Investigating International Values
According to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the term racial discrimination shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. Indeed, racism involves prejudice or discrimination based on the idea that race is the primary factor in determining human traits and abilities.
Racism includes the belief that genetic or inherited differences produce the inherent superiority or inferiority of one race over another. In the name of protecting their race from contamination, some racists justify the domination and destruction of races they consider to be either superior or inferior. There are many reasons why racism is just a fundamentally bad idea. Racism has been a motivating factor in social discrimination, racial segregation, hate speech and violence such as genocides and ethnic cleansings. Throughout time, racism has been the cause of millions of unnecessary deaths.
Nothing beats the Holocaust wherein death camps were established for the sole purpose of killing men, women, and children. Hitler killed millions of people for the simple fact that they were Jews. In the most notorious camps – Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor and Majdanek in Poland, Buchenwald and Dachau in Germany – more than 6 million people, mostly Jews and Poles, were killed in gas chambers. Millions of others were also interned during the war, and a large proportion died of gross mistreatment, malnutrition, and disease.
The Holocaust represents 11 million lives that abruptly ended due to widespread extermination not only for who they were but also for what they were. Groups such as handicaps, Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, Soviet prisoners of war, political dissidents and others were also persecuted by the Nazis because of their religious and political beliefs, physical defects, or failure to fall into the Aryan ideal (Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust, 2008). Another shameful act of racism was the slavery of the Africans in America.
During the 17th and 18th centuries around 600,000 and 650,000 African-American slaves were forcibly transported to all of England’s North American colonies. Slave traders exchanged their cargo of Africans for food. With the success of tobacco planting, African slavery was legalized in Virginia and Maryland, becoming the foundation of the Southern agrarian economy (Chronology Of The History Of Slavery: 1619-1789, 2008). Since then African-American workers often held the most arduous jobs and were treated in general as inferior beings.
In the past few decades, the world is once again alarmed because of the ethnic cleansing occurring in Africa. Ethnic cleansing is happening in the Southern Sudan, and that the government of the Arab north is practicing a scorched earth policy to get rid of the dark skinned people of Southern Sudan. More recently there have also been civil wars in Angla, Congo, Rwanda, South Africa that wipe out, and displace, millions (Edwards, 2004). Racism is still rampant nowadays. In industrialized countries, the low-income rate for immigrants is rising and aboriginal poverty remains a problem.
Racism is a contributing factor to the high unemployment rate visible for minorities mainly because of job discrimination. Many minorities are forced to working for low wages in temporary jobs with poor working conditions. Tons of immigrants have university degrees but their qualifications are still not accepted and they are stuck in low paying jobs. The phrase, “last hired and first fired,” aptly describes the fate of the minorities as they serve as a “reserve army” of unemployed labor.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT) and the University of Chicago found in a 2003 study that there was widespread discrimination in the workplace against job applicants whose names were merely perceived as “sounding black”. These applicants were 50% less likely than candidates perceived as having “white-sounding names” to receive callbacks for interviews. The researchers view these results as strong evidence of unconscious biases rooted in the United States’ long history of discrimination (Mullainathan and Bertrand, 2003).
Historical economic or social disparity is alleged to be a form of discrimination which is caused by past racism and historical reasons, affecting the present generation through deficits in the formal education and kinds of preparation in the parents’ generation, and, through primarily unconscious racist attitudes and actions on members of the general population. Racism is still very evident in our society, and it contributes a lot to poverty. There is a link between racism and poverty. Victims of racism usually come from poor countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean that have migrated into industrialized ones.
In fact, in 1990, more than 1. 2 billion people most of who come from the developing world lived in extreme poverty. The United Nations defines extreme poverty as living on less than $1 a day. The problem with poverty is most alarming in sub-Saharan Africa wherein the number of people in extreme poverty almost doubled from 168 million to 298 million, and the percentage stayed almost constant from 42% to 41% between 1981 and 2004 while the global numbers decreased from 1,470 million to 969 million and the percentage of extremely poor fell from 40% to 18% (Chen and Ravallion, 2007).
Poverty and racism still exist even in the richest and greatest country today, the United States of America. The United States, the land of opportunity, serves as the melting pot of different cultures attracting the best minds in the world. A new study, “Poverty and Racism: Overlapping Threats to the Common Good,” cites evidence that the poverty rate for African Americans in the U. S. is 24 percent – three times the rate for whites. Latinos and Native Americans also suffer from poverty rates above 20 percent. While, on average, white families are 10 times richer than minority families.
And while white families’ wealth grew 20 percent between 1998 and 2001, the net worth of African American households decreased during that period. At the same time, “the ghosts of our legacy of racial inequality continue to haunt us,” the study says, citing racial violence as well as discrimination in housing and health care. In recent history, just last September 2005, Hurricane Katrina was one of the most horrific events Americans have ever seen. Within this destruction, two great problems that have been a dark part of American history for 229 years have resurfaced — poverty and racism.
Scores of poor people, many of them African-American, were left to fend for themselves as Hurricane Katrina pounded New Orleans. President Bush was battered by liberal critics who alleged that the White House was slow in responding to the Hurricane Katrina-related flooding because New Orleans had a large black and poor population. “As all of us saw on television, there’s also some deep, persistent poverty in this region, as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America.
We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action,” the president said (CNS News, 2008). Racism continues to cause many problems that plague our society. It is very clear that poverty and racism must be addressed in the world today. Cultural integration is one way to fight poverty in America and elsewhere in the world. We must continue to build on previous programs that have allowed impoverished Americans to move into middle class neighborhoods so that they have a chance to succeed. The Gautreaux Program, which was conducted in Chicago from 1976-1998, gave poor families the opportunity to move into middle-class areas.
In these 22 years, the program helped more than 25,000 voluntary participants move to more than 100 communities throughout the Chicago area. This process also directly affected race relations, as many of the impoverished were minorities who moved into populations largely comprised of white people. The adults in these relocated families improved only slightly compared to the adults left behind, but their children did much better, gaining hope for future prospects and success. It was a very important step in the right direction.
So what else can we do, in our own capacity, to help bring an end to racism? Allow me to share some pointers on how to deal with racism and handle racist remarks. First, confront those who make racist jokes or contribute to negative stereotypes. Pointing out racist remarks and actions helps bring it into the open and it also educates people. Some people do not even realize they are acting racist if that is the way they were raised. Second, acknowledging that racism exists is also important. Pretending racism does not exist does not make it go away.
And third, encourage your family, friends and children to learn about other cultures and get to know people from other countries and cultures. Racism is based on ignorance and should be stopped. Without a conscious and proactive struggle against racism, efforts to reduce the plague of poverty will be in vain. As a people and as humans, we have a moral obligation to fight against these two evil beings – racism and poverty. And the time to act is now.
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