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What is Racism?

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A. i) What is Racism? To define racism it is important to firstly define race. Race is defined as "a group characterized by closeness of common descent and usually also by some shared physical distinctiveness, such as colour of skin" (source: Modern Thought - Bullock and Stallybrass). Racism can be defined as "a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others" In the name of protecting their race from contamination, some racists justify the domination and destruction of races they consider to be either superior or inferior. The most obvious form of racism is colour prejudice, which is prejudice against people who have a different colour skin from your own; in Britain, the United States and South Africa this is usually referred to as a "black / white" issue. In South Africa, differences between people with black skin and white skin were institutionalised in law by the white "apartheid" governments of 1948 and beyond. Racism based on skin colour was also institutionalised in law in some of the southern states of America, as "segregation", and highlighted by leaders such as Martin Luther King. However, racism covers a much wider subject than skin colour, including religion, ethnicity and culture. In fact, almost any difference between groups is used and often exaggerated by racists. Religious differences often add to racism, for example, in Northern Ireland, where Protestants and Catholics have shown intolerance of each other's religious beliefs over many years. This has led to separate schools, communities (sometimes divided by man-made physical barriers) and prejudice in employment. In Germany, many forms of racism were encouraged and sanctioned by the Nazi Party, who then became a government by appealing to these prejudices. Adolf Hitler used images and language to relate the everyday bad experiences of Germans in the 1930s to various groups in German society. ...read more.


We can find many instances in the bible where it is clearly stated that racism in all its forms is wrong and goes against the wishes of God. For example: "Do not ill-treat foreigners who are living in your land. Treat them as you would a fellow Israelite and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt." - Leviticus 19:33-34 This tells Christians that they should not treat people from different cultures and backgrounds differently to themselves because they will be foreigners in other countries and would not want to be mistreated. It is also saying that you should treat foreign people as you would your friends, people you know and indeed how you would want to be treated yourself. "So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free men, between men and women, you are all one in union with Christ Jesus." - Galatians 3:28 This passage teaches Christians that there are no differences between them and that they are all equals. This means, therefore, that no one should be treated as different from anyone else, whether that means treating them better or worse than you would others. "There is no longer any distinction between Gentiles and Jews, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarians, savages, slaves, and free men." - Colossians 3:11 These teachings from Paul, would seem to rule out racism altogether because if it is wrong to distinguish between Jews and Gentiles, men and women, and slaves and free men; then it is wrong to distinguish between black and white also. We find in Genesis 10, "The generations of Noah" that it was from Noah's sons and their offspring that all the nations of the world were created after the flood. "These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood." ...read more.


Tutu's Christian faith was the basis of his opposition to apartheid, and he used prayer, bible readings and worship in his campaign. He made a speech telling people, "I pray that our Lord would open our eyes so that we would see the real, the true identity of each one of us that this is not a so-called 'coloured' or white or black or Indian, but a brother, a sister - and treat each other as such". Tutu's faith was also the basis of his opposition to violent protest. As with Ghandi in India, Tutu insisted that his followers used peaceful means "... our cause is just and noble... you cannot use methods to attain the goal of liberation that our enemy will use against us". However, there are some examples of Christians supporting racism. In South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church tried to justify apartheid by giving it a religious link. They referred to Genesis 9, which told that after the flood, Noah's sons and their descendants spread to different parts of the earth, and this was the origins of different races. The Dutch Reformed Church used this as a justification for keeping races separate. They compared the Dutch settlers to the Israelites in the Bible. When the Israelites came to the Promised Land they subdued the Canaanites who were already living there. This meant that the blacks in South Africa were the equivalent of the Canaanites and therefore the apartheid was God's will. This Christian based racism was used by the South African National Party to legitimise their racist laws. Other examples of Christians promulgating apparent racist views include the Reverend Ian Paisley in Northern Ireland and the Ku Klux Klan in America. Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, regularly refers to Catholics as "Papists" and re-enforces the differences between the two religions. The Ku Klux Klan in the United States of America, established to maintain "white supremacy", also had close connections with the church in the southern states and stressed fundamentalism in religion. ...read more.

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