The Definition of Racism

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Updated: Mar 19, 2019
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Racism have many definitions, however, in the past people were identified by their country geographic place not by their color. However, through the year’s racism definition has changed and white people have changed their behavior towards the black people which have changed the course of history.

Racism can appear in many ways. However, the most common way can be described as a system of dominance, power, and privilege that is rooted in the historical oppression of subordinated groups that the dominant group views as inferior, deviant, or undesirable. The dominant group creates or maintains structures and ideology that preserve their power and privilege while excluding subjugated groups from power, status, and access to resources (1). Which mean racism can happen and appear when group of certain races overpower another different type of race, there will be rule and structures between these groups. The most common racism behavior happen between two type of races are the black and the white races.

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Racism was a widespread social phenomenon which rose in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, asEuropean explorers encountered the indigenous peoples of unknown lands who looked, spoke, and lived so differently that it was easier for the explorers to deny their humanity. The concept of race is an invention of the early modern world, so people do not get confused by the different and variety types of people they used the word race to categorize human. The ancient and medieval worlds did not identify persons by race. Individuals were recognized during these earlier periods in geographic terms. (2)

The word race appeared and became popular when the Racial emphasis came into use as a support for imperialism and its accompanying institution of slavery. Although the origin of the word race is obscure, experts believe that it began as a loose description of similar groups. This description originally was not restricted to biologically similar people. For example, in 1678, John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress wrote of a race of saints. “The first English record of the use of the word race was in 1508. In that year, William Dunbar in a poem spoke of bakbyttaris if sindry racis (backbiters of sundry races). It was not until 1684 that the term race was used to designate skin color and other distinguishable physical features. It was then used by the Frenchman Fran?§ois Bernier, who used his experiences as a traveler and physician to employ such an application. (2) . Therefore, the word race become famous and accepted when the science made the concept of race for the variety of human.

The year 1798 has been cited as marking the beginning of scientific racism. At first racism was not only for skin color but also for Jews and catholic as well as nonwhite people. In its earliest use, scientific racism was employed mainly as a justification of economic inertia. Purveyors of the doctrine imported Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution from biology and applied it to a social context. Whereas Darwin himself had only theorized about species, the Social Darwinists declared that one race was superior to another because it had evolved further and faster than had the inferior group and at this point the word race described people color.

A chain of evolutionary progress was created that placed the black race at the bottom and whites of the Nordic pedigree at the summit of humanity. Therefore, black people were seen as animalistic, subhuman, and therefore incapable of higher thought, while Nordic Europeans were said to be natural leaders. The use of science to prop up racism has probably been the most pernicious development in the history of racism.

In 1442, Pope Eugenia IV granted absolution to Portuguese seamen who, under the direction of Prince Henry the Navigator, took African souls and sold them. However, ten years later it was not necessary because Pope Nicholas V gave the king of Spain his blessing to enslave pagans. At first, in Spain it was not common to have slaves since it was considered wrong for one Christian to hold another Christian in bondage regardless of the bondsman’s race. Also, because Christianity was very common between black people. By the middle of the seventeenth century, Europeans began to identify black skin with a lifetime of slavery. The Bible was used to prove? that blacks were a cursed people. A favorite scriptural citation for this purpose was Noah’s curse upon his grandson Canaan because his father Ham had mocked his own father (Genesis 9:20“27). This scripture was given a racial interpretation by hermeneutics who declared that Ham was the father of the black race and that Noah’s specific condemnation of Canaan should be expanded to include all black people. (2) People took the advantage and the opportunity to use this prove? to have slaves in their homes without caring about the true meaning of what is written in the Bible.

By the nineteenth century, proponents of slavery declared that it simply was the natural order for the African to be slaves and works under other people, because black people have been slaves for a long time, and it became natural to see a white man have a slave. As the peculiar institution of slavery became more prevalent, the argument to legitimate it”especially from a religious perspective”became more vindictive toward nonwhite lands.

With the massive urbanization of African Americans in the United States in the twentieth century and the resulting residential segregation in cities, these cities were faced with the emergence of institutional racism. This form of racism was more covert than was individual racism, which was person-to-person, emotional and blunt. Institutional racism resulted in a denial of equal access to goods and services by predominantly black sections of the cities. For example, higher prices and less desirable products were more often found in the predominantly black and Hispanic inner cities than in the white suburbs.

After the American Civil War and Reconstruction, there are laws that states that black people should be separated from the white people. The laws states that except in menial jobs, blacks could not enter white restaurants, hotels, schools, or any other whites only public facility. When they were allowed in the same buildings as whites, African Americans had separate, well-defined places such as balconies or basements to occupy.

Since this type of discrimination manifested itself through institutions and was not conducted by individuals, many people were simply oblivious to its existence. In addition, because of diminished interracial contact in urban areas, many suburbanites, as a result of ignorance of the ways in which societal institutions discriminate, the residents were blamed for not being creative and were not able to make their city more modern than it is .Institutional racism can explain a disproportionate number of nonwhites being unemployed, underemployed, and incarcerated in prisons. (2). Even after Gaining a freedom and having the law by their side, black people and other nonwhite people were ignored by many institutions, such as employers, lenders, and investment agencies.

Many African American leaders have argued that it is impossible for black people to be racist. They believe that they can be prejudiced, but not racist, because they lack the power to enforce their prejudice. While this position has been advanced by the African American left, the white right has charged that group with reverse racism. Many conservatives contended that government affirmative action programs resulted in preferential treatment of minorities and that ever since the passage of civil rights legislation, whites were victimized in the same way that nonwhites previously experienced discrimination. Even black neoconservatives have argued that such race preferences victimize blacks and other people of color by minimizing their achievements (2).

The most celebrated and concentrated efforts to end racism and discrimination in the United States began with modern Civil Right movement, which began with the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. Under the nonviolent leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., racism was exposed as morally wrong. King’s philosophy accentuated the brotherhood of humanity and love for one’s neighbor, regardless of race, nationality, or ethnicity.

According to Walker, By developing an integrated coalition and marching peacefully under King’s leadership, King’s followers erected a workable model of human cooperation that could be emulated throughout the world. Ironically, those who brutalized these nonviolent protesters with police dogs and fire hoses convinced many people throughout the world that racism was an insidious evil that should be stamped out. (2)

As result to these actions to the nonviolent protesters, these people were known as racists, and later racism became a sensitive topic. Racism topics were spoke in private and it was difficult to speak about racism in the public.

In conclusion, the word racism at first used to describe people in different geographic and later described people with different color and religious. However, by the middle of the seventeenth century, Europeans began to identify black skin with a lifetime of slavery. Even in the modern days they were facing of institutional racism. Many African American leaders have argued that it is impossible for black people to be racist. They believe that they can be prejudiced, but not racist, because they lack the power to enforce their prejudice. But in 1955. Under the nonviolent leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr and with his Civil right movement there was an effort to end racism and discrimination. In these days we can see the result of this movement because these days nonwhite people have the same rights and privileges as any white people have, and slavery become forbidden in all countries, their age, color, religious and their nationality will not matter because after all them are human and no one have the right to enslave them.

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The Definition of Racism. (2019, Mar 19). Retrieved from