Subjektivt raceri

I den pågående jagt på racisme momoen, eller rettere oplysninger, der kan godtgøre hvad det er for en fætter vi har med at gøre er jeg faldet over et uni-speciale, “A Study of Subjective Understandings of Racism in Contemporary Irish Society” skrevet af en Claire Kealy. Jeg tvivler på Kealy og jeg vil være enige om særligt meget, men skrivet indledes med to kapitler, ” The literature reviewed in chapters one and two, helped develop an understanding of ‘race’-related terminology by examining the origins and development of racism.”, som det hedder i abstract. Og de er ganske informative. Som jeg tidligere har givet udtryk for, så mener jeg ikke “racisme” findes som andet end et politisk retorisk våben. Det ses af det forhold, at begrebet er under konstant forandring, dvs det tilpasses alt efter hvilken “fjende” dem der bruger våbnet ønsker at ramme. Lidt citat fra de to kapitler og abstract:

Specialet er skrevet 2007.

K 1:

The literature reviewed in chapters one and two, helped develop an understanding of ‘race’-related terminology by examining the origins and development of racism. It covered a broad time period from ancient societies understanding of the concept of racism to contemporary in terpretations of the term. The literature review provided a solid foundation to identify and explore subjective understandings of racism in contemporary Irish society.
The phenomenon that is racism has been probed from many different perspectives and has been subjected to intense scrutiny. However, it must be considered that people, consciously or unconsciously, tend to heuristically interpret racism in a manner that reflects their personal beliefs. For example, academics from various disciplines (sociology, philosophy and anthropology) have attempted to define ‘race’ related terminology. However, the definitions that they offer should be read, bearing in mind that academics may tailor their findings in order to create a bias in favour of their own particular argument or discipline. Therefore, many of the definitions of ‘racial’ terminology that help provide an understanding of the concept of racism, must also be recognised as conforming to particular perspectives.

What is clear is that the term ‘race’ is complex, confusing and highly controversial. Banton states that ‘Much of the confusion started from attempts to find a place for the word ‘race’ in a classification scheme’ (1998:1). Furthermore he questions, ‘was it a synonym for variety or for species? And if it was only a synonym for an existing term, why should it be introduced?’ (Banton 1998:5). There is no definitive explanation of ‘race’, no one true analysis of its meaning as definitions of ‘race’ are influenced by each society’s norms and values, public opinion and how developed a society is.

He continues ‘Yet even today, scientists sometimes interpret data in such a way that the superiority of Whites is subtly implied’ (Broyles 1998:1). Broyles uses Hubbard’s criticism of sections of the scientific community to demonstrate this point. Hubbard claims ‘that members of certain races are at a higher risk for various diseases than members of other races’ (Broyles 1998:1). Hubbard,
“notes that these studies often only include data on age, race, and sex, without considering environmental factors such as income and employment. The studies imply that the increased risk of diseases is due solely to race (Broyles 1998:1).”
The argument regarding how to define ‘race’ is, according to Garner, ‘a circular and irresoluble one.’ (2004:6).

Garner chose to use ‘race’ in inverted commas when discussing the issue indicating that ‘the concept is a contested one, whose meanings are not what they seems’ and claimed that this is illustrated by making

it ‘a substantive abstract noun’ (2004:5&8).
Fredrickson’s (2002) position is that an action should only be labelled as racist ifthe discrimination in question was against an unchangeable characteristic of the victim. Therefore, religious and ethnic discrimination cannot be labelled racism asthe discrimination is against a characteristic or characteristics that can be altered.

The variety of definitions of racism that exist may be accounted for by the fact that they are based on different foundations or ideologies such as religious, natural science or social scientific beliefs. Indeed, even a brief examination of the historical theorisation surrounding racism – as provided later in this chapter – conveys a wide variety of theories regarding the notion of ‘racism’. For example, within socialscience it was sociologist Gordon Allport’s contention that racism is largely a result of ignorance and misinformation. In the 1950’s Allport developed the contact hypothesis. It was both popular and influential and even formed part of the obiterdictum in the famous American case concerning the desegregation of classrooms, Brown v. Board of Education 344 U.S. 141 (1952). His hypothesis holds that close contact with persons from different ‘racial’ and ethnic backgrounds promotes enhanced tolerance towards those groups.

For example, Elaine Jones, the Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People’s (NAACP) Legal Defence Fund hasstated ‘… we’re coming up now on the fiftieth anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, and we have not lived up to the promise of that decision’ (Terkel 2004:144). The Reverend Will D. Campbell agrees with Jones, ‘To this day it still doesn’t work’ (Terkel 2004:148).
Definitions of racism in an Irish context are few. Loyal & Mulcahy’s definition of racism in the 2001 report on Racism in Ireland explains that ‘the term ‘racism’ refers to the representation of the cultures and ways of life of Black and ethnic minorities as inferior, or as a threat to the culture of the dominant group in society’ and that it is used ‘to rationalise the kinds of discrimination that they experience’ (2001:7). This definition of racism incorporates the existence of a power struggle between the ‘superior’ and the ‘inferior’, a notion which has been included in definitions of racism since its inception.
Indeed, Solomos and Back suggest that ‘this usage of the term was first suggested by Ruth Benedict in her book Race and Racism which defined racism as ‘the dogma that one ethnic group is condemned by nature to congenital inferiority and another group is destined to congenital superiority (1943:97)’ (Solomos and Back 1996:4). Loyal & Mulcahy continue, ‘In this sense, racism can also be seen as anexclusionary practice which occurs when a specific group is shown to be in unequal receipt of resources and services (2001:7).
Discrimination and prejudice may be defined in a legal context. Prejudice is simply defined as a ‘pre-conceived judgement’ (Murdoch 2000: 611). Discrimination is not given an exact definition as it is not a strictly legal term but legislation does provide that a person must not discriminate. Section five of the Equal Status Act 2000, setsout the ‘discriminatory grounds’ under which an action may be initiated. Those grounds are, according to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race, colour, nationality, national or ethnic origin and membership of the Traveller community. The law does make exceptions under which a person may lawfully discriminate. Positive discrimination must however, bona fide intend to promote equality of opportunity.
Lentin distinguishes between the term ‘ethnic minority’ – describing it as a ‘fluid and floating’ concept – and ‘race’, which is understood as a rigid and unchanging categorisation of people (2002: 232). This can have both positive and negative results. Constructive effects include the development of a strong and positive image about a particular ethnic group. This can be useful in promoting anti-racism. However, as with Allport’s contact hypothesis, it may also lead to the development of negative stereotypes and the naturalisation of cultural identity (Harvey and McDonald 1993).
Lentin also draws attention to another term thought to be favourable to ethnic minority, which is ‘minority discourse’ (Lentin 2002:231). In practice it would seem that ‘the term ‘ethnic minorities’ prevails in official anti-racist, academic and popular discourse’ (Lentin 2002: 232). Lentin also comments on the general perception of ethnic minorities in Ireland;
“In the Irish context, there is a progressiveness (or perhaps a Chicago School-style ‘evolutionary optimism’?) implied by the use of the term, adopted – in the wake of the European Year Against Racism (1997) – by government-sponsored bodies such as the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) and the Equality Authority. More specifically there is a celebratory implication in relation to Travellers – Ireland’s largest racialised ethnic group – attaining the ‘ethnic group’ tag (2002: 232).”
K 2:
This literature reviewed in chapter two traces the origins and genesis of the concept of racism, from racism in the ancient Greek, Roman and early Christian civilisations to the sociological theorisation of ‘race’ and racism in the twentieth century.
‘When exploring origins, one finds that beginning’ can be ‘as elusive as mountain summits: just as the topmost ridge seems to be reached, a further horizon rises up beyond it’ (Ross, 2005:17).
The early Christians also ‘celebrated the conversion of Africans as evidence for their faith in the spiritual equality of all human beings’ (Fredrickson, 2002:17). This is not to deny that there was ‘prejudice in antiquity’ (Fredrickson, 2002:17). However, such prejudice was not based on racism within a modern understanding of the term, as assimilation remained an ‘option open’ to those discriminated against (Fredrickson, 2002:18)
However, the situation in Iberia in the late Middle-Ages demonstrates that an ‘association of Blackness with slavery was already being made’ and that the Muslims were influential in teaching the Christians to make this association often portraying ‘sub-Saharan Africans as… cursed and condemned to perpetual bondage’ (Fredrickson 2002:29). This association was reaffirmed as ‘Europeans were ceasing to enslave other Europeans’ and ‘African slaves became suddenly and readily available’ (Fredrickson 2002:30). Fredrickson’s claim is that this ‘was at the root of White supremacist attitudes and policies’ (Fredrickson 2002:30). Indeed the enslaving of a heathen has even been justified as a, ‘missionary project’ as ‘the slaves’ souls might be saved through contact with believers’ (Fredrickson 2002:30). There is no doubt however that over time slavery became associated with Blackness. However there are those who claim that viewing slavery as a colour issue is the product of ‘our conditioned minds’ (Allen 2001:358). Furthermore, there is no doubt that this form of discrimination created economic benefits for the European Empires and that this led to a need to justify slavery.
Many academics view the enlightenment period as the “era that doctrines about race came to be articulated in a consistent manner” (Solomos and Back 1993:32) and thus the beginning of the theorisation of ‘race’. Garner amongst others however suggests that evidence of theorisation can be traced back to the pre-enlightenment period (Garner 2004:8). Whether it was the pre-enlightenment or enlightenment period that marked the origin of racism and in particular the biological concept of ‘race’, it was not until the early twentieth century that sociological theory regarding ‘race’ and racism developed, creating a polarised social concept of ‘race’. This meant that ‘race’ was no longer viewed only from a strict ‘biological standpoint’ as ‘a large body of people, relatively homogenous as to heritable, non adaptive features’. The development of the social concept allowed these ‘sharp lines’ to be bent and consequently ‘there was a great deal of overlapping’ (Queen and Gruener 2001:21)
One of the most famous theories to come from the Chicago school of thought was the ‘race relations cycle’. Banton describes ‘race’-relations’ as ‘an expression that first came into use in the United States in 1910 to denote relations between blacks and whites’ (1998:2). There have been many variations of this model as it has been applied to different groups within different societies and cultures through the years but it is ‘basically a model of the sequence that accounts for the integration of immigrants into a host society’ (Harvey and MacDonald 1993:18). The important events in this cycle are competition, conflict, accommodation and assimilation. For example, the element of competition refers to limited resources including jobs, money and housing. The theory suggests that this type of competitiveness leads to conflict, which is eventually resolved so each side is accommodated and the immigrant group assimilates into the majority population’s culture. The ‘race relations cycle’, received criticism for several reasons. Firstly, it ‘stood accused of being implicitly conservative and unable to articulate the theorisation of racism with the nature of a class divided and structural inequalities in power’ (Solomos and Back 1996:11). Also, it was felt that the theory was too vague regarding each stage of the cycle. There was not enough information and guidance to back up the initial theory, leaving it open to criticism. The ‘race relations cycle’ is also considered flawed because it assumes that assimilation is the best outcome for both the immigrants and society in general. Banton objects not least in his opinion because it legitimises ‘an obsolete and dangerous conception of ‘race’’ (1998:2). However, according to Harvey and Morag the ‘race relations cycle’ was ‘originally more flexible, suggesting that the host culture would also evolve as a result of drawing on migrant culture’ (Harvey and MacDonald 1993:18). This would suggest that the original theory provided for integration rather than assimilation. This is in line with modern thinking on the subject as it is thought the genuine desire to share is more beneficial to society than mere tolerance.
Perhaps the most dangerous manipulation of Social Darwinism was its inclusion as ‘part of the framework for the development of Nazism’ and eugenics (Steinberg 1997:20). Indeed, Fredrickson claims ‘The word “racism” first came into common usage in the 1930’s when a new word was required to describe the theories on which the Nazis based their persecution of the Jews’ (Fredrickson 2002:5). However, Banton explains that ‘The meaning given to the word racism has changed from its original 1930’s sense of a doctrine about racial superiority to one that is much less coherent but more comprehensive. Yet it remains a term of extreme opprobrium’ (1983:2). The ‘history of eugenics or the ‘racial hygiene’ movement’ is associated closely with Nazi policy but it must be stated that it also ‘belongs to Britain, the USA and Europe’ (Steinberg 1997:20). It was Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton who ‘coined the term ‘eugenics’ to denote the science of ‘fine breeding’’ (Steinberg 1997:157). A scientific and dispassionate definition of eugenics is that it‘is a movement which aims to improve the genetic endowment of human populations by scientifically directed selection’ (Sinnott et al. 1958:250)
The huge amount of research, which took place in the early part of the twentieth century, was reflected in the growing level of interest in sociology and ‘race’. This includes the work of Marx, Weber, Durkheim and Simmel. It was clear that the two different concepts of ‘race’, biological and social, were well established. The biological concept of ‘race’ was based on the idea that physical differences are in themselves evidence that categories or ‘races’ exist. Anthropologist M.G. Smith offers this biological definition of ‘race’,
“Races are biological divisions of mankind differentiated by gross phenotypical feature which are hereditary, polygenic, and highly resistantto environmental influences, distinct and of doubtful adaptive value” (1986:27).”
Therefore, according to this definition, ‘races’ are seen as naturally occurring groupings of humans who exhibit obviousphysical differences from one another. This concept echoes elements of Blaumenbach’s theory regarding human categorisation. Biological definitions of ‘race’ are now generally rejected due to a lack of credibility (Miles and Torres 1999). There is no biological evidence to support the theory that ethnic minorities are intellectually or culturally inferior. Many view the biological argument as a convenient fiction that is used as an excuse for atrocities such as colonial oppression, slavery and genocide.
However, television did not eradicate the social ill that is racism. In fact, Garner continues his discussion of racism by focusing on the 1970’s and cites Martin Barker’s theory of ‘New Racism’ (2004:14). According to Barker’s theory, the 1970’s were the beginning of a new period in racism. This was due to developments in ‘natural science (particularly socio-biology)’ and the changingattitude of the British government and people which was, according to Garner, due to the ‘re-politicisation of ‘race’’ (2004:14). Another reason that this new wave of racism emerged could be perhaps that the sensitivity towards discriminatory activities, which prevailed after the Second World War, began to be ignored and that the lessons learned from atrocities committed during World War Two were either being disregarded or forgotten, perhaps causing people to become desensitised as the distance between the atrocities of the Second World War and thepresent became greater.
Having contextualised Baker’s theory, Garner explains that essentially, ‘new’ racism is the belief that ‘national territories are the monopoly of nationals’ (Garner 2004:15). Furthermore,
“that threats to the well-being of the nation are embodied in the physical presence of minorities, whether Black or White, and the idea that these minorities have a number of negative impacts on the host society:
competition for diminishing welfare resources, a drop in educational standards, the spread of illness, an increase in trafficking drugs and prostitution, higher levels of crime and insecurity (particularly in urban centres) (Garner 2004:15).”
The latter part of this theory regarding competition over resources resembles Miles’ theory of racialization, which indicates that theorists during this period were reaching the same conclusions. However, the attributing of the ills of society to the presence of newly arrived people is an age-old practice and one which continues to the present day. Indeed ‘Outsiders and ‘others’ have proven a suitable target upon which to place blame since the earliest human societies’ (Boxill 2001 cited by Culleton 2006:3).
The use of the term culture allowed racist views to be aired without fear of being branded a racist. This provided those on the far right with ‘extreme nationalistic ideas to become legitimate and popular’ (Garner 2004:15). According to Garner the platform afforded to those with racist tendencies is evident ‘by the upsurge in support for far-Right parties across Europe at the end of the 1990’s and in the early twenty-first century’ (Garner 2004:15).
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s