What Is 'Race' and What Is 'Racism'? (3)

Article excerpt

We conclude Dr Charles Quist-Adade's three-part series on race and racism. "No one is born a racist bigot," he writes. "In other words, racial bigotry or racial prejudice is not genetically or biologically determined ... Therefore, if most people spoke out about racism, it would be the first step towards a revolutionary change." (The second instalment was published in the January issue).

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Contemporary Euro-American society has only temporarily repressed bone-chilling forms of racist evil and aggression. For example, racism in the USA has ceased to be the avowed commitment of Southern white supremacists. Now its insidious form is an unconscious habit corrupting legions of Euro-Americans, including some well-meaning ones among them.

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As Bernard Boxill, professor of Political and African-American Philosophy, points out, the power of the race idea to corrupt is based on a habit of deliberate disregard of what we all share with each other. "The danger to others," Boxill says, "comes when we develop a habit of repressing what we share with them and of accentuating how we differ. Such a habit develops into a habit of not seeing what we share with others, and if we do not see what we share with others, we will not see ourselves in them, and we must see ourselves in them to have sympathy for them."

Racism in Euro-America today has ceased to be the overt, crude, "in-your-face" form of racism of the past. The general consensus is that racism today is generally more subtle, sophisticated and covert. In Canada, some scholars even call it "democratic" racism, as if there could be anything democratic about racism. The problem is that the benign, smiling face of racism today has made too many people of all complexions complacent. They compare what was and what is and console themselves with the usual refrain: "We have come a long way indeed."

They take tokenism--the hiring of a handful of blacks for window-dressing by white employers, for example--as improved race re ations. They take a few black men and women cracking through the glass ceiling or the appointment of such figures as Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to powerful government positions in the US, and the success and fabulous wealth of African-American entertainers and athletes such as Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan, as clear indications of race relations having "improved vastly".

The fact that racism has changed its appearance and form does not make it any better. Indeed, racism in its new garbs is even more insidious and treacherous. As it is said in Ghana, the snake under the grass is more dangerous than the snake on the tree, for you can see the snake on the tree and know how to handle it--kill it or run away--but you cannot avoid the snake under the grass since it cannot be seen and, therefore, bites you without your noticing it.

The next problem is that many people tend to think that one form of racism is better than another form, or that racism in one country is better than in another. However, racism is racism. In all cases, lives are destroyed. People are harmed physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Racism in any form, quantity, or shape must not be tolerated. It is wrong for victims of racism to think they can fight this malady alone. It takes two to tango, and, as the Ghanaian philosopher and educator, Dr James Kwegyir Aggrey once said, it takes both the black and the white keys to produce harmonious music on the piano.

Also, racism affects both the victimised and the victimiser. But both the victimised and the victimiser must not only know their proper roles, they must also be conscious of, and alert to, history and changing realities of today. The French philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau, said that "man is born free" but is "everywhere in chains". Infants not yet smitten by the "racial bug" tend to freely relate to and play with other children across the "colour line". …