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Racial Discrimination

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For as long as history can remember, there has been racial discrimination between one or more kinds of people. But how far back does this history go? Racism exists when one ethnic group or historical collectivity dominates, excludes, or seeks to eliminate another on the basis of differences that it believes are hereditary and cannot be changed. The reasoning behind this thought came to a unique conclusion in the West during the modern period. No clear evidence of racism has been found in other cultures or in Europe before the Middle Ages. The history of the Jews with the devil and witchcraft in the popular mind of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was perhaps the first sign of a racist view of the world. Official sanction for such attitudes came in sixteenth century Spain when Jews who had converted to Christianity and their descendants became the victims of a pattern of discrimination and exclusion.

The period of the Renaissance and Reformation was also the time when Europeans were coming into increasing contact with people of darker skin colors in Africa, Asia, and the Americas were making judgments about them. The owners and traders of slave’s official conclusion for enslaving African Americans came from a passage from the Bible in Genesis. It was thought that the “dark people” had committed a sin against his father Noah that condemned his supposedly black descendants to be “servants unto servants.” “ Race Discrimination” Shellist Lazarz Slobin, pg 1 As a result, in 1667, Virginia decreed that converted slaves could be kept in bondage, not because they were of different origins, but because they had heathen ancestry. The thinking behind black servitude was forever changed from religious status to something approaching race. Beginning in the late seventeenth century, laws were also passed in North America forbidding marriage between whites and blacks and discriminating against the mixed offspring of such marriages.

Without clearly saying so, such laws implied that blacks were permanently alien and inferior to other races. During the Enlightenment, a scientific theory of race moved the subject away from the Bible, but kept its consistency with the unity of the human race. Eighteenth century ethnologists began to think of human beings as part of the natural world and subdivided them into three to five races, usually considered as varieties of a single human species. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, however, an increasing number of writers, especially those committed to the defense of slavery, maintained that the races constituted separate species. The Nineteenth century was an age of emancipation, nationalism, and imperialism–all of which contributed to the development and passion of extreme racism in Europe and the United States. Although the emancipation of blacks from slavery and Jews from the ghettoes received most of its support from religious or secular believers in an essential human equality, the consequence of these reforms was to intensify rather than diminish racism.

Race relations became less dismissive and more competitive. The insecurities of a developing industrial capitalism created a need for scapegoats. The Darwinian emphasis on “the struggle for existence” “Race/Color Discrimination.” U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, pg 2 and concern for “the survival of the fittest” “ background on Racial Discrimination” Explore Campaigns, pg 1 was helpful to the development of a new and more credible scientific theory for racism in an era that increasingly viewed race relations as an arena for conflict rather than as a stable minimum for living. The growth of nationalism encouraged the growth of a culture-coded modified version of racist thought, especially in Germany. Beginning in the late 1870s and early 1880s, the fathers of the term “antisemitism” made explicit what some cultural nationalists had previously implied.

This term pretty much meant that to be Jewish in Germany was not simply to follow a set of religious beliefs or cultural practices but also meant belonging to a race that was the antithesis, or even enemy, of the race to which true Germans belonged. The climax of Western expansion in the late nineteenth century “scramble for Africa” and parts of Asia and the Pacific represented a challenge of competitive and ethnic loyalty that existed among European nations (and which, as a result of the Spanish-American War came to include the United States). It also constituted a claim, allegedly based on science that Europeans had the right to rule over Africans and Asians. The climax of the history of racism came in the twentieth century in the rise and fall of what might be called overtly racist regimes. In the American South, the passing of racial segregation laws and restrictions on black voting rights reduced African Americans to lower caste status.

Extreme racist propaganda, which represented black males as ravening beasts lusting after white women, 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 any obvious African ancestry. One of the most obvious examples of racist ideology was the case of Nazi Germany. During this time, Hitler and his cohorts attempted to succeed in the extermination of an entire ethnic group on the basis of a racist ideology. Hitler, it has been said, gave racism a bad name. The moral dislike of people throughout the world against what the Nazis did, reinforced by scientific studies undermining racist genetics, acted to discredit the scientific racism that had been respectable and influential in the United States and Europe before the Second World War.

Explicit racism also came under devastating attack from the new nations resulting from the decolonization of Africa and Asia and their representatives in the United Nations. The Civil Rights movement in the United States, which succeeded in outlawing legalized racial segregation and discrimination in the 1960s, drew crucial support from the growing sense that national interests were threatened when blacks in the United States were mistreated and abused. In the competition with the Soviet Union for “the hearts and minds” of independent Africans and Asians, Jim Crow and the ideology that sustained it became a national embarrassment with possible strategic consequences. The one racist regime that survived the Second World War and the Cold War was the South African in 1948. The laws passed banning all marriage and sexual relations between different “population groups” and requiring separate residential areas for people of mixed races, as well as for Africans, signified the same obsession with “race purity” that characterized the other racist regimes.

However the climate of world opinion in the wake of the Holocaust induced apologists for apartheid to avoid, for the most part, straightforward biological racism and rest their case for “separate development” mainly on cultural rather than physical differences. The defeat of Nazi Germany, the desegregation of the American South in the 1960s, and the establishment of majority rule in South Africa suggest that regimes based on biological racism or its cultural essentialist equivalent are a thing of the past. But racism does not require the full and explicit support of the state and the law. Nor does it require an ideology centered on the concept of biological inequality. Discrimination by institutions and individuals against those perceived as racially different can long persist and even flourish under the illusion of non-racism, as historians of Brazil have recently discovered.

The use of allegedly deep-seated cultural differences as a justification for hostility and discrimination against newcomers from the Third World in several European countries has led to allegations of a new “cultural racism.” Recent examples of a functionally racist cultural determinism are not in fact unprecedented. They rather represent a reversion to the way that the differences between groups could be made to seem indelible and unbridgeable before the articulation of a scientific or naturalistic conception of race in the eighteenth century. Even though there have been laws passed in order to help control racist acts; it has not changed the thoughts of many people today that still remain racist. Race plays a very large role when it comes down to the way the public is treated. In some cases for example, some businesses will refuse to hire another person that differs from their own race. Another example of this is the use of racial jokes, comments and names. Some hypocrites will claim to be anti-racist while they use racial nicknames in their daily vocabulary.

After the civil war, most of the race crimes and racial conflicts took place in the southern states, but now these problems have worked their way up North. Now these racial problems are found mostly in New Jersey and New York, two of the most populated states on the east coast. Every day there are acts of racism evolving from different areas all over the USA. On June 13, 1998, James Byrd Jr., a 49 year old man from Texas, was beaten unconscious and chained to the back of a pick-up truck, where 3 white men dragged him along for miles. This is only one example of recent racial violence in America. Although some racism is still involving African Americans, it is becoming more pointed towards the large amount of Eastern Asians now living in the United States. Many individuals don’t like the fact that these individuals are running most of the gas stations and 7 11’s, and so this is where the racial comments and nicknames are started.

This jumping off point is where most racial crimes are rooted and grown from. In comparing racism now to 50 years ago, a lot has changed, but also a lot has remained the same. Like mentioned above, racism still happens in today’s society, whether it’s in the work force, at school, or even on the streets of cities and towns. It seems that everything you read or hear, nowadays, is related to racism. I have been listening to some talk-shows and read a few articles on the subject and have come to a conclusion: racism is based on ignorance.

The main reason people are prejudiced is because they are not educated on the matter. For example, most people who dislike Afro-Americans grew up being taught this. They were influenced by their parents and have always assumed that Afro-Americans are below their level of intelligence. If they had realized that blacks were just as human as white people, they probably would not be as discriminatory. Unfortunately racism seems similar to religion in that it is almost impossible to change the minds of committed people.

Works Cited
“ background on Racial Discrimination” Explore Campaigns, web 2 June 2014 “ Race Discrimination” Shellist Lazarz Slobin, web 2 June 2014 “ Racial Discrimination and the state Action Requirement” Exploring Constitutional, Web 2 June 2014 “ Race/Color Discrimination.” U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Web. 29 May 2014.

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