The Sunday Letters Journal
Sunday Letters
197 Racism

197 Racism

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What does it mean to be white, what does it mean to be black, what about all the shades in between, and since when has discrimination be so easy to spot?

Twitter seems to know, so I asked for clarification… I thought the Twitter police would string me up, or worse still, the racism police, but I didn’t get a single response, probably because I’m largely anonymous there.

Social Psychology defines Racism as prejudice and discrimination against people based on their ethnicity or race. Prejudice is an unfavourable attitude toward a particular social group and its members. And Discrimination is the behavioural expression of that prejudice. According to Gordon Allport’s The Nature of Prejudice, prejudiced attitudes and discriminatory behaviour consist of three components;

  1. Cognitive - One’s beliefs about a group

  2. Affective - strong negative feelings about that group and the qualities it is believed to possess.

  3. Conative - Intentions to behave in certain ways towards that group.

Some scholars don’t accept this model. Rupert Brown suggests the following definition;

“…the holding of derogatory attitudes or beliefs, the expression of negative affect, or the display of hostile or discriminatory behaviour towards members of a group.”

I remember when I was a kid in the scouts in the 1980s. We went to an international scouting event in the UK, and my friends and I found ourselves isolated and on the receiving end of a tirade of abuse from an English scout leader. As far as he was concerned, everyone from Ireland at that time was a terrorist. We got an apology, but that didn’t remove the experience of being singled out simply because of where we came from. That was mild compared to what Irish people living in the UK at the time had to endure. The IRA had active units operating in London at the time, and I suppose we could forgive people’s general response. But discrimination against children? Discrimination at all? Maybe not.

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The Sunday Letters Journal
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