What is racism?

Sat 18 March 2017

With relation to the current affair of kids running on their father on live BBC News there was discussion on our the internal email list of my employer. This is one side comment I made there:

[…] Yes, it is a wrong idea, slightly racist, perhaps, but these thoughts happen.

(Someday I'd like to ask each person what they mean by the word "racist" when they use it … but I'll let you off since it's Friday. :-)

What is racism?

Well, I am Czech and given the effort of others and our own [1], Czechia is one of the most nationally pure countries in Europe. Therefore, we usually fancy ourselves not having problem with racism (“How can we be racists, when there is nobody else than us here?”)

I also grew up in the two-family house with my uncle and aunt’s family, both of which had two sons, so only two women in the whole house were my mom and my aunt.

When I started my post-grad studies in the University of San Francisco School of Law, the most challenging course we had was the Contract Law (thus, promissory estoppel). I was very much ashamed when I found out that I was very surprised that by far the brightest student in the class had been a young Black lady. Yes, for both reasons, that she is a lady and that she is Black.

So, yes, racism is in my opinion using stereotypes of group of people and applying them on individuals (and strengthening such stereotypes). When I believe that girls or Black people cannot be smart, or that Gypsies/Roma (that is the closest equivalent of Blacks in the Central and Eastern Europe) are all lazy and steal. When the article in the Czech newspapers has headline “Gypsy man stole something” (that’s the strengthening part). Or here, that White English professor cannot have Asian lady as anything more than a nanny.

And not funny thing is how much this relying on stereotypes is widespread in this nation, which still believes has no problem with racism. Almost word by word same story as my Black lady in the Contract class I heard from our former Head Rabbi of Czechia, except for him it was a black Jewish student of the Hebrew class (he was forced to emigrate to Israel before 1989). One would expect that somebody who converts to Judaism would be immune. Oh well.

[1]I don’t know how much you know about this. There were 13 million inhabitants of Czechoslovakia before the Second World War, 3 million of them were Germans. Mostly all of them were expelled from here. German colonizers were living in the area of the current Czechia since the twelfth or thirteenth century.

Category: faith Tagged: politics racism


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