Government Equalities Office
9th Floor, Eland House
Mr Hubert Taylor
Flat 2, 18 St Michaels Road
14 October 2010
Dear Mr Taylor
Re: Colour labelling of pupils, people and history
Thank you for your letter of 15th September to the Prime Minister on the issue of colour labelling of people. As you will appreciate, the Prime Minister's workload means he cannot personally respond to all correspondence. This has therefore been passed to the Government Equalities Office which has responsibility for race legislation.
Your letter asks "who or what black men/boys, black women/girls, black peoples" are. There is no legislative definition for "black". Domestic race legislation i.e. the Race Relations Act 1976 , as amended, describes 'race, 'racial grounds' or 'racial groups' as including colour, race, nationality (including citizenship, and ethnic or national origins. Within this context any reference to 'colour' would equally cover discrimination based on whether a person was either black or white or any skin colour. Similar provisions a replicated in the Equality Act 2010.
More generally, there may be several different interpretations of what 'black' means in the context of race. In the UK the term "BAME" (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) is often used to describe people whose ethnic or national origins or whose racial group is of African, Caribbean, Asian or other ethnic minority groups who are not originally British.
Often the term 'black' is used by people as a form of self-declaration of which ethnic, national origin, or racial group they belong to – for example the national census administered by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) uses terms such as "Black", "Black British", "Black African", or "Black Caribbean" but it is a matter of personal choice as to whether people feel that they belong to any of those categories.
Similarly, with regard to your query about the definition of 'black history', there is no legal definition for this. So, within the UK 'black history' is often acknowledged as the remembrance, celebration and tracing of the history of African, Caribbean and Asian people, it would be a subjective matter for anyone using the term 'black history' as to the context that they were using it in an and what it specifically meant to them.
With regard to terminology/information contained in school inspection reports, we have been informed by colleagues in the Department for Education that pupils are asked to identify their ethnicity when they enrol with a school and are given a list of categories as defined by the ONS from which to choose. This information is then used in the inspection reports.
Most organisations tend to use the ONS ethnic categories for monitoring purposes. However there is nothing to prevent organisations from adding other categories (for their own monitoring purposes) if it is apparent that there is a significant number of people from these groups, or where organisations are trying to establish as evidence base, to determine if there is a potential issue with those specific groups that needs to be addressed. This is a matter of policy rather than legislation.
I hope this answers your questions.
Race & Positive Action Team