. Despite various policy approaches, efforts to combat it have been largely unsuccessful.

In this article, we will explore several policy approaches to combating racism, their strengths, and their shortcomings. Ignorance, Assimilation and Integration

One of the earliest policy approaches to combatting racism was to promote assimilation and integration.

This policy approach was particularly relevant in the UK which saw a large influx of immigrants post-World War II. The idea was that immigrants should assimilate into the mainstream British way of life, adopting its culture, language, and values.

However, this policy approach was not without its critics. Many felt that it was an attempt to eradicate cultural diversity, leading to a loss of heritage and identity.

Multicultural Education

As social unrest grew due to marginalization, poverty, and truancy among ethnic groups, the UK government introduced the Race Relations Act in 1976, making institutional racism illegal. This act paved the way for multicultural education promoting diversity and mutual understanding.

However, some criticized multicultural education for creating divisions between ethnic groups and emphasizing differences rather than similarities.

Anti-Racist Education

Another policy approach was anti-racist education. This approach aimed to promote equality of opportunity and challenge racism in all its forms.

Left-wing Local Education Authorities were particularly active in promoting this approach. While it was valued for creating awareness and promoting justice, critics argued that it could create a sense of grievance among ethnic groups and undermine national unity.

Colour Blind Education Policy

During the Thatcher and Major era, a new policy approach emerged called the colour-blind education policy. This policy emphasized individual choice and market forces over government intervention.

The National Curriculum promoted this policy, with its focus on universal standards and achievements. However, concerns were raised around the ethnocentric nature of this policy, and its failure to account for ethnic differences in society.

Naive Multiculturalism

In the late 90s and early 2000s, a new policy approach called naive multiculturalism emerged under New Labour. This approach aimed to promote citizenship and ethnic inequalities, hoping to create a more inclusive society.

However, critics argue that it was too focused on celebrating cultural differences and fail to provide adequate mechanisms for addressing inequality.

Cynical Multiculturalism

Following the September 11 attacks, Islamophobia increased globally, leading to the deportation of many foreigners accused of terrorism. This led to a policy approach called cynical multiculturalism, which promoted assimilationism hoping to reduce aggression targeting Muslims.

Critics argued that it was an attempt to erase differences and assimilate everyone into an English way of life.

Aggressive Majoritarianism

In Britain, the 2005 London bombings led to the emergence of aggressive majoritarianism, which prioritized Britishness over other identities. The debate around veiling became central to this policy approach, with some arguing that it was a symbol of oppression and incompatible with British values.

While proponents of this approach argue that it represents a post-racial Britain, critics argue that it results in exclusion and discrimination.


The AQA’s A-level sociology specification and revisesociology.com explore the policy approaches discussed above, showing how they each have their positives and negatives. While each policy approach aimed to address racism, none have been entirely successful in achieving their goals.


The issue of racism is a multifaceted problem that requires a range of policy approaches. While some policies have been successful in raising awareness or promoting inclusivity, others have failed to address the root causes of racism.

It is essential to consider the strengths and shortcomings of each policy approach when developing policies aimed at combating racism. Only then can we hope to create a society where diversity is celebrated, and equality is a reality.

In conclusion, combating racism has been a pressing issue in society, leading to various policy approaches aimed at addressing the problem. While each policy approach has its strengths and weaknesses, it is essential to recognize the significance of these efforts and continue to find effective solutions for a more inclusive and accepting society.


Q: What is the Race Relations Act?

A: The Race Relations Act is a UK law that made institutional racism illegal.

Q: What is multicultural education?

A: Multicultural education is an approach to education that promotes diversity and mutual understanding.

Q: What is anti-racist education?

A: Anti-racist education is an approach that aims to promote equality of opportunity and challenge racism in all forms.

Q: What is cynical multiculturalism?

A: Cynical multiculturalism is a policy approach that promotes assimilationism in response to Islamophobia.

Q: What is aggressive majoritarianism?

A: Aggressive majoritarianism is a policy approach that prioritizes Britishness over other identities, resulting in exclusion and discrimination.

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