Despite the fact that the open expression of racism is liable to prosecution in most of the countries, it is difficult to admit that there is sufficient protection from its manifestations. This paper considers the problem of racism and policing from the sociological perspective, defining its main reasons and the current state of affairs in the area. It is necessary to conduct such analysis, as today, although the racist theories were proven to be unscientific, racism and nationalism still continue to exist in the modern society.
Although the focus of this paper is on sociology, to understand the scope of the problem, it is required to briefly see from what aspects racism can be considered today (Clarke, 2003):
- Racism as a manifestation of the political interests of countries or individuals.
- Racism as a way to substantiate and justify intervention in other states.
- Social racism, which is manifested wider than the problem of skin color and is reflected in domination of one group over others.
- Psychological and biological racism.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, racism is defined as any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color skin, descent, national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise on equal grounds of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other area of public life (Hunter, 2002). The international community, UNO condemns racism as a gross violation of the universal and fundamental human rights, and requires from all countries to take active position in elimination of racism.
Racism is an ideology that uses external differences as the main reason for denying equal treatment for members of the other groups on the basis of scientific, biological or moral characteristics, considering them different from their own group, and initially lower. Previously, racism was considered only as expression of negative attitudes towards black-skin people by white-skin people, but international documents of the second half of the twentieth century described racial discrimination not only by color, but by descent, national or ethnic origin (Murji, 2007). Races are understood as a historical territorial group of people related by their origin, which is reflected in the common genetic, morphological and physiological traits that vary within certain limits.
Thus, it is impossible to understand racism as a problem only of different skin colors. It should be seen more broadly as a social and psychological problem. Within a country, within the same ethnic group, there can be specific forms of racism, so-called social racism. This is when the low-income and poorly educated people, such as farmers, have impairment of their dignity and rights, inadequate remuneration for quite officially (Brown, 2008). This is especially true for the third world countries, and is a form of modern slavery.
One of the main causes of social racism is the Weimar syndrome (Clarke, 2003). It is an economic downturn, which casts into poverty those people who in any other situation would have been the core of the middle class – shopkeepers serving intellectuals, and generally everyone earning in private practice, not by physical labor, for income, and not for the salary, up to the guard in the market and private tutor. These people become a source, and at the same time the breeding ground for racist, fascist, xenophobic and nationalist sentiments.
The economic crisis in different countries is often combined with political catastrophe (GDR in 1989, USSR in 1991), or a military defeat, as in Germany in 1919. But in general, to provoke nationalism and racism it is not necessary: in Costa Rica, without any war, influx of migrant workers from Nicaragua in the years of liberal reforms caused a sharp rise in xenophobia against them.
In Germany and Japan since 1945 in the conditions of a long-continued popularity of fascist and racist ideas in adults it was possible to prevent organization of the Nazis, as the economic crisis has quickly turned into growth. Whereas, according to the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the number of right-wing extremists in Germany for the year 2009 increased by one third - from about 20 000 to 30 000 (Murji, 2007). Experts attribute this to the deteriorating economic situation and falling living standards due to the global financial crisis.
Those serious efforts that the American public puts to keep even the current level of political correctness that exists mainly in words, shows how organic nationalism and racism is now in any society built on the property and competition in the market (Hunter, 2002). The matter is that all the feelings associated with the corresponding values are psychologically identical to feelings feeding nationalism, racism and xenophobia, and differing only by the absence of fetishism, rigid attachment to a particular appearance of an alien. Alien is the potential object for application of hostility and discrimination in capitalist society – it is your current competitor, not necessarily "black" or "colored."
Thus, the good environment for racism development in society is formed by the economic problems and influx of immigrants, constituting in a capitalist society additional competition for the main categories of people in the country (Brown, 2008). This contributes to the emergence of racist / xenophobic myth - that all the troubles, problems and grievances come from the “aliens” and that other people are by nature the worst and its "worst" justifies their humiliation, even prescribing it.
The appearance of such alien focuses hatred, fear and transcendence feelings and forwards them to the target - people of different nationality. To survive and thrive in a hostile environment, these aliens inevitably become the source of the very problems that were suspected of them (crime, corruption, exploitation, etc.).
But these are not the only possible causes. Several Western sociologists have noted the presence in many people of so-called ethnocide, which is manifested in rejection of reconciliation with the differences in culture, which do not coincide with the rhythms of their own culture. This phenomenon of ethnocentricity is especially true for countries with ethnocratic regime of government, where the ruling ethnic group holds all key positions and the "high places" in the country.
Besides, sociologists note the great importance of inter-group competition. In a number of experiments carried out by the Sheriff Muzaffar it was demonstrated that any situation of intergroup competition immediately evokes strong and stable intergroup hostility. For example, in experiments carried out with teenage boys, even when the boys were selected at random, and between them there was no biological, especially racial difference, they were still showing strong intergroup competition.
Simple division of boys in two rooms was enough to bring a sense of "us against them", and assigning group names increased sense of competition. Boys started to belittle achievements of another group and make fun of its members. But the situation became especially critical when the experimenters introduced elements of competitive activities into their interaction. Treasure hunt game, athletic competitions have led to appearance of embarrassing nicknames and confrontation, members of another team were labeled as cowards, threatening inscriptions were hung on the walls.
Upon emerging a competition, intergroup hostility was immediately contacted to any details of appearance of the members of both teams, and even the occasional items of teens were constantly rethought as group symbols, suitable for focusing hostility at, while not stopping at the most appropriate one.
After the above research, Sherif and his colleagues (1961) modeled a series of situations in which inter-group collaboration was a prerequisite of the common good, and between-group competition could only bring harm. Thus, during the day-long excursion it was discovered that one truck that could bring products got stuck in a ditch, and everyone had to push it. Another time there was organized a break in the supply of the camp with water from a distant reservoir, and everyone together had to restore the pipeline, etc. It had its positive results, which is why it is possible to say that giving common goals to people contributes to the end of enmity.
On the basis of data presented above, it is possible to say that the problem of racism is more complex than the problem of biological and anthropological character, going beyond the political or economic factors. Despite the fact that the scientific attempt to justify racism showed its complete failure, racism didn’t stop existing. The reason lies in social and psychological properties of both the individual and the group, which are influenced mechanisms that promote competition, and then enmity between different groups.
The reason of racism is not skin color, and the human mind. Therefore, the solution to racial prejudice, xenophobia and intolerance problems should be sought first of all in getting rid of the false ideas that have for so many centuries been a source of misconceptions about superiority or, conversely, the lower position of the various groups of people (Bonnett, 2010).
Discrimination against people on the basis of the color of their skin, race or ethnic origin creates obstacles to peaceful and friendly relations between nations and can disturb security, peace, and the harmonious coexistence of persons, even within one and the same state. The racial barriers existence is not possible in the ideals of any human society. The government should be the first to address this problem and guarantee equal rights to everyone to the law, without distinction of race, skin color, national or ethnic origin.
The emergence of racism in society is based on a number of reasons, one of which is the ethnic group mentality, other – quality of life and economic factors in the state. Of great importance there are also the social factors of the low level of culture and consciousness of citizens that serve as additional catalysts to racism. Nevertheless, it allows for suggesting that the problem of racism can be compensated and successfully solved with an integrated approach of state structures and controls, taking into account all influencing factors.
Bonnett, A. (2010). Constructions of ‘race’, place and discipline: Geographies of ‘racial’ identity and racism. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 19(4), 864-883.
Brown, T.N. (2008). Race, racism, and mental health: elaboration of critical race theory's contribution to the sociology of mental health. Contemporary Justice Review: Issues in Criminal, Social, and Restorative Justice, 11(1), 53-62.
Clarke, S. (2003). Social Theory, Psychoanalysis and Racism. New Jersey: Palgrave.
Hunter, M. (2002). Rethinking epistemology, methodology, and racism: or, is White sociology really dead?
Murji, K. (2007). Sociological Engagements: Institutional Racism and Beyond. Sociology, 41(5), 843-855.
Sherif, M., Harvey, O.J., White, B.J., Hood, W.R., & Sherif, C.W. (1961). Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.