Racism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Racism is actions, practices or beliefs, or social or political systems that consider different races to be ranked as inherently superior or inferior to each other, based on presumed shared inheritable traits, abilities, or qualities. It may also hold that members of different races should be treated differently.[1][2][3] While most conceptualizations of racism include the notion of “race based discrimination”, the exact definition is controversial both because there is little scholarly agreement about the meaning of the concept “race”, and because there is also little agreement about what does and does not constitute discrimination.

Some definitions consider that any assumption that a person’s behavior would be influenced by their racial categorization is inherently racist, regardless of whether the action is intentionally harmful or pejorative, because stereotyping necessarily subordinates individual identity to group identity. In sociology and psychology,[4] a common view distinguishes prejudice from racism, holding that racism is best understood as ‘prejudice plus power’ because without the support of political or economic power, prejudice would not be able to manifest as a pervasive cultural, institutional or social phenomenon.[5][6] Other definitions only include consciously malignant forms of discrimination.[7] Among the questions about how to define racism are the question of whether to include forms of discrimination that are unintentional, such as making assumptions about preferences or abilities of others based on racial stereotypes, whether to include symbolic or institutionalized forms of discrimination such as the circulation of ethnic stereotypes through the media, and whether to include the socio-political dynamics of social stratification that sometimes have a racial component. Some definitions of racism also include discriminatory behaviors and beliefs based on cultural, national, ethnic, caste, or religious stereotypes.[2][8] Some critics of the term argue that the term is applied differentially, with a focus on such prejudices by whites, and in ways that define mere observations of any possible differences between races as racism.[9]

Racism and racial discrimination are often used to describe discrimination on an ethnic or cultural basis, independent of whether these differences are described as racial. According to the United Nations convention, there is no distinction between the terms racial discrimination and ethnic discrimination, and superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and that there is no justification for racial discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere.[10]

In history, racism was a driving force behind the transatlantic slave trade, and behind states based on racial segregation such as the U.S. in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and South Africa under apartheid.[11] Practices and ideologies of racism are universally condemned by the United Nations in the Declaration of Human Rights.[12] It has also been a major part of the political and ideological underpinning of genocides such as The Holocaust, but also in colonial contexts such as the rubber booms in South America and the Congo, and in the European conquest of the Americas and colonization of Africa, Asia and Australia.

In the 19th century, many scientists subscribed to the simple belief that human populations are divided into separate races.[13] This was often used to justify the belief that some races were inferior to others, and that differential treatment was consequently justified.[14][15][16] Such theories are generally termed scientific racism. When the practice of treating certain groups preferentially, or denying rights or benefits to certain groups, based on racial characteristics is institutionalized, it is termed “institutional racism”.

Today, most biologists, anthropologists, and sociologists reject a simple taxonomy of races in favor of more specific and/or empirically verifiable criteria, such as geography, ethnicity, or a history of endogamy.[17]

Those who subscribe to the proposition that there are inherent distinctions among people that can be ascribed to membership in a racial group (and who may use this to justify differential treatment of such groups) tend to describe themselves using the term “racialism” rather than “racism”, to avoid the negative connotations of the latter word. “Racialism” is assumed to be more value-neutral terminology, and more appropriate for (scientifically) objective communication or analysis.

However, this distribution of meanings between the two terms used to be precisely inverse at the time they were coined: The Oxford English Dictionary defined “racialism” as “belief in the superiority of a particular race” and gave a 1907 quote as the first recorded use. The updated entry in the Oxford English Dictionary (2008) defines racialism simply as “An earlier term than racism, but now largely superseded by it,” and cites it in a 1902 quote.[18] The revised Oxford English Dictionary cites the shortened term “racism” in a quote from the following year, 1903.[19][20][21] It was first defined by the OED as “[t]he theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race”, which gives 1936 as the first recorded use. Additionally, the OED records racism as a synonym of racialism: “belief in the superiority of a particular race”. By the end of World War II, racism had acquired the same supremacist connotations formerly associated with racialism: racism now implied racial discrimination, racial supremacism and a harmful intent. (The term “race hatred” had also been used by sociologist Frederick Hertz in the late 1920s.)

Modeled on the term “racism”, a large number of pejorative -ism terms have been created to describe various types of prejudice: sexism, ageism, ableism, speciesism, etc. Related concepts are antisemitism, chauvinism, homophobia and Islamophobia.

Racism involves the belief in racial differences, which acts as a justification for non-equal treatment (which some regard as “discrimination”) of members of that race.[14] The term is commonly used negatively and is usually associated with race-based prejudice, violence, dislike, discrimination, or oppression, the term can also have varying and contested definitions. Racialism is a related term, sometimes intended to avoid these negative meanings.

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Racism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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March 13, 2014   Posted in: Anti Racism |

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