Most of us deal with it sometimes; you are just taking a walk outside, and see a group of ‘foreign’ people at the corner of the street (which you consider Turkish), just walking or cycling. Then suddenly your head make a little switch, and all sort of thoughts come in, like: ‘They are never doing anything useful’. Or: ‘They are living in the Netherlands, and we all pay for their benefit’. Or: ‘I have to watch out, they are dangerous!’. But actually you do not know that. You cannot judge people on what they look like. When you do, that is called racism; judging people on their skin colour and roots. It’s something that is not fair whatsoever. But what is it exactly? And why does it exist? Has racism always existed during human history? And what are the consequences? And what can you do to stop it?
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What is racism exactly and why does it exist?
Mostly racism includes a (mostly negative) judgment on people with (as I mentioned in the introduction) different roots and races, different physical features or different abilities. It is mostly based on ideas and prejudices which are not proven to be true. It is mostly an incomplete idea of the reality which is (partly) wrong.
Has racism always existed during human history?
During the whole human history there has been racism. People always need to feel important. They need to feel ‘better’ than other people, and therefore they need people from which they can say: ‘They are less important than me’. It is not likely for them to say that about people which they are related to, or which are like them. Because that would mean that they are just like them. No, they need people which are different.
There are many horrible things that happened in history, as consequence of racism. I think the worst example of this is the World War II. During that was, millions of Jewish people were killed. Hitler, who was the cause of this horrible war, thought that people should preferably have blond hair and blue eyes. People should exactly be like he had them in his mind. This was one of the reasons that so many people were killed. During the war also a lot of disabled and Gypsies were murdered. By the way, all trough history (also before the Second World War) Jews were the target of racism. A lot of them were already killed before Hitler started the war.
Before that, a lot of Africans and Asians were used as slaves. They were ‘owned’ by rich European people, and they were treated very badly. The Europeans saw them as some animals, who had to work for them. I consider that too racism. Because they would never let e.g. their little sister work for them like that. That is just a fact.
I can even use what I recently learned in history class. The chapter was about the middle ages, and the people who had the same profession (which lived in the same city), formed a corporation. They worked together, do defend themselves from people who would stop their economy from being successful. After some time, they just didn’t let new citizens in, into their corporation, even though they probably had great ideas for them to improve their trade and production. I also consider this an example of racism, because those people were from another city, they were not allowed to join the corporation and have a certain profession.
Taking death penalty in the US as another example of racism; research pointed out that black skinned people, who had committed a crime and were to be executed, were obviously executed earlier and more often than white skinned people.
The same happens in e.g. Saudi Arabia. If a foreigner commits a crime (or is suspected to have committed a crime), there is no way he could defend himself. The local people can understand what the judge is saying, and they can have a lawyer. But as foreigner there is not really a chance that you will either understand the whole process, or will be able to defend yourself.
So now you can see that racism is not something that just started to exist. It has always existed in times when humans were there.
What are the consequences of racism?
In the past, racism led to rules which concerned only a certain group of people. It caused a difference in rights of humans with a different skin colour, religion, or with differences in any other way. People were separated and segregation started (segregation in cities for example mean that there are different neighborhoods where the people from the same country/culture live close together. You can see this very clearly in some big cities in the US).
Because of racism, people are ‘taught’ to consider a group of foreigners or immigrants to be ‘less important’ and ‘different’. This can have different consequences.
On individuals it can cause unhappiness and frustration because they are not being understood. This can result into physical problems.
But here is my point; in the Netherlands there are many people who think foreigners and black people who live here, cause a lot more problems and use a lot more violence than normal Dutch people. When we see some Turkish boys walking on the street, we automatically link that to the bad reputation they have. I think I can partly understand them getting angry if people are looking at them like they are outsiders or strangers. Maybe, the few who do, just shout at us because they want to stand up for themselves. Because they do not want to be considered different.
Probably it is also the media who is part of the blame. If some Moroccan boys have committed a crime, that is literally (Moroccan boys) in the newspaper, as if they are just not one of us. The strange thing is: I have never seen a newspaper which says: ‘Two Dutch boys stole a bike’.
People who are subjected to racism, are mostly held responsible for certain problems. They are sometimes said to be the reason for overcrowding in a country, and economical problems like unemployment and inflation. While, in fact, these people are often more effected by such problems then other people. They only suffer from them, instead of causing them.
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This process does not take place without a reason. Those people who suffer from racism, are mostly one of the weakest groups in the society. People can easily blame them for things without having big problems. And because of the fact that people think those groups are the cause of the problems, they are in a way kept ‘weak’. They have a certain mark, and that makes their opportunity to take part in the society in a normal way, less probable.
What can you do to stop racism?
There are some things you can do about racism, but in people’s minds it will never go away, I guess.
It’s important to make universal rules about racism that everyone knows. At the moment there are a lot of countries in the world where racism is prohibited. They have made a law that it is not allowed to use racism. If you do, you are ‘guilty’ of racism. But the government cannot punish you. Often this law is part of the constitution of a country. This is because freedom of expression and freedom of speech are in most Western countries also a main part of the constitution. And you cannot punish someone for his or her thoughts and opinion in the modern world. This means racism is very difficult to stop.
But still you can find the ‘law’ about racism being forbidden in the Treaty for the rights of Humans (I am not certain about this translation), which is set up by the European Union.
So racism is the judgment of people from other races, who have other roots and look different. It has been occurring ever since the human population started existing. And even now it still happens that people use racism. As result of racism people get unsecure and unhappy. I can understand if they feel like people consider them as outsiders, they get a little angry inside. I think the media is part of the blame. Anyway, our constitution says racism is forbidden. Although it is hardly possible to punish people for it, due the freedom of expression, I think it should never happen!
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