May 30, 2008

What is Racism? by Adrian Windisch

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:59 pm by raphavisses

Adrian Windisch is Chair of Reading Green Party, the original paper was published on Adrian’s blog, here.

Racism is Prejudice based on an individual’s race which can be expressed individually or through institutional policies or practices. Prejudice includes; race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, religion, social origin, age. Also anything that pretends to describe the characteristics or traits of a whole people might be racist even if unintentionally so.

Is it racist to say black people are good runners or women are good at multi tasking? Some of these things are generalisations, they are true for some people but not all, and I think it depends how they are used. Because many top runners are black doesn’t mean all black people are runners. To prejudge anyone is wrong, no matter how many other people of the same background you know, we all have the right to be judged for our own actions.

Prejudice is also behind antisemitism, another form of racism, and should not be tolerated. Antisemitism is hostility toward or prejudice against Jews or Judaism. Holocaust denial is anti-Antisemitism at its most extreme. Its true many things the government of Israel does is wrong, but to blame all Jews, or Israelis, is also wrong.

What causes racism? In my opinion its ignorance, the idea that one group is superior, or different, to another doesn’t survive knowledge of that other group. For centuries people in Eastern Europe and Russia defined Jews as inferior, caused them to live beyond the pale . Now this means ‘unacceptable; outside agreed standards of decency’, but it came from Catherine the Great who created a ‘Pale of Settlement’ in Russia in 1791. Some Jews were allowed to live, as a concession, beyond the pale.

So if segregation helps cause racism, what of different culture living together, or multiculturalism. ‘In this sense multiculturalism requires that all cultures should be open, self-critical, and interactive in their relations with other each other’ said Lord Parekh, professor of political philosophy Chair of the 2000 report for the Runnymede Trust , ‘The Future of Multi-ethnic Britain is and should remain a vibrant and democratic multicultural society that must combine respect for diversity with shared common values. Multiculturalism basically means that no culture is perfect or represents the best life and that it can therefore benefit from a critical dialogue with other cultures. ‘

Trevor Phillips, Labour politician and ex chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, called for multiculturalism to be scrapped. The Phillips debate about multiculturalism has been to shift the emphasis away from the real challenge, which is fighting social inequality, intolerance and racism, as well as the unprecedented demonising some people for what can only be described as not fiting in.

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