Cultural racism is a term used in scientific research to describe a specific type of racism which developed from the generally known form of racism, which is “biological racism”. “Cultural racism” is used by the UN, the swedish Equality Ombudsman and in the scientific world to describe some racist ideologies, ideas, reasoning, arguments, and notions. Citations are made in terms of ideology “culture shock” and that cultural differences legitimize exclusion and discrimination based on racial notions and ranking of culture as higher and lower in relation to each other. Examples of such notions and arguments that are included in these citations could be “many immigrants don’t go to work, and engage in tax evasion”, “many Gypsies have a cultural predisposition to steal”, and “Muslims have a lot of children, take over our country, and evade our culture”.
Racism and culture racism
The Swedish Equality Ombudsman says that racism “originally is a word that describes the division of people in a “race system”( like Apartheid) where certain races are biologically subordinated others. Today we talk more about culture racism – the notion that cultures are absolute, unchangeable and define the individual’s characteristics.”
The term “culture racism” was first used in the beginning of the 1980s. In England and the US the terms new racism (coined by the sociologist Martin Barker) and ethnicization are also used to describe the same phenomenon. During the 1980s and the 1990s, culture racism came to replace the previously generally accepted forms of biological racism.
Culture racism entails an essentialistic view on cultures. Culture racism seeks to ascribe a culture certain (negative) attributes. These are sometimes set against one’s own culture, which is said to be lacking these negative attributes. Those who are accused of culture racism are also often accused of being a closet racist. According to Marcello Vittorio Ferrada de Noli, psychiatrist and professor emeritus in Public health, cultural racism is an expression of “intentional political fraud or of a subconscious xenophobic affective state” and that “the culture racist seldom wants, or rarely can, admit his/her actual biological/ethnical racist attitude”.
Culture racism is related to Xenophobia, Islamophobia, Antisemitism and Orientalism. The cultural racism that is specifically directed against Jews is called antisemitism. If it is directed against the roma it is called Antiziganism, against Christians christophobia, and if it is directed against muslims it is called islamophobia.
There have been numerous scientific studies that show that racism takes different shapes and expressions, for example: biological, religious, scientific and cultural racism. In the scientific world these terms are separated and are treated like separate entities for racist expressions and guises.
Cultural racism is built upon the idea of a Nation as a cultural entity and it expresses racist principals and thoughts about essences and racial “beings”, hereditary proficiencies and abilities through cultural practices and cultural affiliation, through which differences between people (cultural and others) are explained. Cultural racism refers to cultures instead of the ancestry of different peoples and thus differs from biological racism. Culturally contingent racism includes a belief that one’s own ethnical group’s cultural heritage is above that of other ethnical groups.
“Cultural racism is rooted in the teaching, or rather belief, that a culture is a phenomenon with its’ own soul and is “given once forever” (never changes). One’s culture is often portrayed as an innate proficiency/attribute one naturally possesses if one belongs to a certain ethnical group or religion and that one carries one’s “culture” as baggage throughout one’s life. It is seen as a characteristic that stems from a sort of obvious, common identity and origin.“
The excluding of the other thus becomes important because the culturally different then become unavoidably problematic for the “national identity”.
Equality Ombudsman describes the cultural racism ideology as follows:
“ After WWII, as the idea of different biological races became controversial, the term culture received increased significance in racist reasoning. Scientists usually talk about so called “Culture racism”. Instead of starting from biology, culture is used to explain how people are and what they do. Culture is seen as something solid and unchangeable. The rhetoric and the purpose of the division is the same as when talking about biological races though. Stereotypical notions about the cultures of ethnical groups as essentially different and incompatible with the (for example) Swedish culture lies as a foundation of cultural racism. Cultures are seen as unchangeable and very “deciding” for a person’s characteristics.“
- The Swedish page sv:Kulturell rasism
- ”Slavery and racism”. Unesco press. Läst 17 december 2013.
- Diskrimineringsombudsmannen (DO): “Rasism”. Quote: ”Idag pratar man mer om kulturrasism –föreställningen om att kulturer är absoluta, oföränderliga och definierar individens egenskaper.” Retrieved December 17, 2013.
- Centrum mot rasism: “Kulturrasism”. December 17, 2013.
- Otterback, Jonas; Bevelander, Pieter (2006). Islamofobi: en studie av begreppet, ungdomars attityder och unga muslimers utsatthet. Stockholm: Forum för levande historia. Libris 10308742. ISBN 91-976073-6-3
- Centrum mot rasism: “Kulturrasism”. December 17, 2013.
- SOU 1989:13 (1989). Statens offentliga utredningar, 0375-250X ; 1989:13. Stockholm: Allmänna förlaget. Libris 806678. ISBN 91-38-10289-7
- Diskrimineringsombudsmannen (DO): “Vardagsrasism”. December 17, 2013.
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