Notes on: Coretta, P. (2011). Institutional racism and ethnic inequalities: an expanded multilevel framework. Journal of social policy. 40 (01): 173 – 192 DOI: 10.1017/S0047279410000565

Institutional racism was once central to New Labour's reform of policing, but it remains contested. It can be retained 'but only within a multilevel framework that incorporates racializations operating at the micro-, meso, and macro levels' (173).

Institutional racism might be just a political slogan until it can be conceptualised and investigated. It appeared in Stokely Carmichael and Hamilton's work. It was apparently deeply embedded in established conventions in US societies even if not recognised by individual whites, and seen, for example in high infant mortality rates for black babies. For Mason (1982), this was inadequate theoretically because it did not specify mechanisms for specifically institutional racism and required better understanding of '"the interplay of social structures and human action, material conditions and ideas"' [that is, proper sociology].

It was rejected in Scarman [largely forgotten by liberals]  but had reemerged in 'mainstream political discourse' and had led to demands for the reform of policing. It was rejected by police officers who understood it to mean that individual racism was widespread. Academics remain sceptical 'because of the McPherson definitions offer a conflation of individual and institutional racism' (174), failing to distinguish 'between institutional racism as outcome and cause', for example and not recognising structural conditions.

Nevertheless it can still be useful if we situate it in a conceptual framework focusing on racialization as a process. It cannot be seen as the sole explanation for ethnic disparities, but might usefully be applied to explain inequalities in education and in policing, especially attainment and stop and search.

Rattansi has supported the notion of racialization and institutional racialization as 'multilayered and multidimensional frame' [along with others such as Omi and Winant, Bonilla Silva or Meghji]. It should include explicit statements assuming inferiority, and 'commonsense understandings'within institutions. It is dynamic and 'allows the intersections of race' with other identities. Rattansi (2005) argues that allocation of housing, for example, involves class race and gender as factors taken into account by middle-class gatekeepers deploying '"criteria of acceptability"' [which looked remarkably like respectability]. Complex social relations result including 'internal differentiation' and historical and spatial dimensions. In particular binaries are avoided with their 'deeply polarising effect' (175), with their associations with intentionality, motivation, and blame, and this might avoid defensiveness, say on the part of the police.

We need to count individual roles and how they implement regulations and policies, but also consider different levels. Existing conceptions focus on the meso level, with individual practices at the micro level. Structural forces operate at the macro level. Institutional processes are formulated and implemented both by individuals and 'constrained or enabled by structural factors'[both Cole and Giddens are cited here]. The mechanisms and processes need to be specified, and a link made to wider disciplinary studies. This will tidy up MacPherson and specified better points for intervention.

Of course individual prejudice and discrimination are still present and can be understood through micro-social theories grasping face-to-face encounters and 'agential elements' classically through interactions frameworks and social psychology [some reviewed on 176]. These can coexist with 'the "new racism"' which combine egalitarian ideals with 'an anti-black affect'. There is at least a recognition of the 'inherent ambivalent prejudice where individuals may hold both positive and negative attitudes' [some recent research here]. The influence of family and shared cultures is apparent and these are shifting and shipped by interactions.

At the meso level there are 'situating and contextualising factors which are temporally and spatially specific'. We include '… Socio-economic disadvantage;… Neighbourhood compositional effects… Political, media and popular discourses… Political incorporation and empowerment; and… Institutional processes and practices' (176 – 7) [what makes these meso not macro?] The first two have been common in social policy initiatives. Media and popular discourses contribute to commonsense understandings which can feed into micro-levels. 'Migrationary flows' can appear as coded forms. The affective and emotional components can appear in terms of threats and contamination, and otherness. There can be 'cumulative disadvantage experienced across interrelated welfare experiences… Produced through institutions' routine operations regardless of the intentionality of individual actors'.

At the macro level there are structural determinants, which include globalisation forces, major demographic changes indicated in migration flows, post-industrial transformations including those affecting the nature of welfare, deindustrialisation effects on work, 'educational credentialism', the retreat of social housing, public managerialism and so on. Goldberg (2001) argues that modern states articulate race and racist exclusion using mechanisms of regulation and management, undertaking ethnic monitoring and surveillance, criminalisation and the regulation of access. He [?]claims that these are 'deeply rooted in Enlightenment thinking (Eze 1997) and are acted upon, albeit reflexively, within institutions' (178).

We can undertake 'speculative exploration' of two illustrative examples in England. Level of attainment, passes at the highest levels at GCSE show ethnic differences and gender ones. Explanations include Gillborn blaming institutional racism, using CRT and the concept of '"locked-in inequality"' (179). The gap seemed to be a permanent feature and 'historical discrimination against minority ethnic groups has been institutionalised' so that reforms do not touch it. Educational practices including tiering are to blame, and there is material on the use of foundation stage profiles, teacher judgements and expectations. These can be further divided into micro-meso macro levels and thus rectify a problem with CRT which has been criticised for not conceptualising 'multiple racializations', and underplaying intersections.

So at the micro level, there is interaction between individual teachers and pupils informed by unwitting prejudice or racial stereotyping of the kind identified in MacPherson, and located in a broader process of defining 'multiple subject positions, including gender, class and religion' (180). This would account for more favourable stereotyping for Chinese pupils, for example, since behavioural attributes seem to be important. These draw upon 'Enlightenment classificatory systems that erroneously saw human seen a typical groupings scientifically categorised in a hierarchical Great Chain of Being… de Gobineau's classification' [where the yellow races were lazy and lacked physical strength and so on]. Archer and Francis (2005) have explored teacher understandings of Chinese culture and assumed high parental expectations, stable families, and a high value of education, obedience, respect and competition, and this has led to high expectations. Stereotypes of Chinese girls are more negative, however 'assuming passivity and patriarchal dominance'.

Youdell (2003) notes the inversion of black male  identities in youth subcultures [with official school culture] which leads to teachers seeing black voices challenges to authority, their practices seen as culturally deficient and anti-school and incompatible with active learning. This apparently extends to black girls to. Black men are 'hyper- sexual, aggressive and criminally violent' [rather old research here, but it includes Sewell 1997 and 2000]. Howarth (2004) focuses on 'micro-teaching practices and behaviour management' which 'implicitly inscribed of white British cultural dominance in dismissing the significance of Somali cultural practices, such as looking down when spoken to by adults… Interpreted by British teachers as defiant and disrespectful' (181). Teachers seem to be worried about the perceived fundamentalism of South Asian Muslims, or of the passivity and oppression for South Asian girls. Reay discusses negative depictions of white working class children and how they have been pathologised as 'unmotivated, unambitious… Losers' (182). 'Decision-making by teachers… may be influenced by these generalised and imprecise representations' (182) [but this caution is not sustained]: 'this also undoubtedly contributes to the disproportionately high exclusion rates among black pupils'. Further empirical work would be useful.

At the meso level we find class and socio-economic disadvantage again, as in Strand (2008) [see Strand 2012] showing how low socio-economic status contributed most to lower levels of attainment for boys and girls for white British and also black boys. Low parental and pupil aspirations were important and now academic self concepts, this was supported by Reay, and recent 'bio ethnography' (Evans 2007) which says that formal learning is 'rarely practised in the home even though education is highly valued'. There is less access to private tuition. There is masculine identification and stress on toughness. There are 'contingent hierarchies' with particular identities being particularly pathologised such as '"chav"'. Pressure to make parents responsible for the learning can be seen as 'political incorporation and empowerment' which is itself stratified since employment demands are different and so are language and cultural barriers. Schools may have come to serve ethnically segregated neighbourhoods or to be ethnically segregated themselves, 'facilitated by school choice policies… Indicative of ethnically informed choosing and class bias by parents' (183). Again we need to break with dichotomies and refer to 'heavily racialised process that occurs at the interaction of class and state education policies'. The cultural practices of minority ethnic groups themselves may 'militate against educational success' with greater time given for religious observance among Muslims, for example. Deprived schools may have a separate local effect through lacking specialised teaching materials. The curriculum may be ethnocentric and extracurricular activities not suitable. At their worst, 'such practices rest on the culturalist logic which privileges certain kinds of white hegemonic knowledge' (184). There may be local dress regulations or hairstyle regulations, attendance requirements.

At the macro level policies promoting choice and accountability has been combined with 'the language of marketisation, competition and choice', accompanied by testing and target setting. These stand in contrast to policies 'promoting community cohesion and social inclusion' and have produced corrosive effects which have entrenched inequalities. These can be seen as 'what Parsons (2009) terms "passive racism"'. Educational credentials have become more important in de-industrialisation.

These levels interact and have compounding effects. Micro-actions are framed by state policies, pressure from local authorities can affect teacher activities, including selective targeting as a rational response to allocation of funds dependent on rolls. 'Undesirable or problematic learners' tend not to be targeted, and they are often defined by 'dominant discourses' that automatically assign inferiority to ethnical class groups. In schools, they become subject to micro-levels of racialization like being not entered for higher tier GCSE.

The other main example is stop and search policing. Data shows that those rates are higher for black and Asian people than for white people. Micro level racialization and discrimination by individual police officers are responsible, through stereotypes, again 'traced back to the classificatory systems of Enlightenment thinkers (de Gobineau)' [why this compulsive need to trace everything back to the Enlightenment question?]. Black people are seen as criminally disposed, violent, drug users, Asian men as disorderly militant and inclined to terrorism. Of course they are more likely to offend. [See Sewell Report]

At the meso level there are factors of disadvantage, availability on the streets because of exclusions or unemployment, political and media discourses on urban crime. Police organisational cultures have shown the taken for granted nature of prejudice. There is a recent study (Loftus 2008) showing that the 'white, male, heterosexual interior culture of the police is resisting the new diversity and equality's policing agenda post MacPherson' (186). Micro-meso interact at the level of practice, as police actually battle crime and deal with challenges to authority. They say they just deal with troublemakers. There is some evidence that stop and search rates are also higher in some residential areas even if there is no concomitant crime level. Racial profiling is not officially sanctioned but 'appears to be artificially practised', as in Cashmore 2001 and his research on 'advisory comments by colleagues'. Stop and search actually has a limited impact and it has had a poor effect on relations with minority ethnic communities [see Sewell on the government's interest in stop and search as an anti-terrorist policy].

At the macro level there is an increased intolerance of an criminalisation of 'socially, economically and politically marginalised groups'. 'Informal social control is fractured, and populist punitive must is buoyed by an insatiable media and politic, resentment is rife and the deviants of the relatively deprived is harshly punished' (186 –7). Minority ethnic people are overrepresented in prison. There are periodic moral panics. This is linked with concerns about criminality or extremism immigrants. There is also managerialist preoccupation with performance indicators and targets directed at the police.

So we've deepened understanding by operating at different levels and also 'recognising intersect in cultural, material, ideological, institutional and structural elements' (187). It is wrong to privilege institutional factors. We have identified some potential intervention points. For example we can tackle micro level racialization by service providers. [Seems a bit paradoxical, for example] 'management oversight of allocation into tiers or streams and the use of stop and search powers' (187). At the meso level routine practices should be scrutinised [lots of work for independent audits] — in schools it might be directed at 'the curriculum, behaviour management, uniform, delivery of education… In policing this could mean decoupling performance indicators from practices which have targeted racial groups'. In terms of interactions we might limit 'parental choice policies to produce a more even spread' [and give more power to housing markets], and stress inclusion and equality in community rather than neoliberal education policies. We might pursue 'a less alienating and criminalising approach to policing Britain's multicultural society'. Overall, we should revive a political discourse 'that does not sacrifice equality and social cohesion' (188). [All very naïve in my view].