On Racism


Racism takes different forms at different places and in different times, but, basically, it is an attitude or ideological stance that is divisive and anti-humanist. It does not take all the human beings to be equal, but divides the entire society into two, namely, human and subhuman beings. The latter are not to be allowed equal rights and equal opportunities with human beings.

This division has no basis in science. Whatever is said about its scientific grounding is nothing but pseudo-science. A number of protagonists of racism claim that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution lends support to the assertion that racism is natural and not man-made. According to them, Darwin has "proved" that some races are superior and others inferior. They claim that the size of the brains of the superior races is larger!

In fact, racism is an instrument of discrimination and a tool of exploitation as history testifies. Throughout history it has been used to justify mass killings, genocide, exploitation, extortion and discrimination of the worst kinds. At times racism has been employed to underline the belief that race is the principal determinant of human capacities including intelligence.

In the 19th century a handful of scientists in Europe and America propounded theories about immutable biological differences among different races of the world. These theories have long since been consigned to the dustbin of history because they could not stand rigorous scientific scrutiny and logical analysis.

The United Nations uses a definition of racist discrimination laid down in the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted in 1965. It underlines that racist discrimination is due to "any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, pr national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life." If one assumes that every individual character is adequately determined by racial or rigid ethnic formula, it is nothing but giving vent to one’s racial prejudice. Deciding whether privileges should be given or denied on this basis is nothing but indulging in racial discrimination.

Racism may be classified as (a) individual racism, (b) structural racism, and (c) ideological racism. Because of the inherited and ingrained biases a person may develop aversion, distrust or even hatred towards persons belonging to a different race or ethnic group. This is an example of individual racism. These biases are instilled in the mind of a person by their parents, relations, teachers and peers from the childhood itself. They are so ingrained that they are difficult to overcome or eradicate fully when he grows up. Even when they seem to have been obliterated they may continue to lurk in some corner or the other of his brains and may assert themselves in some way or the other. A variant of this may be discerned in the behaviour of an average upper caste Indian towards a dalit in India. Two American researchers—Marianne Bertrand of the University of Chicago and Sendhil Mullainathan of the MIT—found in a study prepared in 2003 that there was widespread discrimination against candidates for jobs on the basis of their names, which were perceived as "sounding black". These applicants had 50 per cent less probability of being selected as compared to those having "white sounding" names. In fact, many of those who were perceived to be black were not even called for an interview for the jobs. No heed was given to their educational qualifications, skills and past experience. The two researchers regarded this as an example of unconscious biases rooted in the long history of history of discrimination against the blacks in America.

Racism may be structural in the sense that one group or many groups may be biased against others. For example, in Europe and America the whites may be prejudiced against the non-whites. The latter may be blacks or the coloured. They may be regarded as uncouth, dirty, without manners, and so on and so forth. They, as migrants, may be viewed with suspicion because they are supposed to be snatchers of jobs from the whites. It is not always the case that this kind of racism is all the time directed against the minority as is witnessed in America and Europe. In South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the African continent, it was directed against the majority population. A tiny population of the whites tried to discriminate against the majority in all possible ways. Army and police were used to suppress and even eliminate the protestors.

One may find a number of instances of ideological racism. During the Nazi era in Germany, Hitler and his followers termed the Jews as non-Aryans and tried to eliminate them by all means. The Germans were regarded as belonging to the pure Aryan race and they were afraid of being contaminated or polluted by coming into contact with the Jews. We may find a variant of this in India where some members of upper castes may be maintaining similar ideas about the dalits and the Muslims. More or less the same kind of attitude prevails against the aborigines in Australia and elsewhere. Even though Hitler was defeated and his Nazi party eliminated from country’s political life, neo-Nazism has been trying to assert itself from time to time. The rise of Le Pen in France in 2002 and of the Freedom Party led by Jorg Haider in Austria testifies to this phenomenon. In Britain, again recently, neo-Nazi thinking has tried to revive itself despite all the legal provisions against it. Racism serves various ends of the exploiters and oppressors and helps them rationalise their past and present actions. For example, Hitler and his followers abrogated to themselves the right to eliminate sub-human races like Jews. They indulged in genocide and holocaust in order to rid the country, nay, the world, of Jews. In recent times, one has seen similar things in Africa. Hutu and Tutsi tribes tried to eliminate each other. In West Asia, the Arabs and Kurds have been fighting to exterminate one another because of their mutual distrust based on racial grounds.

Racism is a ploy to allocate social status and opportunity and to grant social status and economic opportunity to certain individuals or groups on the basis of their genetic or ethnic background. This way racism is the very antithesis of the equality of all human beings. In practice, there are two major forms of exclusion from which discriminated people suffer. The first is generally known as "living mode exclusion". The discriminated people are kept segregated and not allowed to mingle with the dominant race or group socially and culturally. They are regarded as second class citizens and their children not permitted to attend the same schools and colleges, which the children of the dominant group attend. The second is participation exclusion under which the people of the so-called races are not allowed to take part in social, political and economic activities on equal footing with the members of the dominant group or race. The former are discriminated in the matter of opportunities for social, political, economic and cultural advance. Both types of exclusion exist on a large scale throughout the world in both developed and developing countries and under democracies as well as authoritarian regimes. According to one estimate, as many as 900 million people suffer from exclusion and discrimination. Thus one out of every seven persons suffers from this. Though some kind of exclusion or discrimination has existed in almost all human societies since time immemorial, racism in its modern form evolved along with European exploration and conquest of much of the rest of the world, and particularly after Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas. As new peoples were encountered, fought, and ultimately subjugated, theories about race were developed or invented to justify their suppression and killings. The subdued peoples were described as belonging to inferior races and were termed as barbarians. The conquerors assumed the "responsibility" of civilising them. In fact, this became the pretext of depriving them of their land and other natural resources. They were enslaved in large numbers and shipped to the countries of the conquerors to work like animals. The only difference between the slaves and the animals were that the former could speak. With their hard labour the economies of Europe and America prospered and the slave owners enjoyed higher and higher standards of living and had plenty of leisure time that was devoted to the advance of art, literature, philosophy and science.

The claim that the conquerors brought enlightenment to the conquered of Asia, Africa, Australasia, and the Americas is patently false. In fact, they brought great misery to the conquered, to quote Jared Diamond, by "diseases transmitted to peoples lacking immunity by invading peoples with considerable immunity. Smallpox, measles influenza, typhus, bubonic plague, and other infectious diseases endemic in Europe played a decisive role in European conquests, by decimating many peoples on other continents. For example, a smallpox epidemic devastated the Aztecs after the failure of the first Spanish attack in 1520 and killed Cuitláhuac, the Aztec emperor who briefly succeeded Montezuma. Throughout the Americas, diseases introduced with Europeans themselves, killing an estimated 95 per cent of the pre-Columbian Native American population. The most populous and highly organized native societies of North America, the Mississippian chiefdoms, disappeared in that way between 1492 and the late 1600s, even before Europeans themselves made their first settlement on the Mississippi River. A smallpox epidemic in 1713 was the biggest single step in the destruction of South Africa’s native San people by European settlers. Soon after the British settlement of Sydney in 1788, the first of the epidemics that decimated Aboriginal Australians began. A well-documented example from Pacific islands is the epidemic that swept over Fiji in 1806, brought by a few European sailors who struggled ashore from the wreck of the ship Argo. Similar epidemics marked the histories of Tonga, Hawaii, and other Pacific islands." (Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel, New York, 1999, pp. 77-78).

In India, for a long time, the British colonialists quite often claimed that they were on a civilising mission and their departure would give a set back to the unity and integrity of the country and to the process of modernisation they had begun. It was pointed out that they had brought modern system of education, English language that opened the window to the rest of the world, established the rule of law, built railways and postal and telegraphic network, set up allopathic dispensaries and hospitals, brought modern means of transportation, constructed canals and set up power houses to generate and distribute electricity. Though apparently they unified the country, they, in fact, sowed the seeds of the Hindu-Muslim discord, and caste conflicts by their policies. They feared the real unity because that could have hastened their departure from India. As Dadabhoy Naoroji demonstrated at length, they drained away India’s wealth and used India’s resources to fight their battles and pursue their colonial aims elsewhere in the world. In the two world wars Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives to protect the British interests. Hence it is untrue that the colonialists brought only blessings to the Indians. Not only in India, but also in other colonies Indian indentured labour was used to run plantations that brought huge profits to British capitalists. The Indians were always regarded as racially inferior. Mahatma Gandhi was thrown out of a train compartment in South Africa even though he had a valid and fully paid ticket because the English did not relish travelling with a black fellow even though he was a qualified barrister, Gandhi, after coming face to face with racism, resolved to join the fight for its eradication. He, however, adopted a different approach based on non-violence. He declared: "All humanity is on undivided and indivisible family and each one of us is responsible for the misdeeds of all the others. I cannot detach myself from the wickedest soul." Thus, instead of adopting a belligerent attitude to the racists, one should try to reason with him and educate him that the entire humanity is a one large family from which no one should be excluded. Racism is a great danger to the unity and harmony of the human family and it impedes the progress of not only those who are discriminated against but harms also those who discriminate. It leads to mutual suspicion and distrust. As has already been noted, there is no scientific proof of racial purity as has been claimed by Hitler, and the fascists of all varieties. The colour of skin does not make one group of people superior to others.

Bertrand Russell has rightly remarked in his Unpopular Essays: An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish: "There is no advantage in belonging to a pure race. The purest races now in existence are the Pygmies, the Hottentotes and the Australian aborigines that Tasmanians, who were probably even purer, are extinct. They were not the bearers of a brilliant culture. The ancient Greeks, on the other hand, emerged from one amalgamation of northern barbarians and an indigenous population; the Athenians and Ionians, who were the most civilised, were also the most mixed. The supposed merits of racial purity, are, it would seem, wholly imaginary."

History testifies to the fact that enlightened rulers and societies have always frowned upon racism and have decreed that it is the duty of every individual to treat all others in the same way, as he wants himself to be treated by others. In that case there can be no scope for any racial discrimination. It is said that great Indian emperor Asoka had created a ministry whose sole responsibility was the care and protection of the aborigines and subject races. The Mughal emperor Akbar too followed a similar policy in order to preserve the unity of the Indians. The situation drastically underwent a change after the emergence of capitalism. It promoted wars and conquests, racial discrimination and terrorism to plunder the resources of the subjugated peoples and maximise its profits.

Since then the world has been divided into two camps. One camp justifies racism on the basis of pseudo-scientific arguments and by propagating all kinds of lies, while the other camp has been trying hard to refute these arguments and underline the fact that racism gives rise to all sorts of conflicts and distrust in the human society. The United Nations Charter based on the principles of dignity and equality of human beings has impressed upon the people the need for universal respect for all irrespective of race, gender, colour of skin and physical features, language and religion.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965) is the foundation of racial justice and the bedrock of an outright condemnation of racial segregation and apartheid. Its article 4 is very emphatic in its denunciation of propaganda and organisations based on ideas or theory of superiority of one race or group or colour or ethnic origin over another. The state has been mandated to prevent public authority or institution from promoting racial discrimination. Equality in the enjoyment of racism-free culture must be ensured. All impediments in its way must be removed and all those trying to obstruct its realisation must be restrained and, if need be, severely punished.

Several governments, through legislation and other means have established effective and appropriate machinery to promote equality of opportunity and good racial relations. Laws have been passed against racial discrimination. For example, Australia enacted Racial Discrimination Act as far back as in 1975. Canada, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Great Britain, etc. are among other prominent nations that have put appropriate laws on their statute books. Appropriate arrangements have been made to implement the laws and keep a constant watch on the situation and look into the cases of racial discrimination.

The UNESCO adopted The Declaration on Races and Racial Prejudices in 1978. Its articles 1 and 2 are of great significance. Article 1 states: "(1) All human beings belong to a single species and are descended from a common stock. They are born equal in dignity and rights and all form an integral part of humanity.

(2) All individuals and groups have the right to be different, to consider themselves as different and to be regarded as such. However, the diversity of life styles and the right to be different may not, in any circumstances, serve as a pretext for racial prejudice; they may not justify either in law or in fact any discriminatory practice whatsoever, nor provide a ground for the policy of apartheid, which is the extreme form of racism."

Article 2 reads as follows: "(1) Any theory which involves the claim that racial or ethnic groups are inherently superior or inferior, thus implying that some would be entitled to dominate or eliminate others, presumed to be inferior, or which bases value judgments on racial differentiation, has no scientific foundation and is contrary to the moral and ethical principles of humanity.

(2) Racism includes racial ideologies, prejudiced attitudes, discriminatory behaviour, structural arrangements and industrialised practices resulting in inequality as well as the fallacious notion that discriminatory relations between groups are morally and scientifically justifiable; it is reflected in discriminatory practices as well as in anti-social beliefs and acts; it hinders the development of its victims, prevents those who practice it, divides nations internally, impedes international co-operation and gives rise to political tensions between peoples; it is contrary to the principles of international law and, consequently, seriously disturbs international peace and security. (3) Racial prejudice, historically linked with inequalities in power, reinforced by economic and social differences between individuals and groups, and still seeking today to justify such inequalities, is totally without justification."

If our civilised way of life is to be justified by human dignity, decency and culture, a larger meaning must be given to ‘race’. That is why the 1978 Declaration, through Article 3, specifically rules out any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour and the like which do or compromise or limits, in an arbitrary manner, the rights of every human being or group to full development. Laws have been made in several countries but the machinery to enforce their provisions is lax. Besides, a broad-based system of legal remedy against acts of racial discrimination does not exist.

Looking back into the world history, one finds that racism becomes deadly when it is openly backed by the state with all its might. It leads to genocide and holocaust as it happened in Germany during Hitler’s rule. The state declares a section of its inhabitants as subhuman or second-rate people and this classification is done on the basis of certain cultural, religious, ethnic or other traits. These people are denied equal rights with the dominant group of people and they are, in this process, economically, politically and culturally marginalised. In the recent times such a phenomenon was witnessed in South Africa and some other African countries where apartheid had become state policy. It is less deadly where the state does not openly back racial discrimination and, when forced, takes actions against the groups, individuals and institutions that indulge in it. This may be witnessed in the United States of Africa and certain Western European countries where the government as well as judiciary has intervened to curb or do away with acts of racial discrimination. President Abraham Lincoln militarily intervened in the 19th century to restrain the southern states that wanted to perpetuate slavery. In the 20th century, the Federal Government and judiciary intervened several times to nullify the acts of racial discrimination. Propagation of racist ideas through print media and films was suppressed. It was not allowed to be incorporated in teaching materials and school curricula. Racial segregation was banned. Yet racism continues because racist ideas are deeply ingrained in certain powerful sections of the society that is not amenable to any kind of logical discussion or rational argument about the validity of their outlook. Their minds are closed and they try to use the levers of state power to realise their objective of effectively putting in practice acts of racial discrimination. They indulge in a vicious propaganda against the blacks, the coloured, the aborigines, the Hispanics and the Muslims and declare them to be responsible for all kinds of social, economic and cultural ills in the country.

The latest example of this kind of vicious propaganda is a book by Samuel Huntington, Who Are We, published in the first half of 2004 by Simon & Schuster. It is the same person who had authored some years ago The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World, in which he had asserted that the most imminent danger to Western civilisation was to arise, after the demise of the Soviet union, from Islam! Before him, his guru Bernard Lewis wrote several books and articles to underline the danger posed by Islam and its followers to the West in general and America in particular. It is needless to add that a number of gullible people fell a prey to the pseudo-scholarly arguments advanced by Lewis and Huntington. Their influence still lingers especially in the context of the events of 9/11.

Before the publication of his latest book, Huntington presented the main contours of his thesis in a longish article, "The Hispanic Challenge" (Foreign Policy, March-April 2004). Mind you, Huntington is no ordinary American. He is Professor and Chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies and in the past had close connections with policy- making bodies of the US government.

He thinks America is facing a grave challenge to its traditional identity, culture and unity, that comes from the migrants from Latin America in general and Mexico in particular. In his own words:
"The persistent inflow of Hispanic immigrants threatens to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, and two languages. Unlike past immigrant groups, Mexicans and Latinos have not assimilated into mainstream US culture, forming instead their own political and linguistic enclaves—from Los Angeles to Miami—and rejecting the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream. The United States ignores this challenge at its peril."

The fertility rates of these immigrants are said to be much higher. Thus, Huntington opines that if preventive measures are not taken forthwith, the Hispanic immigrants may, in course of time, tilt the demographic balance in their favour. He obviously wants the country to rethink its policy of welcoming foreigners, especially the Hispanic people. To quote:
"Americans like to boast of their past success in assimilating millions of immigrants into their society, culture, and politics. But Americans have tended to generalise about immigrants without distinguishing among them and focused on the economic costs and benefits of immigration, ignoring its social and cultural consequences. As a result they have overlooked the unique characteristics and problems posed by contemporary Hispanic immigration. The extent and nature of this immigration differ fundamentally from those of previous immigration and assimilation successes of the past are unlikely to be duplicated with the contemporary flood of immigrants from Latin America.The reality poses a fundamental question: Will the United States remain a country with a single national language and a core Anglo-Protestant culture? By ignoring this question, Americans acquiesce to their eventual transformation into two people with two cultures (Anglo and Hispanic) and two languages (English and Spanish)."

Another point of concern for Huntington is that Hispanic immigrants are concentrated in the southwest area of the USA, which is in geographical proximity to the country of their origin, Mexico. It may, in future, pose a threat to America’s security. Unlike them, the early waves of immigrants came from far-off lands and once they reached the shores of America, they tried their best to adopt the language, culture and way of living of their host country. The overwhelming majority of them belonged to the Anglican Church and the Protestant sect of Christianity. Even those whose mother tongue was not English learnt it very quickly. They got scattered throughout the country, depending on the availability of economic opportunities.

Factually, Huntington is wrong on several counts. First, like the seventeenth-nineteenth century immigrants from Germany, Italy and the countries of Southern and Eastern Europe, Hispanic immigrants from Mexico have also been fast learners of English. The first generation Hispanic immigrants may not be fluent in English, but the same cannot be said of their descendants. Richard Alba and Victor Nee in their study Remaking the American Mainstream have pointed out that as many as 60 per cent of third-generation Mexican-American children speak only English at home. Other researchers have also corroborated this. Thus every succeeding generation adopts English as its first language.

On the question of regional concentration too, Huntington is wrong. Data reveal that, during the last decade of the twentieth century, Hispanic immigrants moved out of their traditional enclaves and went to other places mainly in search of better opportunities. As far as retaining ties with the countries of their origin is concerned, there is nothing unusual. History testifies that every ethnic group continues to have some sort of affinity with the place, region or country of its origin, but this does not mean that it is not loyal to the country where it is settled. One may refer to Indian-Americans in this regard. Their love for India and Indian culture does not come in their way of performing their duties as American citizens

Whether Huntington’s new thesis survives the scrutiny on the basis of facts, historical evidence and logic, it has great potential of adding fuel to the fire of racial discrimination and hatred. No one needs to be surprised if it leads to violent outbursts against the Hispanic people.

The dominant groups try to keep a sizable portion of the society in a subordinate position on the basis of racial considerations because this is economically beneficial to them. The dominant groups grab better and highly paid jobs for themselves and make the subordinate people accept low-paid jobs and lower wages. To substantiate this, let us refer to what Bob Herbert, a columnist, has written in The New York Times (July 19, 2004): "Drive through some of the black neighborhoods in cities and towns across America and you will see the evidence of an emerging catastrophe—levels of male joblessness that mock the very idea of stable, viable communities.

"This slow death of hopes, pride and well-being of huge numbers of African-Americans is going unnoticed by most other Americans and by political leaders of both parties."

He refers to a new study of the trends in black male employment, which says: "By 2002, one of every four black men in the U. S. was idle all year long. This idleness rate was twice as high as that of white and Hispanic males." The main author of the study Prof. Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, is of the firm opinion that the rate of involuntary unemployment among the black Americans has substantially gone up. According to him, if his study had taken into account homeless men or those in prison, the incidence of unemployment among the black Americans would have been substantially higher. It is believed that up to 10 per cent of the black male population below the age of 40 years was behind the bars.

Bob Herbert has commented: "While some of the men not working undoubtedly were ill or disabled, the 25 per cent figure is still staggeringly high. And for some segments of the black male population, the situation is even worse.

"Among black male dropouts, for example, 44 percent were idle year-round, as were nearly 42 of every 100 black men aged 55 to 64." The high incidence of unemployment among the blacks depresses the wage rate, as a result of the formation and pressure of a massive reserve army of labour. Thus large-scale unemployment among the blacks turns out to be beneficial to the corporate sector.

During the recent recession the blacks were more severely hit. Not only the incidence of joblessness rose but also the wage rate got depressed. When manufacturing jobs were sent out of the country some years ago, it was the black population that suffered most. Professor Sum is of the view that the government statistics do not give the correct picture because it uses the so-called employment-population ratio, which shows the percentage of a given population that is employed at a given time. The reason is that it does not take into account the people who, out of frustration and hopelessness, stopped looking for jobs.

Bob Herbert adds: "Things fall apart when 25 percent of the male population is jobless. (This does not even begin to address the very serious problems of unemployment, such as part-time or temporary jobs, and extremely low-wage work.) Men in a permanent state of joblessness are in no position to take on the role of husband and father. Marriage? Forget about it. Child support? Ditto.

"For the most part, jobless men are not viewed as marriageable material for women. And they are hardly role models for young people. "Those who remain jobless for a substantial period of time run the risk of becoming permanently unemployable."

Generally speaking, very few blacks get high level or well paid jobs because most of them do not possess better education or skills. As many as 44 per cent of black men do not possess even high school diploma, only 26 per cent men have high school diploma and 13 per cent have bachelor or higher degree. It means only 13 per cent of black men can hope to get some kind of well-paid jobs.

Let us see another instance of racial discrimination in the United States of America. A report in The New York Times (July 27, 2004) is quite revealing. It says: "In 1999, African-American farmers won a major civil rights settlement against the United States Department of Agriculture. They argued that the loans and subsidies they received were substantially lower than those for comparable white farmers. What made matters worse was the fact that Reagan-era budget cuts closed the U. S. D. A.’s civil rights office for 13 years, so most of the complaints filed during that time were never heard. To its credit, the department conducted an internal investigation and discovered that racial discrimination had not only occurred but had also been structurally and historically embedded in its operations.

"What looked like a good settlement, promising prompt payment to black farmers, now looks like a failure, according to a new investigation by the Environment Working Group, an advocate group. Again and again, these farmers have run up against procedural hurdles that have effectively blocked most of them from receiving payments that were supposed to be automatic. Because of poor record-keeping, the U. S. D. A. seriously underestimated the number of farmers who had been discriminated against. It also did a terrible job of seeking out farmers who might qualify for payments. And it did nothing to help them get the documents needed to demonstrate the loan and subsidy support that neighboring white farmers had received.

"This discrimination by a different name—a continuation, in effect, of the racism historically entrenched in the U. S. D. A. The department’s resistance and the inherent inadequacies in the original settlement have caused a staggering rate of farm failures among small-scale black farmers: three times the rate for white farmers. That has sped up the loss of farmland to development. In the past few decades, the U. S. D. A. has paid only lip service to the survival of small farms. It apparently pays only lip service to civil rights as well. The remedy for this inequity will not be found at the department. Carrying out the settlement with fairness and accountability will require the intervention of Congress."

We have already referred to Samuel Huntington’s new thesis concerning the impending dangers to American economy, way of life, security and culture from the Hispanic immigrants. But he is not alone in this game of scare mongering. The Italian Minister of Interior, Pisanu, is on record saying that no less than two million Africans are waiting on the Libyan shore to enter Italy whenever an opportunity arises. This statement has been made to bring the Italians round to accept that police is justified in harassing the people seeking asylum. One more example of Italian institutional racism is the expulsion of 24 Africans seeking asylum by the end of July 2004. They were sent back from the shores of Sicily. They were treated with a great deal of harshness. Italy is not the only European country to indulge in this kind of racism. Germany is another country that has also been doing the same thing. There as well as in Russia anti-Semitism seems to be emerging with its ferociousness. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a number of instances of inhuman treatment of the Jews have surfaced.

The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) held in Durban from August 31 to September 8, 2001 is a mile stone in the struggle against racism in all its manifestations. Eight years before this, in June 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights was held in Vienna, which had adopted the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which called for the speedy and comprehensive elimination of all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related forms of intolerance.

The year 2001 was declared as The International Year of Mobilisation against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and against this background the Durban Conference took place. The Conference asserted that racism and its various manifestations constituted a negation of aims and principles of the UN Charter and all efforts must be made to uproot them lock stock and barrel. An International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was underlined to be an urgent requirement. It was underlined that cultural diversity was a cherished asset for the advancement and welfare of the humanity at large. All sane people without any reservation should accept it. To work for and reach this kind of consensus international co-operation is a must. People at large must reject the doctrine of racial superiority of one group over the others. It was the duty of all states to help advance this process through laws, propaganda and education at all levels.

The Durban Declaration, adopted at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance noted that "racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance may be aggravated, by, inter alia, inequitable distribution of wealth, marginalization and social exclusion." It underlined the fact that the present phase of globalization was bound to hasten this process. And "interregional and intraregional migration has increased as a result of globalization, in particular from the South to the North," and the Declaration stressed "that policies towards migration should be based on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."

As has already been referred to, international migration lies at the core of the contemporary racism and the protection of the rights of migrants, besides ensuring better living and working conditions for them, and securing the safety of the refugees form one of the main planks of the struggle against racism and its various forms. Solidarity needs to be built among the people of different origins and cultures in such a way that it brings in a new really universal culture based on equality of rights and recognition of various kinds of diversity among them This is really a stupendous task that requires sincere and massive efforts. According to the Durban Conference this was the task for the next 10 years or so.

It was stressed that the correct approach to the problem of racism requires that it should be treated as institutional racism, hinging on the existing pattern of the distribution of power, in which the state played a key role. The state either promoted or abated the inequitable distribution of state and economic power. Without the active connivance and help of the state, the existing inequitable distribution of power could not be sustained and perpetuated. In fact, the state willy-nilly abdicated its responsibility of ensuring fundamental rights to all sections of the society.

It is obvious that the failure to ensure fundamental rights to all segments of the society was not in accordance with the UN Charter and the Covenants of 1966 on civil and political rights on the one side, and on economic, social and cultural rights, on the other, and such as the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, signed on March 7, 1966 in New York. On the basis of such denials of fundamental rights, racism may be defined as "the theory or idea that there is a casual link between inherited physical traits and certain traits of personality, intellect, or culture, and, combined with it, the notion that some races are inherently superior to others." As has already been mentioned by us, such a theory or formulation is devoid of any kind of scientific basis, notwithstanding all the pretensions and pompous claims made by their protagonists. The Declaration asserts: "Any doctrine of racial superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and must be rejected along with theories which attempt to determine the existence of separate human races."

Racism has been a powerful tool in the hands of the exploiting classes and nations to maximise their economic gains by depressing wage rates, grabbing their natural resources cheaply and keeping the exploited and oppressed people in general and the working class in particular divided and pitted against one another. It is no wonder that finance capital and its representatives, multinational companies, find a reactionary tool like racism very handy. They combine with the worst kinds of racist forces to divide and suppress the toiling masses.

The fight against this deadly combine is not easy. It has to be conducted with great determination and force at economic, cultural, legal and social levels. A comprehensive system of the universal rule of law needs to be formulated on the basis of the best long standing juridical traditions of all systems and nations. This will help advance the struggle for the eradication of racism in all its forms. The important document that can form the starting point is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as contained in the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 217A (III) of 1948. Its very first article states: "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." Article 2 goes on to add that "everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. "Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty."

This basic formulation was reaffirmed by the Durban Declaration when it asserted: "We declare that all human beings are born free, equal in dignity and rights and have the potential to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of their societies."

Another major document relevant in this connection could be the 1963 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which defines the term "racial discrimination" as follows: "In this Convention, 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."

Thus, in essence, on the one hand, all forms of cultural racism need to be curbed while, on the other hand, acts and attitudes of racial discrimination by the state must be strictly forbidden.

One must realise that the world has to go a long way before reaching this goal. At present the existing international social structure is quite different In spite of economic integration during the last two centuries, the racial segregation has continued to persist in several parts of the world. Quite a number of Western powers have promoted and perpetuated racism in various forms. It is to be noted that within this integrating world the European and American powers have increasingly tried to perpetuate their hold over the rest of the globe through their control over capital, technology and the movement of labour. In spite of the end of the colonial system, racism has not weakened because a new arrangement, known as neo-colonialism has taken its place. This new arrangement is more vicious and subtle. The erstwhile colonies enjoy formal political freedom, but they still continue to be in economic bondage and they have not liberated themselves fully from the exploitative economic relations. Neo-liberalism and racism sustain the new post-colonial world order. Hence no effective struggle against racism is possible without targeting neo-liberalism and wars of aggression.

For one and a half decades, globalization based on the Washington consensus has made great strides. The collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union and the virtual impotence of NAM (Non-aligned Movement) have not left any effective force to resist its advance. The free flow of capital, goods, technology and Western values and ideas has led to the worsening plight of the non-White peoples. The means of their livelihood are in jeopardy. Many small, medium and even large businesses have been ruined because they have failed to compete with their Western counterparts. Because of the practice of giving agricultural subsidies in America and Western Europe, farmers in Africa have been facing a grave danger to their farming activities. Jose Saramago, a progressive Portuguese writer and Nobel laureate in his widely read novel The Cave has vividly described how globalization ruins a potter and how he tries to go out of its orbit.

While the protagonists of globalization plead for the free flow of capital, technology, goods and ideas, they are against unrestricted movement of labour. When the ruined farmers and labourers try to enter Western Europe and America, they are prevented from doing this. The member countries of European Union allow unrestricted movement of labour among them, they do not allow outside labourers to come freely and compete for jobs. The U. S. government has tightened its visa regulations to make the entry of non-white workers extremely difficult. Along with this continue to create hurdles for agricultural activities in developing countries. Their pharmaceutical firms do not care for developing cheaper drugs for fighting malaria, TB and Aids that afflict a large population in Asia and Africa because the returns are relatively lower. They use their patent rights to charge high prices. They do not devote their attention and resources to research to discover drugs for the diseases that afflict the poor countries.

Globalization, as Human Development Report, 2004 says, poses a grave danger to the cultural identity and socio-economic equity of the indigenous people of Africa and Asia by endangering the very survival of extractive industries in several ways. "First, there is inadequate recognition of the cultural significance of the land and territories that indigenous people inhabit. Indigenous people have strong spiritual connections to their land, which is why some them oppose any investment in extractive industries within their territories. For instance, some groups of San Bushmen in Botswana oppose the exploration licences that the government has granted to Kalahari Diamonds Ltd.

"Second, there is plausible concern about the impact of extractive industries on local livelihoods. When mineral extraction leads to the widespread displacement of communities and loss of their farmlands, it affects both their sense of cultural identity and their source of sustainable livelihood. The Lihir Gold Mine in Papua New Guinea has destroyed sacred sites of the Lihirians and sharply reduced their ability to subsist by hunting game.

"Third, indigenous groups complain about unfair exclusion from decision-making. And when consultations with local communities do occur, they often leave much to be desired."

Wherever foreign companies have executed new projects, very few job opportunities have been offered to the indigenous population. To cite an example, less than 5 per cent of the Bagyeli people affected by the pipeline were employed on the project. They got very meagre compensation and almost nothing by way of health care facilities.

Human Development Report rightly says: "indigenous people feel cheated when their physical resources are misappropriated without adequate compensation. There was very limited involvement of local people on the Yanacicha gold mine in the Cajamarca region in Peru (a joint venture between Peruvian and US mining companies and the International Finance Corporation). Some of the tax revenues were to go to the indigenous inhabitants, but they received less than they were promised. Ecuador is home to one of the largest confirmed oil reserves in Latin America. Companies pay about $30 million in taxes for a special Amazon development fund, but little of that money reaches the indigenous communities."

Further, the traditional knowledge of indigenous has also fallen a prey to multinational corporations. This knowledge developed by innumerable generations of the indigenous people has attributes of communal ownership and spiritual significance to them. Intellectual property regimes ushered in by the World Trade Organization (WTO) fail to recognise these attributes. The Quechua Indians in Peru are helpless to stop the commercial exploitation of their traditional knowledge. The same is the story of the Maori in New Zealand.

Thus three steps are most essential in this regard. First, "Explicitly recognizing indigenous people’s rights over their physical and intellectual property." Second, "Requiring consultations with indigenous communities and their participation for the use of any resource, thus ensuring informed consent." Last, "Empowering communities by developing strategies to share benefits."

Human Development Report has strongly urged that loans by international institutions and foreign governments to companies or countries for projects that wrongly appropriate property of indigenous people must be withdrawn and patents granted to companies and persons who have misappropriated traditional knowledge must be revoked

A number of countries have enacted laws to accord explicit recognition to indigenous people’s rights over their resources. "The Philippines has laws requiring informed consent for access to ancestral lands and indigenous knowledge and for equitable sharing of benefits. Guatemalan law promotes the wider use of traditional knowledge and cultural expressions by placing them under state protection. Bangladesh, the Philippines and the African Union recognise the customary practices of communities and the community-based rights to biological resources and associated traditional knowledge."

In this era of globalisation, comprehensive documentation of traditional knowledge is urgently required so that it is protected legally. Some countries have already initiated suitable measures in this regard. For example, India has a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library and China has also initiated steps in this direction. Lao People’s Democratic Republic has a Traditional Medicines Resource Centre. In Africa much of the traditional knowledge is oral, documentation is bound to reduce the possibilities of its pilfering without making any payments. In Latin America one finds a different kind of worry. Certain indigenous people fear that once their traditional knowledge is documented, it would be known to the outsiders who may try to snatch it away.

It is claimed that in the era of globalization, national borders and the sovereignty of state are gradually losing their old significance. On deeper reflection, this statement reveals that dominant powers are reshaping the world to suit their needs. They want national borders to become ineffective so far as the flow of goods and capital is concerned. They want all the barriers, whether tariff and non-tariff, to be completely swept away. At the same time they do not want job seekers from the developing world to enter their territories. Similarly, they want state sovereignty of developing countries to be curtailed, if not fully done away with, to serve their economic and political interests. Here one may unearth the underlying racist approach of the developed world, which want to keep out the people of the developing world.

The Durban Declaration and the Programme of Action have suggested a way out of prevailing racism in order to build a world free from all kinds of racial discrimination. It has laid stress on the following basic values: cultural diversity; equal participation in the formation of just, equitable, democratic and inclusive societies; and gender equality in view of "the multiple forms of discrimination which women can face, and that the enjoyment of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights is essential for the development of societies throughout the world." The Programme of Action appended to the Durban Declaration identifies with precision the sources, causes, forms and present manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (poverty, enslavement), victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (Africans and peoples of African descent, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees, victims of trafficking, Roma/Gypsy/Sinti/Travellers, peoples of Asian descent, national, or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, women), measures of prevention, education and protection aimed at the eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance at the national, regional and international levels (legislative, judicial, regulatory, administrative and other; ratification and effective implementation of relevant international and regional legal instruments on human rights and non-discrimination; persecution of perpetrators of racist acts; establishment and reinforcement of independent specialized national institutions and mediation; data collection and disaggregation, research and study; action-oriented policies and action plans, including affirmative action to ensure nondiscrimination, in particular as regards access to social services, employment, housing, education, health care, etc.; equal participation in political, economic, social and cultural decision-making; education and awareness-raising measures; information, communication and the media, including new technologies; prevention of effective remedies, recourse, redress, and other measures at the national, regional and international levels; Strategies to achieve full and effective equality, including international cooperation and enhancement of the United Nations and other international mechanisms in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and follow-up). Thus the Durban Conference has provided a total approach on fighting racism and its various manifestations. It has maintained that there is a close link between racism and evil consequences of globalization. It says: "We emphasize that poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization, social exclusion and economic disparities are closely associated with racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and contribute to the persistence of racist attitudes and practices which in turn generate more poverty."

It follows from this that there is a close connection between the struggle against racism and the fight against poverty.and for social, economic and cultural uplift of the people at large. In other words along with racism and its various manifestations, neo-liberalism and market fundamentalism too require to be combated. The point to be stressed here is that, as Joseph Stiglitz, has emphasized time and again, the present form of globalization is not the only one available. There can be other forms of globalization, which are more just and humane. We must present a suitable and rational alternative in a concrete form to refute the claim that we are not nihilists.

We must present a well thought out scheme of universal citizenship, which does not admit of any kind of inequality among the people born in different countries and in different religions and ethnic groups. To achieve this objective, we must build a powerful worldwide movement In this we must solicit and secure the active help and participation of broad masses. Education, propaganda and resistance to all forms of racism in parliaments, law courts and other kinds of public arena. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, writers, social activists, trade unions, peasant organisations and women and youth have to be brought together with the common objective of fighting racism in all its manifestations.

In this long-drawn struggle, the UNESCO is going to be of immense help. With its humanist approach, prestige, resources and organisational ability, it can give correct direction and impetus to the struggle.

Leave a comment