The Intrinsic Evils Attendant to Racial Discrimination and Prejudice
Plato, one of the greatest thinkers ever to have been born on this planet, once quipped: “justice lies in giving every man his due” (qtd. in Lavine 46). Be that as it may, there are reasons to think that the learned philosopher’s oft-quoted wisdom does not speak well of humankind’s tendency to commit injustices against fellow human persons. It merits noting that racial discrimination belongs to one of the most glaring examples of humanity’s ever gripping tendency to commit injustice against his kind. At the very least, the depth of racial discrimination problems being experienced the world over lay not so much on the deliberate intention to exclude person as the uncritical embrace of conventions that tend to exclude people. Simply put, racial discrimination is a systemic problem. In view of such contention, this paper attempts to briefly describe and argue that there are intrinsic evils attendant to the discrimination of fellow human persons, whether done deliberately or unconsciously.
Racial discrimination fundamentally refers to “actions and practices by members of a dominant group that limit the opportunities of a less powerful group” (The World Book Encyclopedia 239). Herein, it is necessary to appreciate that discrimination entails identifying two forces (i.e., groups of people) that fail to create a mutually nurturing environment on account of certain prejudices, telltale stereotypes, or sheer uncritical embrace of long-held conventions. Most sociological studies therefore, in attempting to circumscribe the nature and scope of discriminatory practices, tend to identify a more dominant race vis-à-vis the subordinated minorities. With equal interest though, it must be noted further that discrimination can be gleaned from unfortunate incidences that include, but may not be limited to apartheid, peonage, slavery and suppression of fundamental rights such as those relative to educational, economic, socio-political in nature (World Conference against Discrimination 2). Furthermore, the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination contends that what constitutes as the grave moral evil intrinsic to the commission and tolerance of racial discrimination lie in its incurable tendency to “nullify and impair” the recognition and enjoyment of inherent “human right and fundamental freedom” of fellow human persons (qtd. in Lerner 25).
I feel chiefly impelled to concur to the sacred contentions upheld by the proceedings of the United Nations on account of two reasons: first, I believe that racial discrimination is an outright violation of the inherent dignity latched into one’s being a human person, since we are born on equal footing and with self-same rights; and that second, racial discrimination is an act that constitutes great moral evil on account of the unwarranted suffering it engenders for those who are, specifically, singled out with discriminatory and prejudiced treatment.
In the first place, racial discrimination is a direction violation of the dignity that comes with having to exist as a human person. This means that being born a human person necessarily entails that one already has a right to obtain all acceptable means to exist, to exercise freedom, to progress in one’s endeavor, and to be given equal opportunities to participate in the affairs of the society, which are necessary aspects to one’s effort to live in decent conditions. The recent gathering of world countries, convened by the United Nations in 2001 at Durban, South Africa, is categorical on this stance: “all individuals,” the leaders of the world concur, “are born equal in dignity and rights” (World Conference against Discrimination 3). These things having said, it is therefore not difficult to surmise that any act which tramples upon a person’s fundamental rights constitutes a grave violation of the dignity that is inherent in one’s very existence in this world.
Secondly, it is with great emphasis that I affirm the fact that racial discrimination is evil insofar as it brings about suffering to people subjected to discrimination of whatever form or type. Here in the United States, racial discrimination against the black people has already been outlawed many decades ago. During the 1960’s many outstanding rules that forbid inter-marriages between blacks and whites, segregation between them in many public places, as well as, most importantly, the systemic slavery of blacks in the service of the whites, were declared unconstitutional by the United States’ Supreme Court (The World Book Encyclopedia 239). This is because the nation has to slowly learn from the painful experiences of the black people. Here, we must not speak only of the physical hardships that come with being made to work at households and fields in an almost systematic manner. The black people, especially during the era of slavery, had to wrestle with the psycho-emotional anguish of being subjected to a scheme of slavery which they did not want. They too, more importantly, had to bear with the torment of the gripping loneliness that comes with having to be taken away, in a manner being drastic and forceful, from their respective homes and loved ones. The point in contention here lies in acknowledging the fact that discrimination breeds corollary suffering to innocent people; and that under all circumstances, the world must not permit these things to happen again.
To briefly conclude, I wish to reaffirm that Plato’s wisdom indeed strikes a sensitive chord into the manner by which the world struggles hard to remove all strains of discrimination in all of its affairs. There is a need to eradicate all forms and practices of discrimination because the evils which are attendant to it – i.e., the violation it commits against the dignity of human persons and the suffering it brings about to innocent victims – does not speak well of humanity’s duty to take care of the welfare of his fellowmen. In the end, I believe that humanity’s true goal lies to his being able to find ways to unite for the pursuit of greater and nobler ends.
Lavine, T. From Socrates to Sartre. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.
Lerner, Natan. The U.N. Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Boston: Brill, 1980.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights. World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. 14 December 2008. <www.un.org/WCAR/durban.pdf>