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Typology of Approaches to Racism

APPROACH

ASSUMPTIONS

IMPLICATIONS

Moral

The issue of racism is viewed as an evil that results from original sin, human wickedness, or such human failings as greed, selfishness, and ignorance.

Efforts to tackle racism involve self-examination, change of attitude, aspiring to nobler moral values, and in affirming the dignity and worth of each individual.

Biological

Prejudice and racism are seen as natural and related to genetics.  Biological differences such as skin colour are assumed to be associated with intellectual and/or moral capacities. Social disadvantages are portrayed as a reflection of innate inferiority.

Solutions to racism are sought through segregation (apartheid) and clear boundary maintenance.  People believe and behave as if ‘races’ are natural. People lend credence to the concept of ‘scientific racism’ by believing and behaving as if ‘races’ are real and natural and not just social/political constructs.

Psychological

Learning experiences, personality traits and psychological processes are viewed as giving rise to certain attitudes which are described as racist.  Certain personalities may be viewed as resulting in transferring blame onto others.

Solutions may be related to therapy, building confidence and self-esteem. Individual and interpersonal responses tend to be preferred to collective responses.

Multi-Cultural

Racism is understood as arising from the dynamics of cultural differences and tradition.  A group may wish to retain its purity by excluding other cultural groups and by guarding its distinctive identity.

Solutions are sought through increase in information exchanges and exposure; improved communication; development of familiarity to language, customs and traditions (i.e. intercultural training).

Structural

The causes of racism are located within the main structural features and social processes of the dominant society.  Structurally-created problems of poverty, unemployment, housing shortages and so on are seen as fuelling racial prejudice.  Social structures (political, economic, ideological) are seen as restricting the life chances of minority ethnic groups.

Solutions are sought through legislation, codes of practice and affirmative action with a view to tackling the causes and consequences of racism.  These may be supplemented with anti-racist training and collective action.

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