Thursday, January 24, 2013

Institutional Racism

I am definitely of the opinion that institutional definitions of racism are more useful for scholarship than ones reducing it to an irrational and pathological hatred. However, the claim I see by certain people in the US who are more interested in activism than scholarship that only non-whites can be victims of institutional racism is ridiculous. Fortunately, I live in Africa where people have a much better understanding of racism. It is not about skin color. If nothing else the long history of European anti-semitism demonstrates that it is quite possible for white groups to be racialized as well. Institutional racism can deny equal rights and opportunities to any group perceived to be inherently different by virtue of ancestry or descent from the dominant group or groups in any given society. Hence there has existed institutional racism against white groups by other white groups as well as in some cases even institutional racism by Asians against white groups. Ethnic Germans in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet states have experienced both institutional racism from other whites, mostly Russians, and Asians, mostly Kazakhs. The racialization of groups does not have to occur along a white/non-white axis. It can occur along a number of different axes such as Aryans/Jews in Nazi Germany, Soviet People/Enemy Nationalities in the USSR, Jew/Arab in Israel, Kazakh/non-Kazakh in Kazakhstan, etc. The important similarity in all these cases is that the different groups are viewed as primordial, immutable, and based upon ancestry. It should be noted that in all these cases the victimized group includes white people. Jews, Germans, Arabs, and Russians are all white.

1 comment:

Leo Tolstoy said...

Racism, as I understand it, must be institutional. If someone just hates another ethnic group, that's bigotry or prejudice. But racism, like fascism, communism, and most other -isms, refers to a set of policies by an authority to achieve a goal.

Certainly the Russian government has many racist policies against Caucasians, who are "white."