Just as with other species of animals, the human species is made up of several races that we can tell apart by superficial physical characteristics. Of course many people do not have the physical type of their racial origin – the distinctions, like size, skin and hair colour, are only broad ones and partnerships between people of different races makes the distinction even less “separated”. The recognition of different races exist is not racism. Some people say that we should be colour blind, or that we should put people together in a melting pot so that we are one. This suggests that there is something wrong with the different races. Racism is the practice of discrimination against people on the grounds of race.
There are some people, and indeed, some governments (South Africa prior to the breakdown of apartheid recently) who have the belief that inequality is justified by racial differences, implying that some races are superior to others. Racism cannot be justified, nor can the implication that some races are superior be proved – the differences in cultural environments does not allow this. It is also ethically objectionable.
In Britain, many white people do not believe that the racial problem exists, or think it unimportant. But few people of African, Asian or West Indian background would tell you that they have had no experience of racial discrimination or abuse. The Home Office made a report on “racial attacks” in Britain that estimated that Asians were 50 times more likely to be victims of racially motivated attacks. Society, both social and economic, for these people is based around race and racism. Many English people have, for a long time, considered themselves to be superior to the Irish. The Irish, and those groups mentioned above, find themselves the underclass in offensive jokes, both privately and publicly told. And again, the same could be said about the treatment of Jews, and…
British racism does not just effect those people of foreign as background. People who speak up against racism can fall victims to racist organisations, such as Combat 18. In one case a woman was victimised because she wrote a letter, expressing her opposition to racism, to a local newspaper. Shortly afterwards she received threatening phone calls and post, as well as being made to live in fear as people broke her windows.
I believe that it was the development of the British Empire and its legacy that has given us this racist attitude – being “a great imperial power” made us believe that we were superior, after all we had taken control of the British Isles and half of the world. By the end of the eighteenth century it was the largest empire the world had ever seen. Before this, the age of discovery gave us whole new lands, with people who, in our eyes, were inferior and even “savages”. The slave trade made us prejudice towards Africans. Our justification was that we believed that they were so inferior that the treatment they would get under enslavement of the white man would be an improvement. Conveniently for us, this allowed us to take their land also, as well as their culture and property. In those times, the majority of the racism came from the ruling upper classes, but Britain’s power would be inherited by the lower classes also. And with the power came a sense of xenophobia which would result in bad race relations in the future. This theory cannot be proved, and indeed, I have been told that this is very wrong. I am told that our Empire made us “more tolerant” of foreigners. Isn’t the fact that we have to tolerate being racist? Racism can in no way be justified.
Modern racism in Britain can be seen in every area of social life. People are attacked for being of a certain race and they are verbally abused, but racism can also be seen in membership of some clubs and organisations. We are not born with the instinct to be racist, but we live in an inherited racist culture which many are not able to escape from. Our history has left us with a superiority complex.
A very worrying aspect of our society is the fact that there is racism in our schools. There is the racism in the form of name calling, and in the form of physical abuse. In a school in Manchester, a stabbing of a young Asian boy occurred when he tried to protect other Asian boys from being bullied. The white attacker was only 13. The victim died. It disgusts me that children are capable of such, apparent, strengths of hatred, yet some teachers are guilty of this too.
Many white people have stereotyped views of groups of people and come out with things like “I sometimes forget you are black” and “you don’t act like a black guy”. Even well meaning liberals who oppose racism fall easily to these patronising attitudes. Name calling can leave deeper scars than physical ones. A cut soon heals, but the feeling that you are, somehow, inferior to the rest of the world can stay with you forever. One 7 year old Asian girl tried to bleach her skin white, so she would be like everybody else. She became so traumatised by racial taunts that she saw the only answer was to change herself to fit in.
The most worrying thing is that there is a fast growing racist political movement in Britain, in the form of people such as the British National Party, the National Front and Combat 18. The BNP has been elected in one poor London borough where a large majority of the population is Asian. It has been suggested that there are links between the BNP and Combat 18, though John Tyndall, the party’s founder, denies this. Combat 18 has a hit list of those it sees as “sympathetic to racial groups”.
A racist group from the early eighties of “Skinheads” that was devoted to the bullying of immigrants crossed to America and developed into a particularly nasty group called the Fourth Reich Skinheads. This shows how something small can develop into something awesome that will not go away. It is like a seed that grows into a thistle, but you cannot get rid of it. How would you feel if someone phoned you up and said, “This is Combat 18. Your number is in our book. Die, red scum.” I would be scared – wouldn’t you?
That melting pot should be a salad bowl. You put the ingredients in the bowl and mix them together, the ingredients share their flavour with the others, but they do not lose their own identity. The ingredients support each other’s flavour. And so for our society…. Cherish our differences.