Racism in Society

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Racism is the belief that characteristics and abilities can be attributed to people simply on the basis of their race and that some racial groups are superior to others. Racism and discrimination have been used as powerful weapons encouraging fear or hatred of others in times of conflict and war, and even during economic downturns.

Racism is also a very touchy subject for some people, as issues concerning free speech and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights come into play. Some people argue that talking about supporting racial discrimination and prejudice is just words and that free speech should allow such views to be aired without restriction. Others point out that these words can lead to some very dire and serious consequences (the Nazi government policies being one example).

“Europe has a regional human rights architecture which is unrivaled elsewhere in the world”, Amnesty International notes in their 2010 report on the Europe and Central Asia region. But the human rights watchdog also adds that as well as guarding a proud reputation as a beacon of human rights, “it is sadly still the case, however, that the reality of protection from human rights abuses for many of those within its borders falls short of the rhetoric.” In recent years, one of those forms of abuses has been in the area of race, often growing with changing economic circumstances and increased immigration to the region.

From the institutionalized racism especially in colonial times, when racial beliefs — even eugenics — were not considered something wrong, to recent times where the effects of neo-Nazism is still felt, Europe is a complex area with many cultures in a relatively small area of land that has seen many conflicts throughout history. (Many of these conflicts have had trade, resources and commercial rivalry at their core, but national identities have often added fuel to some of these conflicts.)

Racism has also been used to justify exploitation, even using “pseudo-science”:

Debates over the origins of racism often suffer from a lack of clarity over the term. Many conflate recent forms of racism with earlier forms of ethnic and national conflict. In most cases ethno-national conflict seems to owe to conflict over land and strategic resources. In some cases ethnicity and nationalism were harnessed to wars between great religious empires (for example, the Muslim Turks and the Catholic Austro-Hungarians). As Benedict Anderson has suggested in Imagined Communities, ethnic identity and ethno-nationalism became a source of conflict within such empires with the rise of print-capitalism.

In its modern form, racism evolved in tandem with European exploration and conquest of much of the rest of the world, and especially after Christopher Columbus reached the Americas. As new peoples were encountered, fought, and ultimately subdued, theories about “race” began to develop, and these helped many to justify the differences in position and treatment of people whom they categorized as belonging to different races (see Eric Wolf’s Europe and the People Without History).

Another possible source of racism is the misunderstanding of Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution. Some took Darwin’s theories to imply that since some “races” were more civilized, there must be a biological basis for the difference. At the same time they appealed to biological theories of moral and intellectual traits to justify racial oppression. There is a great deal of controversy about race and intelligence, in part because the concepts of both race and IQ are themselves controversial.

— Racism, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, May 1, 2004
In “the century of total war”, and the new millenium, Europe is seeing an alarming resurgence in xenophobia and racial hatred.

A short review from the Inter Press Service highlights the rise of neo-Nazism in 2000 in Europe and suggests that “far from being a fringe activity, racism, violence and...
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