The Need for Unity in Diversity: Will Racism Ever End?

One big obstacle to diversity and inclusion is racism. An important question is whether racism will ever be overcome by unity in diversity. How can racism be dismantled?

Racism is a centuries-old social ill that plagues different societies around the world, not only in the United States. Racism may be of different types, but the most common understanding of it is that of a “whites vs. blacks” or fair-skinned vs. dark-skinned/black-toned people” kind of war.

See also: How Skin Tone Bias Affects Diversity Growth

Many still subscribe to the belief the white race is superior over any other race, and that comes at an economic cost. Blacks and other minorities have more difficulty in their job search, so they have a higher unemployment rate than whites

Can people of color be as prejudiced as the whites? People regardless of race can be prejudiced, though not necessarily because they are racist.

Racism and Racial Discrimination

For clarity, racism and racial discrimination are defined as follows:

  • Racism: any action or attitude, conscious or unconscious, that subordinates an individual or group based on skin colour or race. It can be enacted individually or institutionally.
  • Racial discrimination: to treat differently a person or group of people based on their racial origins. Power is a necessary precondition, for it depends on the ability to give or withhold social benefits, facilities, services, opportunities etc., from someone who should be entitled to them, and are denied on the basis of race, colour or national origin.

So back to the topic of racism – racial supremacy leads to racial purity. Humanity should not forget the unspeakable atrocity brought about by Nazi racism – the belief propagated by Hitler and his Nazi regime that the Aryan race is the master race, so must remain pure at all cost.

An excerpt from an article by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum shows how such belief is promoted: When Hitler and the Nazis came to power, these beliefs became the government ideology and were spread in publicly displayed posters, on the radio, in movies, in classrooms, and in newspapers. The Nazis began to put their ideology into practice with the support of German scientists who believed that the human race could be improved by limiting the reproduction of people considered “inferior.”

As put forth, the idea of the superiority of one race over another is NOT innate in human nature. It is just an unfortunate human reality that there are individuals/groups overcome with delusions of themselves.

And great suffering it brings to human society when this delusion of supremacy takes control of the elite who holds the reins of power and authority over a nation – the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest, to borrow the words of George W. Bush. This is why the human race has been troubled for centuries with racial bigotry.

Today, belief in racial or ethnic purity, based on religious and cultural beliefs still persists. Racial/ethnic purity is an extremist view, but it contributes a lot to the current wave of hatred, violence, disunity in the world. Modern-day versions of the Nazi’s ethnic cleansing under Hitler continues to happen in different parts of the world.

Another factor for racism is believed to be rooted in capitalism and slavery. Rather, racism originated with capitalism and the slave trade. As the Marxist writer CLR James put it:

“The conception of dividing people by race begins with the slave trade. This thing was so shocking, so opposed to all the conceptions of society which religion and philosophers had…that the only justification by which humanity could face it was to divide people into races and decide that the Africans were an inferior race.”

Its existence is said to have stemmed from the long and complex history of western Europe and the United States that […]influenced by science, government and culture—that has shaped our ideas about race.

Looking to history, one can see that aside from science, government and culture, religion also plays a role in the construction of the idea of race and racism.

Here is an excerpt from Racial Equity Tools, a website that is designed to support people and groups working for inclusion, racial equity, and social justice:

During the reformation (16th Century [1500s] & 17th Century [1600s]), a key question among Christian religious hierarchy was whether Blacks and “Indians” had souls and/or were human. In this time period, Europeans were exposed more frequently to Africans and the indigenous people of North and South America, and the church vacillated between opinions. The Catholic and the Protestant churches arrived at different answers to the question at different times, which created significant differences between the two systems of slavery. […]With the increasing importance of slavery, religion was used as a means to justify racist divisions, classifying people of color as ‘pagan and soulless’.

Religious beliefs remain a justification for the persistent problem of racism, among others. However, […] racism does not require the full and explicit support of the state and the law. Nor does it require an ideology centered on the concept of biological inequality. Discrimination by institutions and individuals against those perceived as racially different can long persist and even flourish under the illusion of non-racism.

Unity in Diversity

The concept of unity in diversity means ‘unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation that shifts focus from unity based on a mere tolerance of physical, cultural, linguistic, social, religious, political, ideological and/or psychological differences towards a more complex unity based on an understanding that difference enriches human interactions.

How Can Racism Be Defeated?

Living out the value of unity in diversity is important for diversity working in society. It is one way for people to help destroy racism in our midst.

Institutional racism is certainly hard to dismantle, but ordinary people can start doing better to change the world for the better – and that is making a conscious effort to reduce racial bias in their own spheres of influence.

One insight worth pondering is this excerpt from an article by Nico Koopman, Vice-Rector for Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel at Stellenbosch University in South Africa:

“To overcome racial discrimination we need to conscientise one another about the subconscious pictures with which we live. The words we use subconsciously betray our subconscious racial pictures and prejudices. […] Words are creative. They can either create a new reality of justice, or perpetuate old realities of injustice, discrimination and dehumanisation.

Do not label people

Indeed, labeling people is not a bright idea, for it connotes separation. As the article above shows by an example, calling others on campus who are not white as diversity students and non-whites is to perpetuate racist thinking, and making white as the norm. Likewise, using black as norm, and calling those who are not black as diversity students promotes racist attitude.

Classifying people according to their race or skin color, inspires segregation, rather than promote unity. All are human; all are of the same human race, regardless whether one’s skin is black, white, brown, red, yellow. There is much beauty in diversity – just as seen in Nature itself.

Understand where people are coming from

Research backs this idea of not labeling people. Vox reported last year that researchers came upon a radical way to reduce another person’s bigotry. Although the study concentrated on anti-transgender attitude, it can also be applied to reducing racial anxiety and prejudices. Researchers found that labeling someone as racist is not good.

Rather, empathy is what helps. And as much as it might seem like a lost cause to understand the perspectives of people who may qualify as racist, understanding where they come from is a needed step to being able to speak to them in a way that will help reduce the racial biases they hold.

Confront Your Racial Biases and Prejudices

The first step toward overcoming a problem is to face the problem, not deny its existence. Uncomfortable though it can be, acknowledging your biases and prejudices helps overcome these.

Expand Your Horizon by Meeting People from Other Races and Cultures

Ignorance of others leads to close-mindedness, fear, intolerance, and bigotry. So to better appreciate others, learn more about them by making friends. Build bridges of friendship, not walls of hatred and fear. Learn to understand what makes others tick despite their differences from you.

Put More Love into Action. Help Others.

Sometimes, people become too focused on their own struggles, especially those who have to face discrimination. As a result, they become angrier, distrustful and weaker. Look for ways of how you can contribute to your community, school, workplace. Help others in difficulty no matter what their background is. By doing so, you develop strength of character and greater understanding of others.

Racism can be overcome, yes. It make take time. But it can be done. Unity in diversity is what the world needs, especially in post-election America where the wounds of political division are needing to be healed.