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VOL 20 NO 190 REGD NO DA 1589 | Dhaka, Friday August 10 2012

Discrimination and the society

M S Siddiqui in the first of his two-part article Society is an abstract concept. It is our mentality that creates the entire atmosphere of a society, and hence society is nothing but the reflection of our mind. Possessing and doing any discrimination merely basing on race, caste, colour and family status is not only a disease of mind but also a disease of society. Therefore racial discrimination is a psychological disorder of mind and certainly not of physics. Any complex or pride of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, and socially unjust and dangerous. Racial discrimination means any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. Racial discrimination has been a complicated issue throughout history. The deep rooted practice of racism is making its presence felt centuries together and has impacted many innocent minds. The person, who possesses and does racial discrimination, will not only fail tojustify it; but will also fail to put legal and moral arguments thereon. They might have some points of their own but those cannot be substantiated by any valid reason. Though race is an arbitrary social concept, racism is very real. Racism is the belief that people who have a different skin colour, nationality or culture are inferior. Racist ideas have developed over thousands of years and have been used to justify the oppression of many different groups of people. In the past people believed that there were different races of people, who shared common physical features such as skin colour, hair type, facial features, character and skills. It is now known through science of genetics that there is just one species to which we all belong and that people of all colours and appearances have a similar potential. Racists have used this idea to label certain races as fundamentally different and inferior. Discrimination forms a society that deprives minorities of their privileges and rights. The racism is what the race belief for differences in human character, and that a particular race is superior to others. Racism can take many forms, ranging from verbal abuse to outright physical attacks to a person or property. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behavior which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racial stereotyping which disadvantages minority ethnic people. This discrimination is illegal in the eye of law in any country of the world. The origin of racial discrimination is rooted in our mind and not in any instruments. It can exist in every sphere of our daily, national, international and global life. Even a progressive person who generally claimed himself free from the racial biasness may often do racial discrimination in subconscious mind. There are many reasons why people are racist. A lot of a person's attitudesand opinions are formed during childhood. If someone is taught to be racist from an early age, these attitudes are likely to stick with the person throughout his life. Often, when asked, racists are unable to explain why they hate people of a different skin colour, nationality or culture. Racial discrimination lies here and there and everywhere. We cannot avoid it unless we change our mentality to

treat all equal and not to be boosted upon those divine structures given to our body as to colour, physical appearance, size, family, sex, caste etc. Its engraved in mankind to believe that one group of people will always be better. Since the beginning of time there were the masters and slaves. What determines one's position in society was there skin colour. Mainly lighter skin individuals were affluent, which continues on today. Colourism is a form of prejudice or discrimination in which human beings of the same-race are treated differently based on the social meanings attached to skin colour. The colourism, although often overshadowed by racism, is not the same as racism. Race and skin colour are distinct phenomena that sometime overlap. Both the race and skin colour are social constructions. The colour of skin continues to play an important role in indicating an individual's race. Race discrimination and colour discrimination can occur between people of the same race or between people of different races or skin colours. The birth in a particular family with particular physical colour is solely depending upon the will of the Almighty. Any person can barely contribute to his self-birth. The impact of colour discrimination has created deep and dark strokes, causing never ending pain, even as stark questions hang in the air. Why should the feeling of different physical appearance be a burden on any one's shoulder? The most common but regretful example is seen at the time of marriage where girls with fair complexion are preferred as a perfect bride. In the recruiting process in some job position, such as air hostess, front desk officer, marketing officer etc., fair looking girls are preferred in most cases. Though job advertisement do not explicitly contain that the applicant has to beautiful and stunning to look at, but practically this criteria remains as one of the pre-condition for availing those posts. A study by Equal Opportunities Commission in USA finds that Asians and black women have a difficult time getting a job, opposed to Caucasian women. Media advertisements of various products and services, particularly those of cosmetics and toiletries are done by bright and dazzling looking female models. Surprisingly these advertisements promote to make the consumers brighter, dazzling and beautiful in appearance. Society continues to generate discrimination because the majority allows it to continue so. Even though race and colour clearly overlap, they are not synonymous. Thus, colour discrimination can occur between persons of different races or ethnicities, or between persons of the same race or ethnicity with different pigmentation, complexion, or skin shade or tone. The perception of beauty can be influenced by racial stereotypes about skin colour. The hair, body, and colour were society's trinity in determining female beauty, influence, and importance. The pervasive power of this trinity is demonstrated by the men against women. Racism used to be stirred up by the media. In drama and movie, the bright, fine-looking and stunning girls and boys are not only preferred, but also these factors act as pre-conditions for their casting. Unfortunately, the word 'fair complexion' is used as synonymous to pretty and darker colour synonymous to ugliness. The skin whitening cosmetic products are popular in Asia including Bangladesh. 4 out of 10 women surveyed in Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea used a skin-whitening cream, and more than 60 companies globally compete for Asia's estimated $18 billion market. The Advertisements show the girls are often declined due to colour of skin and after use of skin whitening creams the girls are accepted to make partners. The society is ignoring the bad impact on the mind of unmarried girls with darker skins. In USA, the media is responsible for influencing beliefs regarding ideas of beauty in the African-American community. Mass media productions often perpetuate discrimination based on skin colour. African-Americans possessing lighter skin complexion and European features such as lighter eyes, and smaller noses and lips have more opportunities in the media industry. For example, film producers hire lighter-skinned African-Americans more often, television producers choose lighter skinned cast members, and magazine editors choose African-American models that resemble European features. As a result, the media industry sends the messages that AfricanAmericans with Eurocentric features are more likely to be accepted, diminishing the status of darker-skinned

African-Americans. Concerning African-American males in the media, darker skinned men are more likely to be portrayed as violent or more threatening, influencing the public perception of African-American men. Since dark-skinned males are more likely to be linked to crime and misconduct, many people develop preconceived notions about the characteristics of black men. The negative public perception of darker-skinned African-American places them at a disadvantaged position in other aspects of society, such as the workforce. The writer is a part time teacher of Leading University, and pursuing PhD in Open University, Malaysia