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Racism Coursework Essay, Research Paper
(a)(i) What is racism?
Racism can be defined as ‘a belief in the superiority of one race over all others´ (Keene pg 80). It occurs when people are prejudice and discriminate against people because of the colour of their skin. People are prejudice, and use their own views to physically or verbally hurt others who they see to be ‘different´ to them before knowing the ‘facts´. There is no excuse for people being racist. The Church Of England and Roman Catholic both condemn racism of any form. Every Christian would have been bought up believing that racism is wrong, but it still occurs today.
Racism takes many forms and thousand of people have died because of it. An example of someone who was killed because of his colour was Stephen Lawrence. He was beaten to death by police officers because of his colour. This shows that there is even institutionalised racism in the police force. The police force actually shows a lot of racism to its staff as well, it is fact that: 1) black and Asian officers are almost three times more likely to be sacked than white colleagues, 2) it takes a black constable about 18 months longer to be promoted to sergeant than a white constable and 12 months longer for Asian officers, 3) resignation rates are twice as high among ethnic minority officers as white officers, 4) 60% of black and Asian officers claim to have experienced racism at the hands of their colleagues. Another example of institutionalised racism is the Apartheid System in South Africa. This means that there were laws which made certain types and forms of racism legal. It began in 1948 but was finally dismantled in 1994. Blacks were excluded from the best cinemas, buses, schools and even hospitals. Marriage and any sexual relations between black and white people were outlawed. Until 1985 it was illegal for whites and non-whites to mix socially, with all non-whites having to carry an identity pass. This situation was created even though only 15% of the population was white. This just shows what white people can do with a little power. There is a group of anonymous white people who go around killing and torturing blacks; they are called the Ku Klux Klan. They cause a lot of grief and show their prejudices in very violent ways. They do this simply because they think that this is right.
Many black people are stereotyped and are not given chances or opportunities in some situations. Blacks are treated differently and unfairly, like Carl Joseph who was stopped 34 times by police in two years. Maybe just because he was black. Recently many tests have been carried out to see whether employers are racist when hiring members of staff. A black and white man both went into a local pub who was advertising for bar staff, when the black man asked about the job he was told that the job had been taken, but later, when the white man went and asked about it he was told that some work may be available.
Black people have been treated differently to white people, with little respect all through history and racism can be traced back to the 1800´s, where black Africans were sold as slaves to the wealthy Americans. They were bought to replace and to fill the job vacancies which were made when men were killed in the war. Many people today complain that black people have ‘stolen´ the good jobs, when in fact they bought them into the country to fill the job vacancies. Racial prejudice even lead to the starting of the Holocaust and ‘ethnic cleansing´. In the 1960´s black people gained the same rights as white people. This was brilliant news to black people, to finally have the freedom after many years of suffering with unfair employment, housing and education. Then in 1979 a race relations act was introduced to ensure equal opportunities for all races.
People can be racist for a number of different reasons, many not intentionally to hurt other people in any way, but simply because of the way that they have been brought up. These people are often unaware that they are doing anything wrong. Many people have been brought up being taught that people who are different to them are less superior to them. Many people are racist to people because they are scared of what is different to what they are used to. These people are ‘xenophobic´. They use racism as a defence mechanism to facing up to the fact that different can be good. They feel as though the people are coming into their ‘territory´ and so, are suspicious of them. Other people simply have very little understanding or a misunderstanding of other cultures and are unsure of people who they do not know a lot about. In all of these circumstances you can slightly understand why some people are racist towards others, but many people simply use their ignorance to discriminate against people. In this case there is no excuse. Many people think that they can say that ‘because it is my country I can treat others how I like´. This is not true; people should respect others at all times, under all circumstances.(a)(ii) Explain what Christian teachings might be used in a discussion about racism.
Racism is very apparent in society today, but there are many teachings in the Bible which suggest that this is very wrong, and should not be happening. The Bible is the inspired word of God, and from the Bible we can see that God showed agape love to all of his followers, no matter what race. This is shown in Acts 10:34- ‘…it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis….no matter what race they belong to´. Jesus taught that God´s kingdom was open to everybody, it did not matter what race or religion they were. What mattered was how you responded to Jesus´ invitation to God´s kingdom. God loved every human being and the Earth as a whole so much that he put his only son on it, ‘God loved the world that he gave his only son that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life´ (John 3:16). Also he would make sure that everyone who believed in him would live for eternity.
God loved everyone and you should return this love to God by following his teachings in the Bible. This is shown in Matthew 25:31-45: ‘What you do unto the least of my people you do unto me´. This tells people that if they do something to hurt their neighbour, then they are also hurting God. In the issue of racism there are many teachings which must be followed by all Christians. One important one is: ‘love thy neighbour´. Everyone is our neighbour and we should show love towards them. If we show love to our neighbours we are showing our love to God too. It should not matter whether they return the respect or show the same feelings, because in the Bible it also says that you should ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you´ (Matthew 5:44). Another teaching which shows that it is important to love your neighbour is ‘Always treat others as you would like them to treat you´. This is from Matthew 7:12, this could be classed as the ‘golden rule´ because it is a teaching which makes people realise why it is so important to treat others well.
We should not be racist to people of a different race because we are all of the same race really. We are all from the same family, because we were created by Adam and Eve – ‘From one human being he created all races´ (Acts 17:26). This means that we are all the children of God. This is explained in Galatians 3:26-28: ‘We are all God´s children, we are all from the same family´. Obviously our race would not matter to God, so it shouldn´t matter to each other. God was obviously not racist. One way of seeing this is looking at the fact that he made ‘man´. He did not make ‘white man´ and then ‘black man´, but he created them all together, at the same time. In the Bible it never once mentions that any race is superior to any others. If God is not racist we should not be either, because we were all created in the image of God.
In the Bible there are a lot of teachings which refer to how to treat foreigners. One of these is: ‘Do not ill-treat foreigners who are living in your land. Treat them as you would a fellow-Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves.´ (Leviticus 19:33-34). This teaching was originally said to the Israelites, but Christians can apply the teaching to racism. It tells them that they should treat foreigners with the same respect as they do to other people around them. God loved all people, even foreigners, he treated them all the same and saw them all as equal people: ‘…the same rules are binding on you and the foreigners among you. You and they are alike in the lords sight´ (Numbers 15:15). Everyone must follow the rules and teachings which God set, there are no exceptions for foreigners. It is important that foreigners are treated no differently to everyone else: ‘Do not deprive foreigners of their rights….Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt´ (Deuteronomy 24:17). The Israelites were in Egypt as slaves, and when they were there, they were foreigners, and they would have wanted to be treated equally. These teachings show us that racism was not acceptable then and shouldn´t be now
(b) Explain how Christians might respond to racism.
There are mainly two different ways by which Christians respond to racism. Violent and non-violent. There are a number of well-known Christian pacifists, such as Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu and Trevor Huddleston. ‘A pacifist is a person who believes that all forms of violence are wrong´ (Keene pg154). They believe that anything which causes physical pain and suffering is bad, and that there are always other ways of solving the problem.
Martin Luther King, the American Baptist Minister, is very famous for his work opposing racism. In the Southern states of America in the 1950´s and 1960´s discrimination and prejudice against black people was very common indeed. People in the black community feared that the situation was going to escalate and become like that of South Africa where black people´s earnings were only about half of those of whites. Many blacks did not have the right to vote and certain public places were said to be for “whites only” Martin Luther King was a Christian who campaigned endlessly for equal treatments of blacks and whites. He refused to support the idea that white people were all evil, as some black radicals believed. Instead, he taught that Christian love was the way forward. “Love,” he said, is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. Jesus was Martin´s inspiration; King supported non-violent protests and said that it was the way forward. He famously spoke about non-violence:
“ If he does not beat you-good! If he beats you…you develop the inner conviction of accepting the blows without retaliating”
Blacks and whites were treated very differently, and were not given the same advantages. In Montgomery black people could only sit at the back of buses and even the old had to give up their seat if a white person asked them. Martin Luther King organised a ‘bus boycott´, after a tired black woman refused to give up her seat to a white and ended up being arrested because this was classed as an ‘offence´. This movement became known as the Civil Rights movement and in 1960 Martin Luther King became its leader. In 1956 the government passed a law making it illegal to segregate people on buses. This is an example of King using a non-violent method to get his point across and as you can see it worked as the government passed the law. One of the most famous speeches Martin Luther King said was: “ I have a dream that one day God´s children, blacks, whites, Jews, Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the black people´s old song “Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
This was not the only law which was passed after the non-violent work of Martin Luther King, in 1962 he asked President Kennedy for greater understanding towards American blacks. He led a march the next year with ¼ million people, blacks and whites, in Washington. He aimed to ease the situation for black people, by protesting in favour of a new Civil Rights Bill. This was made law, so all of his work paid off.
Desmond Tutu is another example of someone who responded to racism using pacifism. He is an Anglican Archbishop in South Africa, and a Civil Rights Leader. He denounced apartheid as ‘one of the most vicious systems since Nazism´. He said that the day that he was proved wrong on this would be the day that he would burn his Bible. In South Africa apartheid was condemned by the World Council Of Churches and the South African Council Of Churches declared it as ‘a false teaching which perverts Christian truth´.
One of Desmond Tutu´s most famous quotes was: ‘I am puzzled about which Bible people are reading when they suggest religion and politics don´t mix´. He knew that God was political, because when he rescued the slaves from Egypt he led them to freedom in the Promised Land. Politics have lead in the past to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and when this happened the prophets spoke out, so Christians today should test government policies against Christian teaching.
‘The Christian League´ was started to campaign against the South African Council Of Churches and against Desmond Tutu, but he believed that they had no chance over the prayers of millions of Christians who wanted to end apartheid. When he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 he did so on behalf of all those who sought to end apartheid, and when he was enthroned as Archbishop in 1986 he praised God: ‘I pray that Our Lord would open our eyes so that we would all see the real, the true identity of each one of us; that this is not a so-called “coloured” or white or black or Indian, but a brother, a sister-and treat each other as such´.
Desmond Tutu´s beliefs came from his Christian faith. Prayer and worship were essential to him. He was a very comical spokesman, which seemed to get the point across better to people. Also it is very hard to be hostile towards someone who makes you laugh. Like Desmond Tutu, Trevor Huddleston also stated that Christianity was totally opposed to the system in South Africa: ‘Christians are not only commanded to love. We are commanded to hate what is evil, and nothing is more evil than apartheid.´ Huddleston and Tutu had a life long friendship ever since Tutu was a small child, and was tremendously impressed by the way which Huddleston raised his hat to Tutu´s mother. It was almost unheard of for a white man to show that much respect towards a black.
As I said before, not all Christians respond to racism non-violently. Many people use violence. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is an example of someone who used violent protest in an attempt to defeat Hitler´s racial policies during the Second World War. In 1933 Bonhoeffer joined the Confessing Church, which resisted the Nazi attempt to impose anti-Semitism on the church and society. In 1935 he returned to Germany, after spending two years in London on a protest, and became director of a seminary of the Confessing Church at Finkenwald, Pomerania. This was illegal and was eventually closed down. Later, after the start of the War he joined the political resistance, but this led to him being arrested and imprisoned in Berlin. It was here in Flössenberg on April 9, 1945 that he was hung, in the Nazi concentration camp.
Bonhoeffer was once a pacifist, but the whole time that he was working to free the Jews he realised that non-violent protests would get him nowhere. He even joined the conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. They attempted to bomb his office on July 20, 1944, but failed. Because Bonhoeffer was once a pacifist he did not intend to use violence, but he realised that he could only fight violence with violence. He believed that ‘it is better to do evil than to be evil´. It took the Nazi´s months before they realized the true extent of his involvement in the resistance.
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