Top 10 Reasons why Racism Still Exists
Racism has been a part of human history since time immemorial. It stems out of a tendency to create racial stereotypes on the basis of race, colour, nationality, religion and other factors. Often racial discrimination is practiced without even being conscious of it being nurtured and propagated. This happens because our society and its forebearers have successfully managed to plant the seeds of discrimination into our consciousness long before we were able to assert our choices. The feudal system in the middle ages can be recounted as a significant practice of racism. Slavery and serfdom have been identified as the blackest spots on the face of human civilization. In fact some of the most outrageous incidents of genocide took place as a severe repercussion to racism. Be it the Holocaust in Germany or McCarthyism in the United States of America.
The status of a second-class citizen offered to people of a darker tone in America, England and elsewhere gave rise to transatlantic slaves. The Anti-Apartheid movement spearheaded by Nelson Mandela highlighted the plights suffered by the ‘blacks’ in South Africa over a long period of time. The very demarcating terms ‘whites’ and ‘blacks’ play along the lines of binaries, which in turn create a sense of superiority and inferiority among people. The heart of the matter is despite intense and severe struggles by the likes of the late Nelson Mandela among others, discrimination on the basis of ones’ racial identity rules the roost even to this very day. Listed below are 10 reasons why racism still exists.
10. History shows us the way
The irony that underlines human and world history is that history gives us an insight both into our glorious and shameful pasts. History acts as a guidance, which determines our future course of action. Hence, if history itself is misinterpreted and if we are not taught to learn a lesson from our predecessors’ mistakes, history shall repeat itself in its most retrogressive forms. The injustice done to the blacks and the torture inflicted upon them have been recorded over centuries. The terrible Holocaust images in the concentration camps in Germany send a chill down our nerves even today. Opportunists and hate mongers use this distraught vision of history to instruct succeeding generations to maintain the status quo.
9. Lack of awareness
We have read about Nelson Mandela and his Anti-Apartheid movement. We know that he has spent 27 years of his life in jail for the cause and recently his death captured a sizeable share of space in the world media. Will it be absolutely unjust to say that Mandela for majority of the people has been just a chapter in the textbooks? Things have changed for the better and The United Nations has taken steps to curb racism around the world. The hard reality though is that at ground levels racial prejudices still exist, even though genocide/widespread torture on racial grounds have been controlled by efforts of many such organizations.
8. Mass media and popular culture
The fixation with fairness creams gives us enough reason to believe that we are a herd of white-obsessed individuals. The moment you switch on to your television sets, you will manage to catch a glimpse of the latest fairness product, with a white-washed face making tall claims of ‘revolutionising’ your life. This problem is not just restricted to South-Asian countries as advertisements all over the world harp on being fair in order to be called a ‘natural beauty’. An international human rights lawyer, Arsalan Iftikhar was quoted saying recently that racism is alive and well in America. He tweeted against the defacing of a GAP advertisement featuring Sikh model Waris Ahluwalia in a New York subway station. The company drew flak for the racial stereotyping they professed and had to apologise.
7. Fragmentation/Stratification of society
Many people would argue that a classless/undifferentiated society leads to disorder and anarchy. It is true that such a proposition has its share of disadvantages but it is an undeniable fact that the hierarchy in our society is what propels a person towards practicing racial discrimination. A highly stratified society creates division between a ‘black/brown’ and a ‘white’, a Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Sikh, between a Caucasian and a Latino. Members of a particular group club together and detest any communication/mingling with members of another group. This effort can be read as a defence mechanism against ‘outsiders/invaders’. This in turn leads to unprecedented animosity among people and creates tension.
6. Black is evil
A black cat crosses your path and you grow superstitious. We have been told that it is a sign of ill-omen. In Christianity, men and women wear a black robe while attending the funeral ceremony of a deceased person. As a result of such practices, black is identified with death, decay and the devil. The image of the fallen Satan is incomplete without the colour black. Hell has been presented as a deadly place submerged in darkness. Such preconceived notions, propagated through various mediums create a wrong impression in the minds of people, prompting them to adopt unjust ways of segregation.
5. Political insinuation
The politics of divide and rule has been predominant in our social and cultural discourse for a long time. In an attempt to consolidate ones’ support among a certain section of people, politicians and our law-makers indulge in the politics of appeasement. Barack Obama broke many cultural and political barriers by becoming the first coloured President of the world’s most powerful country The United States of America. If one remembers correctly then his political opponent from the Republican Party, John McCain in the 2008 general elections in America, in a hushed manner asked people to vote for him just because his skin colour was white. Actor Clint Eastwood gave an interview in which he explained why, in the 2008 presidential election, he voted for John McCain: “I voted for McCain because he was white. ‘Cuz that’s why other folks vote for other people – because they look like them. … That’s American politics, pure and simple.”
4. Demarcation among nations
South-Asian and African countries are referred to as the Third-World countries. Such a pejorative term often leads to such countries being seen in a poorer light than its ‘First-World’ counterparts. The term of a ‘developing country’ perhaps makes things a bit more dignified yet the damage seems to have been done. The literature of these ‘Third-World’ countries is often termed as post-colonial literature, as most of these territories have faced colonial rule in the past. Such differentiating terms and identification of so many aspects of our everyday life, boiling down to being a part of the ‘blacks/browns’ and ‘whites’ grouping, spurs hatred among people.
3. The Other
Any person who is different from us in skin colour/habits/practices gets tagged as The Other. The art of Other-ization is often an attempt to validate ones’ own importance in the world order. Individuals seem to have nurtured pre-conceived ideas about the other. Anything that is unknown/foreign to us is treated as a mark of danger and threat. The racially different person is viewed with apprehension and distrust.
2. Economic and social insecurity
Xenophobia is the fear or intense dislike for a person from another country. Unfortunately more than half of the world is suffering from this irrational disease. When an individual steps into foreign shores, among unfamiliar people, he/she is often made to feel like an outsider. It would not be fair to assess that everyone is hostile towards foreigners in their countries, though there have been significant examples in the recent past. A threat perception on the economic front is often the reason behind racial crimes. The truth though is that no individual can infringe upon another’s right to living. Competition is everywhere and it should not be eliminated on racial grounds.
1. Intrinsic human nature
Somewhere deep down, all of us suffer from an inferiority complex. In order to establish our supremacy, it has trickled down into our senses that we need to show others in a poor light. Racial segregation provides us mortals with this wonderful opportunity. By telling and making a group realize that they are racially inferior to others, one often feels a sadistic pleasure. The need of the hour is to get rid of such prejudices and treat everyone as an equal and competent fellow-being.