Many conferences have been organized especially by the United Nations to discuss the issue of discrimination in different perspectives. Discrimination has been a setback in many nations especially in the West, like America where there is an influx of people from different parts of the world. In this paper, discrimination will be elaborated. The focus will be on racism as a type of discrimination. Scientist hold the opinion that races came into being as a result of family groups living together over a period of time. The different races of human beings can therefore live together.
The impact of racism will be assessed and possible solutions recommended.
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Introduction Discrimination is described as that act of people treating others based on their differences regardless of their individual merits. This is practised in religion, race, disability, gender, ethnicity, age, height and employment amongst others. This judgement could be positive or negative. Positive discrimination is the discrimination based on merit (also called differentiating) while the negative discrimination is based on factors like race and religion.
Negative discrimination is however the common form of discrimination in spite of the fact that this is illegal in many Western societies just like many other societies. Despite being illegal, discrimination is still rampant in different forms in many parts of the world. The most common form of discrimination is racial discrimination, also referred to as racism. This is destructive. It is the act of basing treatment on the racial origin of an individual (Randal, 2008). Racism is influenced by social, political, historical and economic factors.
It has so many definitions due to its various forms. It involves social values, institutional practices and individual attitudes. It changes with response to social change. The basis of racism is the belief that some individuals are superior due to their ethnicity, race or nationality. It is a social phenomenon and not scientific. Some of the racist behaviors include xenophobia, racial vilification, ridicule and physical assault. Racism could be practised intentionally (direct discrimination) or unintentionally making some groups to be disadvantaged (indirect racial discrimination).
Racism is enhanced either individually or institutionally. Institutionally, it involves systems in life such as education, employment, housing and media aimed at perpetuating and maintaining power and the well being of a group at the expense of another. It is a more subtle form of discrimination since it involves respected forces in the society. Individual racism involves treating people differently on the basis of their race. It is the deliberate denial of power to a person or a group of persons. The above two forms of racism refer to race as the determining factor in human capacities and traits.
There is no clear cut distinction between racial and ethnic discrimination and this is still a debate among anthropologists. Institutional racism is also referred to as structural, systemic or state discrimination. It is socially or politically structured. As indicated early, the perpetrators are corporations, governments, organizations and educational institutions which are influential in the lives of individuals. It is the systematic policies and the organizational practices that disadvantage certain races or ethnic groups.
From the statistics given in 2005 on the US, it is evident that the Whites are highly regarded while the African Americans are looked down upon by the society. Their household incomes differ greatly ($50,984, $33,627, $35,967 and $30,858 for Whites, Native Americans, Latinos and African Americans respectively). Their poverty rates follow suit with that of the African Americans being thrice that of the Whites. Unlike the Whites, the other groups attend underfunded schools. Their living environments are below standards compounded by poorly paying jobs and high unemployment rates.
The employment in the labor market is disproportional in favor of the Whites. Le Duff (2000) describes a situation in a slaughterhouse where a White boss just sits in his glass office only to come out when the day is almost over to double the workload for the workers. The Black workers are overworked if only to meet the company’s target of pork production. It is important to note that this Smithfield Packing Company is the largest plant in the world in pork production. The workers, who are Blacks however do not feel any positive impact of the company as they are overworked and mistreated by their white boss.
It is common for the boss to unleash his anger on the workers and they seem to have very little power to take any action against this. The immigrants are another category of those who are socially discriminated. They are the lowest in the society’s stratification and are the ones to do the low forms of jobs considered ‘dirty work’. This is social racism. The wages they get from these jobs are very low and minimal or no benefits at all. Since the 1996 welfare reform was passed by the Congress, all the legal immigrants have had to do without federal programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.
Sonneman (1992) describes a community of immigrants who have to deal with racial discrimination from the natives. These immigrants have poor jobs as pickers. They do not have adequate food and have to work extra hard in their jobs to earn a living. The natives overcharge them for basic commodities. An example is that of the picker who was charged five dollars instead of three dollars for the groceries he bought at the store. A gallon of milk is also charged at 30 cents higher than in town. They are however so powerless that they can do nothing about it.
These pickers flock in this remote area and not in the town which is only a mile and a half away because of the high cost of living in the town. Berube A. and Berube F. (1997), give an example of their family who lived in trailer coaches as dictated by their economical capability. In South Africa, racism was rampant just like in many other African countries under colonial rule. From 1948 to 1994, the apartheid system denied the non-whites their basic rights. The whites who were the minority were allowed to keep certain areas for themselves without permission thus locking out the blacks.
Schools taught the subjects meant for Africans in Afrikaans. Other than the protests by many countries and the United Nations, the South Africans protested against these systems leading to many deaths as the police fought them back. However, in 1994, this was brought to an end with Nelson Mandela becoming the president, allowing equal rights for both the blacks and the whites. The racial stereotypes who propagate racism by the belief that other races are better than others are said to propagate individual racism (Hanshem, 2007). Stigma is closely related to discrimination.
In the interview by Rodgers, it is revealed that those women who came from well-off families found it more difficult going to welfare unlike their counterparts from poorer backgrounds who had children to look after with no child support. According to sociology, stigma is the act of a society discrediting an individual. It is the disapproval of an individual’s character or what they believe in that goes against cultural norms. Examples include illegitimacy, mental or physical disabilities, nationality affiliations, illnesses, religious affiliations and ethnicity.
Stigma could be based on external deformations such as scars and other physical manifestations like leprosy and obesity. The other form is based on traits such as drug addiction. Lastly is tribal stigma that involve ethnicity, nationality or religion. There are some factors that indicate racism. Among them are refusing to work with a specific group of people. Others would spread racist propaganda or racist comments. People who physically assault or harass others are considered racists. Discriminatory policies or procedures are an indicator of racism. The effects of racism cannot be ignored.
Healthcare among the racially discriminated is poor or non-existent. For instance, the 1999 Centre on Budget Priorities study showed that 46% of the non-citizen immigrant children could not access health insurance unlike the natives’ children. Racism lowers an individual’s self esteem. When someone disregards another because of the skin color or religion, their self-esteem is lowered. It could be ignored if it happens at once, but if it persists, it negatively influences the confidence of an individual. Children skip schools because of such effects. Learning thus becomes difficult.
In an attempt to suppress the factors that make them discriminated against, they try to change their religion, skin colour, hair color and even stop trusting people. Others resort to learning foreign languages and their respective accents to cover up their ethnicities so as to identify with the race that is considered superior. In some cases, surgery has been undertaken to conform to the societal demands. One problem that has been cited is lack of education on racism. An educated individual is aware that there is need for different people if learning is to take place.
Then, if one is to experience the positive impact of education, appreciating other people around will be of importance. Otherwise, discriminating people could lead to lack of expertise knowledge in some specific areas. It is thus important to sensitize the community on the importance of each and every person. Education will go a long way to even help those who are being educated to appreciate who they are. On the same note, schools and other learning institutions should provide an all-inclusive environment which would accommodate people of different ethnic affiliations (Einfeld, 1997).
Then, they should meet their specific needs based on their linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Religious solutions could be sought where necessary. In Islam for instance, Qua’ran teaches against racism. If these people with religious affiliations are allowed to practise their religion freely, then this could curb racism. Thus, all religions should be respected and given the chance to conduct their practices. The responsible authorities are endowed with the duty of coming up with laws that prohibits racism. There have been conventions and conferences where these laws are discussed and drafted.
The United Nations has been on the forefront in implementing these rules. It is not adequate enough to only discuss these issues. They should come up with solutions that could be implemented. Conclusion No one can dare deny the effect that racism has had in various states. it is only wise to face the problem head on and find the right solutions. a solution must be found to curb this problem once and for all. it calls for the efforts by every member of the society to assume their respective roles and do what is expected of them.