John Barnes has told ESPN that "we are all unconscious racists" and said the punishments handed to Luis Suarez and John Terry are not the answer to ridding football of racism.
On Thursday, Chelsea captain Terry was fined £220,000 and given a four-match ban after an FA commission found him guilty of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand during a match at Loftus Road in October 2011.
In December 2011, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was given an eight-match ban and fined £40,000 after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra in their match at Anfield on October 15.
Barnes, though, believes that education is the most effective way of clamping down on racism in the sport and suggested that everyone is guilty of "unconscious racism".
The former Liverpool winger told ESPN: "The trouble is stereotyping. We are all unconscious racists. It's what you think as much as what you say.
"If players are careful not to say it, [in order] to avoid bans, you cannot stop them thinking it. It just drives it all underground, and that can make it worse.
"So the approach of heavy-handed punishments isn't the answer. If you want to get rid of unconscious racism, you have to understand its causes and understand that people like John Terry and Luis Suarez are not going to change the way they think.
"The answer is through education, awareness, tolerance, and it is vital that we teach a new generation racial tolerance. It is about understanding the unconscious racism that can exist in all of us. It can exist in myself, but I can recognise it and deal with it.
"But the FA punishing John Terry and Luis Suarez won't change the way people think. It fails to get to the root of the problem.
"We need people to discuss the issues and not to be afraid of them, as they are now, and it is not the point whether you think John Terry is a racist or not.
"John Terry has been carrying his opinions for the whole of his life. His opinions about black people haven't changed, and he cannot help feeling the way he does about black people.
"But we all have to tackle the cause, the reasons why we feel this intolerance, rather than tackle the symptoms of it. John Terry is no different to anyone else - he is an unconscious racist, just as we all are."