Race and Racism

8 August 2016

Racism, this simple word conjures up images of abhorrence and suffering. Brother hating brother because of the colour of their skin. Whole ethnicities of people discriminated against because they are different, and the discriminators are not taking the time to understand them and their culture. There is a book called “Racism, a very short introduction” by Ali Rattansi, in this essay I will justify that this book is superior to the book “Black in Latin America” by Henry Louis Gates in explaining racism to me.

Both books do a sufficient job of explaining racism from a technical analysis and a historic point of view, but I feel that Rattansi has provided an enhanced understanding of racism and how society arrived at that conclusion. These are the reasons why: 1) Rattansi does not restrict himself to one geographic area (the Caribbean) as Gates does. 2) Rattansi discusses a number of definitions connecting science and racism. (Rattansi 2007: 2) 3) Gates talks mostly about his experiences in various cultures as they relate to his travel through various countries around the Caribbean.

(Gates 2011: 2), while Rattansi covers broader topics that are not limited to his personal views and experiences. This essay will explore those reasons and expand on them while defeating the counter arguments against this point of view while educating the reader about the implications of creating an anti-racist society. In the first argument Rattansi looks at racist themes from all different places around the world. For example one area of focus is anti-Semitism, he talks about how the Jewish people are not loyal to any one country but to the Jewish faith all together and that instills fear from Europeans who are loyal to their country.

(Rattansi 2007: 56) Rattansi taught us about the 18th century English people and their views on the native Indians from India. The English brutally took over their lands and imposed a foreign culture on them, despite the way that they felt; they adopted native dress and married Indian women. (Rattansi 2007: 47) Also discussed in Rattansi’s book was about the symbolism that occurred in the European Middle Ages. Christianity made the association between darkness with filth and evil, and light which was associated with purity and goodness.

This could be seen as the earliest form of racism, judging someone based on their appearance. (Rattansi 2007:17) In chapter 8 the reader learns about British Immigration Policy around the 1940’s, Britain encouraged the immigration of Black and Chinese people for labour purposes. This lead to a “coloured minority” population explosion. (Rattansi 2007: 151-152) Sadly most of these people were given back breaking labour with little pay and horrible working conditions simply because of the colour of their skin. Secondly Rattansi’s book explores the science behind racist ideals.

Eugenics is the study of race, which was supported by “Social Darwinism”. Basically Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest is reflected here, inferior cultures and races should be supressed or bred out to support only the superior “master race”. (Rattnasi 2007: 54) Scientific Racism is based on genetics and how each race is different to each other based on their genetic and phonotypical variation. (Rattansi 2007: 72) One study even went as far as to measure the heads of black persons and compared them with heads of white women; both were considered inferior compared to the head of a white male.

However scientific racism was deemed as nonsensical and lacked creditability. (Rattansi 2007: 74) The last argument is that Rattansi covers a broader range of topics relating to racism ranging from the Greeks to the medieval era to Immigration in the US and even the case of Enoch Powell and his denial of being a racist. (Rattansi 2007: 93) He looks at the history of racism and provides details behind events leading to discoveries and theories behind them. This essay will now provide a counter argument in favor of Gate’s book for all points listed as my thesis.

The first argument is about geographic area, while Gates writes mostly about his experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean he does expand his scope to Africa where the majority of slaves (11. 2 million) were taken from. (Gates 2011: 2). Another point was about how European people emigrated from various countries to provide services of “whitening”. (Gates 2011: 10) Rattansi did an excellent job of covering racism from a scientific perspective, but in Gate’s defense, he covered the classification of skin colours from all the different countries he visited.

That is an aspect of science, botanists and explores have to scientifically classify their discoveries usually using Latin names. A complete list of each country and the way that they distinguish various skin colours ranging from very light to absolute black can be found in the appendix. (Gates 2011: 223) In the argument of broad topics not relating to personal experience can be won by looking at how Gates covers the culture and history of each country’s people.

In Haiti he talks about Vodou, (Gates 2011: 157) in Brazil they have Capoeira, which is a martial art disguised as dancing. (Gates 2011: 24-25). Mexicans have their folk hero, a comic book character named Memin Pinguin. African-Americans were outraged claiming that the character was a racist portrayal of blacks, but the Mexicans loved him. (Gates 2011: 82) This just proves that there are many things that Gate’s explains that are not based upon his personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Both books by Gates and Rattansi have explained their positions on race, class, and those who would discriminate against them. I have observed a common theme that both books portray, which is the implication of fighting racism. I believe that it is educating other people about various cultures, races, and ethnicities. Knowledge is the best way to overcome prejudice, and xenophobia. Both books educate the reader about how we as a society are biologically the same. We have families, passions, cultures, and the right to life free from fear.

Although there has been a rise in support for neo-fascists in the last decade of the 20th century, there needs to be a movement to end it. (Rattansi 2007: 164) In this essay we have looked at three reasons why I feel that Rattansi’s book has best explained racism to me. We also divulged into a counter argument in the favor of Gate’s book, and looked at the implications of fighting racism. In conclusion the author of this paper would like to suggest some ways to fight racism and abolish it like the way that slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888.

(Gates 2011:16) Education may be the best way to overcome the ignorance that is a main part of racism. One can look at the scientific reasons behind skin colour, which darker pigments evolved as a result of the climates that people lived in, and that human blood types have no co-relation with skin colour. (Rattansi 2007: 74) Taking action against racism can be done by using common sense, embarrassing those with racial beliefs, writing blogs about equality and fairness, and refusing to patronize businesses that promote racism and hatred.

Fighting racism can also be accomplished right in your own backyard, if you hear a discriminatory joke coming from a family member, co-worker or friend; stand up to them and mention its inappropriateness. Educate your children that the world’s population comes in many colours and cultures, take them to cultural events and restaurants. It is up to you, gentle reader, to fight racism however you can and make the world a better place.

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