Racism, a form of inequality

Nowadays, in the society in which we live, few people openly consider themselves racist. However, everyday life is replete with discriminatory ideas, behaviours and words, with racism feeding on one of the hallmarks of the way in which our societies are built: inequality.

Racism is the discriminatory classification of people into groups on the basis of skin colour and/or country of origin. It is founded on the arbitrary assignation of negative characteristics to an entire group, in order to justify their unequal treatment and legitimize their social exclusion. As such, racist thinking justifies discrimination, social segregation and/or the economic exploitation of one or more communities.

But racism is not a definition, nor is it an abstraction: it is a concrete reality that causes everyday harm, a series of actions and behaviours that infringes upon people’s rights and undermines their wellbeing and dignity.

Precisely because racism is one of the mechanisms used to justify certain social inequalities, emigrants, and especially those who find themselves in more vulnerable socio-economic situations, are the ones who end up facing racist discrimination.

Islamophobia is a form of contemporary racism based on cultural prejudices against Muslim people


The fear of change and difference

Various factors lie behind racism, as do the processes of social change taking place across the globe.

Global capitalism drives accelerated change in many areas of life, and is behind drastic cultural and socioeconomic crises. In this context, immigration is sometimes presented as the source of social problems that have complex causes often completely unrelated to migration: job insecurity, crime, terrorism, weaknesses of the welfare state, the breakdown of traditional identities, etc.

Consequently, migrants often become the scapegoat for social unrest, and racism emerges as a defensive mechanism against the uncertainties and insecurities of the contemporary world.

The migrant population represents 10% of the total population of Spain. In times of crisis, it has helped sustain the welfare state through the contribution of social security payments and taxes.

Prejudice, the root of discrimination

Prejudice describes those points of view founded on pejorative and negative perceptions of someone on account of the simple fact that they belong to a particular group, which translate into hostile and distrustful attitudes.
Prejudice is a combination of emotions that encourage us to discriminate against people on account of a number of stereotypes.

Stereotypes are generalizations that attribute qualities to a person owing to their being a member of a group, impeding them from being valued individually. First prejudices, and then stereotypes, provide fuel for discriminatory discourses and behaviours. For this reason, it is very important to debunk the rumours and common assumptions that lead to unfair judgements of people who make up a given group.

Xenophobia is the feeling of hatred, disgust and hostility towards migrants, especially racialized migrants. It is based on pejorative and erroneous beliefs about migrants, and is manifested in hostile attitudes and behaviours, as well as contempt for people of different origin.

Our attitude towards immigration The number of immigrants is...?

  • 21% Acceptable
  • 1,6% Insuficient
  • 6% NS/NC
  • 37% Excessiu
  • 34% Elevat

Growing up together, learning to live together

It can also manifest in discriminatory attitudes and thoughts, and in physical and/or verbal aggression. While xenophobia differs from racism as a concept, in practice they often go hand-in-hand. We can consult the CEAR dictionary to see the link between them.

It is useful to address the concept of aporophobia, so as to better understand the aforementioned concepts. Aporophobia is the rejection of poor people for the simple fact of being so. The term first appeared in publications by the Spanish philosopher Adela Cortina, with the aim of creating a word with which to differentiate this phenomenon from xenophobia. Aporophobia reinforces the marginalization of people in a vulnerable position, and exists side by side with racism and xenophobia towards migrants.

One way to combat aporophobia is to promote an anti-essentialist view of poverty, that is, not to link poverty to the “essence” of those who suffer it, but to the way in which poverty, for various reasons, forms part of their lives. It is also important to do this without normalizing poverty, as if it were something inevitable, and inherent in all societies.

In teaching both diversity and equality, there are two key pedagogical perspectives: intercultural education and anti-racist education. Interculturality highlights the interconnections between cultures, and their dynamic nature. It is a useful model for combatting ethnocentrism and discovering that, despite cultural differences, there are also universal elements shared by all human societies: celebrations, play, and artistic expression, to name a few. But interculturality cannot be understood in isolation from power relations and structural inequalities linked to people’s backgrounds. The legal and socio-political factors of exclusion must be taken into account. This is where anti-racist education comes in, placing cultural diversity in the context of social inequality. Anti-racist education promote equal rights and equality of opportunities for all people. That is to say, it seeks to combat the factors behind inequality.

Racisme als centres educatius. Eines per prevenir-los i combatre’l. Eumo Editorial-Fundació Bofill (adapted text) / NÚRIA VIVES


Unsplash photography / AVEL CHUKLANOV

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, his background, or his religion” - Nelson Mandela