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What is racism?
by Jay Gutman
2016-09-14 11:11:20
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I often ask myself how to explain, describe, without justifying different forms of racial prejudice that can be found in North America, Europe and increasingly Africa, East Asia or even Latin America.

There are different types of racism that I will classify as follows:

-Ill feelings toward recent immigrants (known by the sometimes derogatory “fresh off the boat” terminology)

-Ill feelings toward residents of declining or abandoned industrial zones and the culture they represent

-Ill feelings toward minorities who tend to be associated with middle men positions or with the professions.

rac01_400_02With regards to recent immigrants, also known by the appellation “fresh off the boat” themselves or their parents tend to have been born and raised abroad. Assimilation was not always easy, as their parents often had to go through complicated immigration paperwork and other hassles which limited their parents’ career options.

There were recent immigrants who settled in countries with a lot of cash to invest, while others were intellectuals who found employment in high-wage professions. Others had to settle for working-class jobs or open small, labor intensive shops such as grocery stores or dry-cleaners.

Some recent immigrants insisted on speaking their native language at home while others opted for the local language, or more often mixed both. The parents will use the native language as the dominant language while peppering it with a few local words while the children will answer in the local language peppered with a few words in their parents’ native language. Some perform very well in school, while others have learning difficulties as in every other group.

Culturally, such families tend to retain some values and reflexes from their country of origin. Some will enjoy their parents’ native food, others will enjoy their parents’ homeland’s music. Others will choose to fully assimilate.

Stereotypes surrounding first or second-generation immigrants tend to revolve around tastes in food , tastes in music, the propensity to practice the sports of their parents’ home country rather than those practiced in the host country, attitudes towards studying and attitudes toward work, though such practices sometimes become popularized with ethnic food, ethnic bands, new sports and so on.

Regarding the residents of declining industrial zones, they are those toward which the media can be very, sometimes excessively harsh. Industrial zones emerge in some places when because of new technologies, decline in product prices, industrial products becoming obsolete or cheaper, competition with foreign products, imports or outsourcing, industrial zones emerge in one place and disappear in another. American industry was in the North before new technologies meant the jobs moved to the Silicon Valley, and who knows, the industry could move elsewhere if new types of products emerge.

Abandoned or declining industrial zones historically include the textile industry of Harlem in New York City, Michigan and Ohio in the US, the Paris suburbs and the same could be said of several European and East Asian countries. Lack of job prospects in such regions, which were once prosperous, often leads to popular culture stereotypes such as protest-songs becoming a popular music genre, as well as few job opportunities other than those offered by organized crime groups.

Such regions often speak a vernacular that was once spoken by their ancestors who came for the jobs, Ebonics in the United States is the vernacular that used to be spoken in the Southern states, while immigrant populations in such regions in France often speak the French vernacular that was once spoken by French settlers in Western Algeria. All ethnicities tend to be represented in such areas and all ethnicities suffer equally, although since they were once industrial areas, minorities tend to be very present in such areas.

If you ever get a job in a middle-man position, be it in banking, investment, law, politics or other types of jobs that require excessive communication or networking, you will end up being concise, to the point, will have little time to chit chat and will have heard so many crazy stories that you will end up being unemotional or aloof. You may also have little time and patience for nonsense and will want to get straight to the point and people will view you as distant, closed or will think you lack empathy.

Middle men often come from educated backgrounds and tend to be associated with one minority or the other, although there are often vast differences in earnings and educational levels among such minorities.  Such middle men minorities often come from educated and privileged backgrounds which enabled them to access such professions. But beware of logical fallacies. Many financiers in Japan are Korean, but not all Koreans living in Japan, not even the majority, work in finance. The same could be said about the Chinese in South Korea, the Lebanese in West Africa, the Indians in East Africa or the Levantines, Greeks, Italians or Armenians in Europe and North America and increasingly families from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf are assuming middle-men positions around the world.

A final word perhaps about the Muslim minorities, since there’s so much talk revolving around them. Most Muslim immigrants in Europe and North America are first or second generation immigrants, from very diverse political and religious views and often had very little time to organize their communities. When they did organize community centers there have been complaints of embezzled funds and other problems such as excessive hierarchy and bureaucracy and little interest in solving problems. North African countries were hit hard by severe recessions in the 1980s and 1990s and had to deal with the immigration bureaucracies of European and North American countries, along with the economic slowdown of Europe and North America in the 80s and 90s, in contrast to the 50s and 60s economic recovery. This meant families or individuals often had to deal with bureaucratic hassles, lack of employment prospects, high divorce rates and sometimes marginalization from local societies.

Many very wealthy Muslim families settled, while some families opened small business and shops, others fell for the kind of scams people fall for during recessions. Unlike their East Asian counterparts, they often had no home to return to. This led some to radicalize, while many radicalized in prisons or were brainwashed by former prisoners. The recession in Europe, coupled with the smoking ban in pubs and the decline of social or political centers meant that a community that once enjoyed tea (or beer) along with long rounds of cards, dominos or backgammon games and discussing local league soccer tournaments suddenly had nothing else to do but discuss religion and politics. Finally, it lies in the interest of some Muslim leaders to justify embezzling funds or mismanaging the economy by telling their people that happiness lies in the spiritual rather than in material wealth.    

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Emanuel Paparella2016-09-14 14:27:17
On the last point, the previous substitution of sports and consumerism for religion and politics, how did that work? One wonders.

Bob Nelson2016-09-16 04:43:58
The "abondoned and declining industrial zones" could be expanded to include rural areas facing similar issues (e.g., mining). People from deep rural areas also face sterotyping (plowboy, hay seed, dumb farmer).

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