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Racism Is Not All About Individual Attitude Essay

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Updated: May 12th, 2020


Racism can be defined as a belief in which a particular race considers itself to be either superior or inferior in comparison with other races. This mainly occurs due to existence of a number of various innate moral or social traits (Anti-defamation League, 2004, p. 4). Alternatively, racism can be defined to include negative or hostile feelings directed towards a given ethnic group by another. It also includes the associated attitudes and actions. Racism has existed over a long period of history in many countries.

This is evident through discriminating and segregation of people based on the skin, origin, language and other factors. The climax of racism was witnessed in the 20th century with the decline of racist regimes. For example, in South America, the enactment of the segregation laws and acquisition of freedom of voting among the blacks resulted into an improvement of their status (Fredrickson, 2006, p. 1).

The constitutional amendments undertaken led into attainment of equity between the white and black communities. Racism greatly influence the way we relate with people and historically has influenced interracial wars, nation boundaries, leadership and slavery. For example, the attitude developed by the whites towards the blacks was meant to oppress the blacks.

Kundnani argues that racism is a complex of terms such as identity, postcoloniality, ethnicity, multiculture, hybridity, and whiteness all of which make sense in contemporary politics (2009, para. 2). Racism is a complex social problem and cannot be merely attributed to an individual attitude.

Macpherson Report

This report was prepared to inquire about the murder of Stephen Lawrence but sociologists had reservations concerning the issues which were raised by the report, police, public and other institutions in relation to this murder case. Solomos analyzed the Report and focused on the three major issues. These include account of racism, political dilemma on recommendations, and role of sociologists in combating racism (1999, para. 4).

Institutional Racism

There was a lot of political response to the Report being demonstrated by huge public debate concerning institutional racism. Solomos (1999, para. 6). argues that the Report has a vague definition of what constitutes institutional racism as “the definition reflects the frustrations of activists involved in the Stephen Lawrence campaign with the everyday racism and plain ignorance that they came across in their dealings with the police and other institutions.”

Solomos claimed that the report does not give proper definition of institutional racisms relative to police nor provide framework of policies required to eliminate racisms in institutions and society.

The report proved that the murder of Stephen Lawrence was due to ‘discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people (Solomos, 1999, para. 6). Institutional racism need to be eliminated by policies designed to gather for the minorities as “the logic of racism needs to be appraised in such a way that we understand how contemporary racisms have evolved and adapted to new circumstances” (Solomos, 1999, para. 5).

Political Racism

The recommendations in the Report include policies on race relation, racism, education and many social policies. The implementation of these policies depends on political effectiveness as earlier experiences in translation of the recommendations proved to be uncertain. It is clear that translation and implementation of the recommendations depends on the political wings because the New Labour is expected to enhance the fight against racism.

The problem being encountered is the futile cycle of problem-conference-research and nothing happens beyond recommendations (Solomos, 1999, para.7). There is need to engage social researchers to look closely on how recommendations and policies are given more emphasis together with other issues so that they become part of legislations.

Sociological Racism

Solomos acknowledge that sociological research “that has been produced over the past three decades are limited in the manner it has explored important facets of racism in British society” (Solomos, 1999, para. 8).

Contemporary social researchers should conduct comprehensive research on areas such as police, political institutions, the criminal justice system, racial violence, social class, white racism and racist movement which are central to the Report. There has been low priority on the research over the past three decades because the Research Unit on Ethnic Relation has been busy conducting other research making inadequate coverage in the research questions.

Also sociological researchers faced political and academic pressures requiring them to run concurrent research in the various areas of interests. Solomos agreed on the Rex’s approach to race relations research based on theoretical and political perspectives on long term view of racism (1999,para. 2)

Basing on the Macpherson Report, Solomos has depicted racism in terms of institutional, political and sociological. The claim that racism is an individual attitude grounded in the ignorance has been refuted by the findings of the Solomos concerning racism.

Institutional racism is seen in provision of services by the institutions when they show partiality and discrimination in the service delivery, while political racism occurs in the leadership arena and implementation of policies based on political parties, areas of interests and races. The sociological researchers showed preferences of their research areas in favour of their parties of interests by giving skewed results and recommendations.

Psychological Racism

Fanon in his book Black Skin, White Masks described psychological colonialism. He explained internalization of colonialism and how inferiority complex is adapted by the mechanism of racism which lead black people ape their colonialists (p. 34, 2008). This perspective has brought about psychological point of view of racism hence provides psychoanalytic point of view of the black problem.

Fanon lets his consciousness flow by saying “All this whiteness that burns me. I sit down at the fire and became aware of my uniform. I had not seen it. It is indeed ugly. I stop there, for who can tell me what beauty is?”Fanon asserts that what a black man needs to say is No to degradation, exploitation, butchery and those who need to build definition of him. He also went against stereotypes that white represents justice, truth and virginity while Negro is a symbol of sin.

Fanon encouraged and advised blacks not to be brainwash by the whites into thinking they are inferior as he realized that colonialism and racism are psychological. He further argue that foreign culture dominance should not be confused with the universalism because whatever dominance does not imply valid to all societies.

Cultural Racism

Cultural racism can be traced from the diversity of cultures that have clashed. Racism results from the negative responses that are generated by the victims and are passed from one generation to another. Normally, there is a tendency of an ethnic group to feel different and superior or inferior to than the other, such feelings bring contentions.

Different ethnic communities due to their different cultures clash and their unique diverse values become negative reasons for discrimination and segregation in the society and public institutions which eventually leads to the loss of beautiful traditions and heritages because of hatred (Bright Hub, 2010, para. 3).

Our inability to appreciate the world as a whole make us to be narrow minded and we do not consider the effects of the hatred we harbor that one day it will explode causing great losses of life, property and even cripple economy.

Cognitive Racism

Millar (n.d, para. 3) defines racism as the prejudice in collusion with personal and institutional power. Prejudice is the prejudgment while the power is ability to do anything physically, mentally or legally and on the basis an individual can have some of these powers. There are a number of sources of these powers which include cultural, political, innate or acquired sources.

Racism can be considered acquired power because imposition of prejudice occurs consciously or subconsciously with the aim of exploiting another race. Millar (n.d, para. 4) argue that the easier way to eliminate racism is by addressing prejudice rather than making one relinquish power.

He said that claims that racism is all about attitude is erroneous and the fight against racism should be done by legislation. Proper legislation and enforcement of the anti-racial law will help prevents power systems that perpetuate racism. Concerted efforts to deconstruct prejudice and negative power by enhancing sharing of power relationships between the racial groups. The implementation of the anti-racial laws will build a fair and equal society that reflects a true way of life to all.

Anti-Muslim racism

Cultural diversity had earlier been viewed as a threat to national cohesion and security by the British politicians and liberals (Kundnani, 2010). Anti-Muslim political culture which associated Muslims with war and terror lead to segregation and discrimination of Muslims based on their culture by the political class.

The legislation of the anti-terrorism laws seemed to be a stereotype that has labeled Muslims as terrorists just because one of them participated in terrorism. Today there is need to for integration and assimilation of the cultural diversity on a set of national core values to keep the nation together. The integration and assimilation of Muslims involves inclusive setting of universal values of human rights; justice and democracy for the benefit of all humanity (Kundnani, 2010, para. 7).

Socioeconomic Racism

Racism in the United Kingdom has been seen in the discrimination of the blacks in terms of employment. According to Boodram (n.d,para. 3), British foreign office minister warned that United Kingdom is in danger of creating underclass similar to apartheid of South Africa (n.d.).

He argues that the divide between black professionals and the mainstream society is increasing with time. The research done concluded that black men in the United Kingdom are denied the opportunity to be employed while Indians and Chinese are favour in education and workplace. Two types of racism that dominates are discriminative racism and the one that kills, all coupled to the poverty. Unless institutional racism and poverty are addressed, the socioeconomic status will widen and complicates racism.


Racism can only be attributed to so many factors but not as an individual attitude grounded in the ignorance. In the Macpherson Report three aspects of racism have been displayed; institutional racism, political racism and sociological racism. In the institutional racism, there are no clear definitions as to what constitutes racism as there are instances where the perceived minorities are denied access to quality services.

This observation was made in the murder of Stephen Lawrence when the police did not respond in time to save his life. If there were institutions which ensure that everybody has equal right to any public service, may be the life of Lawrence would have been saved in time even though they claimed the death occurred within a minute. Institutions will provide framework and level the ground in the public service delivery without any racial bias.

Political racism comes in during legislation and implementations of the policies and recommendations. Numerous commissions come up with the research findings recommending implementation of certain policies in order to solve a given researched problem but this is no easy task as there must be political will. Implementation of policies depend on many factors among them is the racism.

If the recommended policy is to benefit the perceived minority, racism factor play a great role and eventually no one is bothered in the necessity of implementation. Contrary, if the recommendations in question emerge from the majority, implementations will be effected in time because of the benefits they are going to accrue from the policy.

In sociological racism depicted in the Report, sociological researchers are only interested in researching in the areas of their interest. The researchers have been seen only to have limited exploration of the research questions resulting into poor and weak recommendations which are unreliable in the policy making. Poor and biased research has been attributed to the political and academic pressures which require them to run concurrent research in various areas in order to satisfy their objectives in time.

Other aspects of racism are psychological, cultural, socioeconomic, cognitive and religion. All this aspects are characteristics of human population in which racists thrive in classifying and discriminating others based on the convenient characteristics that differentiates them from others.

Racism cannot be based only on the attitude because it depends on the society more than individual. The individual values which the society have embraced forms a pool of values from which the society obtains it values thus society behaves as a custodian of values.


Racism is a complex social problem which can be attributed to many factors ranging from psychological, attitude, cognitive, cultural, socioeconomic, and political. All these factors contribute in part to racism hence no single factor can be singled out as the major and only cause of racism. The interplay of all this factors brings about racism, a vice which degrades human values.

The impacts of racism on the society are evident in that many great wars fought over centuries were due to racism, for example exile of Israelites into other countries and even the present wars with Palestine are majorly due to the racism.

Racism has been associated with loss of lives and suffering for many people in various parts of the world as they tried to fight for their rights which they were denied. Due to the costly effects of racism, a large number of people desire its complete elimination. One of the effective ways to address racism is by focusing on all aspects of racism in order to completely root out the vice in the contemporary society.

References List

Anti-Defamation League, 2001. Racism. Web.

Bright Hub. 2010. Looking at and Understanding Racism. Culture and Racism. Web.

Boodram, A. n.d. Racism in England. Web.

Fanon, F. 2008, Black Skin, White Masks. Pluto, London: Pluto.

Fredrickson, G.2006. Racism: a short history. New York: Butterworth Heinemann.

Kundnani, A. 2010. . Races and Class. Web.

Millar, H. n.d. Racism: It’s not Just about Attitudes! Saint Mary’s University. Web.

Solomos, J., 1999, . Sociological Research Online. Vol. 4, issue no. 1. Web.

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