Tracing the journey of racism in developed countries

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

In the 14th century, Europeans started forcefully acquiring people from Africa and made them their slaves. The Africans were treated poorly and made to do blue collar jobs to meet the growing demand for sugar. It was a brutal acquisition and one in five Africans were unable to survive the journey to Europe. Even the ones who survived were unable to live for more than a few years because of the inhuman working conditions.

Some people did raise their voice against the exploitation faced by the slaves. Despite that, the general consensus was that they were ‘lesser humans’ and ‘lacked intelligence for better things’. These ideas were propagated by some influential people like academicians, priests and writers and people rarely questioned them. It seemed like the cycle would continue forever but the first seeds of change were planted with time.

In 1776, Britain’s House of Commons held a debate on the subject – ‘the slave trade is contrary to the laws of God and the rights of men’. It took more than 30 years after that for it to be abolished. In 1807, King George III signed the law abolishing slave trade in Britain. By then, slavery had stepped into North America and other parts of the world too. Even India was colonised by the Britishers and exploited heavily. It took two world wars to weaken imperialist nations and force them to give freedom to their colonies. India had its own freedom movement spearheaded by Mahatma Gandhi who was once thrown out of a train for not being white.

Is racism still present?

In February 2021, Rashmi Samant created history by becoming the president of Oxford University’s Student Union (OSU). The Udupi girl was the first Indian to achieve the feat but her glory days were soon cut short.

Some of her old social media posts were found to have racist content and she faced serious backlash for it. There was a holocaust reference in a post she had made when she visited The Holocaust Memorial in Germany. It read, “The memorial *CASTS* a *HOLLOW* dream of the past atrocities and deeds.” Another post made from Malaysia read ‘Ching Chang’ and that was disliked by Chinese students.

Due to the criticism, Samant resigned from her post and wrote a letter on Facebook. “In light of the recent events surrounding my election to the Presidency of the Oxford SU, I believe it is best for me to step down from the role. It has been an honour to be your President-elect,” she wrote. While the comments made by Samant may not seem severe, we must realize that we are living in an incredibly sensitive world which dissects everything said by people in positions of power. It wasn’t always like this. Racism was a way of the world and several countries in Africa and Asia were colonized.

Even though countries aren’t colonized anymore, the average white male still has privileges that can’t be ignored. One research showed that white sounding names were given preference by employers. According to a video by AsapSCIENCE, researchers sent 1300 fake resumes in response to employment ads. It was discovered that black sounding names received 50% fewer callbacks than white sounding names. Also, black students in pre-school were punished significantly more than their white counterparts.

Even for Indians, racism is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed. Last year, during India’s tour of Australia, Mohammad Siraj was racially abused by an Australian fan.

The fan was ousted with immediate effect but it did leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. A few years ago, Indian students in Australia too reported incidents of racism. It doesn’t mean that there is no hope. There’s a lot more awareness about the subject and we’re even seeing interracial marriages taking place. Several celebrities from Muhammad Ali to LeBron James have proved that we’re all born equal. Greatness is achieved with effort, desire and persistence.

Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter movement started in 2013 and is run by a group of liberators fighting for racial equality. The movement also provides financial support to those marginalized people who cannot put food on their table through the BLM Survival Fund.

According to the movement’s official website, “Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc. is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.”

The movement can be termed successful even though they still have a long path to traverse to reach their goals.

The hashtag has received massive support from all corners in social media. In the Premier League this season, the first 12 matches of the season saw players bend down on their knees to support the fight against racism and show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Urruda take

At Urruda, we are strictly against any form of discrimination on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation. With this article, our attempt is to sensitize the youth about the countless atrocities suffered due to racism in the past. It’s important to take the subject seriously and never make an insensitive joke at someone else’s expense. Also, we should consider a country developed based on their ability to seamlessly include people of other races.

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