Definition of Key Concepts
Conceptual analysis is fundamental to an understanding of the social phenomena being analysed in this chapter. Thus, we begin this journey with the analysis of the concept of racism or racial prejudice. According to Giddens (2009), racism is “prejudice based on socially significant physical distinctions” (p.639). In this definition, it is important to underline that the physical differences on which the perception is based, results from a sociocultural elaboration defined by the dominant groups, and they are not independent from a culture of discrimination social and historically defined.
To understand the concept of racism, it seems pertinent to analyse the notion of race, spread through the racialist theories that developed during the Enlightenment. These conceptions legitimized colonialism and the systematic discrimination of human beings according to their skin colour (Cabecinhas & Macedo, 2019). Currently, it is consensual that, in biological terms, it is not possible to delimit races in the human species, there is only a set of different physical characteristics that characterize human beings. However, the existence of genetic diversity that characterizes different human groups coexists with the genetic diversity that characterizes people considered to belong to the same population groups. From the point of view of social sciences, the use of the concept of race raises a lot of discussion and problematization. In that sequence, many academics use the concept in inverted commas - ‘race’.
Despite the consensus that there are no races among human beings, many people still continue to experience racist prejudice. In this situation, there is a process of racialization, since a label is attributed based on the supposed belonging to a certain group, considering a set of physical characteristics. In other words, racialized people are subject to the “process by which understandings of race is used to classify individuals or groups” (Giddens, 2009, p. 632). In this point of view, it was racism that produced the concept of race and not the other way around.
But racism can also be reflected at social structures in a systematic way, configuring institutional racism, manifested in the way that different institutions, such as security, health and education services (among others) promote policies and practices that favor certain social groups, discriminating others.
Some authors refer the existence of cultural racism, that manifests itself in a more sophisticated and subtle way, and that bases the arguments for the exclusion on cultural differences we can point to xenophobia and islamophobia as examples. Thus, xenophobia configures a set of attitudes, prejudices and behaviour that reject, exclude and often vilify people, based on the perception that they are outsiders or foreigners to the community, society or national identity. But the focus of social discrimination can be a religion, as in the case of Islamophobia, which is manifested by constitutive antagonism directed at manifestations of Muslimness. Both based on existing racist, ethnic, religious, cultural, or national prejudice.
#FIGHT racism - Youth are standing up against racism
This United Nations website presents a video with the explanation of the selection of March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
GUIDANCE ON RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA How UNHCR can address and respond to situations of racism and xenophobia affecting persons under its mandate
This guide is a practical resource offering recommendations and tools for UNHCR staff, but it will be useful to others that working to eliminate racism.
UN leaders speak out against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred
This news, published on March 17, 2021, presents the positions of the leaders of the United Nations on the importance of fighting Islamophobia.