English on the Internet - English Magazine


December 17, 1999

Today I bought a Black Muslim newspaper.  Most articles in the paper referred to white people as “devils.”  Just last month, three white men were convicted of killing a black man just because of his race.  Every few months, a prominent national black leader makes hateful speeches denouncing Jews.  There was a court case where it was charged that a light-skinned black person treated dark-skinned black workers unfairly.  I recently heard a Chinese couple calling a black boy insulting names referring to his race. In turn, black Americans in our large cities often hate Koreans-Americans. Frequently, smart white male students are excluded from professional college admission solely because they are white and male. 

These are rare but real examples of racism in the United States which exist today.  The United States did not invent racism. But it suffers from it to some extent today, just like many other nations. 

I often think about the causes of racism, and have come to some conclusions.  The human species is full of people with different characteristics.  Some of these are racial.  Others are language religion, and complexion. 

Most people do not wish to be unkind to fellow humans.  We usually try to be kind to other people, whatever the differences between ourselves. 

Here is what goes wrong, in the USA and elsewhere. People with similar characteristics tend to associate with each other.  We cannot prevent this.  Freedom of association is an important freedom in any democracy.  In the Czech Republic, Gypsies may choose to live close together.  In the USA, blacks, Hispanics, and other ethnic groups often seek to live in neighborhoods with their own.  Living apart eventually causes problems, since politics eventually intervenes. 

Groups of people who are different and isolate themselves are eventually regarded with some suspicions. (We might think- why do they live separately?  What mischief are they up to?)  An immoral political leader (of which there is no shortage anywhere) might seek to win votes from one racial group by blaming problems on another group, just as Hitler sought popularity by blaming German problems on the Jews.  It is easier to use racial tactics like this than solve the real underlying problems.  Or such a politician might promise to take things away from a more prosperous racial group, in order to buy votes from another group. 

Here is another reason racism often makes good politics.  There is nothing that unites any people like a threat from an external enemy. This lesson was recently demonstrated in Serbia.  A politician may unite a big group of voters by convincing them that there is something to fear from another race.  During World War 2, Americans were fighting the Japanese, and very afraid of them.  US politicians convinced us to detain all Japanese-American citizens in special camps during the war. 

The United States made great progress in the past against racism. However, current US government policy is unintentionally worsening race relations.  US agencies count races in all schools and occupations, and force schools and companies to give away school admissions and jobs by race. This makes everyone very aware of race, instead of simply forgetting it.  People frequently use false charges of racism as an excuse for their own failures, in order to get sympathy and money from our courts. 

As long as we have races and politicians, we will have racism.  I believe the key to conquering racism in the United States, as well as elsewhere, is twofold.  First, we must learn to simply ignore physical human differences and think of each person as a human, and not a member of some group!  Then we need to reject all politicians who seek to further their career by inciting envy and malice between different races of people.

by Kim Henry - USA, writes a lot of political and social commentary

© December 1999 English on the Internet www.aj.cz