Before engaging with the tasks and listening to the input, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what racism was and the effects it can have on our society.My previous understanding of race was that it is related to biology, and that differences in genetics were what formed the different racial groups. I believed ethnicity to be based on geography and culture.
I understand now that this is not the case, and it is much more complex than that. Many scientists believe the term ‘race’ is not biologically/scientifically accurate. The differences in genetics that we believe define races are tiny. However, society uses these difference to fit people into groups. I also now see that ethnicity is more about the cultural practices someone chooses to engage in; this can include language, religion and customs. Because of this, a person may choose which ethnicities they believe apply to them.
My understanding of the terms prejudice and discrimination, however, have not changed. My views are still that prejudice is about a person’s thoughts and opinions, whereas discrimination is the actions that can occur because of those opinions.
One thing that has changed for me through listening to the input and engaging with the tasks is my awareness of racism in the UK.
We often focus on racism in America. This may be due to the large media coverage of events and incidents in the US. However, this means it can be easy to forget about racism in the UK. For example, before this week I had no knowledge of the Bristol Bus Boycott in 1963. This happened to protest the refusal of the Bristol Omnibus Company to hire ethnic minorities to work on their buses. The boycott was successful and the ban was overturned.
Another thing that has changed is my perception of racism in mainstream culture, particularly blackface. It is now much less common to see blackface but it does still happen, for example during the Dutch tradition of Zwarte Piet, or ‘Black Pete’. This is where people portray the character of Zwarte Piet (Saint Nicholas’ sidekick) by wearing blackface makeup and wigs and take part in parades across the country. Although blackface is now more rare, many people believe that online equivalents to blackface mean it is still a problem today. For example, the photo editing app FaceApp came into trouble as many people considered the filters allowing people to change what race they look like to be ‘digital blackface.’
Overall, although my understanding of the words prejudice and discrimination have not changed through the input, my views on racism in modern times have.