Racism is the belief that characteristics and abilities can be attributed to people simply on the basis of their race and that some racial groups are superior to others. Racism and discrimination have been used as powerful weapons encouraging fear or hatred of others in times of conflict and war, and even during economic downturns.
Racism is also a very touchy subject for some people, as issues concerning 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).
Racial discrimination refers to the separation of people through a process of social division into categories not necessarily related to races for purposes of differential treatment. Racial segregation policies may officialize it, but it is also often exerted without being legalized. Researchers, including Dean Karlan and Marianne Bertrand, at the MIT and the University of Chicago found in a 2003 study that there was widespread discrimination in the workplace against job applicants whose names were merely perceived as "sounding black". These applicants were 50% less likely than candidates perceived as having "white-sounding names" to receive callbacks for interviews. In contrast, institutions and courts have upheld discrimination against whites when it is done to promote a diverse work or educational environment, even when it was shown to be to the detriment of qualified applicants.
Institutional racism is racial discrimination by governments, corporations, religions, or educational institutions or other large organizations with the power to influence the lives of many individuals. Stokely Carmichael is credited for coining the phrase institutional racism in the late 1960s. He defined the term as "the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin".
Maulana Karenga argued that racism constituted the destruction of culture, language, religion and human possibility, and that the effects of racism were "the morally monstrous destruction of human possibility involved redefining African humanity to the world, poisoning past, present and future relations with others who only know us through this stereotyping and thus damaging the truly human relations among peoples."
Historical economic or social disparity is alleged to be a form of discrimination which is caused by past racism and historical reasons, affecting the present generation through deficits in the formal education and kinds of preparation in previous generation, ands, through primarily unconscious racist attitudes and actions on members of the general population.
A hypothesis embraced by classical economists is that competition in a capitalist economy decreases the impact of discrimination. The thinking behind the hypothesis is that discrimination imposes a cost on the employer, and thus a profit-driven employer will avoid racist hiring policies.
Racism in history
Edith Sanders cited the Babylonian Talmud, which divides mankind between the three sons of Noah, stating that "the descendants of Ham are cursed by being black, and it depicts Ham as a sinful man and his progeny as degenerates." Bernard Lewis has cited the Greek philosopher Aristotle who, in his discussion of slavery, stated that while Greeks are free by nature, 'barbarians' (non-Greeks) are slaves by nature, in that it is in their nature to be more willing to submit to despotic government. Though Aristotle does not specify any particular races, he argues that people from outside Greece are more prone to the burden of slavery than those from Ancient Greece.
Middle Ages and Renaissance
In the Middle East and North Africa region, racist opinions were expressed within the works of some of its historians and geographers including Al-Muqaddasi, Al-Jahiz, Al-Masudi, Abu Rayhan Biruni, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, and Ibn Qutaybah.
Richard E. Nisbett has said that the question of racial superiority may go back at least a thousand years, to the time when the Umayyad Caliphate invaded Hispania, occupying most of the Iberian Peninsula for six centuries, where they founded the advanced civilization of Al-Andalus (711–1492).
At the end of the Renaissance, the Valladolid debate (1550–1551) concerning the treatment of natives of the "New World" opposed the Dominican friar and Bishop of Chiapas Bartolomé de Las Casas to another Dominican philosopher Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda. The latter argued that "Indians" were natural slaves because they had no souls, and were therefore beneath humanity. Thus, reducing them to slavery or serfdom was in accordance with Catholic theology and natural law. To the contrary, Bartolomé de Las Casas argued that the Amerindians were free men in the natural order and deserved the same treatment as others, according to Catholic theology. It was one of the many controversy concerning racism, slavery and Eurocentrism that would arise in the following centuries.
Authors such as Hannah Arendt, in her 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism, have said that the racist ideology (popular racism) which developed at the end of the 19th century helped legitimize the imperialist conquests of foreign territories and the acts that accompanied them (such as the Herero and Namaqua Genocide of 1904–1907 or the Armenian Genocide of 1915–1917). Rudyard Kipling's poem The White Man's Burden (1899) is one of the more famous illustrations of the belief in the inherent superiority of the European culture over the rest of the world, though also it is also thought to be a satirical appraisal of such imperialism. Racist ideology thus helped legitimize subjugation and the dismantling of the traditional societies of indigenous peoples, which were regarded as humanitarian obligations as a result of these racist beliefs.
However, during the 19th century, West European colonial powers were involved in the suppression of the Arab slave trade in Africa, as well as in suppression of the slave trade in West Africa. Other colonialists recognized the depravity of their actions but persisted for personal gain; some Europeans during the time period objected to the injustices caused by colonialism and lobbied on behalf of aboriginal peoples. Thus, when the Hottentot Venus was displayed in England in the beginning of the 19th century, the African Association publicly opposed itself to the exhibition. The same year that Kipling published his poem, Joseph Conrad published Heart of Darkness (1899), a clear criticism of the Congo Free State owned by Leopold II of Belgium.
The Nazis considered Jews, Gypsies, Poles and other Slavic people such as the Russians, Ukrainians, Czechs and anyone else who was not an "Aryan" according to the contemporary Nazi race terminology to be subhuman. The Nazis rationalized that the Germans, being a super human race, had a biological right to displace, eliminate and enslave inferiors. Some 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. In the longer term, the Nazis wanted to exterminate some 30–45 million Slavs.
An improvised camp for Soviet POWs. Between June 1941 and January 1942, the Nazis killed an estimated 2.8 million Red Army POWs, whom they viewed as "subhuman".
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination UNESCO marks March 21 as the yearly International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in memory of the events that occurred on March 21, 1960 in Sharpeville, South Africa, where police killed student demonstrators peacefully protesting against the apartheid regime.
All of these arguments are based on a false understanding of race; in fact, contemporary scientists are not agreed on whether race is a valid way to classify people. What may seem to be significant "racial" differences to some people - skin color, hair, facial shape - are not of much scientific significance. In fact, genetic differences within a so-called race may be greater than those between races. One philosopher writes: "There are few genetic characteristics to be found in the population of England that are not found in similar proportions in Zaire or in China….those differences that most deeply affect us in our dealings with each other are not to any significant degree biologically determined."
10 simple ideas to eliminate racism
1. Don't laugh at racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic and other stereotypical jokes or assumptions. 2. Make an effort to get to know people different than you. 3. Learn about other people and their culture. 4. Think before you speak. 5. Be a role model. 6. Don't make assumptions. 7. Explore the unfamiliar. 8. Work on projects with members of groups different from your own. 9. Be a proactive parent. 10. Support anti-prejudice and anti-racist organizations.