The Real Causes Of Racism

Racism is pernicious, particularly hurtful to those on the receiving end, and is little understood. Its causes are not just social, neither can they be remedied in an instant. Racism goes much deeper than simple social factors and it stems, primarily, from the following four causes:

1. Instinctive reaction for species protection: It is the most natural thing in the world to gravitate towards our own kind, to recruit in our own image and likeness and to feel comfortable with people who outwardly look like us, reflect who we are and behave like us. We are all ingrained with a sense of self protection, especially of our culture, territory, family, the things we cherish and which form our identity. Racism comes out of a desire to protect all of that, as well as our roots and our species. Anything which isn’t like us immediately becomes threatening and, where it is also perceived to be inferior, the prejudice towards it in order to protect our own becomes even more lethal and menacing.

2. Fear of loss and displacement: Seeking to protect our own kind means we fear any loss of what we already have and what makes us who we are: whether it’s our jobs, our status, territory, possessions, personal significance and even our being. We fear being replaced by others, especially in a relationship, by anyone perceived to be much more appealing and desirable than we are. When that person is from another race, it simply confirms our unworthiness and adds insult to injury. Fear is the biggest cause of racism in our world, especially irrational fear of difference and loss, which tends to see any difference as both threatening and undeserving of what we regard as our right.

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3. Ignorance: When we know better we can act better, especially if we have the confidence to put that knowledge into action. But what keeps racism going in a vicious circle is ignorance of the worst kind. If we grow up doing a particular thing, and everyone else around us does it too, we come to believe it is right, no mater how morally reprehensible it could be to another person who does not share our culture and outlook. We will not see anything wrong with our actions because those acts would be validated by everyone else like us. The only change will come through education and awareness of why those actions might not be appropriate, the consequences they carry for others as well as the alternatives that are available. Until people who know no better undergo an educative process around racism, ignorance will always keep racism thriving, especially among those who have no desire to act differently.

4. Lack of self love, feeling of unworthiness and desire to feel superior: The most racist people in our world tend to be the least confident, lacking in self esteem and, most of all, lacking in self love. They project all their negative feelings outward unto others, especially on to the most week and vulnerable. When we truly love ourself and appreciate who we are, we can appreciate how others feel and accommodate them more. We also have better understanding of others because we appreciate where we are coming from.

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Racism comes through a feeling of unworthiness, of being ‘victimised’, of lacking the opportunities others have, and of being a failure. Someone has to pay for such low feelings and self-perception. This means a need for scapegoats in order to feel superior and to exercise personal power over others. Racist people tend to feel insignificant, isolated, wronged and unloved and they remedy that feeling of exclusion by blaming someone else for it instead and seeking opportunities to exercise that prejudice and resentment.

That is why racism will always be difficult to eradicate because it is not a social act. It’s an individual one. The causes of racism begin with the individual and can only be resolved by addressing the actions of individuals. It’s individual people who behave in a racist manner which is then enhanced by the group and validated by institutions. That is why institutions often remain racist and discriminatory in approach for a long time unless the individuals within them are encouraged to act otherwise.

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by Elaine Sihera