Sociology Racism Throughout History Essay

Pages: 6 (2011 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Race

Sociology

Racism

Throughout history racism has been seen as a plight that tends to target vulnerable groups. Racism is the conviction 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 dominant weapons encouraging fear or hatred of others in times of conflict and war, and even during economic downturns (Shah, 2010). It also consists of any action, practice, or belief that replicates the worldview that believes that humans are divided into separate and elite biological units called races. It also takes into account that there are fundamental links between innate physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural behavioral features, and that some races are naturally superior to others (Racism, 2010).

Racism was at the core of North American slavery and the overseas migration and empire-building behaviors of some western Europeans, especially during the 18th century. The idea of race was made-up to expand the distinctions among people of European origin in the U.S. And individuals of African descent whose ancestors had been taken against their will to be slaves in America. By looking at Africans and their descendants as less significant human beings, the supporters of slavery tried to justify and maintain this system of mistreatment while at the same time depicting the U.S. As a defender and supporter of human freedom, human rights, democratic institutions, limitless opportunities, and equality. The discrepancy between slavery and the ideology of human equality, linked with a philosophy of human freedom and dignity, seemed to demand the dehumanization of those enslaved. By the 19th century racism had developed and the idea spread around the world. Racism is different from ethnocentrism in that it is connected with physical differences among people. Ethnic identity is obtained, and ethnic features are learned forms of behavior. Race, on the other hand, is a form of identity that is thought to be as innate and unalterable. In the last half of the 20th century a number of conflicts around the world were seen as racial conditions even though their origins were in the ethnic hostilities that have long differentiated many human societies such as Arabs and Jews, English and Irish. Racism reveals an acceptance of the deepest forms and degrees of divisiveness and carries the implication that differences among groups are so great that they cannot be transcended (Racism, 2010).

It is believed that the term of racism was created in reaction to the rise of German Fascism and its anti-Semitic theory of race. Some theoreticians of imperialism have disputed that only whites could be racists. Marxist thinking has been inclined to consider it as a corollary of the development of capitalist society. Focused on racism under the conditions of colonialism and in societies with a large contingent of foreign immigrants puts forward the suggestion that it must be regarded as an ideology. It has been put forward that racism refers to a particular form of evaluative depiction which is a specific instance of a wider descriptive process of racialization (Racism, 2010).

The psychological precondition of racism is anxiety. On a sociological stage it may be said that mobile societies and those experiencing great social changes are especially prone to develop some sort of racism. Contempt of another tends provide a reassuring feeling of identity. When looking at it philosophically, racism is the result of a world view that does not leave any conceptual room for the strange or unknown. Racism is thought to have many faces and is often expressed in terms of socio-economic, religious, and cultural situations. The Christian world has stood out at relegating dark complexion to the realms of the mysterious and the bad. In pagan ancient times, this was quite different. The stereotypes connected with black Africans were rather of a positive nature. Blackness indicated qualities such as wisdom, or the love of freedom and justice (Racism, 2010). This shows how people in different societies and cultures can see things so very different from each other. Something that is very positive in one place can be very negative in another.

One of the earliest instances of what amounted to state-organized racism in European history was the persecution of the Jews in fifteenth-century Spain. In 1492 King Ferdinand accomplished the defeat of the Arabs at Granada. In the wake of the victory, the Jews were barred. Though converts to Christianity were allowed to stay, the enforced Jewish exodus signaled that the times were over when political rulers could put up with the existence of the others in their territory. Post-medieval, centrally governed countries, on the other hand, had lost the will and the philosophical preconditions for putting up with foreign ethnic groups. Ever since the fifteenth century, examples of organized racism have been seen more and more. The holocaust took place in a cultural climate of which it has been said that it bore many similarities to the atmosphere in Spain at the time of the expulsion of the Jews (Racism, 2010).

Racism is an exact form of discrimination usually associated with skin color and ethnicity. It is a philosophy of superiority which provides a rationalization for oppression. It also engages a mistreatment of authority by one group over another group. While racism entails harmful stereotypes and assumptions it should not be condensed simply to attitudes thereby associating it with prejudice. The realism of unequal power shared with prejudice enables some groups to treat others in racist ways by denying them entrance to opportunities, resources and decision-making processes (Roma/Gypsies/Travelers of Europe: An Examination of Discrimination and Racism, 1998).

There are many different approaches that have been explored when looking at the phenomenon of racism. The moral, psychological and cultural approaches lean towards depoliticizing the issue of racism by focusing almost exclusively on individual attitudes and behaviors dislodged from their social, political, economical, and historical contexts. Solutions maintained on the moral approach correctly portray awareness to the reality that racism is a moral issue. The psychological approach is by no means an adequate tool for understanding the idea of racism but it is a very necessary one (Roma/Gypsies/Travelers of Europe: An Examination of Discrimination and Racism, 1998).

The biological approach brings awareness to the reality of certain physical differences and the specific form of racism linked with skin color. Anti-racism does not mean a denial of these distinctions but does face up to the social meanings and interpretations credited to them. The multi-cultural advance is well-liked by many people perhaps because it is nonthreatening. It can improve mutual admiration and understanding amid individuals and groups and contribute to fixing the prevailing communication problems and misunderstandings. Nevertheless this approach is criticized for redirecting attention away from power differentials, structural oppression and for misjudging ignorance as the main issue in the creation of racism (Roma/Gypsies/Travelers of Europe: An Examination of Discrimination and Racism, 1998).

The structural approach offers a sociological framework for understanding racism in the situation of changing historical, political, economic and social processes. This approach provides a device for going beyond symptoms and for addressing root sources. It also depicts how regular practices and procedures result in black and minority ethnic factions having lower incomes, higher unemployment, and worse health. It also shows how their accommodation and life chances are less and how they have less authority on the decisions which affect their lives (Roma/Gypsies/Travelers of Europe: An Examination of Discrimination and Racism, 1998).

There are many examples of racism that takes place all over the world, even today. A couple of examples of places where it can be seen are in Australia and Canada. Indigenous Australians are those people who have preserved a relationship through descent, self-identification, and community acceptance with the pre-colonial populations in Australia. They constitute approximately 2.4% of the Australian population and suffer from high rates of unemployment and incarceration, low income, sub-standard housing, and a high burden of ill-health and mortality including a life expectancy that is 20 years lesser than other Australians. Racism against Indigenous Australians permeates the very fabric of contemporary Australian society occurring in the political domain, health system, academia, sports, the law and criminal justice systems and civil society as a whole (Paradies, 2005).

The multiplication of racial categories suggests a deconstruction of the very notion of race. For a long time, most Americans and others who had imbibed European ideas thought of race as a biological fact. Starting with the Linnaean pyramid of biological taxonomy, from kingdom to phylum to class to order to family to genus to species, 19th-century pseudoscientific racists tried to extend the system down one more level and so created the idea of discrete human races. Based on geographic origin and observed physical features, these races were supposed to have distinct characterological qualities as well. It is widely recognized today that these racial ideas did not in fact spring from biological differences. Instead, they were mainly props used to justify European colonialism and white hegemony… [END OF PREVIEW]

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