GT33M - Issues in the Politics of Industrial Societies.
Lectures 14 & 15.
March 23, 2001. Race and Citizenship.
Democracy strives for the ideal where the rights and freedoms of all citizens are equal before the law and there is no discrimination by race, gender, beliefs or any other human characteristic.
The politics of industrial societies, however, show that social attitudes undermine this ideal. The ideal of democratic citizenship is undermined by the reality of social prejudice. Some issues of contemporary politics have come to revolve around racial profiling, hate crimes, affirmative action and race politics.
A Paper at a British constitutional convention in 1991 puts the issues into perspective:
A Up to now questions of race and citizenship have seemed sadly peripheral to the constitutional reform agenda. Yet any meaningful debate about democracy in Britain needs to encompass the experience of insecure minorities...the experience of minority ethnic communities in Britain reveals much about the failure of Britain to sustain and strengthen its democratic culture for all its citizens.
African-Caribbean and Asian communities in Britain are often constructed as in some way fundamentally different from white communities, and thus a Aproblem@.
There is plentiful evidence of enduring racism in employment, housing, education, the legal system and many other areas of life...@ (www.charter88.org,uk/pubs/manpaps/yasmin.html)
Democracy is not just about how a political system works but about democratic citizenship - the attitudes and cultural tolerance that exist between people. But democratic citizenship is undermined by a number of practices.
Racial profiling occurs when the justice system prejudges someone because of his race or colour. It happens when the police single out someone as a crime suspect because of his race. It has been found that in the United States and other industrial countries, a black person or someone from a minority race is more likely to be stopped by the police, searched, arrested, imprisoned and sentenced to death than a white person. Police attitudes are influenced by a racial profile, that is, a subconscious image or stereotype of blacks as aggressive, violent, and crime-prone. Crime control and the war against drugs result in a disproportionate amount of harassment and unjust treatment of blacks by the police.
This practice violates the American Constitution (Fourth Amendment) that: AThe right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but on probable cause supported by Oath and Affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be searched.@
Similar civil rights protection exist in other constitutions.
In America, the shorthand name for racial profiling is, Adriving while black.@
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is in the forefront of the fight against racial profiling. It says that more than 30 years after the civil rights struggles led by Martin Luther King Jr., racial prejudice is still reflected in the American criminal justice system. One becomes a suspect merely because of one=s skin colour. In this sense, blacks are guilty until proven innocent, the reverse of what the due process of law means, and because one is black it is more difficult to prove that person innocent when the person is not guilty.
Skin colour is substituted for evidence. It becomes the evidence.
The ACLU says that tens of thousands of black motorists are stopped and searched in America and that the problem has reached epidemic proportions. Blacks, in the eyes of the police, fit the image of the drug trafficker or the gang member.
A 1999 poll showed that in America, almost 60 percent of the population believed that racial profiling was widespread. Seventy-seven percent of blacks said it was a widespread problem because blacks are more directly affected.
Only six percent of whites reported that they felt they had been stopped by the police because of their race but 42 percent of blacks did. Younger black males (18-34) were more likely to suffer racial profiling than either younger white males or younger black women. Not surprisingly, blacks had a more unfavourable attitude towards the police than whites did. (www.gallup.com/poll/releases/pr991209asp)
In March, 2001, the ACLU and civil rights organisations sued the police establishment of Cincinnati for 30 years of racial profiling on the grounds that it violates the rights of African American citizens. It is the first lawsuit of its kind. The lawsuit claims that on a daily basis, African Americans are routinely singled out for minor traffick offenses and that the police is more likely to use excessive and deadly force against them than against whites. It says in Cincinnati, racial bias touches every aspect of law enforcement.
A similar suit was filed against the state of Maryland on behalf of minority motorists. (www.aclu.org/profiling/)
In Texas, African Americans and Latinos are twice as likely to be searched if they are stopped than are white Americans. Although criticism of racial profiling had come under the Clinton administration, even the Bush administration is sympathetic to the problem. Latinos make up 30 percent of the population of Texas so their support is important to Bush in his state.
Racial profiling is a civil rights issue. Civil rights groups see it as a violation of the constitution=s protection of liberties regardless of one=s race, colour or national origin. This issue of national origin is important because back immigrants are also targets of racial profiling.
Civil rights groups want the issue to go beyond searches and arrests. They want it to apply to death penalty cases. A Justice Department report of Y2000 admitted that most of those facing death penalty charges were African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and Pacific Islanders (such as from Hawaii). Eighty-one percent of those on death were people of colour. No wonder a minority of blacks favour the death penalty while a majority of whites do.
The issue creates tension between black and white police officers. A black officer was fired in New York after he claimed that the County department for which he worked practiced racial profiling. A jury found in his favour.
The media is also accused on more indirect forms of racial profiling, which influences public opinion and crime policy. The media tends to accept the stereotype that blacks are drug users and drug traders, cheat on welfare, and turn to criminal enterprise.
This happens in spite of the fact that a medical study in 1998 showed that 60 percent of cocaine users and 77 percent of marijuana users were white. It said, drug use occurred across all strata of society and that affluent, educated white Americans were more likely to use drugs and be addicted to drugs. Yet, because of the media, public opinion held that most drug users were black. Because of this, the American public tends to support tough measures against crime. Research shows that when a crime is associated with a racial minority the public supports strong punitive action, more so than when a crime is committed by a white person. There is an underlying belief in American society that blacks are irredeemable and must suffer harsh measures such as the death penalty. White criminals are more rehabilitative.
Blacks and Hispanics only appear to cause crime and use drugs more than whites because they are stopped and searched in greater numbers so a disproportionate number of them will be found with drugs or to be involved in crime. Racial profiling itself is wrong because it discriminates between citizens. But because of racial profiling it creates the wrong impression that blacks aremore crime-prone and then punishment becomes harsher, which makes unequal treatment even worse.
Civil liberties organisations also complain that because of the negative image held of immigrants as poor, illegal, prone to crime and rug use, they too suffer from racial/ ethnic profiling. This image has gone a far way to change the politics of industrial societies. They have become less tolerant, taken stronger anti-immigration measures which has made them less open societies, and have seen the rise of newer neo-Nazi, anti-immigration political parties. But in addition, they have become more discriminatory and less democratic towards immigrants. A 1996 US law on immigration would removes the right of immigrants to seek judicial review over decisions taken about whether they should be deported or given asylum, and under what conditions and for how long they should be detained. The law also gives the government the right to detain immigrants indefinitely, even after they have served any criminal sentence.
In America people from the Middle East are stereotyped as possible terrorists and government reserves the right to use secret evidence against them. Secret evidence is evidence that is not revealed on grounds of >national security=. In other words, persons can be prosecuted by the state without knowing what evidence is being used against them. Secret evidence is often used against people from Arab or Muslim backgrounds.
There is general agreement that the culture of policing needs to be changed and that more community policing is needed. More specific recommendations are for:
- collection of data on who is stopped, including the race of the person, to see if persons of certain races are stopped more;
- informing those who are stopped that they have a right to complain;
- using audio and video equipment to record the events of stopping and searching people;
- retraining the police to respect cultural diversity and to see that they do their work professionally and not be influenced by a person=s race or colour.
- reversing the provisions of the 1996 Immigration Law that removes the right of due process to immigrants that apply to citizens.
A hate crime is any crime motivated by hostility to the victim=s race, colour, religion or creed, gender, sexual orientation or any personal characteristic. It violates the democratic creed of tolerance and respect for all persons. In 1998, there were 7,755 hate crimes reported in the United States. Of these, 56% were race crimes, 18% were motivated by religious intolerance, 16% were because of someone=s sexual orientation (gays, lesbians), and 10% were crimes committed for other motives, including hatred for the disabled. (HDR, 2000, p.101).
In 1998 there were 500 hate groups operating in the US and over 2000 hate sites on the internet.
The American Justice Department statistics show that of 4,3201 race crimes, 2901 were committed against blacks and 792 against whites.
- Of 754 crimes against one=s ethnicity and national origin, 482 were against Hispanics.
- Of 1,390 crimes against one=s religion, 1,081 were anti-Jewish.
- Of 1,260 crimes against sexual orientation, 850 were against male homosexuals.
Since 1996, religious hate crimes have occurred in at least 26 US states, particularly in church burnings of African American places of worship. Of 429 arsons reported since 1995, 162 have been of black churches, three-quarters of which have occurred in the American South. Churches, religious schools and synagogues have been burnt leaving millions of dollars worth of damage. Of the 199 persons arrested, 160 have been white and 34 black. (www.infoplease.com/spot/hatecrimes.html)
The United States Congress introduced a Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 1999. Hate crimes are different from other crimes. A hate crime is sending a message to the wider group that they are disliked and unwelcome and under threat. It is committed by extremist conservatives like Neo-Nazi right-wing groups and avowed racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Conservatives in general are against racial and ethnic native or immigrant minorities, women=s equality, gays and lesbians and non-Christian religions.
Canadian legislation seeks to go further than American ones. In the first place, American law only applies for federal crimes involving two or more states. States have to make their own laws and some American states have no laws against hate crimes while others include some hate crimes like crimes relating to sexual orientation and others don=t.
Second, Canadian law seeks to include age groups and persons with disabilities. It seeks to prevent the dissemination of material, that is, hate propaganda, that incites hate, and it seeks to prevent use of the internet to spread hate. Civil libertarians object to limiting one=s right to hold and share unpopular opinions.
Affirmative action is a policy that seeks to redress past discrimination by giving victims of such discrimination opportunities by means such as laws that require schools and companies to admit or hire persons from discriminated groups.
A special report on the subject explains that, Afor much of this century, racial and ethnic minorities and women have confronted legal and social exclusion. African Americans and Hispanic Americans were segregated into low paying jobs, usually agricultural. Asian Americans, who were forbidden by law from owning land, worked fields to which they could not hold title. Women were barred by laws in many states from entering entire occupations, such as mining, firefighting, bartending, law and medicine.@
Many restrictions against African Americans and Hispanics continued into the 1960's and 1970's. AWhole industries and categories of employment were in effect, all male, all white. In thousands of cities and towns police departments and fire departments remained all-male, all-white; Women and minorities were forbidden to even apply. In grocery and department stores, clerks were white and janitors and elevator operators were black. Generations of Americans swept the floors in factories while denied the opportunity to become higher paid operatives of machines.@
In response, the civil rights movement was able to get President Kennedy to sign the Equal Employment Act of 1961 which first used the phrase >affirmative action= to end discrimination and ensure equality of opportunity. This became a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In 1955, only 4.9% of college students, aged 18-24 were black. Because of affirmative action it rose to 11% in 1990. Colleges would reserve a certain number of places for qualified minorities. But the Supreme Court ruled that these minorities had to prove that they suffered discrimination. Enrollment also improved for women and Hispanics.
The earnings gap between blacks and white, and men and women has narrowed between 1964 and 1993. Blacks and women who were earning 60% what whites earned later came to be earning 70-75%.
Blacks, Hispanics and women also began to get jobs in industries that they had been excluded from before.
But these groups still earn less, are employed less, are interviewed less, and have lower status jobs than white males. There are still numerous complaints about discrimination in housing, voting, public accommodations and others, and greater racially motivated violence. Employers were more likely to hire whites and employment agencies gave better assistance to whites than blacks. When blacks got jobs, they started at a lower level in the company than a white person with the same qualification. In difficult economic times, blacks are more likely to be made redundant.
Whites are more likely to be rented apartments while blacks are told that nothing is available.
But a counter movement is now growing to end affirmative action and so-called >reverse discrimination.= Its grounds are that racial and gender discrimination are things of the past and that today=s society requires a level playing field; that it is another form of discrimination to give minorities jobs, school places and promotions that whites are qualified for.
In 1996, a California referendum ended affirmative action for gender and racial groups.
The new conservative agenda in the US is sympathetic to ending affirmative action nd this issue will be one of the major battlegrounds of politics for the years ahead.
The resurgence of right-wing extremist political movements is a contradiction of democracy. On the one hand, they exist because democracy promises the freedom to organise and express one=s beliefs, but the right-wing parties do not respect the rights of minority races and immigrants. These neo- Nazi movements trace their beliefs to Hitler=s Germany and their presence in Germany has become a strain on democracy. German Chancellor, Gerhard Shroder has said he wants to ban the country=s leading neo-Nazi party - the National Democratic Party because of its responsible for a rise in racist and ant- Semitic violence in Y2000. This is even more embarrassing because the party receives some state funding for its election campaigns.
In Canada too, human rights groups have reported a rise in anti-Semitic attacks. In Y2000, these attacks increased by 70% in Montreal and 40% in Canada as a whole. These attacks include, firebombing Synagogues, arson, desecration of cemeteries, graffiti in Jewish schools and personal beatings.
These are not just hate crimes but when they are associated with formal political movements, some of which are in European parliaments, they become cases of political criminality - the point where politics and crime meet. These parties are criminal gangs that take on party formations to gain legitimacy in industrial democracies. There is a similar party in Britain, the British National Party.
These parties tend to describe themselves as >national= and to define the true nation as made up of white Anglo-Saxons. They also believe in nationalism as political separateness into territorial nations. They do not believe in European integration and globalism since this would bring them into possible contact with non-white peoples. They believe in the strong nation and object to homosexuality as a sign of human (racial) weakness. Non-white, and non-heterosexuals must be removed from the society.
Since the 1990's, the far-right=s influence on politics has increased in three areas: voting support, violence, and propaganda.
Voting strength. The problem became a European crisis in Y2000 when the Freedom Party of Austria won enough votes to become a coalition partner in government. This was the first time such a party was to become a part of a European government. The European Union threatened sanctions against Austria is it allowed this. The party leader - Jorg Haider - compromised by saying he would not be a member of the government, only his party would. Austria was the birthplace of Hitler and strong Nazi sympathies remain there.
Racial attacks have risen across Europe. The number of arson cases, murders and injuries have risen dramatically. The targets are immigrants and Jews.
More people are being exposed to the ideas of these groups through their leaflets. While most Europeans do not share their ideology, many sympathize with their views on immigration and the stereotype of the immigrant as associated with crime, unemployment, and drugs.
The resurgence of far right groups is linked to the growth of asylum seekers and the inflow of migrant workers. By 1995, there was an estimated 26 to 30 million migrant workers in Europe.
The politics of race is also relevant to racial profiling. The Voting Rights Act (1965) says: ANo voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice or procedure shall be applied by any state or political division to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.@
Yet, there are reports of larger numbers of blacks in the last presidential elections who were stopped on their way to the polling station, or made to doubt that they had a right to vote, or voted at less efficient and less secure voting machines, or who did not have the services of interpreters or other assistance that white voters had, or who simply were not on the voter=s list.
One company was discovered to have sold hundreds of thousands of data of people=s personal information obtained from public and private records to the Republican party. It is suspected that the race and names of blacks were identified and many of them left off the voter=s list in Florida where the system of vting was controlled by the Republic Secretary of State, Catherine Harris. In America, one has to be careful about the personal information entered on application forms and how they might be used in admissions, applications, and requests.
In this case, the race of the voter was used to assume his voting preference for the democratic party candidate.
Conclusion: Race and Citizenship.
The clearest case of associating race with citizenship occurred under Hitler=s Nazi regime in Germany. Under its constitution only persons of German blood could be citizens and enjoy citizenship rights such as the right to vote. Jews could not be citizens, could not vote nor hold public office.
There are two major contradictions in the democratic idea of citizenship which race relations bring out.
1. Democratic constitutions promise equality under the law regardless of race and other characteristics like religion and gender. But this citizenship is a legal concept and forgets that people are human with attitudes that might not be democratic. The challenge therefore is not so much to promise equal rights but to cultivate democratic attitudes towards equality. Before the laws can be expected to be applied fairly to all, attitudes to people who are different must change.
2. The legal situation has been complicated by the cultural one. As societies become more multi-cultural, democracies are faced with resolving the question of national identity. In the traditional way of thinking, national identity was associated with say, the British way of life, or the American way of life. Now, there is no clear >way= in a multicultural sense. Immigrants bring their own ways of life into the mix and new national identities must be formed inclusive of these. Minorities are regarded as threatening and undermining the traditional ways of life of industrial societies. The New Right conception of citizenship is one that harks back to the traditional concept of a >white= Europe or a >white= America. Those who do not fit this image are treated a second class citizens and excluded from societies opportunities.
Race and citizenship rights remains a continuing struggle in the politics of industrial countries. For instance, although racial profiling, hate crimes, etc., might seem obviously morally wrong, there are legal obstacles in the American legal and criminal justice system that make it difficult to end these practices.
- the US Supreme Court has ruled that it is legal to stop motorists to >fish= for evidence about crime. In other words, while the person being stopped is not being targeted personally because of his colour, he can be stopped to furnish the police with information about crime in general. This opens the door for racial profiling.
- The US Supreme Court has made a ruling that limits affirmative action in response to white attitudes that it discriminates against whites.
Pro-white groups argue that their own citizenship rights are undermined by affirmative action. They say measures to prevent racial profiling are wrong because blacks are mainly responsible for crime. The more extreme groups support and practice hate crimes as necessary to defend the nation against cultural corruption by other races.
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