A race is a group of people who belong to the same genetic stock. It describes each of the major divisions of humankind based on their distinct physical characteristics, such as the color of their skin and hair, shape of their noses, texture of their skin and hair, etc. Racism is the hatred, intolerance, or fear of people that belong to a different race. It is a conscious or unconscious practice or perception that springs from hatred for or fear of people of another race. As a result of this antagonistic perception, racism gives rise to discrimination, prejudice, oppression, and unfair treatment of people of a particularly hated race.
Racism is just a type of discrimination, like every other type of discrimination, and has similar causes like the others. For example, the underlying causes of ethnic rivalry are the struggle for superiority and power, and the perceived need by one ethnic group to protect itself from the potential threats of another ethnic group. Although, racial discrimination has been in practice for centuries, it became an issue of international concern starting from the twentieth century. There is no single cause of racism; racial discrimination is caused by a combination of factors. These factors include.
The study of political economy enables us to understand that human society has, from time immemorial, been divided into classes. Primitive communalism seems to have been the onset of the socio-economic practices of the early humans. But after many years, as some clans were able to develop and monopolize the more advanced technology at the time, thereby increasing productivity, their produce and products became marketable, thus dividing human society into the class of the wealthy and the ‘other’ class. War broke out, as wealthier clans tried to take control of the lands and property of the other clans, which then led to the primitive accumulation of land and material resources, and the conversion of defeated clans into slaves. The wealthier clans did not only possess the land and property of the weaker clans, but also subjected the vanquished clans into slave-labour, thereby increasing productivity and consequently enriching themselves. This would later lead to the slave-owning practice (consisting of the masters and the slaves), which would then be the next socioeconomic system in the history of man.
Human beings have always had an inclination to desire and feel superior to others, and power is known to be quite intoxicating. People of the higher class, therefore, have a tendency to be disdainful of people of the lower class. And as can be seen in the socioeconomic system of Feudalism (where there were lords and serfs) and of course, capitalism (which consists of the bourgeois or wealthy entrepreneurs and the proletariat or wage laborers), the socioeconomic history of mankind has always been a history of class struggles. The members of the lower class want to be more economically and socially powerful. This, however, can pose a huge threat to the economic and social power being enjoyed by the members of the higher class. In addition, the members of the higher class need the servitude of those of the lower class to enjoy economic and social advantage, and that becomes impossible the moment they allow the lower class to have a taste of power.
In a broader sense, historical segregation is seen in the division of countries and continents; some countries are considered superior and more powerful than other countries. The early enlightenment and historical advantage of certain races enabled them to capitalize on the ignorance and disadvantages of other races, thereby exploiting their factors of production (land, labour, and capital). As the enlightened races grew richer and more powerful, the ignorant races grew poorer and less powerful. The enlightened countries, and their continent in general, are then referred to as the core or the metropolis, while the poor countries and their continent in general are referred to as the periphery or satellites. The exploitation of the factors of production of the satellites contributes to the prosperity of the core, and continues to accelerate the impoverishment of the satellites. The greed and shallow reasoning of most of the political leaders of these satellites (which would seem to cut across a majority of their nationals) also contribute to the impoverishment of the periphery. Historical segregation of races into Mongoloid, Australoid, Negroid, and so on, has no doubt created a division and belittlement of some races. This is indeed one of the factors contributing to racism across the world.
Fear of the unknown
Racial discrimination may exist due to fear of not being able to understand the inherent personality and culturally-influenced personality of people belonging to another race. And when this fear is intensified by information shared concerning the unethical and criminal conducts of a handful of people belonging to this race, this could lead to false generalization of all people of that race, with the belief that all people of that race have a tendency to commit crime and endanger their lives. This consequently leads to a spiral indoctrination of progenies against the imagined terrors of this racial group. Progenies who have now become misinformed due to this false indoctrination may pass on the false beliefs to their friends and future offspring.
Inherently, man is a selfish creature. And his selfishness is inspired by his endless desire for pleasure and the great fear of pain. Feeling powerless can be a source of pain, in the same way as feeling insecure and inferior. And in order not to feel inferior, man is prone to desire superiority and power; these are not only intoxicating, but also protect him from pain. Man also has social needs, which he tries to satisfy. He craves for a family and a small circle of friends. And as he considers himself superior to most people, he considers his group superior to all others. This leads to two different classes, which are ‘my group’ and ‘the others’. A man has far greater value and respect for those within his group than those outside his group. He considers his group superior to and more important than all other groups. This group-psychology is not only limited to one’s family, but also to one’s tribe, ethnic group, religion, educational qualifications, and race. When group-psychology is mingled with the international segregation of countries (first-world countries and third-world countries), it is easy to understand why members of a particular race are likely to feel superior to members of another race. The victims of such discrimination and unfairness then rise up against their discriminators, resulting in a group vs. group, or what we may refer to as counter-racism.