Racism in the Last 100 Years
By Saadia Ahmed
In the early seventh century, Prophet Muhammad in his Farewell Address revealed to all his followers: He told them that all people are created equal.
“All humans are descended from Adam and Eve, there is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”
This sermon highlighted the basic religious and ethical ideals for all of mankind. Racial equality as the theme of the sermon jolted an up rift in the society based on tribal and ethnic superiority.
Although we have drastically progressed in technology and education during the past century, millions of people have been killed due to racism, tribalism, nationalism, colonialism and the caste system both in the Muslim and non-Muslim world.
Racism in its simplest form is an ideology that treats people differently based on their beliefs, race, cultural background, or skin color. It can also be defined as a frame of mind, where one group believes that they are superior to the other.
Here are some eye-opening facts on the destruction caused by racism in the last one hundred years.
European Colonialism oppressed majority of African countries due to their race and colour. Africans had no claims on their own lives, they were considered as second-class people and were not allowed to adapt to daily life or come side by side with white people in public places. Power was being abused in the hands of a few exploitative countries, which resulted in taking away the lives of millions of innocent people.
In the 1900s, World War I and II are clear examples of nationalism, racism and Nazism. As the European countries fought to prove their dominance and power in both world wars, the lives of millions people were destroyed.
In 1948, the enactment of the apartheid laws in South Africa established racial discrimination, which undermined the social and economic wellbeing of the black race. Marriages between the whites and the non-whites were prohibited, and certain jobs were restricted for whites only. The main aim of this law was to give dominance to the whites and to create a racial separation based on skin colour.
As per the data provided by the Commerce Department Census Bureau, African Americans make up to 12.8 percent of the US population. Here are some tragic facts regarding racism faced by this small percentage in a first world country:
- 26 percent African American families were living below poverty level without access to the necessities.
- The highest rate of unemployment faced by African Americans was between 1975 and 1997.
- During 1998 4,468 incidents pertaining to racial hatred were reported.
- African American children and teenagers are the usual victims of violence and racial hate in USA.
In July 2013, a movement “Black Lives Matter” was started on social media against police brutality and all racially motivated violence towards the black people. It started from the shooting of an African American teen Trayvon Martin in 2012 and came back in the national headlines in May 2020 after George Floyd (a 46-year-old black man) was brutally killed by a white police officer.
The worst form of racism based on skin colour remains in India and is part of the Hindu religion. What was started by the Indo-Aryans to protect their racial purity against the darker skinned people, i.e., the Dravidians, became part of religious values. This caste system is called “Verna” and the Dravidians are referred to as the outcast or the “untouchables”.
This is a list of what “untouchability” refers to:
- These people are either restricted or prohibited to enter public places like schools, offices, courts, and post offices.
- They are not allowed in places of worship, since it is believed that they might make impure the temples and the high cast worshippers.
- They are not offered blue collar jobs and are restricted to menial jobs only.
- They are only allowed to reside outside of the village, they cannot co-exist with other residents of the area.
- The untouchables have no access to any luxuries or comforts, so much so that they cannot acquire basic things like umbrellas or shoes.
The tragedy is that this inhuman practice is endorsed in the Hindu religion itself, and with the rise of Hindu nationalism nowadays, this caste system is regaining its strength.
Even though Islam taught us that all humans are equal centuries ago, it is unfortunate to see many Muslim countries and empires suffering in the hands of nationalism.
The Arab and Turkish nationalism caused the downfall of the Ottoman Empire, since Arabs were of the view that it is they who should have been the rulers, instead of the Turks. This resulted in the end of the Caliphate for the first time in Islamic history.
Since 1947, Kashmir has been a disputed territory – millions of refugees and thousands of innocent lives taken. Both Pakistani and Indian nationalists refuse to give up their claims on Kashmir.
It is important to understand that racial discrimination and unequal opportunities harm not only the people of colour – these systematic biases affect us all and prevents us from reaching our full potential.
“Discrimination isn’t just an insult to our most basic notions of fairness. It also costs us money, because those who are discriminated against are unable to make the best use of their talents. This not only hurts them, it hurts us all, as some of our best and brightest players are, in essence, sidelined, unable to make their full contributions to our economy.” – David Futrelle