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Racism and War: Overcoming Us and Them PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 23 September 2007 05:58

Racism and War: Overcoming Us and Them

PEJ News - Ramzy Baroud - Racism is, among many things, convenient. It provides simplified, definite and ready-to-serve answers to complex and compounded questions. Racists, in turn, come from all walks of life; their motivation and the root causes behind their contemptible views of others may differ, but the outcome of these views is predictably the same - racial discrimination, social and political oppression, religious persecution and war.


The textual definition of racism pertains only to race, but in practice
racism is a consequence of groupthink, whereby a group of people decides to
designate itself as a collective and starts delineating its relationship
with other collectives - or other people in general - with a sense of
supremacy. When coupled with economic and/or political dominance, supremacy
translates into various forms of subjugation and cruelty.

The adulation of the self/collective and the disparagement of the other is
an ancient practice, as old as human civilisation itself. It is everlasting
for the simple reason that it has always served as a political and economic
tool and will likely remain effective so long as the quest for political and
material power drives our behaviour.

It is also pertinent to stress that the need for this negative group
designation is not always as straightforward as "black" and "white". For
example, less economically advantaged Eastern Europeans seeking (and
competing for) employment in Western Europe find themselves lumped in the
same group and subject to all sorts of classifications. Equally convenient
has been the caricatured misrepresentation of "Arabs" by mainstream media,
which serves to further specific political and economic interests.

Ironically, an extreme form of racism also exists in various Arab countries
where foreign workers find themselves placed in a demeaning hierarchy based
on country of origin. Western Europeans and Americans top the scale and are
readily accommodated, while Southeast Asians are often at the bottom. A very
qualified Indian engineer, for example, may find himself getting paid a lot
less than a French one with relatively little experience.

In some countries, like South Africa, racism has wreaked havoc on society
for generations. It manifests itself in the refusal of some people to
identify with their original ancestral cultures because they fear that such
affinity would negate the fact that they are "full" South African citizens -
a right for which they fought a most arduous fight.

In Malaysia, which exhibits considerable social harmony compared to some of
it neighbours, racial classification is still very much real. Despite the
government's commendable efforts to accentuate the Malaysian national model
while carefully underscoring Malay, Chinese or Indian sub-groupings, members
of these groups are wary of their statistical representation in Malaysian
society. Some react by stressing their number in comparison to the other
groups, while others tirelessly underscore the types of discrimination they
experience at the hands of the politically and economically advantaged.

While racism is universally recognised, few individuals would admit to their
own prejudices and racist tendencies. Moreover, it would be self-deceiving
to view racism as a purely Western phenomenon. While the Western model of
racism, influenced by 18th century colonialism, is unique in many respects,
group prejudices based on class, race and religion are shared almost equally
between all nations.

The racism of those with political, military and economic power is often
violent and detrimental, but it is important to remember that the underdog
can be just as racist. An Arab reader from London sent me an e-mail
demanding that I explain myself for collaborating on various projects with
some well-known Jewish authors. "You are either na

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 September 2007 05:58

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