Many democratic governments of today pride themselves on the measures they have implemented to challenge racism in their society, and will point to the reduced instances of racial abuse of hate crimes over the last 2 decades as evidence of their success. However, as news this broke this week that the police were investigating a wooden cross being burned outside the house of a mixed raced citizen in California, there is concern as to whether racism has been eroded from the social fabric or is merely lurking with intent beneath its cover.
More pointedly, it is fair to enquire as to whether governments have successfully challenged racist attitudes and theory, or simply forced its perpetrators to become more covert and organized in their operations. As the social climate has changed since the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, racism has been become increasingly unacceptable in society, but whether it’s values have been entirely rejected is debatable. One thing is for sure, and that is that racism will always been a feature of any society regardless of its meld of cultures or appreciation of knowledge.
Racism Through the Ages
Hostility or persecution between different races has existed since the dawn of civilization, with alternative epochs of time seeing different creeds, cultures and religions targeted by others. Historically, racism could be considered as being largely focused on religious groups and beliefs, as the absence of global interaction and multiculturalism meant that people of different cultures and skin colors did not mix within geographical locations. However, as immigration increased and America in particular became a weave of mixed culture, different creeds were forced to live together creating resentment and overt hostility.
Just as the turn of the 20th century saw much racial tension in the confederate south of the US, the 1970’s witnessed the emergence of the British National Party of the UK, as racism became entrenched in politics throughout the decades. These are prime examples of racism being aimed at those of a different culture and skin color to the ethnic majority in a nation, and a marked indicator of how racism has evolved in terms of its direction over the last 100 years. In contemporary culture however, the spectre of racism is becoming increasingly hard to monitor across society.
The danger remains that for all the good work organizations have undertaken in educating citizens and challenging racist values, they have in fact served to drive racist groups and factions from beyond the scope of public attention. Not only this, but such groups have been forced to radically modify their operation, so that they can function within a civilized and multicultural society. So, whereas the threat has traditionally been overt to all who wish to combat it, it is now difficult to detect amongst the strains of organization and professionalism.
The BNP in the UK are a relevant global example, as they began in the 1970’s as an aggressive and outwardly discriminative social group. They were renowned both for their distinctive style of dress and cowardly group attacks upon many of the Asian immigrants who arrived in the country in the 1970’s. To the surprise of many, they still exist today, but as an accepted political party who campaign for votes at every election. They are based on the same values and divisive views of multiculturalism, but have evolved to spread their message and notoriety through an organized and politically orientated methodology.
This is bound to happen in a democracy, as individuals and groups are afforded their rights to free speech as long as they are evoked in a civilized and legal manner. The US itself has seen its own number of hate groups rise to an unprecedented level during 2010, who again have immersed themselves and their operations beneath the sheaths of political respectability. Of course, the perception is that these factions have simply cultivated a successful face for their far from acceptable viewpoints, and retain the same core values that manifested aggressive and threatening behaviour in their previous incarnations.
The Underlying Threat to Society
Many organizations in the US and globally should be commended for their efforts in tackling racism in their individual communities, and civilization has certainly progressed in terms of its general attitude toward race and racial integration. However, we must not kid ourselves that racism has been driven to the point of extinction, or that discriminative values have suddenly been eradicated from contemporary culture. Instead, we must remain aware of the underlying threat within society, especially from bigoted groups who propagate their prejudice through political and covert methodology.
It is this link between hate groups and politics that is most worrying, as the flexibility of a democracy allows prejudicial entities to subsist as an eminent political force. This makes challenging racism in the future an even more difficult activity, as it is hard to erode specific values and attitudes that are engrained in representative parties or groups who are allowed to function with out consequence. One hopes that by society remaining vigilant, and it’s parents taking great care to raise and educate their children in the ways of tolerance, that this increasingly ill defined threat can be defused.