Racism in the Balance

Dear Readers:

During the international conference against racism in Barbados in 2002, it became apparent that talking about this topic could awaken in some people intense feelings of bitterness towards other races. This is not conducive to rational thought or national development and so today we shall try to identify solutions to this dilemma of racism.

To make any worthwhile analysis of racism, we must first define the problem. The problem can essentially be defined as the mis-education of nations that occurred following Columbus’ travels to the Caribbean around 1500 AD. The European governments and commercial traders justified their claim to the land and mineral resources of North and South America, the Caribbean, and Australia by asserting that the indigenous people of these countries were less than human. This view intensified during the transatlantic slave trade when the African race was advertised before all nations as sub-human labour.

It should be noted that while the East Indian, Chinese, and Irish indentured servants were treated harshly, there was never an attempt to classify them as sub-human. Those who survived the horrific 5 to 7 years of servitude were compensated. It should also be noted that not all Africans were taught to believe that they were sub-human, but only those captives who survived the transatlantic journey and lived the slavery experience, and those who were born into it.

That was the past experience, but we need to understand where we are today. The African slaves were set free, and the countries in which they were enslaved changed progressively during the following 150 years. The Europeans and North Americans have made substantive efforts to correct the misconceptions in their judicial, learning and administrative institutions. They have sought to: outlaw employment discrimination on the basis of a person’s race, provide social benefits that are accessible to all, and allow persons of the African race to vote and seek government office. These are commendable achievements.

Unfortunately small but influential groups in North America and Europe undermine these efforts by perpetuating the myths that the Caucasian race is intellectually superior, and the African race is intellectually inferior to all other races. Given the protection accorded them by the freedom of speech enshrined in their constitutions, their views are promoted publicly, and in some communities, such views are popular. They also seek election or appointment to government office where they can influence the domestic and foreign policies of their nations. This has severe consequences for independent Caribbean islands and for the descendants of slaves residing in North America and Europe.

So every race on this earth was mis-educated by a minority of greedy persons, who sought to acquire the wealth of other nations by any means necessary. Given the self-perpetuating nature of racism and its on-going promotion in some sectors in North America, Europe, and Australia, it is possible that some people of all races still hold residual racist beliefs. These beliefs can negatively influence motives, attitudes, goals, self-esteem and behaviours, and they can either be ignored or addressed. The question is, can there these residual beliefs be exorcised without invoking an attitude of hate?

Since it is easier to influence a child’s beliefs than an adult’s, then one method could be to teach the children at school. However, this method is influenced by the quality of the re-education curriculum and susceptible to the bias of the teachers. It can also be undone by the parent’s behaviour and attitude at home.

Another method is through work relationships. If persons of different races worked together performing similar responsibilities, then they should develop a mutual respect. People would then have to decide whether to trust their belief system of their positive work relationships. This method however is vulnerable to the work ethic of each individual, and therefore may have the unintended effect of reinforcing racist beliefs.

The final method proposed here is one that has proven to be effective around the world and which led to the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and slavery. It occurs when we come to know God as our Heavenly Father, and realise that while we may be born into different racial families and circumstances, we all have equal value as human beings. In addition, since we all experience different types of suffering on this earth, we should envy no-one, but seek to be faithful in our own responsibilities while trying to help others succeed in theirs.

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