Race Racism and Society

Race racism and society
What do you consider the most convincing theoretical explanation for racism in society today? Whilst there are many theories for why racism exists in society today, in my essay I will be discussing what theories have emerged to explain racism in society today and what reasons sociologists put forward for this. Racism: what does this word mean? Where did this word come from, when it was originally used? I will also discuss the word race and what it means and how it differs from ethnicity, discussing the effects of the word. I will be discussing the theories behind racism in society today. My aim is to create an understanding of racism in society, where and how it came about and why it is still such a great issue in society today. I will talk about sociologist views, why some of them dispute that racism is even a real word. I will be exploring the history of race and racism. Finally, I will conclude the theories that I have found which hold the best understanding of the effects of racism and why it still exists. Racism

“Racism” said to believe that race accounts for the differences in human beings, whether it be for their character or for their own personal ability. This suggests that perhaps a particular race is above others. “Racism” when there is intolerance between two people of different racial backgrounds, purely based on the colour of their skin. There is also something called discrimination, which is when there are differences between two people based on the ethnicity or sexual preferences. Racism is said to be happening in day-to-day life, however many of us fail to recognise racism as we do not think anything of it. Police often accused of being racist when they carry out stop and search; people accuse them of stopping ethnic minority people more, studies such as the study by the guardian carried out to prove that there is some truth in this. (V Dodd; 2012, study) In addition, there are many videos up on the renowned YouTube where people are having rants about “immigrants and coloured people” in the country.

Some of these examples classed as racism however failed to identify as racism in daily life as it is happening so often. “British women arrested for racist rant on tram” (YouTube) this shows that there is proof of racism in daily life. This theory argues that class based conflict is due to an inherent and important part of society. These theorists thus argue that racial and ethnic conflict tied to class conflict and that in order to reduce racial and ethnic conflict; class conflict must be reduced. (Anderson M L, 2009) These three theories provide an insight on what sociologist think of racism in society and how they view the reasoning behind racism in society today. It shows that there are different opinions as to why there is racism in society today. The most popular theory is the interaction theory; many people think that ethnic minorities grouped in areas and make their own society distancing themselves from other societies preventing them from learning and mixing with the British culture and society.

Race V.s Ethnicity
The definition between race and ethnicity is actually different. The term ‘race’ is usually referred to as a group of people who are sharing the same physical or biological characteristics, especially skin colour, ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given period of time. However, sociologists tend to reject the idea that ‘race’ is a scientifically valid concept (this is why ‘race’ is normally in inverted commas by most sociologists.) (Bernasconi; 2001). “Race simply cannot be tested or proven scientifically,” according to biologists (Hall 1999 p101). On the other hand, ethnicity refers to the nationality, culture, beliefs, and ancestors. There is much confusion between these two words as people tend to class race and ethnicity as one but it is two different concepts. “Many people like to make ethnic distinctions as well as national distinctions to hold onto their ethnic culture and identity.” (P.Essed; 1991) Theories

There are many theories that can explain the use of racism in society today; however, I have chosen a few that have proved to be the most convincing theories. These theories give background on why these factors are a cause for racism in our society today. Many people believe that there is racism in society today due to the amount of immigrants in the country, living in the UK illegally, “taking all the jobs, and claiming the benefits. In addition, people believe that white people have more rights in the UK over any non-whites whether they are British born or not.” (J Ghosh; 2011) This is one of the theories on why racism exists in society today and the recession has not helped as this has developed a lack of jobs and money in the society and benefits have become harder to qualify due to new cuts by the new leading political groups. Many believe that ethnic minorities such as “Pakistanis, Muslims, Indians, Iraqis don’t deserve to be here because they do nothing at all for our country and get free housing, food and they have their own country.”

Immigrants can be scapegoated for economic problems, as they are an easy target when people believe they have no sense of belonging in today’s British society. Racism may also exists due to political beliefs this is also possible, as political movements such as the EDL (English defence league) combined with the national front have created a group that influences thousands to join their group to make Britain an all-white country because they believe non-whites do not belong in this society. This causes racism amongst society members as they can go to the extremes. The EDL riots held mainly in non-white populated areas, some of their most famous riots have been conducted in Bradford, a very Asian populated place. These riots have had thousands of police involved to prevent them spiralling out of control and are called peaceful protests however do not remain peaceful for very long as there is always conflict. This suggests that there are many people involved in causing differences between the white and non-white people even today. A theory still exists in the sociological world that suggests that racism will be around until we voice and accept that all ethnic minority groups are different. Racism will continue to exist because we all strive for equality, however we fail to realise that whether we are from different ethnic backgrounds or not we are all in fact different. (W Spisak; 2007)

The other theories that have emerged for the reasons behind racism today are the fact that people fear for their own security, this suggests that the media who impose these stereotypes on people such as; “Afghans – Because they hijack planes and kill people.” ; “People in Iraq … did horrible non-forgivable actions!” In addition, racism could be due to the indifference that we have between the other and the white majority; people dislike difference such as colour difference, cultural differences. In a survey 60% of people want less black and Asian immigration, this may have been due to immigration rise and the recession. (Young; 1995) Psychological theories claim that racism is a form of extreme prejudice and is a manifestation. Some psychologists also claim that there is a distinct personality type that is inclined to adopt racist attitudes; however, this has never been proven. (Blackscademy; 2005) Social identity theory maintains that individuals naturally strive for positive self-image, and the process of categorising people into in-groups and out-groups enhances social identity. In other words, social psychologists have a tendency to see no need to look outside. Cultural stories and everyday social customs can promote racism. An example of this is when parents want their child to only marry within their own race and culture because they do not want a mixed race child in the family or they may find it difficult to get along with a different cultured family and so forth. This in itself tends to perpetuate racism.

Sociologist views
Sociologists such as Marxist disagree that racism is because of inherent human tendency. Marxist believes that is a fictitious concept which has become a big part of society, however according to the sociologist Cox racism originates in a practical exploitive relationship, which is used to justify the exploitation of one group by another (O.Cox; 1948)

According to Hall racism as a philosophy opposes that there is any natural connection between the way that people look, whether it be the difference in skin colour, hair, eyes or what they think and do. From how intelligent that they are and whether they are good athletes, dancers, workers or not. Also their good characteristics and how they act in society. However, racist people believe that these characteristics in a human being are according to their race and ethnicity background. Halls principle focus is not on the effect of racism; rather how racism is cultivated in our minds, “blacks are not as clever as whites” Halls believes that this has never been proved. There are inferior and superior groups in society. For example, if you see dust in the house you clean it, because there is no sense of belonging for it. In the same way, some people want to stay superior by putting ethnic minority down and feel they have no sense of belonging in this society.

The reading by Lentin (2008) considers what she refers to as an increasing ‘silence’ about ‘race’ within European politics, and particularly the UK despite the persistence of racism, exclusion, and inequality. She writes that racism is part of history and is not present in the world today. 
In the contemporary period- and related to the ‘crisis of multiculturalism’ there has emerged a popular and political discourse that suggests ‘race’ no longer matters. The election of President Obama in the US is central to a view that argues we are now in an age of ‘post-race’. In Britain, too such ideas have become dominant. The term ‘post-race’ captures the way in which politicians and the media, particularly those on the right, argue that systemic racism has been largely eradicated from society. Others argue that we must move beyond ‘race thinking’ to challenge the power of this form of categorisation (Gilroy; 2000)

Racism exists when one ethnic group or historical together dominates a society, which excludes, or attempts to get rid of another because of the differences between them, believed to be genetic or unchangeable differences. An ideological basis for explicit racism ended in the west during the modern period. Before the middle ages, there was no clear indication of racism in Europe or any other cultures. When the devil and witchcraft within the Jews was identified, this is when the first signs of racist views in the world appeared, this was in the early 13/14th century. Official permission for attitudes came later in Spain when Jewish people converted to Christianity due to becoming the victims of discrimination and exclusion from society in the early 16th century. In 1500 and 1600’s Britain had migrated over Indians and Negros to work as servants and sailors in the port towns such as Bristol and Liverpool. Britain made a lot of profit from this very cheap labour and from the slave trade that started in the 1600’s this finally ended in the 1800’s. In 1792, there were 140 slave ships in Liverpool alone therefore; it is unclear how many there were in other ports.

It was much later in the late 19th century that black Caribbean people started migrating to the UK and building their own communities establishing their own lives, which caused a stir amongst the “white British” people. This created new politics amongst the government; they were paying more attention towards “coloured” workers debating about their rights. During the early 20th century, there was a new phenomenon about racial differences between the black and white people. According to Harris the main theme of the debates surrounded by whether black people created a social problem, according to them there was social decay due to the black population in certain areas where black societies had settled. (J Solomos; 2003) when black people’s rights to vote was taken off them even after many regimes had been passed to group them as equal citizens. “The climax of history came in the 20th century in the rise and fall of overtly racist regimes” Racism: (G M. Fredrickson; 2002)

“In the 1993 elections Racism had a serious impact as the people were already worried about their futures and their jobs, playing on this economic distress, and to deal with the fact that there is growing sentiment that something is deeply wrong with the system, the ruling class used racism to create the perception that the problem is crime and violence, that the criminals are Black and Brown people, especially youth.” (S Marshall; 2012) Legal

“The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, forbid an employer to treat an applicant or employee differently than others based on race. Hiring, firing, pay rate, promotion, training and benefits cannot differ based on race. Employers and co-workers cannot harass others who are a different race. Derogatory terms, offensive language or racial teasing or comments are illegal. When racism affects employment, it is a crime.” (Act of 1963)

All my research suggests that racism still exists because of human mind-sets due to the society in which we are bought up. What kind of upbringing we have, there are also more factors to contribute to racism in society today such our surroundings, political beliefs, media and how they portray ethnic minority reports in their articles and headings and TV. Political groups such as the EDL also inflict thoughts of racism amongst the “British” as they promote a country where only white people live and not a multicultural society. However the theory that I have found to be the most convincing theory behind racism in society today is the increase in immigration which leads to more jobs being taken by ethnic minority, however if you look at the kind of jobs that immigrants have it’s the more derogatory jobs such as cleaning. The jobs that the “British white” people do not want to do. Although this is not what the British people see, they believe that the immigrants are seizing all the jobs and money. According to the sociologist, Marxist claims racism does not exist and is just a fictitious concept. On the other hand, Hall argues that racism is due to the lack of understanding from people also telling us that there is no set conclusion for the reasoning behind racism today it all depends on the individual the inferior and superior model for people in society today. The theories that I have found to be most convincing are that racism is because we all strive for equal opportunities and equality generally and we don’t want to admit that there is ethnic differences that we all have to accept.


Anderson, M.L. and Taylor, H.F. (2009). Sociology: The Essentials. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. Bernasconi, R. (2001) Race, Wiley Blackwell
Oliver Cox’s 1948 work, Class, Caste and Race presents a Marxist interpretation of Race)
George M. Fredrickson (2002) A Short History; Princeton University Paul Gilroy; 2000 Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line Jayati Ghosh; 2011; Fear of Foreigners: Recession and Racism in Europe Hall, Stuart (1999) “Old and New Identities.” Les Back and John Solomos (eds.), Theories of Race and Racism: A Reader. London: Blackwell Stuart hall; 1997; Race, The Floating Signifier

John solomos. (1986) ‘Varieties of Marxist conceptions of ‘race’, class and state’, J. Rex and D. Mason (eds.) Theories of Race and Ethnic Relations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press John Solomos; Second edition, theories
of race and racism; 2000; Routledge; pg.76 Alana Lentin; 2008; Racism and Ethnic Discrimination; pg 71-73; Rosen PUBLISHING Scott Marshall; 2012, The Fight Against Racism Today

Philomena Essed; 1991; Understanding everyday racism (An interdisciplinary theory) Wendi Spisak; 2007; Why racists still exist
Vikram Dodd; (2012) “Police up to 28 times more likely to stop and search black people – study;” The Guardian Young; 1995; A literature review for the commission for Racial Equality (CRE);Dr. Nissa Finney and Esme Peach www.blacksacademy.bi2/ba (2005)

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