Racism is alive and well in 2004

Racist language was easy to identify 30 years ago, but times have
changed. The 21st century brings new challenges to those of us
committed to ending oppression because we must face up to our own

We have learned the language of political correctness. We know
which words to avoid and we can, at will, spout the philosophy of
equal opportunities. Blatant racism is neither fashionable nor
popular and accusations of such are vehemently denied. We appear to
have made progress, with the introduction of human rights
legislation and laws condemning racist practices. In theory we are
a humanitarian society committed to ethical principles. Or so it

The truth is that we have not kept up with the changing face of
racism. It has become more subtle, more covert than overt, more
implicit than explicit, more devious and therefore much more
dangerous. It is increasingly difficult these days to spot racism
and the accusation of such often leads to as much condemnation of
the accuser as the accused.

Racism 2004-style exists in the little words we use every day. It
is evident in the way we describe the otherness of people, and in
whom we exclude when we talk of “we” and “us”. It is there in the
pronouns we use to identify those we see as like us and those we
don’t. And it is particularly evident in the way immigration is

Close examination of the dialogue used by Labour to discuss asylum
seekers and refugees is particularly enlightening. Negativity and
criminality, unacceptable cultural practices, and the depiction of
immigrants as lacking understanding of basic human rights are all
expressions of racist sentiment: a politically acceptable racist
sentiment that forms the foundation on which our current
immigration policy is built.

While this is the case we cannot consider ourselves a humanitarian

For as long as we stand by and allow our elected leaders to abandon
commitments to ethical principles in the name of immigration
control, we are all guilty of perpetuating oppression. Our
understanding of racism must change if we are to continue the
fight, and the battle must start with those at the top.

Dawn Summers is a youth and community worker.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.