When they are asked, most people agree that racism is a problem and maintain that they are not racists—and yet, racism persists throughout society in a wide range of obvious and less obvious ways.
To tackle racism, we first need to understand it.
Nineteenth century biologists and anthropologists loved devising categories, and they attempted to divide the world up into distinct “races”, each of which was conceptualised as being very different to the others.
The term “race” is typically used to refer to people who are different in obvious physical and cultural ways. It is easy to look at, for instance, someone from West Africa and someone from Finland and identify them as belonging to different races. A typical Finn and a typical West African look quite different, and they are from very different cultural backgrounds.
Look at things more closely, however, and it all gets a lot more complicated. Consider, for instance, how people look different as one moves through Europe. Aside from immigrants and their descendants, as one moves south Europeans tend to have darker skin and hair, while as one moves north, they tend to get paler, blonder, and be more likely to have blue eyes. Slip across the Mediterranean Sea, and one finds north Africans who look just like many southern Spanish and Italians. And yet southern Spanish and Italians are considered “white”, while north Africans generally aren’t.
Apartheid South Africa attempted to divide people up into racial categories, denying and granting privileges to South Africans on the basis of the group they belonged to—and they quickly ran into trouble because the reality is that many people simply do not belong clearly to one “race” or another. And then there’s the fact that people who might look similar can be genetically very different. Australian Aboriginal people, for example, share some physical features with many West Africans, but the two populations are extremely different in terms of genetics and history.
However, while the concept of “race” is very difficult to pin down when one looks into it, the reality of racism isn’t. Many people are routinely discriminated against because of the colour of their skin, the texture of their hair, and other physical markers that are thought to mark them out as “different” to a majority population. Even people who consciously go to great effort to eliminate racism from their thinking can be prone to what is known as unconscious bias; numerous studies have shown, for example, that job applicants assumed to be black have CVs rejected at a much higher rate than applicants assumed to be white.
Dealing with racism calls for tackling not just its most overt forms (such as deliberately mistreating someone because of their physical appearance) but also to working in society to mitigate and eliminate the myriad forms of unconscious bias that can impact on the behaviour of even those who genuinely abhor racial discrimination.
WHO CAN I SPEAK TO FURTHER ABOUT THE ISSUES IN THIS ARTICLE?
For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.
Dealing with Racism was last modified: June 18th, 2018 by Private Therapy Clinic
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