▪ Esther Eilam*
"Racism" is a term representing a certain type of human relationships which rely on the assumption that human beings are not equal by virtue of their nature. Such inequality is supposedly expressed by features relating to biological nature at all levels, such as genetics, physiology and the like, and also - social position, cultural backgroundpolitical-economic status.
first Published :
22/02/2012 Last Updated: 26/02/2012
"Racism" is a term representing a certain type of human relationships which rely on the assumption that human beings are not equal by virtue of their nature.Such inequality is supposedly expressed by features relating to biological nature at all levels, such as genetics, physiology and the like, and also - social position, cultural backgroundpolitical-economic status.
These features are classified in the form of a scale, grading them according to various values given to them.For instance, the feature identified as "light-colored skin" is given high value, while "dark-colored skin" is given low value.The more dominant the preferred feature, the higher its value, while in the case of the less desirable feature - when that is more dominant, its value is lower. Human beings are classified in certain groups based on identification with features considered of high valuelow value - thus determining the fate of those groups from the political, social, economic aspects, and the like.In this way, power relationships are constructed in society:those with the features considered more superior take control over those with features considered inferior,they give themselves extra rights, which they justify by saying that it is the natural order of the world, and therefore is also desirable.
The racist concept consists of fallacious content and false beliefs, expressed by stereotypes, prejudices and myths.These also provide justification for its existence, by presenting a hierarchical scale based on the assumption of inequality between human beings as a necessity of reality, and as the inevitable result of differences between people. In this way, the differences between human beings become a tool in the hands of those with features considered superior in order to justify repressive and unjust behavior vis-à-vis those with features considered inferior.Thus, racism is in fact a political device in the hands of certain groups in order to reserve extra rights while repressing other groups.
Accordingly, the struggle against racism is not only a struggle against a false perception based on belief in inequality between human beings, deriving from their possessing certain features, but is also an attempt to achieve a society in which every human being is considered equal to every other human being from the aspect of eligibility for rights deriving from the nature of human life, including political, economic, social and cultural rights which those countries and societies grant to all their members.
Although equality is the guiding principle of democracies, however, despite their reliance on democratic principles, even in those countries the social, economic, cultural and political structures are tainted with racist concepts, demonstrated by many and varied methods of repressing groups considered inferior by groups who consider themselves superior.Even in the State of Israel, although a democracy, racist concepts and practices do exist, both among the authorities and within the general society.
The question is, how can the racism existing in Israel and elsewhere in the world be eradicated? One way is to create a change in consciousness by refuting racist beliefs, and convincing people of the basic equality of all humans.However, assuming that we have all been exposed to racism from childhood, we have internalized it in the socialization process as "reality".Therefore, there must be an opposite process of dismantling the false content we have absorbed. The process of changing consciousness and recreating a non-racist reality - both internally and in our conduct vis-à-vis others - has been called by linguist Erica Sherover-Marcuse (relating to racism based on ethnic extraction and skin color) "dismantling white racism".It must be a critique of existing socialization and a reorganization of our beliefs.It is not a simple process, and to progress in it requires instruction and support.
Sherover-Marcuse used the method developed by Harvey Jackins, founder of the international movement known as "Re-Evaluation Counseling", which includes listening to others regarding the ways in which they learned to believe the racist falsehoods, and that makes it possible to perceive them as lies - expressions of distress, not reality.It is a difficult process, because we usually learn racist concepts from the most important people in our lives:parents, relatives, teachers, etc.However, we must remember that they also learned them when they were very young.This cognitive and emotional process breaks the vicious circle and begins a period of re-building of ourselves and our relationship with the environment, based on the understanding that equality between people is our natural condition.It is political work in principle, because it concerns positions vis-à-vis power structures existing in society and the State.The decision to fight racism is the key to change, with which begins a new reality of a world without racism.