Linking The Images And Their Effects
This reaction of rejection takes
the form of closely related phenomena: Discrimination, Xenophobia,
Intolerance, Anti-Semitism and Racism. Power is a very important
component in the relations between cultures (and sub-cultures)
and these reactions get worse whenever majorities are faced
with minorities. Over time, definitions and their use change
and you will find it interesting to compare this section
to the valuable chapter on Discrimination
and Xenophobia in Compass where more recent
examples are given.
Discrimination is prejudice in
action. Groups are labelled as different and discriminated
against. They may be isolated, made criminals by laws that
make their ways of life illegal, left to live in unhealthy
conditions, deprived of any political voice, given the worst
jobs or no jobs at all, denied entry to discos, subjected
to random police checks.
Can you think of other examples of discrimination?
Within minority groups there are
those who have fought against such negative discrimination,
sometimes with support from members of the majority. They
argue that in order to bring about equality it is necessary
to promote measures of positive discrimination.
These measures are also referred to as "positive action".
Can you suggest positive action necessary to combat the
negative forms of discrimination listed above? (One example
could be to provide suitable stopping sites, in consultation
with Roma (Gypsy) or Sinti people, to ensure that they meet
the needs expressed).
Xenophobia comes from a Greek
word meaning "fear of the foreigner". We have
here a clear example of a vicious circle: I fear those who
are different because I don't know them and I don't know
them because I fear them. Similar to discrimination and
racism, xenophobia feeds on stereotypes and prejudices,
though it has its origin in the insecurity and the fear
projected onto "the other". This fear of the other
is often translated into rejection, hostility or violence
against people from other countries or belonging to minorities.
Xenophobia has been used by powerful elites
to "protect" their countries from outside influence
as we can see from ex-President Ceausescu, the toppled dictator
of Romania, who liked to quote the poet Mihai Eminescu:
"He who takes strangers
May the dogs eat his parts
May the waste eat his home
May ill-fame eat his name!"
Xenophilia is the love of foreigners. Can you change the
poem to reflect such a spirit?
Intolerance is a lack of respect
for practices or beliefs other than ones own. This is shown
when someone is not willing to let other people act in a
different way or hold different opinions from themselves.
Intolerance can mean that people are excluded or rejected
because of their religious beliefs, their sexuality, or
even their clothes and hairstyle.
When do you think that it is right to be intolerant?
The combination of power, prejudice,
xenophobia and intolerance against Jewish people is known
as anti-semitism. This form of religious intolerance leads
to discrimination against individuals as well as the persecution
of Jews as a group. The most horrific manifestation of anti-semitism
came with Hitler's rise to power and the Nazi ideology of
racial purity. Six million Jewish people died in concentration
camps during the Holocaust or Shoah. Frighteningly, some
"historians" like David Irving have attempted
to "prove" that concentration camps did not exist
or were not as bad as they have been portrayed.
What did you learn about the Shoah at school? What forms
of anti-semitism exist nowadays?
When have you used or heard someone use the term "Racist!"?
The consequences of racism are
terrifying, even the word racism is frightening. Defining
"racism" is not easy. Defining it to the point
where it would be possible to determine - across Europe
- whether any particular action, thought or process could
be labelled racist would appear to be verging on the impossible.
Racism is based on the linked beliefs
that distinctive human characteristics, abilities, etc are
determined by race and that there are superior and
inferior races. Logically, to accept this argument you have
to believe that there are different human races.
Racism changes shape over time and may
even be called by other names in different places. It is
the concept of superiority that is so dangerous - superiority
of one group of humans over another. If we start to believe
such things then, depending on the time and place, we can
lend our tacit or active support to:
• the killing of 400,000 Roma or
Gypsy people during the period of the Nazi regime
• the massacres and destructions
of entire communities in former Yugoslavia in the name of
• the reservation of jobs and services
to certain groups in society "Europe for the Europeans",
"France for the French", "Russia for the
• "Algeria is there for the
Algerians - so why don't they all go back there", "Turkey
is there for the Turks - so why don't they all go back there",
• development aid which entraps more
than it helps
• sending letter bombs to asylum
This education pack is based on
the complete rejection of such theories or beliefs. The
species is human. There is only one race: the human race.
Would you label as racist all those examples of the consequences
of a belief in superiority? If not, what would you say?
What follows are several ideas
and explanations that look at concepts of racism in different
Racism is a myth
"For all practical social purposes "race"
is not so much a biological phenomenon as a social myth.
The myth of "race" has created an enormous amount
of human and social damage. In recent years it has taken
a heavy toll in human lives and caused untold suffering.
It still prevents the normal development of millions of
human beings and deprives civilization of the effective
co-operation of productive minds."
"Statement on Race", UNESCO, Paris, July
Quoting Julian Huxley in "We
Europeans", 1935, in reply to Nazi racist propaganda:
"Racism is a myth, and a dangerous
myth. It is a cloak for selfish economic aims which in their
uncloaked nakedness would look ugly enough."
"It was agreed that racism could be described
as discrimination against one group of people by another,
based on prejudices which were attributed to physical characteristics.
It was stressed that racism was an attempt to create false
divisions within the human race, and had no valid scientific
basis. "There was only one race on Earth: the HUMAN
RACE, and even by using such terminology as 'racial discrimination'
or 'race relations', one risked legitimising part of the
false premises used by racist theorists and groups."
[International Youth and Student Movement
for the United Nations, "Multiracial coexistence in
Europe", Study Session, EYC, 1983]
Racism is an ideology
"In public debates the terms 'Auslanderfeindlichkeit'
or 'Fremdenfeindlichkeit' [meaning hostility towards foreigners]
are the ones which are mostly used when intellectual or
active rejection of foreigners is being talked about - only
rarely will the term 'Rassismus' [racism] be used. We want
to use the term 'racism' not because it conveys the character
of sharper moral and political accusation, but rather because
it is the clearer historical and analytical category - in
contrast to the other terms - and because it asserts something
about the contexts and causes of rejection and hatred of
Racism is a purely ideological construction, an ideology
because there are no 'races'. There are no provable links
between peoples' physical or cultural characteristics and
their basic qualities or possibilities. The acceptance of
the term 'races' is ideologically motivated and culturally
deep-rooted - it fulfils important functions for safeguarding
existing ruling structures:
• Racism allows social inequalities,
exclusion and contradictions of class to appear natural,
rather than dependent upon social factors. Social inequality
and oppression are thereby politically and culturally legitimised
and even thought of as fate by those affected.
• Those groups who are defined
through 'racial characteristics' can then be tagged as being
the supposed cause of economic and social crises. They are
put in the role of scapegoats, distracting attention from
the real causes of a crisis and thereby attracting the
annoyance of society.
'Neo-Racism' is no longer based primarily on physical
characteristics, rather it takes cultural differences as
its starting point. Statements about superiority are partly
forgotten and, instead, it is 'merely' pointed out that
the culture of a people ('Volk') or of nations is necessary
for their identity and would be endangered by cultural or
[Jusos in der SPD, "Asyl statt Abschreckung",
Argumente 5, Bonn, 1992]
Racism is deeply rooted in history
"It is important to differentiate between the
various manifestations of racism in the respective
countries. Countries such as the United Kingdom, France
and Belgium, i.e. imperialist nations with a history
of colonialism, subscribe to racist ideologies which are
evidently bound up with the exploitation and subjugation
of black people in the cause of the advancement of Western
Capitalism. Anthropologists and biologists, later followed
by socio-biologists, suggested scientific reasons and explanations
for treating black people as a sub-human species. It
was suggested and believed that people of a particular skin-colour
had genetic and social characteristics that were fixed and
immutable, and that were not subject to the influence
of nurturing or of environment. This led to the widespread
belief that the peoples of Africa were inferior to the white
"Caucasian" race, morally, socially and intellectually,
and that therefore one need not apply the same human
values in dealing with them. They could be treated as slaves,
as chattels, as units of property such as you treat cattle
or horses, and used as labour power to produce wealth."
[European Confederation of Youth Clubs, "Racism
in Europe - the Challenge for Youth Work", Study Session,
EYC, October 1989]
Racism can change
"Racism is different from racial prejudice, hatred
or discrimination. RACISM involves having the power to carry
out systematic discriminatory practices through major institutions
of our society, whereas prejudice is the unfavourable opinion
or feeling formed beforehand without knowledge, thought
Racism = Power + Prejudice
RACISM is both overt and covert. It takes two closely
related forms: individual RACISM and institutional
RACISM. The first consists of overt acts by individuals,
which can cause death, injury or the violent destruction
of property. The second form is less evident. Some of the
most conspicuous examples are in housing patterns, segregated
schools and churches, discriminatory employment and promotion
policies and textbooks which ignore the role of many ethnic
RACISM must also be looked upon from a cultural aspect.
Cultural RACISM is when we use power to perpetuate our cultural
heritage and impose it on others, while at the same time
destroying the culture of others, which brings us to ethnocentrism.
The tendency to view alien cultures with disfavour, which
results in an inherent sense of superiority, is ETHNOCENTRISM.
Cultural Racism = 'Power + Ethnocentrism'
[International Federation of Liberal and Radical Youth,
"Put the Hands Together: IFLRY Against Racism and Xenophobia",
What do you think now?