Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.
--- Kofi Annan, Former Secretary General, U.N.O
--- Kofi Annan, Former Secretary General, U.N.O
Racism is and will always remain a central issue in most places around the world, which scars every aspect of economic, cultural and political life by overt or covert racism acts, either in an offensive loud bang or in a subtle manner. In many ways, racial discrimination and ethnic discrimination blur the line of accepted and unaccepted societal norms. That to subjugate others, either through perpetuation of violence or words is a phenomenon as old as time.
Superiority by playing the race card to make others feel inferior is racism. In the last 100 years, over 62 million human beings have paid a price for being racially different; tortured, subjugated, and/or killed, this, despite the 'advancement' in culture, science and technology.
Little-known Facts about Racism
To give an exact figure is always difficult, for how many are affected by racism through words, actions or torture. Following are the facts and figures that stand witness to how gruesome this widespread menace has proven to mankind.
- Though the practice of racial discrimination dates back to ancient times, it was in only in 1907 that the word 'Racialism' was defined in the Oxford English Dictionary for the first time.
- Research has proved that human babies start noticing racial differences when they are just six months old.
- In the United States, the census from the very beginning (1790) has sorted people on the basis of their race.
- During the Gothic era, humans were divided on being 'believers' or 'non-believers' by Muslims and Christians, and not on their color or creed.
- During a poll conducted in the United Kingdom, 60 percent of African-British citizens admitted that they have been racially abused on some or the other occasion.
- More than 2 million people of the African-American community are below the poverty level. This also happens to be the most victimized group in America.
- In Rwanda, almost a million people were killed in 1994. The only reason was that they were 'differents'.
- In Brazil, a mixed race person can change his race and become white if he becomes rich. On the other hand, black people do not have such a facility.
- Around 40 million people in India work as bonded workers, many working to pay off debts which were incurred by their forefathers generations ago.
- In Malaysia, only one bank is multiracial out of the five major banks. The remaining four are controlled by the natives of the place, known as Malays.
- During the Second World War, Chinese-Americans were not given the opportunity to become pilots, as it was believed that their slanty eyes did not provide them with good vision.
- The enactment of Apartheid laws in South Africa in 1948, which provided superiority of the whites over different races (mainly blacks and Indians), institutionalized racial discrimination in every aspect of social life.
- In the Arab world, the Darfur genocide alone has claimed over 400,000 lives (the conflict is still on).
- The artificial boundaries imposed in Africa by European colonialism and imperialism, and hunt for minerals, still draw blood.
- The civil War was meant to change the lives of many African-Americans, it did, marginally. An unofficial finding states that between 1836 to 1879, two African-Americans were lynched in the United States every week.
- The systematic annihilation of over six million Jews by the Nazi regime during World War II bears witness to hate crimes a single racist mind could inflict. However, it was just not the Jewish community that was hounded. Other undesirables such as gypsies, Polish intelligentsia, Jehovah's Witnesses, social democrats, homosexuals, communists, partisans, trade unionists, etc., too were tortured in concentration camps, and killed.
- In Israel, people do not tend to think themselves as racially superior, but as divinely superior. They think that they have been chosen by the gods themselves.
- Untouchability, still prevails in India and a few other Asian countries. Even today, in India, the untouchables are not allowed to enter into the premises of some of the temples or draw water from certain wells.
The expulsion of Palestinians, systematic killing of the Kashmiri Pandits, ethnic cleansing of the Hazara Tribe of Afghanistan, expulsion and murder of one million Albanian Kosovars, are some of the other unforgettable examples of racial demarcation, and a blow to humanitarian values.
Why does it happen that superiority of an individual comes through oppression of others. Since ancient times, people have been 'categorized' or 'stereotyped', which has made discrimination easier. The root of the problem lies in our physical or cultural differences, which involves skin color, language, religion or tribe. Hence, the solution too comes from this problem of being different.
One of the ugliest facts about racism pertains to the reality that it sees no geography, it is rampant, and in most cases, state sponsored. Racism should not be just about killing an entire population, discriminating against the one who sits next to you because they follow a different faith and ritual, or simply have features and skin color different than us. Love and tolerance should be the ideal weapon to fight against the evils of racial discrimination.