By: Jessica Fearon
History of Racial Discrimination
The origins of racism date back to the Renaissance and the Reformation period of time. During this time, Jews were associated with the devil and witchcraft. Antisemitism grew with the growth of Christianity. As the Christian faith became more popular, Jewish people became outcasts. Later on in history, we see the rise of antisemitism once again, with Adolf Hitler as a leader. Antisemitism is prejudice, hostility or discrimination against Jews. Their value was stripped down to less than human. Even though Judaism is a religion and not a race, those who had "Jewish features" were stereotyped against. The Holocaust was a dark period time for the world.
It was also during the Renaissance era where the Europeans were increasingly coming into contact with people from Africa, Asia and the Americas. Originally, the basis for the African slave trade was that they were heathens but in 1667, Virginia passed the law that Africans could be enslaved, not because they were heathen but because of their heathen ancestors. This is where the discrimination began to shift from religion based to race based. In the late seventeenth century, laws were passed in North America forbidding the marriage of Caucasians and Africans. These laws implied the inferiority of the black race. During the twentieth century, in the South of America, the passage of racial segregation laws and restrictions on black voting rights reduced African Americans to lower caste status. Extremely racist propaganda represented black males as ravening beasts lusting after white women and served to rationalize the practice of lynching. A key feature of the racist regime maintained by state law in the South was a fear of sexual contamination through rape or intermarriage, which led to efforts to prevent the conjugal union of whites with those with any known or discernible African ancestry.
The history of racial discrimination has had lasting repercussions that still plague society today.
Racism on a Global Level
Please watch from 0:43 to 2:25.
Racism is a problem all around the world.
Throughout Western Europe, there has been a rise in racist attacks and sentiments against both Arabs and Jews, in light of the increasing hostilities in the Middle East. In 2010, violence against African farmers left 70 people injured. Greece has one of the worst records for racism against ethnic groups in Europe. The target of most of this racism are Albanian immigrants.
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.
Though Caucasians are generally seen as the superior race, they face discrimination as well. For example, in African countries such as Zimbabwe, there has been increasing racism against the white farmers, due to poverty and lack of ownership by Africans.
In Asian countries, racist views have developed. In Cambodia, there has been a strong anti-Vietnamese sentiment.In Indonesia there has been a lot of violence against the affluent Chinese population who have been blamed for economic problems that have plagued the country in recent years.
Racism around the world fuels inequality. As long a racist mindsets prevail, the world will never truly be united. If society wants to work towards justice and equity, racial discrimination must cease to exist.
Racism in Canada
Just like every other country, Canada struggles with racism. One of the strongest forms that can be seen is against Aboriginals. The living standard of Aboriginal peoples in Canada falls far short of those of non-Aboriginals. They, along with other minorities, continue to encounter barriers in gaining equality. Aboriginal life expectancy is lower; they have fewer high school graduates, higher unemployment, almost twice as many infant deaths and spend more time in jail. They have lower incomes, enjoy fewer promotions in the workplace and remain, as a group, the poorest in Canada. A system of ‘industrial schools’ was developed in the 19th century which combined academic studies with ”more practical matters” and schools for Natives began to appear in the 1840s. Their motto was ”Kill the Indian in him and save the man.”. It was felt that the most effective weapon for ”killing the Indian” in them, was to remove children from their Native supports and so Native children were taken away from their homes, their parent, their families, friends and communities. The worst aspect of Canada’s residential schools was the abuse: emotional, physical and sexual. Punishments were often brutal and cruel, sometimes even life threatening or life ending.
Most residential schools closed in the 1970s. Criminal and civil suits against the government and the churches began in the late 1980’s and shortly after the last residential school closed. In the 1990s, beginning with the United Church, the churches that ran the residential schools began to issue formal apologies. In 1998 the Canadian government issued the Statement of Reconciliation, and gave $350 million in support of a community-based healing strategy to address the healing needs of individuals, families and communities arising from the legacy of physical and sexual abuse at residential schools. The money was used to launch the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
In America, the statistics are most of the same. Please watch the video below from 0:14 to 0:52.
Explanations of Racial Discrimination
Social Identity Theory
Henri Tajfel helped to develop Social Identity Theory. He says that we divide the world into “them” and “us” based through a process of social categorization, meaning that we put people into social groups. This is known as in-group and out-group. Social identity theory states that the in-group will discriminate against the out-group to enhance their self-image. The central hypothesis of social identity theory is that group members of an in-group will seek to find negative aspects of an out-group, to enhance their self-image.
Prejudiced views between cultures may result in racism; in its extreme forms, racism may result in genocide, such as occurred in Germany with the Jews.
Henri Tajfel proposed that stereotyping based on a normal cognitive process: the tendency to group things together. In doing so we tend to exaggerate:
1. the differences between groups
2. the similarities of things in the same group.
We categorize people in the same way. We see the group to which we belong (the in-group) as being different from the others (the out-group), and members of the same group as being more similar than they are. Social categorization is one explanation for prejudice attitudes, which leads to in-groups and out-groups.
For symbolic interactionists, race and ethnicity provide strong symbols as sources of identity. Some interactionists say that the symbols of race, not race itself, are what lead to racism. Interactionist Herbert Blumer (1958) suggested that racial prejudice is formed through interactions between members of the dominant group: Without these interactions, individuals in the dominant group would not hold racist views. These interactions contribute to an abstract picture of the subordinate group that allows the dominant group to support its view of the subordinate group, to keep the norms. For example, an individual may have a belief about a specific racial group that is based off of images presented in the media only because the individual has never personally met a member of that group.
Repercussions of Racial Discrimination
Effect on Society
Racial profiling and discrimination can have very serious consequences. In world that is working towards fairness, racial discrimination is an obstacle yet to over come. Discrimination affects people emotionally and psychologically. It can lead to segregation, low self-esteem, bullying, and inequality. There is race based discrimination found in the work place. An experiment found that in the initial review of resumes, applicants were already at a disadvantage if their names suggested they were Black. The researchers sent resumes with similar qualifications in response to 1,300 employment advertisements. They changed only the name of the applicant (using a name perceived as White, such as Greg Baker, or a name perceived as Black, such as Jamal James) and found that applicants with White sounding names were 50% more likely to receive a callback than applicants with Black sounding names. When they manipulated the quality of the resumes, higher quality White applicants were 30% more likely to receive a callback than lower quality White applicants, whereas Black applicants with higher quality resumes only received an 8% boost over lower quality Black applicants. Minority groups are at a disadvantage in the workforce.
A lot of minority groups do not feel represented or as important as the dominant group. They feel secondary.
Please watch from 14:23 to 16:16
The HDI and Multinational Corporations
How Can We Help?
Racist slurs and ideas are frequently in the media and because of this, society is accepts racism. When someone sees something constantly, they will become desensitized to it. Society has become numb towards racism.
The video below is a video survey done by a couple of students at Louisiana State University. They question they have been asked in the video is, "Is it okay for popular shows to poke fun at various ethnic groups?"
Please watch from 4:30 to 5:13.
A lot of the time, our perception of another race is built upon stereotypes presented in the media.
When it comes to racism, ignorance is not bliss. Society does not need to be "colour blind." We must recognize as a whole that racism still exists, and that it will not go away on it's own.
Please watch from 2:34 to 4:20.
Racism is wrong, so fight for what is right. Confront the racism within the self. Practise empathy towards those who are different; we’re all human after all. When witnessing racial discrimination, speak up and stand for what is right. Remember that if any kind of injustice is allowed to thrive in our society, all forms can. Be educated about different forms of racism and where they take place.
What Can Canada do?
Canada can advocate for Affirmative Action practices in education and employment. Countless studies have found that, qualifications being equal, people of colour are rejected for employment and admission to educational institutions far more than white people. Affirmative Action initiatives help mediate this problem of racist exclusion. Also through education, the government will be able to educate it's people about other races and cultures. If this type of education begins at an early age, children will grow up with more accepting points of view. Canada can be an example to other countries. Once Canada starts, other countries will follow.