Racial Discrimination

A Society Divided by Legal or Moral Injustices?


  • Bethany MacGregor Graduate




Jurisprudence, COVID, Racial Inequalities, Morality


The devastating consequences of racial inequalities have been highlighted by recent events, with striking evidence showing the disproportionate rates of diagnosis and deaths of ethnic minorities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] Tracing these disparities back to social and economic factors and a lack of opportunities, it is evident that a substantial degree of racism exists in the UK. Still, the Government has yet to provide an adequate plan to tackle such issues and has instead dismissed claims of institutional racism.[2] The data combined with subsequent inaction reflects the harmful attitudes that are still prevalent, placing minorities at a dangerous disadvantage.

This article will determine whether the extent of the racism that we see in the UK today is rooted in a legal or moral fault. This will be done by tracing the history of law and morality to Ancient Greece and by using natural law theory and legal positivism to consider how racial discrimination has gained legal or moral support. Using this understanding, legal developments at national and international level will be traced to demonstrate how both legal and moral attitudes have changed over time, with specific reference being given to the city of Liverpool. Recent racial inequalities will then be examined with police powers and health care receiving the most scrutiny. It will be concluded that there has been little effective change in law and morality since the findings of the MacPherson Report[3] which has recently become a topical issue for policing leaders.[4]


[1] Public Health England, ‘Disparities in the Risk and Outcomes of COVID-19’ (GW-1447, PHE Publications, August 2020) <https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/908434/Disparities_in_the_risk_and_outcomes_of_COVID_August_2020_update.pdf> accessed 17 March 2021.

[2] Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, ‘Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report’ (Gov.uk, March 2021) <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-report-of-the-commission-on-race-and-ethnic-disparities> accessed 3 April 2021.

[3] William MacPherson, ‘The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry’ (Cm 4262-I, 1999).

[4] Vikram Dodd, ‘UK Police Chiefs Consider Public Admission of Institutional Racism’ The Guardian (12 December 2021) <https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/dec/12/uk-police-leaders-debate-public-admission-institutional-racism>  accessed 5 January 2022.