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Race And Racism In The 21st Century

1861 words - 8 pages

Over the last few decades British governments have been committed to tackling various aspects of direct and indirect racial discrimination with the incentive of promoting 'equality of opportunity' and remedying other social disadvantages suffered by black minority communities in British society’ (Solomos 1989:2). Equality of opportunity in this sense is associated to the concept of racial equality, which can simply refer to ‘social equality for peoples of all races’ (Crenshaw 1988). In spite of this however, there remain deeply entrenched processes of discrimination resistant to legal and political interventions throughout society (Solomos 1993). This essay will discuss the claim ‘there ...view middle of the document...

It suggests that for any specific group there is a set of attributes that are necessary to its identity (Atubaki 2003). Aligning oneself with a group requires an essentialist approach, as Michaels (1995:61) infers there are ‘no anti-essentialist accounts of identity’. Race was originally defined on scientific terms, based on the idea that it was possible to locate differences between the races on biologically grounds. As Immanuel Kant (1960) inferred, there was thought to be a ‘fundamental difference between races of men, as great in regard to mental capacity as in color’. Implicit in this belief, was the notion that different races had different biological traits, and these traits being unevenly distributed allowed for the existence of racial superiority and thus the

basis of racism. As supported by Jewesbury (2008:39), ‘the basis for racism lies in the troubled history of the thinking of the concept of race itself’ which Gilroy suggest began at
the origins of ‘racialised thinking’, ‘the posting of a type of ineluctable difference determined by biological categories of race’ (Jewesbury 2008:39). However, the notion of objective biological races (Andreason 2000:653) has been proven largely indefensible, as such, race can be seen as a socio-historical concept or as Stuart Hall (2006) submits ‘a floating signifier’. Subsequently it’s meaning can be viewed in ‘relational’ (Ohnuki-Tierney 1994:62 ) terms and therefore is subject to the constant process of redefinition and appropriation. From the early 20th century onwards ideas of culture displaced ideas of race and ones culture become the determiner of ones set of traits. However the question of ‘who we are’ remains at the heart of our culture as opposed to what we do, which is the hallmark of essentialism (Tolia-Kelly 2014). Therefore cultural pluralism can be seen to have introduced a new breed of essentialism, thus race remains ‘one of the major concepts that organise the great classificatory systems of difference which operate in human society’ (Hall 2006). Further supported by Jewesbury (2008:39) who suggests, ‘biological race is inflected now as cultural or ethnic difference, and is no less irreducible’.

Whilst it can be said that there is ‘black in the union jack’ as a result of centuries of migration, the representation of black migrants through the media and politicians has created an exclusionary of black people in British society. As Jewesburys (2008:39) states, ‘most often, a group that experiences racism has received it’s identification from the powerful group, in order that it can be acted upon’, this identification can change to suit current policy. Throughout the 20th century, politicians and the media helped embed racism within British society, through the perpetuation of myth, stereotypes and negative discourses about black peoples (Hall 2006). This racism has been carried forward into the 21st century, helping to create what John Grayson (2013 cited in Nagarajan 2013)...

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