Racism and Prejudice

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Racism and prejudice has been present in almost every civilization and society throughout history. Even though the world has progressed greatly in the last couple of decades, both socially and technologically, racism, hatred and prejudice still exists today, deeply embedded in old-fashioned, narrow-minded traditions and values.

Racism is a case of ‘misplaced hate' and ignorance, being not only discriminatory, but also seemingly foolish with disregard of all human commonsense. Why does racism still exist in today's world? If it still occurs, has the world really progressed at all? Through extensive research methods and wide reading, it can be proven that racism is still present in the modern world.

Racism is based on the belief that one's culture is superior to that of others, and this racial superiority provides justification for discrimination. Racism begins with categorising by race, and therefore stereotyping particular cultures. A simple definition of prejudice given by St Thomas Aquinas states prejudice as "thinking ill of others without sufficient cause" (1. pg 21). Racism is a major issue in today's society, affecting a large number of the world's population and causing political and social turmoil. To evaluate the true meaning, effects and views concerning racism in today's world, a number of literature sources were researched including novel, films, short stories, poetry, song lyrics, textbooks and magazine articles.

"Black Like Me" written by John Howard Griffin is an excellently written novel, based on factual events experienced by the author himself. It is based in the 1950s, a time when racism was widespread throughout America. The basic outline of the story is the following of one man (Griffin) as he embarks on a journey that takes him to the ‘other side'. Griffin is a middle-aged white man, and decides to personally experience the life of a Negro. He achieves this by literally changing the pigmentation in his skin so that he is no longer white. Griffin moves to the deep southern states of America where he is subject to harsh racist treatment by the whites. By doing so, he experiences first hand the reality of racism and prejudice, almost to the point of disbelief. The story focuses on the lives of Negroes: restricted, brutal and harsh. "My skin was dark. That was sufficient reason for them to deny me those rights and freedoms without which life loses its significance and becomes a matter of little more than animal survival." – (Griffith, on the attitudes held by the whites). As Griffin lives as a Negro he strives to find the ‘immortality' in the black race, but finds more fault in the narrow-minded whites. The novel is an exceptional and creative story that captures the true reality of ‘being in someone else's shoes.' "Black Like Me" supports the hypothesis as it clearly displays how ignorance is deeply embedded in traditional values.

Two other novels which contain the theme of racism are "To Kill A Mockingbird", by Harper Lee and "Looking For Alibrandi", by Maria Marchetta. While both novels support the hypothesis, they differ greatly in their style and technique. "To Kill A Mockingbird" is set in the Great Depression, and is about a black man who is accused of raping a white girl in the South. An unfair trial and false accusations follow, merely on the basis that he is black. This stereotypical view is presented throughout the famous book, which accurately displays the reluctance of society to become less narrow-minded and traditional. In contrast, "Looking For Alibrandi" is set in the 1990s, with the main character and narrator of the book being seventeen-year-old high school student Josephine Alibrandi. The novel is set in Australia, and takes a modern approach to racism, being another one of life's' many hurdles that many teenagers experience.

"Educating the Ignorant", written by James Lewis (see Appendix 1), is a lighthearted yet intelligently written short...
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