Racial Segregation

Term Paper, 2011

7 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Our today’s idea of racism has its beginnings in the late 18th, early19th century when the first researchers identified different races of humans and set the fundamental idea of the white superior race (Giddens 2009). Arthur de Gobineau was the first one to introduce three races which he called Caucausian (white), Negroid (black) and Mengoloid (yellow), however after World War II race-science was discredited (Giddens 2009). Until today there has been thinking towards racism based on genetic differences among many people and also researchers have not yet agreed on one viewpoint. A crucial point of racial segregation has been the skin colour, as examples show during Apartheid in South Africa or slavery in the USA; hair colour often does not matter at all or is only secondary (Giddens 2009). Due to the obvious differences in the skin colour ethnic or racial segregation is present in many places all over the world; the USA has white suburban regions around larger cities, Chinatowns, urban districts with mainly Latinos or African American population. This phenomenon creates inequality and concentrates the disadvantaged groups; therefore these areas often experience more violence and crime. This essay will demonstrate the origin and effects of racial segregation and will provide some brief ideas on how this issue can be improved.

One extreme form of racism was the Apartheid system in South Africa which was in effect from 1948 until 1994. Racism is “a prejudice based on socially significant physical distinctions” and basically means that one race thinks of itself as superior (Giddens 2009). There have been many examples for racism in history such as slavery in the United States of America as well as the killing of many Native Americans, similarly to the Aborigines in Australia who could be killed legally until the 1960s and also the Apartheid system in South Africa. However nowadays it is not socially acceptable to be racist in this way but instead of disappearing, racism changes to cultural racism which is based on “cultural differences to exclude certain groups” (Giddens 2009). One example would be the ban in France of eye-catching religious symbols which includes the head scarf for Muslim women but also men wearing turbans or the Jewish kippa (Scholtys 2004).

Apartheid in South Africa was based on the first form of racism with a very strict division between whites and blacks. The white Africans considered themselves as being superior to black Africans and therefore considered the cities and the wealth to only belong to them (Redman 2008). The only reason they dealt with the black Africans was that they needed labour and for this purpose urban slums were created, the only place near the city in which the blacks were allowed to live (Redman 2008). This physical segregation led to nice and safe white urban areas while at the same time black almost lawless urban slums were established and the blacks living in rural areas were left in poverty (Redman 2008). In order to easily observe this segregation they introduced the passbook which is some form of passport every black person had to carry with him at all times and it included personal data, such as name, origin, height and weight, but also fingerprints, race and endorsements which were stamps that showed where one could live, work etc. (Redman 2008).

Furthermore by including race they strongly influenced individual’s lives, as before they were not aware of races they now learned that each of them belongs to a certain race and each has a different status in society (Redman 2008). This social construct was exercised by assigning certain typical human characteristics to certain territories in South Africa and usually those territories assigned to blacks were very poor (Redman 2008). In order to examine who has which origin, unscientific methods were used, for example in order to decide whether a person is white or not they would stick a pen in the person’s hair and if it did not fall out a person was definitely not white; other characteristics examined were the size and shape of the nose, the skin colour, the hair colour and texture etc. (Redman 2008).

All of these aspects lead to the conclusion that the whites were very ethnocentric; basically they were sceptical towards other cultures and also assessed it accordingly in regards to their own culture (Giddens 2009). Due to the strict racial segregation which prevented any closer contact between the white and the black population it was impossible to eliminate racial prejudices but they would rather be reinforced or even increase. Furthermore there was a wide-ranging group closure in which “groups maintain boundaries separating themselves from others” (Giddens 2009). Group closure on the one hand consists of prohibiting or limiting intermarriage between two races which was very extensive in South Africa since not only blacks and whites were not allowed to marry, but also within the black races only people of the same race were allowed to marry and even children had to have the same race as their parents in order to be able to stay with them (Giddnes 2009; Redman 2008). On the other hand there were also restrictions on social contact and economic relationships; the example of South Africa showed this for instance in employing black people only as migrant workers, this way they could easily be fired at any time, they were not allowed to own houses except if they had been working with the same employer for continuously 10 years before that they had to live in single sex hostels and were not allowed to bring their families (Giddens 2009, Redman 2008). Finally another feature of group closure is the physical separation which was strongly present in everyday life with separated school, grocery stores, separated residential areas and even benches for whites and blacks were there. Although it seems like there may not be racial segregation anymore and it is socially less accepted as it used to there are still African Americans, Latinos and Chinese for example living in segregation in the USA which will now be further explored.


Excerpt out of 7 pages


Racial Segregation
Corvinus University Budapest
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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435 KB
Racial segregation, latinos, usa, violence, crime, african americans, apartheid, south africa
Quote paper
Angela Kuhnert (Author), 2011, Racial Segregation, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/280477


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