Racism in terms of description is known as the belief that characteristics such as skin colour can be attributed to people based on their race and other racial groups. Racism including discrimination has been used by many groups and organizations to put fear and hatred into the minds of other people and many debated have arisen to combat this. Racism is known as a touchy subject for many people as issues including freedom of speech and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights come into this area. This is difficult as many people argue that talking about supporting racial discrimination and prejudice are just words and the right of free speech should allow thee such views to be expressed by anyone, anywhere. However, in the real world views such as this have lead to some serious and dire consequences such as the Nazi government policies.
One view of racism includes stereotypes. Some people tend to respond to others differently based on what they know or see such as skin colour or the way they dress. Due to these views debates over the origins of racism itself can often suffer from the lack of clarity over the term itself. In modern times may terms of racism conflict with the earlier terms of racism. This has lead to many consequences such as wars. In some cases ethnicity and nationalism were used for a reason to cause a war between religious empires and countries.
One may argue that one source of racism comes from the misunderstanding of Charles Darwin's theories of evolution. Some people argue that since some races were more civilized that others, there must be a biological difference between them. This introduced the widely criticized biological theories which imply that moral and intellectual traits can be used to justify racial oppression. Today we know this is wrong, however most racially motivated crimes happen based on the appearance of another person. Many debates have tried to overcome this; however sociological views keep this theory alive.
With the current rising inequality between nations, an increase in racial bias has occurred. For example, during the French and British imperial days, racial bias was integrated within the accumulation of the culture itself. Racism itself has always been both an instrument of discrimination and a tool of exploitation. However this comes in the form as a cultural phenomenon which makes this susceptible to cultural solutions. Identifying and tackling the problem of cultural inequality however, does not redress the problem of economic inequality. Racism is conditioned by economic imperatives, but negotiated through culture being religion, literature, art, science and the media.
"... Once, they demonised the blacks to justify slavery. Then they demonised the "colored's" to justify colonialism. Today, they demonize asylum seekers to justify the ways of globalism. And, in the age of the media, of spin, demonization sets out the parameters of popular culture within which such exclusion finds its own rationale - usually under the guise of xenophobia, the fear of strangers" (Sivanandan 2001).
With globalization expanding, the need for workers in areas such as Europe has led to increased efforts to attract foreign workers. However in turn this itself has lead to the increase in resentment to those who are not benefiting from this. Hence it is harder to immigrate to the wealthier nations unless, says Liz Fekete, "these citizens are part of the chosen few: highly-skilled computer wizards, doctors and nurses trained at Third World expense and sought after by the West. Global migration management strategy saps the Third World and the former Soviet bloc of its economic lifeblood, by creaming off their most skilled and educated workforces." From the perspective of globalization, Liz continues, "the skills pool, not the genes pool, is key" (Fekete 2001).
What the UK is Doing about Racism
The United Kingdom has one of the most extensive bodies of race relations in Europe.
The 1976 Race Relations Act outlaws discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, or ethnic or national origin. This Act was amended recently with the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 which came into force on 2nd April 2001. This does not replace the Race Relations Act, but strengthens it.
There are two main changes:
- It extends protection against discrimination by public authorities
- It places a new, enforceable positive duty on public authorities: while the original Act focussed more on 'negative' measures, the new Act gives a clear statutory framework for positive racial equality schemes in the public sector.
UK law will have to comply with the EU Race Equality Directive by 19 July 2003. Although UK race relations law provided a partial model for the Directive, some changes will have to be introduced. Possible improvements include:
- Ensuring that sanctions for unlawful discrimination that are available to courts and tribunals are 'effective and dissuasive'
- Shifting the burden of proof - employers accused of racism will have to prove that they did not discriminate. This clause was very controversial when voted on in the European Parliament.
UN's World Conference on Racism, 2001
A UN Global Conference to discuss racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance was held from 31st August to 7 September 2001.
While it was brave enough for the United Nations to attempt to hold such a meeting, it proved to be a heated challenge. While all nations are good at being critical of others (and often very accurately, although often not!), when it comes to one's own criticisms, most would be uncomfortable to say the least. As an example:
- United States and Europe were against effective discussions of slavery reparations (and sent in only low-level delegates - a possible sign on how they really feel about this conference, and what it is about)
- Israel and United States were against discussing the possibility that Zionism is racist against Palestinians, causing both to walk out of the conference altogether
- India was against including discussions about caste-based discrimination
- Some Arab nations were against discussions on oppression of Kurds or Arab slave trade
Section 28(1) of the Crime and Disorder Act requires that the racially aggravated crime is committed if the offender in question is motivated by hostility towards the members of a racial/religious group or if the offender demonstrates towards the victim of the offence hostility based on their membership of a group. One of the issues raised in the interpretation is that whether they should apply to incidents between people of the same ethnic groups.
In white (White 2001), the defendant being a West Indian man, who considered himself African called a bus driver an "African bitch", "stupid bitch" and "stupid fool" after the person in question accused him of interfering with another person's handbag. He was convicted under section 4 of the Public Order Act and section 31 of the CDA 1998. The social and political discourse that led to the enactment of statutory race crimes show the state's concern to give recognition to victims of race crimes (Macpherson 1999) the death of Stephen Lawrence and subsequent inquiry raised public concern about the need to stamp out racist violence. Including this is the call by the Commission for Racial Equality to introduce specific legislation to protect racial minorities from racist crimes (Ousely 1993). Larger problems consist in what appears to be special treatment of words or thoughts. The legislation amounts to punishing some out of favor thoughts (Iganski, 2001). These provisions may create tension between the rights to freedom of expression in Article 10 of the ECHR with the inclusion of Article 9, protection of freedom of religion and thought. It is not a basic civil right that people may hate whoever they like?
Equality before the Law
Multicultural societies are not unique in Britain but he historical context, cultural background and patterns of interaction are (). Where patterns of interaction lead to conflict and racists or religious violence against minority groups raises the question of how the state deals with questions of conflict between what may loosely be termed culturally diverse communities. There has always been a long history of racist violence against ethnic minority communities in Britain being the attacks on Jews since the 12th Century, from the attacks on "people of colour" from the time of Elizabeth 1, to the attacks on black and Asian people during the World Wars or In the skinhead era and during the 1970's. It can be argues that the re-labeling of criminal conduct as racially or religiously hostile is part of the process of recognition by the state that the criminal justice system needs to respond to the concerns of multicultural communities as a permeate fixture in Britain. The lack of state recognition can be located in the wider discourse on the failure to treat Islamic minority communities equally in contemporary multicultural societies.
It is apparent that the tendency of laws of these kinds is totalitarian, in the sense that they interfere with basic freedoms of association and freedoms of choice. They involve an important shift in power from the individual to the state. In addition, they are almost invariably administered by bureaucrats of left-liberal leanings, who are comfortable with the increasing power of governments and reductions in the liberty of individuals.
Not surprisingly, laws of these kinds often engender deeply felt resentments, as is being discovered by feminists today. Feminists have been responsible for the introduction of many freedom-reducing laws, and what has emerged is that in reality feminists have been concerned to create affirmative discrimination in their own favour. Thus they seek to require employers to employ women who are less able or less qualified than men.
In competitive environment laws of these kinds detract from productivity, but even more importantly they detract from the freedom of individuals to associate with persons of their own choice.
Further, laws against discrimination are commonly administered selectively. Technically members of minority groups are also subject to them, but their principal targets are majority groups. So, for example, aboriginal groups commonly discriminate in favour of other aboriginals. There ought to be no objection in principle to their doing so. In fact, a blind eye is generally turned to this discrimination. Again, Jewish groups commonly discriminate in favour of other Jews. But if the relevant discrimination is by a person of Anglo-Saxon background, a more aggressive attitude is taken by those administering the laws, and the heavy hands of anti-discrimination bureaucrats and tribunal members fall.
The enactment of anti-discrimination laws is in accordance with the political-correctness that has undermined various freedoms in Western democracies during recent years. The totalitarian tendency of political-correctness has been commented upon frequently. Again, it represents an attempt by left-liberal groups to detract from the freedoms of others, in this case by inhibiting freedom of expression. Antidiscrimination laws go even further, by inhibiting freedom of choice and freedom of association in particular.
The purpose of the legislation was to protect racial and Islamic minorities. It is quite clear from the history proceeding, the CDA and the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security provisions that the state was concerned to counteract racist and Islam phobic violence against minority communities (). If this is such the case then subjecting victims of such violence to those provisions must be incorrect. This also conflicts with the rule in Tyrell () to the effect that a crime should not be used to convict those whom it was designed to protect.