Racism has evolved with time and like religion it takes on different forms. It has sects that range from fundamental to existential that have names like “modern racism”, “economic racism” and just like religion it has its extremes. One of the main things that stand out in regards to this issue is the hatred caused by the division created in the aftermath. “Racism is the belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race. It denies the basic equality of human kinds and correlates ability with physical composition.” Racism goes hand and hand with prejudice and stereotyping.
The key to most things is usually understanding but seeing as racism is both conscious and subconscious it is almost impossible to understand it and therefore that much harder to stop it. It, being based on prejudice and stereotyping, becomes irrational. Racism is often the caused by deep rooted prejudices that people don’t even realize they have. This paper will focus and explore on racism and how different cultures experience it to try and better understand the underlying cause of it.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states ‘Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,’ It goes on further and states ‘Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,’ it’s very important to note the role the UN plays in the grand scheme of things when it comes to race and ethnicity. The UN unlike governments is governed by an unshakable code of conduct emphasized within this declaration amongst others. Universal equality is their aim and again unlike governments they have bodies to monitor and audit them based on set rules. This is not to say that they are perfect but Governments are fickle seeing as most politicians and leaders thrive for power. This makes them biased; greed corruption and a myriad of other factors make governments susceptible to racist slurs. A good example of that is Post election violence here in Kenya which emanated from corrupt politicians dividing the masses for personal gain and then creating a stereotype based on previous prejudice. They didn’t realize how big the thing they were perpetuating was and it soon went out of control.
Racism and its effects on different cultures
Racism in America
The age old story continues. It’s the black man again crying about his woes and blaming them on slavery but can he and should he play this role anymore? Definitely not. This black man in America now is free. He is not oppressed it seems that he is now just getting comfortable with the idea that being oppressed is now becoming profitable with all these new laws on freedom of speech and the like. African Americans play this card everywhere at Home at work and it’s just not valid anymore. Clayton and Tangri believe the reason there is a pattern of underestimating Black candidates is due to the fact that if an evaluator expects a weak performance but sees a strong one, the strong performance is attributed to luck or effort, which can change. Strong performances based on ability can be repeated (the explanation used in this theory by White evaluators for White candidates). This shows how affirmative action’s efforts that focus on process rather than outcome may be ineffective. There are too many chances for evaluator bias to be manifested. (Tatum, 1997)
The evidence strongly suggests that segregation continues because of continuing racial discrimination in the banking industries and in real estate, the continuation of white prejudice against black neighbors and discriminatory public policies. Black ghettoes continue to contain a disproportionate number of the nation’s poor, creating an extremely disadvantaged environment that only Black people face. The quality of life in White neighborhoods has not changed very much over the years, but poor Black neighborhoods have negatively changed greatly. In many metropolitan areas, three-quarters of Black Americans are highly segregated. Intense segregation causes a concentration of poverty 27 percent worse than would occur under complete integration. White Americans may endorse open housing in principle, yet they are reluctant to live in neighborhoods with high numbers of Blacks. The main issue is how race and class interact to create walls to Black socioeconomic progress that are intense, severe and durable. (Massey & Fischer, 1998) Racism in this case has created an extremely detrimental effect on Black Americans.
Racism in Australia
Australia has also had a very racist past in which apartheid has been practiced and where indigenous Aboriginal people have lost almost all their land and suffered many prejudices. In the past, the notorious policy that led to the Stolen Generation was practiced. This was the institutionalized attempt to prevent Aboriginal children (and thus future generations) from being socialized into Aboriginal culture. (This also occurred in various parts of the Americas too.)
The original inhabitants, Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people, were dispossessed of their land and were discriminated against by the first British and European settlers. For some Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, the process of colonization has been perceived as invasion. Racial discrimination has continued to influence the lives of Indigenous Australians in the two centuries following white settlement.
The migration of peoples from all parts of the world led to the increased cultural and linguistic diversity of the Australian population. Prejudice and discrimination have been directed towards many groups who arrived in Australia, in particular towards groups from language backgrounds other than English, despite the fact that many government migration schemes invited people to settle in Australia.
Until recent years, racist policies and practices were also embedded within Australian laws and institutions. The most telling examples of these were the removal of Aboriginal children from their families and the denial of full citizenship rights to Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people. Similarly, the White Australia policy aimed to restrict immigration by people from non-European backgrounds. Historically, rises in unemployment have often led to calls for immigration restrictions and in some cases led to the scapegoating of people who were seen to be different to members of the dominant culture. While legislation now exists to protect the rights of all citizens, there is a continuing legacy today from the effects of these racist practices
Racism in Europe
Greece has one of the worst records in the European Union for racism against ethnic minorities, according to the BBC. Anti-immigrant sentiment has long been high, especially against ethnic Albanians, who form the largest minority. Until the 1990s, the BBC notes, Greece had been an extremely homogenous society. With the fall of communism many immigrants from Eastern Europe came to Greece. Albanians especially have been targeted by a lot of racist sentiment. Some hostage taking by a few Albanians in recent years has not helped the situation.
Into 2010 and problems of racism in Italy continue. For example, a wave of violence against African farm workers in southern Italy left some 70 people injured. This resulted in police having to evacuate over 300 workers from the region. The workers were easy targets being exploited as fruit pickers living in difficult conditions. They earn “starvation wages” according to a BBC reporter, doing “backbreaking work which Italians do not want” in a labor market controlled by the local mafia. In Italy, there are attempts to try and deal with the rise in undocumented immigrants from Tunisia. It cites Italy for having passed new legislation as part of a security package establishing as a criminal offence “irregular migration”, which would deter irregular migrants from accessing education and medical care for fear of being reported to the police This is especially the case given existing provisions in the criminal code obliging teachers or local authority employees to report all criminal acts to the police or judicial authorities.
At the end of the Spanish Inquisition imposed “racial purity” against Jews and Muslims.
Spain and England’s soccer teams confront each other in Spain for the first time since a 2004 match sparked outrage in the UK after Spanish supporters barracked England’s black players with monkey chants and other forms of abuse throughout large portions of the game. Many observers felt this was sparked by racist comments made by the Spanish coach, Luis Aragones, about the French player Thierry Henry who played in England and was well-known amongst the English players as a team-mate or opponent. While Aragones was heavily criticized in Britain, the Spanish soccer authorities failed to take any serious action against him. The Spanish Football Federation was eventually fined 100,000 Swiss Francs ($87,000 at the exchange rate of the time) by FIFA, the sport’s world governing body, and warned about the future conduct of supporters. Aragones was also fined 3,000 euros, a punishment labeled ‘a tokenistic gesture’ by Kick It Out, English soccer’s principal anti-racism organization.
While the matter garnered widespread attention in the UK, it was by no means an isolated incident. As with a number of other European countries, Spanish league games have often been plagued by the racist behavior of fans (the Cameroonian forward Samuel Eto’o famously ‘danced like a monkey’ after scoring for Barcelona against Real Zaragoza after sections of the Zaragoza support had targeted him with monkey noises). Italy, England and France have also had widespread problems. Some felt it was hypocritical of the British government and media to be so scathing of the Spanish supporters, as their English counterparts have regularly been heard singing disparaging songs about Pakistani and Turkish people
The UK government is criticized for having put behind bars Iraqis who were rejected by Baghdad when flown back to the country, an expression of the “encroaching prison culture” when dealing with irregular migrants. In December, the Royal Colleges of Pediatrics and Child Health, General Practitioners and Psychiatrists issued a joint statement calling for an immediate end to the administrative detention of children under Immigration Act powers on the basis that it was “shameful”, “damaging”, and “permanently harmful to children’s health.
According to the report Racism and Xenophobia in Sweden by the Board of Integration, Muslims are exposed to the most religious harassment in Sweden. Almost 40% of the interviewed said they had witnessed verbal abuse directed at Muslims. The famous Swedish botanic researcher Carl Von-Linné (Carl Linnaeus) was also a pioneer in race-biology field. He divided humans to races and related behavioral patterns and claimed blacks are lazy and slow while Europeans are innovative and smart. Sweden outlawed slavery in 1335. Sweden had trade colonies outside of Sweden where slavery was tolerated but performed mostly by other countries (99.9% of transatlantic slave transports was performed by other countries than Sweden)
Sweden was also the first country in the world to open an institute for race-biology research in the Swedish town of Uppsala. European Network against Racism in Sweden claims that in today’s Sweden there exists a clear ethnic hierarchy when ethnic Swedes are at the top and non-European immigrants are at the bottom.
Sveriges Radio reported that the punishments for driving under the influence of alcohol tended to be harsher for immigrants than for Swedes; while over 50% of immigrants were sent to jail for driving under the effect of alcohol, only less than 30% of ethnic Swedes were sent to jail with the same level of alcohol found in blood. There has been evidence that the Swedish police used “Neger Niggerson” as a nickname for a criminal in police training; this was published in Swedish media. Lately however, many incidents of racial attitudes and discrimination of the Swedish police have led for the first time to the control of racial attitudes of police students under police education. A recent research done by the Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees (TCO) found that people with foreign background have much lower chances of finding a job that is appropriate for their education, even when they have grown up in Sweden and got their education in Swedish institutes.
In 2007, there were a total of 3,536 hate crimes (defined as crimes with an ethnic or religious motive) reported to the police, including 118 cases of anti-Semitic agitation. Racism in Sweden is reported to appear within Swedish health-care services as well.
Swedish social services have reported on racism in Swedish hospitals as well. A study of statistics Sweden (SCB) reveals that segregation is widespread for Swedish immigrants when there are large differences in the fields of education, housing, employment and politics between immigrants and ethnic Swedes. Sweden has been criticized by the UN human rights council for an increasing number of hate crimes which seldom resulted in criminal charges, when more hate crimes are Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, and homophobic, with an increasing amount of racist propaganda appearing on the internet and in Sweden’s schools, for failing to provide adequate health care and education to immigrants, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants and the ongoing discrimination of the Roma and Sami minorities in Sweden.
Sweden has recently handed over 22 skulls of Hawaiians from the late 19th century in an official ceremony in Hawaii. Those skulls are only the top of an iceberg of thousands of remains from humans from different parts of the world that were found in Swedish museums and institutes. The remains are defined as a “racial inheritance”; however Sweden did not publish how they got into Sweden.
Swedish national television (SVT) has reported on a new research done in Sweden which identifies that job seekers with a Swedish name have 50% higher chances to be called for an interview than job seekers with middle-eastern names. The research enlightens that there is not much difference between foreign-born job seekers and job seekers born in Sweden if both don’t have a Swedish name; this indicates that ethnic discrimination is the main cause of the variations.
Swiss “Confederation Commission against Racism” which is part of the Swiss “Federal Department of Home Affairs” published a 2004 report, Black People in Switzerland: A Life between Integration and Discrimination (published in German, French, and Italian only). According to this report, discrimination based on skin color in Switzerland is not exceptional, and affects immigrants decades after their immigration. The vast majority of asylum seekers are believed by many Swiss politicians to be economic immigrants rather than genuine asylum seekers. Furthermore, the SVP or Swiss People’s Party has significantly increased its share of the vote in recent years on a perceived “anti-immigrant” platform. It is best known for opposing Swiss membership in international organizations such as the EU and United Nations and for its campaigning against perceived flaws in the immigration, asylum and penal laws.
The economic downturn has led to a rise in discrimination, racism and xenophobia in Europe, particularly in EU countries such as Italy, Slovakia and Hungary, the latest Amnesty International report on human rights shows.
“The marginalization was heightened in 2009 by fears of the economic downturn, and accompanied in many countries by a sharp rise in racism and hate speech in public discourse,” the annual report reads.
Kenya: trade and colonialism
Trade down in the coast because of the port has been a sore subject for many Kenyans. Because most of the traders were Arab and slave traders the Kenyans down in the coast felt intimidated and oppressed after the turn of the century. Change begun, Thee missionaries brought in education and people became more aware of their rights. Soon after this Kenyans fought for their independence and finally had freedom but because the Arabs oppressed and intermarried with Kenyans along the coast and with impunity, with freedom came a channel to voice the grievances that had previously been only suffered in silence. Arabs now became the oppressed. the tables turned.
Colonialism and the mentality created by it, is the reason that black Kenyans feel oppressed by white people. The only problem is that they are the enablers. It’s because of the deep set mentality that Kenyans have that white people have money and are more educated and should therefore be respected, that they treat them with reverence and unquestioning obedience. Our government does not help either, by borrowing money and setting us even more heavily in debt and creating openings for foreigners and treating them with the utmost respect they help perpetuate the stereotype that white people have more money so much so that we cannot survive without them. This over dependence on aid can be summed up in a word. Post colonialism.
Kenyans then claim that they are oppressed. This is not true, what is true is that from their childhoods Kenyans are taught to respect and revere people of a certain skin tone, this then, in later years translates to a prejudice. The Kenyan light skinned people are also to blame because of their notoriety and their semi ‘god syndrome’ picked up after years of being treated with reverence they begin to lose respect forgetting that they are not actually better or different and start taking advantage of these enabling Kenyans. It becomes and remains a vicious cycle.
Our Politicians don’t help they feed the masses with ideas and stereotypes loaded with prejudice. Again I refer to post election violence for proof of this.
Racism and its effect on my culture
Being mixed race and of multicultural backgrounds I find this subject extremely depressing. To demean or exalt a person because of race seems to me to be the lowest form of expression, it expresses one’s self-loathing or at least it should because it mirrors ones insecurities. We are all the same inside and we are a wonderful creation. I went with a friend to the hospital to donate blood and I realized, while marveling to myself what a wonderful creation we are, that blood doesn’t know color. The nurse did not ask me where I was from, she didn’t look or treat my blood like it was different, and she took my blood and thanked me. If only people could see past skin to the things that really matter.
Racism is also a very touchy subject for some people, just like America and free speech and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights come into play. Some people argue that talking about supporting racial discrimination and prejudice is just words and that free speech should allow such views to be aired without restriction. Others point out that these words can lead to some very dire and serious consequences (the Nazi government policies being one example).
As described previously racism is the belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race. It denies the basic equality of human kinds and correlates ability with physical composition.. I believe that there are two kinds of racism, reverse racism and racism itself. Reverse racism is described as the act of racism against a majority. It needs to be noted that there are times when racism has worked to my advantage. This however does not make it right. It would be unfair to deny the very important role perception plays in regards to race and color. Being distinctly different is a blessing as much as it is a curse. Humans are prone to egoistical tendencies where they get so used to being treated a certain way that they just expect it and I am no exception. I however have had different experiences that opened my eyes to this fact. Having lived in Kenya, Somalia and in the USA i have been lucky to interact with several different races and noted small peculiarities that made me more accepting and more able to interact with almost anyone in the world save of course for people who speak different languages.
In Somalia, race is a touchy subject. Somalis take pride in being different and because it’s a Muslim state they like to claim that they are not African, and instead that they are Arab. This is a cliché because they don’t even speak Arabic and they don’t even like the Arabs. They feel the need however to distance themselves from Africans. As is being African is a bad thing. Somalis are also very prejudiced about religion and although they have incorporated cultural practices into Islam which is a religion that is supposed to be practiced in its original form, they believe their way is right and their version of Islam is therefore the correct one. Again I would like to reiterate the importance of education. The percentage of educated Somalis is very small and is therefore a pressing problem. The UN is trying to address the problem with continued aid and small projects on women empowerment and so on but their cultural practices and religion supersede these and so it turns into a frustrating battle of wits and a balance when found is hard to maintain. Ignorance is rampant in Somalia. Cultural practices like FGM continue regardless of the health risks because Somalis believe it to be culturally correct, and no matter how many times the UN tries to stop or change this it will continue unless a balance is found between culture, education and of course religion.
In Somalia they thought I was Arab because I was lighter than most Somalis and because I had prominent Arab features and this is how I began to notice that they actually did not like Arabs. This type of racism, is described as ‘Arm’s Length’ racism ‘some people engage in friendly positive behaviors toward out-group members in some social settings, but treat those same out-group members with noticeably less warmth and friendliness in other settings’ (Brislin, 2000) is something of a Somali trademark. Somalis in Kenya are friendly and participatory in Somalia however it is apparent that you are an intruder, Unwelcome and different.
Race, religion and gender differences are particularly noteworthy when speaking about Somalia. Men don’t respect women partly because of their corruption of Islam but also because they think that woman are not intelligent. This coined with their deep resentment towards foreigners and their intense suspicion of outsiders makes Somalia a very difficult place to live. Somalis are very nice people once you peel the layers off though. They are very passionate and loving and deeply religious.
I felt cheated when I went to the states because I had gotten accustomed to being labeled and teased here in Kenya because I was different however in I thought that America would be different. It wasn’t it was worse ignorance and America should mean the same thing because Americans can ask the stupidest questions. I was often mistaken for Puerto Rican and Mexican. I remember remarking to one of my friends ‘ Kenyans think I’m white, white people think I’m Puerto Rican, black Americans think I’m Spanish and Puerto Ricans think I’m strange! I don’t fit in anywhere!’ The issue of skin color for me is a sensitive one but mostly because of the false impression and the stereotype created suggesting that lighter skin means more open doors. It does but it also shuts a lot of them and it alienates people and makes them feel unwanted. I don’t like preferential treatment I would instead like to know that I did something and did it well and be judged on merit. These stereotypes alienate people like me and leave us alone always wondering what the reason behind people’s actions actually is. Take for instance a relationship, If a man approached me and asked me to go out on a date with him and I said yes, the first things I would look out for are things like ‘is he showing me off to his friends’ ‘is he listening to what I’m saying or is he distracted’ ‘is he going over the top or is he comfortable’ does he treat me with respect but it’s very hard to actually tell whether he wants me for my intellect and other qualities as opposed to being light skinned and a trophy chick.
Where does it all end?
How do we stop racism? Well I think the answer is in educating people about their cultural differences and their little different ways that are specific to different cultures, interaction is also key understanding why people do or act different is of utmost importance. People need to interact so that they better understand each other, so that the stereotypes, myths and little nuances that ignite their prejudices are out in the open and not alien. By doing this people become more accepting and understanding better able to communicate and interact with each other.
We are quickly become more and more mixed and soon enough race as we know it now won’t be an issue but prejudice will remain. It may take on a different form but it will always be an inherent trait of humanity. This said, we need to stop squabbling over the color of skin and begin to deal with the other problems facing all of us. Like global warming, poverty and the like what will the color of our skin matter if we are all erased from the face of the planet?
The above was written for an intercultural communication class at USIU