tagged w/ Tears of shame
After reading and commenting on my friend kennymotown's article about first lady Michelle Obama and the grade level of the speech she gave at the convention in terms of education. I felt compelled to read and understand a little bit more about the truth definition of the word racism and what it can do to human behavior.....
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term describes ‘the theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race’. The word itself is rather recent, probably going back only to the 1930s. There are two attitudes towards the concept of racism: one says that ‘racism’ is usefully applied only where it is derived from a perception of race and the ensuing fixation on ‘typical’ racial traits. In this sense ‘racism’ describes the racialist attitudes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, deriving from the merger of physical anthropology und ethnography on the background of the idea of evolution. Another school has argued that racism consists in intentional practices and unintended processes or consequences of attitudes towards the ethnic ‘other’. According to this line of thought, it is not necessary to possess a concept of ‘race’ to entertain prejudices towards other peoples.
As the term was coined in reaction to the rise of German Fascism and its antisemitic theory of race, ‘racism’ carries in itself the condemnation of what it means — it is true indeed that self-professed racists are very rare. Basically, racism lives in practice, not in theory; sociologists such as Michael Banton, therefore, have denied that the phenomenon of racism might be accessible to theory. Some theoreticians of imperialism have argued that only whites could be racists. Marxist thinking has tended to consider it as a corollary of the development of capitalist society. The sociologist Robert Miles, by contrast, has pointed out that pre-capitalist societies, too, afford manifold opportunities to observe racism. Concentrating on racism under the conditions of colonialism and in societies with a large contingent of foreign immigrants, Miles has put forward the suggestion that it must be regarded as an ‘ideology’. To rescue the concept of ‘racism’ from indiscriminate conflation with exclusionary practices, on the one hand, and from being tied up too closely with the nineteenth-century understanding of ‘race’, on the other hand, he has suggested that racism refers ‘to a particular form of (evaluative) representation which is a specific instance of a wider (descriptive) process of racialisation’.
The psychological precondition of racism is anxiety. On a sociological level it may be said that mobile societies and those experiencing great social changes are especially prone to develop some or other sort of racism: contempt of the ‘other’ provides a reassuring feeling of identity. Philosophically speaking, racism is the result of a world view that does not leave any conceptual room for the strange, the unknown. The anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss has surprised his audience with his discovery that the Indians of Southern America possessed the very rare ability to accept the ‘other’. According to Strauss, the cosmogony of these Indians included the idea that the world was complete thanks only to the existence of other beings different from themselves. When the conquistadores arrived they were initially taken for this complement to Indian identity.
Racism has many faces; its particular expressions are dependent on the socio-economic, religious, and cultural situation of any given society. This versatility notwithstanding, the moral overdetermination of skin colour is one of its most conspicuous, ever-recurring elements. The Christian world has excelled at consigning dark complexion to the realms of the mysterious and the bad. In pagan antiquity, however, this was quite different: the stereotypes associated with black Africans were rather of a positive nature: blackness signified qualities such as wisdom, or the love of freedom and justice.
One of the earliest examples of what, in modern parlance, amounts to state-organized racism in European history was the persecution of the Jews in fifteenth-century Spain. In 1492 King Ferdinand succeeded in defeating the Arabs at Granada. Eight hundred years of Muslim rule in Southern Spain came to an end. In the wake of the victory, the Jews were expelled. Though converts to Christianity were allowed to remain, the enforced Jewish exodus signalled that the times were over when political rulers could tolerate the existence of the ‘other’ on their territory. This had been possible in the Roman Empire as well as in Greek city-states. Post-medieval, centrally governed countries, by contrast, had lost the will and the philosophical preconditions for putting up with foreign ethnic groups. Since the fifteenth century instances of organized racism have accumulated. The holocaust happened in a cultural climate of which it has been said that it bore many resemblances to the atmosphere in Spain at the time of the expulsion of the Jews.
— H. F. AugsteinAfter reading and commenting on my friend kennymotown's article about first lady... more