Is Racism the Result of Ignorance?
The Oxford English Dictionary describes racism as “the belief that all members of a racial group possess the characteristics, therefore rendering it possible to determine whether it is either inferior or superior to other races.” Racism has been around since the dawn of mankind, and caused many genocides (most notably the Holocaust, however less well known was the Armenian Massacre during and after the First World War), apartheids (in South Africa and also in the USA) as well as making some people to ask the question “What causes Racism and unhappiness between people of different ethnic backgrounds?” Many believe the cause is in fact Ignorance and little understanding of other cultures, however, many believe it is much more complex, and there are more than one reasons. This essay shall attempt to ultimately answer the question “Is Racism the Result of Ignorance?”
To understand what causes racism, one must know what the different types of racism are, as well as their effects. Unfortunately for the reader, there are many effects and types of racism that simply cannot be summarised completely, however we shall study the main types of racism, and what effect they have on certain if not all ethnic groups. One of the main types is Institutional or State Racism. This means that the government, the state, or perhaps even educational institutions cause racial discrimination on a large scale, with the ability to influence individuals, and cause them to act in a certain way, whether it be protesting against it, or also discriminating against others because they believe in the cause. For example, if a school only accepted white children, Asians and Latin Americans, but not Black students, this could be seen as a form of institutional racism. The effects are quite obvious in this case, the disallowed families would perhaps form a demonstration against the institution, with or in some cases without result. Another example which is much more famous is Britain’s monitoring of people from an Islamic background. The protests in this case would be much larger, as it would seem that the State generally believes that most Muslims are terrorists, or at least a large amount. This can be linked to the theme of Islamophobia (the belief that many, or all Muslims are in some kind of terrorist organisation. This word was coined after the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001. Although Muslim Extremists probably performed the attacks, the reaction was foolish. Many scholars see this as a result of ignorance, however we shall refer back to this in the conclusion).
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Another type of racism is racial or ethnic discrimination. This could also be on a large scale and often is, however this type tends not to be organised by a group. Rather, it is just showing prejudice against other ethnic groups, and treating them differently (not necessarily badly). The effects are a little more complex. Some may indeed also protest, however many others would simply do nothing. While in Institutional Racism, the aim of a protest is to mainly effect the view of a government and also influence individuals, anti-racial discrimination demonstrations are mainly aimed at changing the general view of the public, not as much the government.
Another form of racism is Historical Economic Racism or Social Disparity. This means that some individuals are prejudiced towards other races as a consequence of historical events. For example some English believe Germans to still be Nazis, even after 65 years since the end of the Second World War. This is also linked to the idea that ignorance causes racism, and also Nationalism. This means that one group of people (in this case the English) believe they are superior to all other races. For example 69 years ago Hitler corrupted the minds of many, leading them to believe they were the Aryan race (the ultimate race). Many British don’t know that the Nazis admired British because they saw them as strong, however this would do little to hinder their view on Germans. This is a brilliant example of ignorance causing racism.
Many see racism as a result of ignorance, however personally, I believe it is much more complex, with more reasons. Racism has been present throughout our species’ history. The idea that anything different may indeed be a threat, is in our genetic code, and is present in all animals. For example, a dog protects its property from foxes, and is willing to attack them if they enter. However in modern society, this idea is known as Xenophobia. A prime example of this in popular use throughout the world (mainly the Western World) is Islamophobia. Many do act in a racist manner as a result of ignorance, however this arises a new question: “What about the racists that were well educated?” Another cause of racism is intolerance. Another is close-mindedness. As one can see, there are so many reasons, and so many different views that one certain definition of the cause is impossible to coin. It is truly up to the individual to make his or her own judgement.
By Luke Warner