One of the most common social problems today continues to be racism and discrimination on various grounds . In some sectors, ideas that express dissatisfaction with living with individuals who have certain physical characteristics that make them different from the rest continue to prevail.

Racism is about the attack and rejection because of belonging to a racial group, factors such as the belief of superiority, hatred and lack of empathy are part of this conflict. The persecution and attack of people who have been classified as inferior or different from the rest turn into complex cases of physical violence and verbal violence .

On a daily basis, some ethnic or racial groups suffer the consequences of racism in their private and public lives. Racism is expressed at the institutional level as well as in various scenarios of life in society, this can be observed when they are subjected to stereotypes and the expressiveness of attitudes and opinions in which inequality is evident.

It could be said that racism has become normalized in its various expressions. For the victims it entails the suffering of multiple psychological consequences , they could develop negative behaviors for themselves from racist interactions such as anxiety and depression.

Being continuously exposed to these attacks runs the risk of affecting the proper functioning of some brain functions. Control over thoughts and emotions changes completely, the physical consequences should also be mentioned, having different levels of severity with possible permanent sequelae. 

What is racism?

Racism is defined as the set of discriminatory practices that show what personal opinions are, these express rejection of certain individuals due to their racial characteristics. People tend to express the need to belong at a social level, this causes some to develop negative attitudes towards those who they consider to be different or who are not part of their own group.

The segregation and exclusion of some people is based on factors such as skin color, ethnic origin , cultural precedence, economic situation and other similar elements. Racist attacks are usually described as discriminatory practices of various kinds, consequently greater privileges are granted to those who fit the required conditions.

Hate crimes classified in different forms of violence have been perpetrated , experts consider that racism has become a fundamental part of the daily dealings between people. Unfortunately, racism has been part of human civilization since its inception, it has been expressed through enslavement and in military conflicts for example.

The concept of racism is still related to xenophobia, but they are not synonymous. Racism can be practiced by maintaining different criteria to reject people, either because of skin color or physical features. Mention can even be made of other more complex elements such as physical and intellectual capacities.

From a psychological point of view, racism can be understood as a form of self-protection or an attempt to preserve a relevant social position . That is, some studies have proposed the possibility that this is a resource used in order to maintain certain privileges.

What are the characteristics of racism?

Racism is characterized by showing rejection of people who have certain physical characteristics, but also because of their cultural or ethnic origins . Usually conflicts of this type focus on marginalizing people who have a different skin color, but people from foreign nations or even because of their economic condition can also be abused. ´

Mention should also be made of cases where discrimination is made on the basis of identity or sexual preference , homophobia has occupied the first place in the records of attacks of this type. In the same way, people who have some type of limiting physical condition or mental retardation can suffer rejection.

Any criteria can be used as an excuse to proceed to show negative behavior towards other people. The discrimination in most cases is applied to distinctive physical traits such as height and skin color. But also nationality as well as ethnicity are used as reasons to suffer from xenophobia .

Other important characteristics that help identify instances of racism are described below. It is important not to confuse racism with xenophobia, they cannot be used as synonyms but they do show similarities. These are the most common factors :

  • People who have been identified as different or who cannot be considered part of a group are rejected or ignored . Any action or behavior that allows limiting the interaction of these people with the rest will be implemented.
  • Racist people often justify their actions based on ideological , religious, scientific, ethnocentric or folkloric motivations or criteria . Arguments embedded in racist discourse are not always shown to have a logical or supportable reason.
  • An absolute and unshakable position of aversion is manifested towards those individuals who possess certain particular characteristics. That is, they maintain a perspective where they have a negative concept about these people.
  • The prejudices and cognitive biases have a key role in this situation. The people who carry out these aggressions usually show a position of superiority, therefore they feel they have the right to mistreat and submit these people.
  • Critical comments, threats , offenses, teasing, as well as other types of verbal and written aggressions can be made. Victims are harassed even via social media.
  • You can suffer from physical and psychological violence in combination, the aggressors plan their attacks in order to achieve damage to the mental stability of the victims.
  • Racist episodes have the peculiarity that in most cases they occur in groups. That is, they are not isolated cases where only one person is involved, the most common is that several individuals come together to attack a target.
  • Similarly, racism has been a motive for the incitement of social unrest that have caused public disturbances, for example.

What is its origin and how is it identified?

Racism is generally indicated to have its origin in Western Europe, it has been used as a justification to place the white race in a superior position of leadership. For example, for centuries this argument would be used to give legality to certain movements of domination and occupation known by various names such as colonialism and genocides.

Slavery and human trafficking have also been part of racism since its inception. Usually mention is made of people whose ancestry is African, however it is not the only meaning. Also the elimination of ethnic groups such as Indians and Jews are only part of the story.

In some cultures there has been a clear progress of racism becoming part of their way of life. A good example is the movement of national socialism that occurred in Germany during the decades from 1930 to 1940. As a consequence, individuals of Jewish origin and part of the gypsy people were persecuted and eliminated.

Apartheid is also another type of social movement with racist intentions, the racial segregation that has had the greatest impact in South Africa. Starting in 1948, the establishment of a racist political regime would begin, the dominance of a white minority prevailed. It seeks to limit miscegenation as well as the prohibition of interracial interaction and marriage.

At present, in different nations of the world, legal measures have been implemented that indicate that racism will be punished by law, it is considered a crime . In addition, major educational and social reforms have changed people’s minds. This positively affects the new generations who show greater empathy and understanding about this issue.

What are its consequences? 

Racism has multiple consequences for victims depending on the severity of the attacks perpetrated on them. The development of low self-esteem is usually described as well as a poor perception of themselves. These individuals begin to have feelings of hopelessness and frustration; due to various tests that they must constantly face.

The distortion of self-concept is also described, it is closely linked to self-esteem. Those affected internalize negative and erroneous ideas about their interpersonal relationships and their own capacities and purposes. In general they begin to believe as true, any negative concept that has been expressed in relation to them.

The feelings of inferiority are common in these cases. They begin to suffer from acute and chronic stress, in part because they are always in search of resources and methods that allow them to protect themselves from possible attacks. The organism loses the adaptive capacity to certain social situations, the victims manifest constant fear as well as difficulties to communicate.

Depression is a common factor and they feel constantly harassed . They tend to be suspicious and repress their own feelings, they may show anger or impulsiveness due to internal discomfort. There may be signs of self-destruction or decide to isolate voluntarily, aversion to being part of social interactions is a way of trying to avoid the contempt of other people.

Learned helplessness is another element in common among the victims. Behaving passively as well as trying to avoid confrontations are just some of the changes that can be observed. Eventually, various mental disorders or emotional instability may develop , including personality disorders .

How is it solved?

One of the ways in which situations of racism can be dealt with is to eradicate the use of stereotypes and social prejudices . The responsibility of making use of these disqualifications against other people is of each person, a large part of these erroneous ideas are learned within the family environment and within the classrooms of educational institutes.

It is also important to mention racist behavior learned through the mass media . It turns out to be essential to achieve a better coexistence and communication to impart knowledge related to empathy, respect, solidarity, equality and diversity.

At the social level, we must continue working on the fight against the lack of information that contributes to the creation of stereotypes and hatred. For this reason, different types of private and institutional initiatives have emerged that aim to achieve a radical change in the way of thinking of people.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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