Racism and Civil Rights

Topics: Racism, Black people, Race and Ethnicity Pages: 23 (9123 words) Published: December 4, 2005
Racism is a concept that has been relentlessly explored and hypothesised on by many cultural theorists and critics. It is a wide subject area that branches out into many categories in cultural theory such as psychoanalysis, representation, and class among many others. There have been many books and papers written on the subject spanning over the entire topic and the different areas therein, all coming up with various conclusions and theories, be they similar or contradictory. This is because it is an issue that is still not completely understood, and this is partly due to the ever changing nature of racism and race relations. The word race itself has evolved in meaning over time, from being a simple denotation of origin, to a stronger more elaborate meaning after the birth of the civil rights movement, who related race, and more specifically the term racism, to mean racial prejudice and discrimination, as opposed to a simple differentiation of origin or doctrine. Racism also varies across the globe, been dealt with differently and also having varying levels of impact on the different societies it exists in. One could examine racism solely within the confines and context of the United States, and come up with differing attributes than in the United Kingdom for example. Whereas in some countries racism is not an issue that has a lot of attention placed upon it either because it is not considered as much of a problem, or there is no means by which to practice racial discrimination i.e. in a country with no minority population (everyone of the same race more or less) there is no target for racism. But that is if you look at racism in the classic sense of the word where it means discrimination between people of different racial/ethnic backgrounds.

It is these many faces that make the issue so hard to determine with any real basis or accepted theories, because mainly it is viewed in context and in relation to time and place. There is no real middle ground one can go to for the definitive racial theory.

Usually when one hears the term racism or racial and minority discrimination, it is not uncommon for them to think immediately of the Black man and woman. Because it is with them that the subject is most commonly related. Many important figures like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela, as well as organisations like the Black Panthers, were key in creating some of the change in the climate of race relations and how it is viewed today. However it is this perspective of viewing racism that has also come to distort what racism is as a whole, by focusing on specific areas that are not wholly representative. This can be said to be one of the faces of racism.

What I am going to attempt to explore are some of the many guises that racism puts on, and how it has evolved, or not, throughout the years. To look at for example how events from 40 years ago, are still present in today's society. Has Racism really diminished over the years, or is this new face merely a less direct undertaking of the exact same actions that it has come to represent? I shall examine this issue by means of some academic research as well as case studies of actual events, famous and unknown. Of the many questions there are to be asked of Racism, I shall focus on a few and attempt to expand on them with examples and retrospective critical thought on why these questions are important, and how they can help us understand more clearly the issues at hand. Has racism actually changed?


In the times of slavery, one can say that racism was at its peak. The level of brutality enacted upon other human beings who were of different races and considered less than human, as the ‘other', was inhumane at best. The Slave trade of the peoples of India and Africa as well as other countries, sometimes even brokered between people of the same race,...

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Burns, Alan (1948) Colour Prejudice (Allen and Unwin, London)
Donald, James and Rattansi, Ali (1992) ‘Race ', culture and difference (Sage Publications, London)
Edwards, John (1995) When race counts: the morality of racial preference in Britain and America (Routledge, London)
Fanon, Frantz (1967) Black skin, White masks (Grove Press, New York)
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Goldberg, David Theo (1993) Racist culture: Philosophy and the politics of meaning (Blackwell publishers, USA)
Mason, Philip (1970) Race relations (Oxford University Press, GB)
Norton-Taylor, Richard (1999) The Colour of justice: based on the transcripts of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry (MPG Books Limited, Bodmin)
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Shipman, Pat (1994) The evolution of racism (Simon and Schuster, New York)
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