The new chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) says he will use the power available to him to ensure all public bodies are committed to racial equality.
Trevor Phillips says the CRE has new challenges
Trevor Phillips, who took up his new post on Saturday, said he would also focus on the issues of racially-motivated crime caused by increased tensions between communities, particularly post 11 September.
On the issue of asylum seekers, Mr Phillips said he supported the approach of integrating refugees in successful multi-ethnic communities such as London or Birmingham.
Speaking at an open forum for BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Phillips rejected claims that the CRE was distant from ethnic communities.
"Black or Asian or people from new communities such as Turkish or Turkish Cypriots or people from Eastern Europe may be victims of discrimination but everybody in the community, including the majority white community, has a role to play," he said.
The CRE was not just a big community organisation but a law enforcement agency and a persuader whose principal job was "to persuade or, if necessary, to compel the rest of the community to remove that disadvantage", he said.
The CRE has new legislative force behind it under the Race Relations Amendment Act.
The organisation now has the duty and power to inspect all public bodies, including government departments for their performance on race equality.
Mr Phillips said: "I intend to use that in as forcibly and widespread a way as possible."
The relations between black and white, different individuals, neighbours is light years away from when I was a child
Commission for Racial Equality
He also said the CRE had to adjust to address the issues of the new communities, including people from East Africa, Somalia and Eastern Europe who had not yet figured heavily in the race relations map.
Mr Phillips said racial attitudes in the UK had changed since the 1950s and 1960s but it was not fair to say that race relations had got worse.
"The issue is not principally now about whether people will let you live in the street," he said.
"The issue is much more to do with the underachievement of some minority children at school."
He said there were also employment issues that needed tackling as non-white people earned, on average, nine per cent less than white people.
On Monday the CRE will launch an initiative to try to address one of the underlying causes of racially motivated crime - the increased tension between communities.
Since 11 September, Mr Phillips said there seemed to be a feeling that there were differences between communities based on race or religion.
Less problems in closer communities
"I want to bring together communities to understand that most communities worry about the same things, the worries about their children, the worry about work," he said.
He said he would also be addressing people who had felt it necessary to vote for parties such as the British National Party, possibly out of frustration with mainstream politics.
"If you go to some northern cities you will find that white people who think they have to vote for the BNP are just as dissatisfied with the same issues as black or Asian people.
"The pattern of the BNP success is never in area where black white and Asian people live together, know each other and understand each other."