February 21, 2018

Psychology of racism


Let’s face it: we simply want to be better than others. We are social creatures, we gather together, we want to be appreciated but… We often gather against somebody or something, and not for it. We often join a bigger crowd to feel protected from smaller groups; this process occurs more instinctively than consciously however we are convinced of our free choice. We are right, we have the right, we save our lives and those of our compatriots: we simply want a better planet! Not too rarely we look down at minorities, or even create those minority groups by rejecting them in the first place. We want to be surrounded by people who understand us, those who are in fact similar to us. That actually means that we do not really want to see anything, drastically or even remotely, different from what we expect. Expectations, that’s the thing! We hope to see something, and we want it now!

Consciously, we look for something which is similar to ourselves. On a subconscious level, however, we look for justifications of our own problems, failures and misunderstandings in something we can easily label but cannot really easily lose. What would that be? Et voila, we often find the answer: blame those who are different, the Jews, the migrants, the OTHERS. They are everywhere, aren’t they? They take our jobs away, shout loudly in public places, they disturb our inner peace and do not have any manners. They also do not have any culture, the bastards. However, who are `they` exactly? And does it really matter which category do we single out for the purpose of humiliating? Not really, in fact. It just gives us our own peace of mind back when we humiliate somebody else, as easy as that. We also do it out of fear: look what happens now all around Europe. African migrants coming to Europe by boats, legal non-EU immigrants applying for jobs in Switzerland, people speaking tongues? God, what happens to this world! Get them out of here, for our peace of mind – that is the real thinking behind any rejection. Fear, that is. Fear of losing something, does not matter what it is and how real the threat may be. Fear of one’s own future. In reality, it is a fear of being ourselves which pushes us towards hating others.

We use specific nations or images to single out and go after our victims. We do so very systematically, and we are not alone: many people around us also want to `cure` own insecurities by harming others. Violence, verbal or physical, seems to be somehow very appealing. If politicians do not go aggressively against minorities (and oh God they do!), ordinary people need to stand for themselves! If, on the other hand, politicians talk about everyday and ‘casual’ racism, we simply start laughing: come on, do your jobs, and let us decide whom we like or not. We do not respect minorities? Respect needs to be earned, you fools!

That is the best part of it, earning respect it is. How on earth one earns that? We all talk about human rights, so in which relation they stand to respect of human nature? Simply put: for the Germans in Germany, the French in France and the Swiss in Switzerland, respect of who we are is an obvious given if one has been born and grown up in the same country. Once moved, a person loses the automatic right of being recognized as a person or a human being, and has to ‘earn’ this privilege in a new place. However, when moving within the EU, one earns it much easier than, say, when a person comes from the ‘outside world’ or ‘non-EU’ as they are being labeled by immigration officers. Immigration policies go hand in hand with everyday racism: ‘non-EU’ are not really people who deserve being respected, they need to work hard to get this honour, and they’d better do it when picking up unqualified jobs because we do not want ‘them’ to teach our children, tell us what to do and just be competing or even visible in our societies. Simply put, we do not want others. But we talk about human rights, of course. These rights, however, do not have nothing to do with those migrants. Exactly, migrants. One needs to make a linguistic distinction between the use of migrants and immigrants. We, Europeans, are skillfully using our our vocabulary to undermine basic rights of `others`. We call them names to make sure it is clear who is who, and who is the master of the house. We, at the same time, are against racism of all forms, and put signs everywhere which mark our intention to struggle any racist behaviour. For as long as this behaviour does not come from ‘our people’, then we let them be. So which forms of racism are unacceptable then? Very easy: migrants have no right to offend us, not another way around. A migrant vocalizing some anti-establishment ideas may be on the way to losing their right of residence, so do not even try to mess with us. We, on the other hand, are always right: simply because we are the majority.

Majority vs. minority, is it as easy? We learn in school that being racist is a very bad idea, so how come it is so accepted in our societies and in our minds? Well, the answer is… it is hard to kill, and nobody really attempts at killing it either. We learn patriotism is a good thing, but that serves the purpose all right: we are better than them, whoever they may be. We learn to live with each other in peace, but we take into consideration only those of us who are ‘one of us’. We learn how to make distinctions between different types of people, we are also used to social distinctions. We learn that being rich is fine if you are ‘one of us’ but it is very bad if ‘they’ get access to money, presumably by doing something criminal or at least unpleasant for us. In reality, though, we are just jealous that ‘they’ may be better than us, ‘they’ may have better education, better chances in life. Driven by fear, driven by hate, we go forward against them, every single day. So a Jew, an Arab, a Russian, whoever ‘they’ may be, they know: they are not welcome here. Even if they are born here, they are not one of us. In Switzerland, there is a term used by journalists and immigration officials for decades: a third-generation immigrant. A person who has been born in Switzerland, speaks local languages and possesses local education certificates. A person who is more than integrated into the local life and society, and respects local culture; in fact, a person who represents the Swiss culture himself. He just happened to be born to parents who were born in foreign families. That’s it then, no respect to expect. This is an ever-lasting ‘other’ category one is assigned to, by simply being born. Racism is more than a language. It is also more than some kind of fear. It seems to be a very appealing social position of the majority, whoever and whatever this majority may be. This social choice of the majority is, in fact, very difficult to fight. A ‘mission impossible’? Well may be.

Psychology or racism
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Psychology or racism
We do not even notice how racism dominates our society. In this article, we discuss the roots and nature of racistic behaviour.
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