And Barnes believes that until the country tackles its underlying issues on the subject, football's measures can only be superficial.
Racism has been high on the agenda throughout the season, most notably because of high-profile race rows involving Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and Chelsea captain John Terry.
Barnes, speaking at the Soccerex forum in Manchester, said: "As far as racism in football goes, until we get rid of racism in society, it will always be in football.
"We are looking at it the wrong way round, we have to cut it from society.
"All the legislation has been passed to sanction clubs or give life bans, fining, whatever; stealing has been illegal for years and people still steal. That is not going to get rid of racism.
"Are we trying to get rid of racism, or do we just not want to hear it? What we are doing is saying we just don't want to hear it.
"You can be as racist as you like for the other six days of the week, but coming to a football match you keep your mouth shut.
"Football can do nothing to get rid of racism."
Barnes, 48, was subjected to racist taunts during his career, particularly after joining Liverpool from Watford in 1987.
He is pleased players now do not generally suffer such abuse but remains concerned.
"In terms of hearing racism, yes it has got better," he said. "We don't hear it as much as in the past but I'm not kidded, and never have been, throughout the last 15 years, into thinking racism has gone."
Barnes was speaking about the matter during a discussion with fellow former England internationals Phil Thompson, Bryan Robson and Peter Reid, as well as journalist Paddy Barclay.
Reid and Thompson believe the game has made good strides.
Reid said: "Some of stuff the black players used to get was scandalous.
"Fundamental little bits - and I don't think it is over - help. It helps because it is in the spotlight and it helps educate people."
Thompson said: "Something is always going to niggle away, and something rear its ugly head, but this country should be applauded for making a thing of it and to try to do our best to put it to bed."
Barnes feels that is still only scratching the surface.
He said: "It is like telling a man bitten by a shark what it feels like to be bitten by a shark."
And Robson added: "I don't think anyone is patting themselves on the back, we are still trying to get it better."