It could be argued that two of the most prominent occasions of inequality of race in recent history are the Holocaust of World War II and the South African Apartheid regime.
The Holocaust was the systematic execution of approximately six million (Bauman, 2002) Eastern European Jews carried out by Germany and her allies in the Second World War.
Pioneered by Adolf Hitler, it “was an ultimate expression of genocidal tendency present in race and ethnic hatred” (Bauman, 2002: 46).
The Holocaust involved “the systematic and methodical…extermination of men, women and children classified as members of a particular-undesirable-race” (Bauman, 2002: 46). Nazi Germany declared Jews “to be a race; ‘only’ an ethnic group” (Rex, 1986:18) and that the “Jews were the chosen scapegoat of a Nazi government facing economic and political crises” (Rex, 1986:105).
Writing in 1986, Rex noted the similarity of the perception of the outside world, “…South Africa occupies a similar place in the international political conscience of the world today to that occupied by Nazi Germany in the 1930s” (Rex, 1986:104).
In 1652 the Dutch arrived in South Africa. The indigenous Hottentot population were dominated immediately by the Dutch settlers “superior force of arms” (Asheron, 1976: 62). The Europeans saw the Hottentots as “‘little lost souls’, to be rescued and converted to Christianity or, alternatively, as pagans who had no soul to lose and were therefore born to slavery. A non-European…once baptised into the Christian religion was immediately accepted as a member of the white (Christian) community.” (Asheron, 1976: 62).
The ‘pastoral Boers’ progression further inland, from 1770 onwards, encountered more indigenous peoples with whom they were in “competition for water and grazing lands”. This competition made it “imperative from the Boer point of view to dominate the Africans” (Asheron, 1976: 63). This need for superiority would later be displayed by the Boer farmers deeming the difference between themselves and the Africans so “great as that between themselves and their cattle” with the Boers calling the Africans ‘Zwarte Vee’ (Black Cattle) (Asheron, 1976: 63).
The Apartheidal regime which engulfed South Africa was preceded by this “master-servant social fabric of the nineteenth century Boer republics” (Asheron, 1976: 63). Indeed the constitution of the Transvaal Republic “specifically stated that there should be no equality of race in Church or State” (Asheron, 1976: 63).
Jacques Derrida deemed apartheid to be “the ultimate racism in the world” (Posel, 2002: 73).
Apartheid existed under the regime of South Africa’s white leader since 1948 when, by a small margin, the National Party was elected “under the auspices of die apartheidgedagte (the apartheid-idea)” (Posel, 2002: 74). In 1961 the National Party managed to secure the majority of election votes. Apartheid was used as a way to disqualify any of the country’s ‘black’ inhabitants from any say in the running of the nation. It racialized “all social, Political, economic and cultural processes and experiences” (Posel, 2002: 73). This ‘apartheid-idea’ was based upon the ultra-racist dogma of white supremacy.
This racial discrimination continued with Apartheid until the African National Congress and Nelson Mandella won the South African election in 1994.
These two historical periods, the anti-Semitic regime of Nazi-Germany and the anti-integration laws of South African apartheid are both disturbing pieces of evidence of the inequality that has existed with such dramatic effect upon the world.
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Locate one recent research project in your chosen area of inequality. Describe this research project, identify its major findings and discuss its strengths and weaknesses as a research project.
Tackling racial equality: international comparisons, Home Office Research Study 238
‘Tackling racial equality: international comparisons’ is a research project carried out by Mary Coussey. Coussey undertook the study on behalf of the Research, Development and Statistics Directorate (RDS), part of the Home Office. The report comes on the back of the United Nations Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, 2002.
The research aims to compare the policies of the United Kingdom with those of other countries. It is noted that due to “a significant lack of comparable statistics and an inconsistency in the terms used to define people of immigrant origin and minority communities” it is “inevitably problematic” to gain informed comparison (Clouder, 2002: i).
The research covers government legislation relating to racial equality in the United States of America (USA), Canada, Australia, South Africa and some European Union (EU) member states whose populations are racially or ethnically diverse. The paper reflects upon the “legal measures to combat racial discrimination, to combat hate crimes, racist speech and intolerance, and government activities designed to promote the benefits of tolerance and ethnic diversity” (Coussey, 2002: v).
The countries highlighted in the paper have experienced racial integration in a variety of ways and at differing stages of their histories. The more recently racially diversified use terms indicative of their inexperience such as ‘immigrant’ or ‘foreigner’.
All of the countries reviewed, with the exception of South Africa, display similarities in that it is the ‘ethnically visible’ minority who are the victims of discrimination.
The research highlights the EU Council Directive of 2000, which requires member states “to prevent direct and indirect racial discrimination in employment, occupation, access to training and other areas” (Coussey, 2002: vi).
Attention is also paid, by the author, to the reviewed countries historical past and how this affects their legal standpoints upon ‘race’, ‘racism’ and ethnicity related events and occurrences. The paper emphasises the effect upon the approaches of France, Italy, Austria and Germany towards extremist organisations that come of experiencing the Nazi Fascism of World War Two.
The governments of Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden legislate against incitement of racial hatred, whereas the USA, believing it to encroach upon citizens’ freedom of speech “does not prohibit racist speech and material” (Coussey, 2002: vii).
The paper describes ways of treating ‘hate crimes’ – racially motivated violence. It lists three alternatives stating that “several countries have a mixture of offences in all three categories” (Coussey, 2002: vii). The first option is to treat racially motivated violence as a general offence, thus avoiding the necessity for proof of racial motivation for the transgression. The second option is to treat racially motivated attacks as general offences but with “increased penalties for racial motivation” (Coussey, 2002: vii). Thirdly, legislature can be passed to specifically combat racially motivated offences. Options two and three “send a clear signal that such crimes are particularly serious and unacceptable” (Coussey, 2002: vii).
Diversity is promoted by all of the countries covered in the document. They have “programmes to promote tolerance and to discourage racial discrimination and racism” information is also published “about the positive contribution of ethnic minorities” (Coussey, 2002: viii).
The governments of most of the covered states have set up specialist bodies “to organise information campaigns against racism and challenge negative stereotypes” (Coussey, 2002: viii). In Great Britain, for example, the government has developed the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE).
Coussey states that comparisons between the ethnic minorities of Europe are hard to make. These difficulties come from the “significant differences in the ways in which the European states record their ethnic minority populations” (Coussey, 2002: 3).
It is noted that the reason for the European State’s ethnic minority populations lies with their government policies of the 1960s and the early 1970s. These governments attracted labourers from southern Europe, northern Africa and Turkey. Countries such as the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom and Portugal also “attracted labour from their former colonies” (Coussey, 2002: 3).
Despite the restriction on immigration applied by most western European governments of the mid-1970s, the immigrant labourers already habituating these countries had “put down roots” and their new lives were attracting their family members (Coussey, 2002: 3). This ‘putting down of roots’, it is explained, is the main reason for many western European countries not only having established populations of immigrant origin, but also “a second and third generation of visible ethnic minorities” (Coussey, 2002: 3).
Coussey points out that immigration to the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and France “has been linked to the growth in asylum seekers and of refugees from the former Yugoslavia, Somalia and Iraq (2002: 3).
The paper also gives the historical reasons for the amounts of immigrants in the population of the USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia. It concludes that immigrants from Europe formed Australia, Canada and the US. More recently, these countries have been accepting a more diverse range of immigrants who are now forming the ethnic minorities of the states.
South Africa is unlike the other countries because it’s ‘visible ethnic minority’ is made up of “whites” who are “economically dominant” (Coussey, 2002: 6).
Coussey states that action is necessary to combat racist ideas, activities, harassment, and violence because their spread is a “threat to the cohesion and stability of multi-racial and pluralist societies” (2002: 17).
“Racist violence is the extreme expression of negative and hostile views” and “it is common for immigrants and ethnic minorities to be portrayed negatively” (Coussey, 2002: 17). This negative portrayal and the perception that ethnic minorities are the “cause of social problems, worsening unemployment, crime and cultural conflicts” (Coussey, 2002: 17) promote, within the minorities, feelings of insecurity and helplessness. Racist violence has links to unemployment however, it is pointed out that the majority of racist attacks are not carried out by the unemployed.
To conclude the project, Coussey, uses the provisions of The International Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) as a “yardstick for assessing the adequacy of the measures taken in tackling racial discrimination” (Coussey, 2002: 41). It is stated that gaps are visible in the policies of all of the countries covered by the report.
The ‘weakest’ countries for making specific provisions to tackle racial discrimination “are those of Europe. The “most consistent and comprehensive civil legislation against discrimination” (Coussey, 2002: 41) comes from Australia, Canada, South Africa and the USA.
“Tackling racial equality: international comparisons” was written to promote awareness of the policies of other nations as well as our own regarding ‘race’, ‘racism’ and ethnicity. It collates these policies showing the strengths and the weaknesses and provides opinionated suggestions for their improvement.
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Discuss the ways in which sociological theory has been used to explain ‘race’ and ethnicity.
‘Race’ and ethnicity have been explained and highlighted by many sociologists. The explanations and opinions of one sociologist are often quite dissimilar to those of other sociologists and the examples chosen to highlight, explain, define or challenge ‘racism’ by one theorist are wide ranging and not necessarily covered by others.
Marx and Engels shared similar sociological views, entering a “long association” (Jary et al, 1991: 183) with each other in 1845. This association climaxed in 1848 with the joint publication of the Communist Manifesto. The Marxist’s view of ‘race’ and racism is that they are “a form of oppression” (Harvey et al, 1993: 20) which is strongly related to capitalism which, according to Marx is “inherently a class system in which class relations are characterised by conflict” (Giddens, 2001: 12).
Engels, writing about the American Constitution, noted its in-built racism and hypocrisy. America, claiming to be the ‘Land of the Free’, had written its Constitution to contain “human rights that the American Constitution, the first to recognise the rights of man, in the same breath confirms the slavery of the coloured races existing in America” (Engels, 1859).
The constitution comes in for criticism from Draper as well. “The ‘race’ privileges written into the Constitution immediately in the interests of the slave-owning states, were congenial to a ruling class society” (Draper, 1977: 268). Further to this, Draper adds his theory that racism is firmly in place in the capitalist structure of society “the human rights proclaimed by the Founding Fathers…were applied to bourgeois society…but not to the human beings who were enslaved” (1977:268).
When dealing with the question of “‘Caste’ or class?” in his book, Draper determines the view of Karl Marx. “Marx could and did apply his own conception of social class to any period of history, the drawing of class lines of demarcation through civil society, does not at all exclude other lines of demarcation within the same society. Thus…Marx considers colour lines, other racial or ethnic lines…as lines of demarcation” (Draper, 1977: 505).
Lehmann disagrees with the theories Marx held on ‘race’ in his book concerning the theories of Durkheim “Marxist socialism, which is based on a social ontology of class structure, is incorrect” (Lehmann, 1993:10).
Durkheim’s “neo-liberal sociologism” (Lehmann, 1993: 1) beliefs reflect upon his theories of ‘race’ and racism. His sociological theories prove, for him, that racialism is an “anachronistic survival of feudal castes, of primitive or traditional biological and social structures” (Lehmann, 1993: 9).
Arguments presented by Durkheim against “‘race’ as a method of categorising people” advocate “a racially blind system of equal opportunity” (Lehmann, 1993: 9). In fact, Durkheim dismissed “‘race’ as an irrelevant social category” and “racism as false consciousness” (Lehmann, 1993: 9).
When discussing the definition of ‘race’ and ethnicity, John Rex refers to the commissioning of biologists by The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) after the second world war to discover an exact scientific meaning to the term: ‘race’. The biologists returned to UNESCO with the conclusion “that the human species had a single origin and that the so-called races of mankind were statistically distinguishable groups only” (Rex, 1986: 18). This conclusion is seen by Rex to be a challenge to which sociologists responded to in three ways. Option one was “to assimilate all so-called racial problems into the category of ‘ethnic problems'” (Rex, 1986: 18). Option two “was to recognise that racial differences did exist…but to limit the…application of the term ‘race'” (Rex, 1986: 19). Option three “was to use the term ‘race’ relations situation’ to refer to situations marked by racism” (Rex, 1986:19).
Introducing his publication, Robert Miles notes that “Like many sociological concepts, racism has an everyday use and many everyday meanings. It has become a key idea in daily discourse as well as in sociological theory” (1989: 1). He adds to this by stating his own personal theory on the ‘concept’ “racism is, in the late twentieth century, a term of political abuse” (Miles, 1989: 1).
Miles states that the error of the bio-scientific conception of ‘race’ began with Darwin and “finished with the emergence of population genetics” (Miles, 1989: 36).
The word racism is used daily in “common-sense, political and academic discourse” and “it is of very recent origin” (Miles, 1989: 42). The Oxford English Dictionary of 1910 contained mention of the term. The English language first contained ‘racism’ in the 1930s. This, Miles believes, is for two reasons. The first is the “growing body of scientific evidences which determined the idea of ‘races’ as natural…subversions of the human species” (Miles, 1989: 42). Secondly “was the…use of the ‘race’ idea…by Hitler and the German Nazi party” (Miles, 1989: 43).
Harvey and MacDonald also explore terminology. They refer to the definitions used by Huxley and Haddon in We Europeans: A Survey of Racial Problems of 1935. The terms they describe break the human species down into three segments: “(1) Black woolly hair, dark brown or black skin and a broad nose.” Referred to by Harvey et al as Negroid. “(2) Wavy or curly hair of any colour…dark brown to white skin, and a typically medium or narrow nose with a high bridge.” Referred to by Harvey et al as Caucasoid. “(3) Straight lank dark hair, yellowish skin, nose with a tendency to be broad and low-bridged.” Referred to by Harvey et al as Mongoloid. These referrals of Harvey et al to the terms ‘Negroid’, ‘Caucasoid’ and ‘Mongoloid’ are their own. They were the theories of Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882), who is “sometimes called the father of modern racism” (Giddens, 2001: 245).
Following this exploration of ‘race’ terminology, Harvey et al go on to explain sociological theories of ‘race’ and racism featuring the positivist, functionalist, and Weberian approaches.
The positivist approach attempts provision of “explanations of ‘race’ or to use ‘race’ to explain social phenomena” with “‘objective’ categorisations of racial groups” (Harvey et al, 1993: 17).
The functionalists approach to ‘race’ “depicts society as essentially an integrated and cohesive system” with the view that racial tension or racism unsettles the smooth running of the system. This unsettling is “temporary and a process of ‘healing’ will take place” (Harvey et al, 1993: 17).
A Weberian approach sees “‘race’ in terms of status” (Harvey et al, 1993: 19).
Sociological theory explains racial and ethnicity inequalities in various ways depending upon the beliefs of the sociologist involved. There are numerous definitions of the term ‘race’ and all have strong arguments put both for them and against them. ‘Race’ and ethnic inequality have been and for the foreseeable future will be paid dedicated attention from sociological theorists.