Racism and racial prejudice
In the dialogue “These blacks”, Ali becomes the target of abuse simply because he is black. If a similar situation took place involving a white passenger, they would probably not become the target of such sharply expressed contempt as Ali. In short, a different colour of skin gives the majority population an immediate signal that the person in question is not “one of us”. And this means that the person in question can have it made clear to them that they are inferior. Let’s look at this phenomenon in a little more detail.
The problem of skin colour also crops up in the dialogue “Girls go for black guys”, in which Dan and Ali examine the reactions of people around them to their colour. That which can be a disadvantage is, on the contrary, sometimes attractive. Here, too, we see the nonsensicalness of racial prejudice.
Racism: A broader concept which, as well as racist violence and discrimination, includes the ideologies behind racist violence and the various forms of negative behaviour exhibited by various people, i.e. from physical attacks using baseball bats and knives, to arson, spitting, jostling, jeering, and breaking windows in the apartments of ethnic minorities or immigrants. The otherness of the victims of racism in relation to the majority population (the distinction between “us” and “them”) is the basic mark of racism, which thus far jurisprudence has failed to come to terms with.
Race: At present, there is a tendency to regard race as a term belonging to the past, a social construction with no biological given. Nevertheless, British law, for instance, defines race as “…a group of persons defined by colour, nationality, ethnicity or national origin.”
Ethnicity (Large Sociological Dictionary, 1996): Populations with the following characteristics: Ethnicity is predominantly biologically self-reproducing, shares basic joint cultural values, is realised in a clear unit in cultural forms, comprises one communicative and interactive field, and membership in this population is both self-identified and identified by others.
The coexistence of various ethnic groups in one society gives rise to racial prejudice, evidently through the insufficient personal experiences of the members of one ethnic group with another, and the repetition of negative experience over such a long time that they take root in the form of a rule (e.g. all Roma steal, Jews are swindlers, etc.).
The question of social prejudices and the impact on the coexistence of ethnic groups in society has already been examined by Allport (in Hayes, 2003) in Germany prior to World War II, when he delineated five stages of prejudice:
Ethnic groups can be distinguished from each other on the basis of various signs, by appearance (e.g. Roma and Czechs), or, for example, by culture and religion, the result of which can be different styles of dress (Palestinians and Jews in Israel) or language (e.g. Poles and Czechs). It is clear that the identification of a member of a different ethnic group on the basis of appearance makes them the most vulnerable in the event of interethnic tensions arising. At one seminar in the Czech Republic, participants were requested to indicate the state according to Allport which would describe the situation in the CR. While Czech participants offered the first state, the Roma present specified the fourth. Given the demonstrable existence of racially motivated murders in the CR, we have to take the Roma evaluation as the true one.
The visible difference of one ethnic group from the majority ethnicity can provide grounds for discriminatory conduct of such a character that some members of the minority can start to feel as though they belong to citizens of the second category, unless there exists a sufficiently effective policy for fighting racism.
The Roma people know this feeling well in the Czech Republic. As ensues from the statements made by Roma who sought asylum in Great Britain, the strongest positive experience from emigration was that “English people behaved to us like normal people. They played football with us, no problem, and they didn’t give us funny looks in restaurants.”
Mr. Z.B. spent the entire year saving up as a stockman in order to take his girlfriend, also a Roma, on a summer holiday. He paid for a week in Krkonoše in a hotel. In the evening, they decided to go to the restaurant of a neighbouring hotel. However, the owners apologised and asked him not to be angry, but to leave. They had had negative experiences with Roma people, who had twice destroyed the restaurant equipment during fights, and they refused to serve them for this reason. Mr. Z.B. felt humiliated. He is a courteous person who works hard and who would never dream of trashing a restaurant. Mr Z.B. said that the entire holiday was negatively tainted by this event, because he and his girlfriend were forced to confront the fact that, however hard they tried to live like “normal people”, the majority population would always find a way of reminding them that they did not belong to it.
Hayes, N. (2003). Aplikovaná psychologie. Praha: Portál.
Maříková, H., Petrusek, M, Vodáková A. a kol. (1996).Velký sociologický slovník. Praha: Karolinum.