Combating Everyday Racial Discrimination without Assuming Racists or Racism: New Intervention Ideas from a Contextual Analysis

By Guerin, Bernard | Behavior and Social Issues, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Combating Everyday Racial Discrimination without Assuming Racists or Racism: New Intervention Ideas from a Contextual Analysis


Guerin, Bernard, Behavior and Social Issues


ABSTRACT:

The aim of this paper is to open up new forms of intervention against everyday racially discriminating practices by analyzing more specific and localised interventions. It is first argued that conceptualising the area in the abstract terms of 'racists' who possess 'racism' is not fruitful, and a variety of reasons for this are provided. Several common situations that have been researched for everyday racial discrimination are then reviewed for the specific practices that have been found. These practices, in turn, are given very diverse analyses (Guerin, 2004) of their possible functions, to assuage readers against seeking only the most obvious 'cause'. In particular, it is emphasised that many practices can be done with 'good intentions' and that those cases need to be conceptualised differently from those with 'intent'. Finally, a variety of possible intervention goals are provided to deal with each strategy that arises in particular contexts to produce the racially discriminating practices. All the suggestions provided are meant as guides only and more detailed research documenting the full contexts for discriminatory practices is urged to guide our future interventions instead of trying just to globally 'raise awareness' of other cultures.

Key Words: racism, racists, interventions, discrimination, social analysis, essentialism

Racism and racial discrimination plague our world and bring unnecessary hardship to those affected. With limited resources and large populations in this world there will always be conflict but there is no need for those conflicts to be violent, and it is further gratuitous for those conflicts to be drawn out along racial divides (Guerin, 2002, 2004).

There have been many approaches to understanding racism and racially discriminating practices and many attempts at preventing or stopping them, across a range of disciplines (e. g., Akrami, Ekehammar & Araya, 2000; Allan & Allan, 2000; Aronson & Patnoe, 1997; ATSIC, 1998; Briggs & Paulson, 1996; Brzuzy, 1998; Cropley, 2002; Donovan & lievers, 1993; Fernández-Caliences, 1995; Graves, 1999; Hewstone, 1996; Katz & ZaIk, 1978; Lament, Morning & Mooney, 2002; liebkind & McAlister, 1999; Lindsley, 1998; Pulido, 2000; Reid & Holland, 1996; Sandhu & Aspy, 1997; Slone, Tarrasch & Hallis, 2000; Vrij & Smith, 1999; Wetherell & Potter, 1992; Zajicek, 2002). It is not the aim of this paper is to review these. They include all levels of interventions such as one-on-one counselling against holding prejudice views, school and community interventions, media campaigns, and political awareness raising (Guerin, 2005).

Such efforts are many and varied but the starting point for this paper is that the evidence that they are effective or have a lasting effect is not strong (Hill & Augoustinos, 2001; Kiselica, Maben & Locke, 1999; Pedersen, Walker & Wise, 2005). The question for this paper is how to open up some new approaches to intervention that allow new possibilities in handling such problems. The paper will not come up with the answer but endeavor to broaden the horizons of what might be tried. Suggestions will be made but these must be taken as suggestions only, and interventions assessed to confirm or adapt them.

One further limit to this paper is that only "everyday" or "mundane" racist practices will be covered (e. g., Broman, Mavaddat & Hsu, 2000; Byng, 1998; Carroll, 1998; Essed, 1991a, 1991b; Feagin, 1991; Hein, 2000). Other events such as rape, physical violence and structural racism need to be dealt with through a range of interventions beyond the scope of one paper. They are certainly important and they are absent here only because they should be treated specifically not because they are considered unimportant.

In order to open up the arena of interventions available it is necessary to challenge some assumptions in this area. One common feature of most of the current intervention attempts is the assumption that the racist talk or discrimination stems from a property of people called racism, with such people being called racists. …

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