Belief in the superiority of one race over another; discrimination against an individual or group of people, based on racial background, usually colour.

Main causes of racism

Racism and the Law

Race Relations Act 1976

It is illegal to:

  1. Stir up racial hatred by using offensive language or threats (= fine or prison).
  2. Distribute literature which is likely to stir up racial hatred.
  3. Refuse someone a job because of colour / ethnic origin, or refuse them promotion/training.
  4. Refuse to sell someone a house or change the price because of someone’s skin colour/race
  5. Stop someone using hotels, swimming pools, pubs, cinemas, services, etc..

CRE = Commission for Racial Equality

Set up to monitor and investigate complaints of racism. It also tries to take action against racist people or organisations.

Examples of racism from history

Slave Trade: 16th to the 19th centuries. Blacks were stolen from their homes and families, taken to the USA, Britain and Europe, sold to white families and used as slaves. Often overworked, beaten and killed.

Colonialism: Europeans, e.g. English, French, Germans and Dutch built empires by taking over countries far away. They imposed their own government on these people, took their wealth, made them adopt new customs, clothes, ways of life and religions. Many foreigners died because the Europeans took diseases with them - entire races were wiped out. This was built on the belief that foreign races were savages, not fully human. Europeans thought they were helping to make people civilised.

Colonialism contributed to problems in the Developing Countries. Their wealth has been taken; the world’s trade in gold, oil, diamonds and other resources is still in the hands of white people even though these resources are found in black countries. We are rarely told that the cause of poverty can be traced back to white colonialism and exploitation of black people by whites, e.g. 3rd World Debt.

Racism today – minorities are often given poorer housing, inferior education, not given a job or promotion. Many cities have ‘ghettoes’ where the majority of residents are ethnic minorities with poor living conditions and high unemployment. Recently the police was found to be guilty of institutional racism. The Stephen Lawrence case saw five white youths get away with the murder of a black boy because of the way the police handled the case. Other countries have seen the worst sort of racial violence, with millions of people killed in genocide (an attempt to wipe out a whole race of people), particularly in Rwanda and Bosnia but also in other racially-motivated disputes around the world.

The Bible and Racism

The bible is clear that it is wrong for a person to treat another race as inferior.

“So God made humankind in the image of God”

Genesis 1:27

God made all people in his image, so no-one should be discriminated against.

“Do not mistreat foreigners living in your land. The foreigner must be treated as one of your own. Love him as you love yourself, because you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.”

Leviticus 19:33-34

“Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or a foreigner living in one of your towns.”

Deuteronomy 24:14-15

The Jews were God’s chosen people, yet the Old Testament makes clear that they must not take advantage of foreigners. Christians today might be concerned about attitudes towards immigration and ethnic minorities.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

St Paul in Galatians 3:28

St Paul tells the early churches that all prejudice is wrong because Christ has drawn all people together. The Church should see Christ in everyone, and concentrate on unity, not diversity.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan -Luke 10:25-37. The hero of the story was a Samaritan, a race hated by Jews. Jesus says that love (agape) should not be restricted to people who share your nationality, but should be shown to everyone.

“My brother, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, do not show favouritism………..if you keep the royal law, “Love your neighbour as yourself”, you are doing right. But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”

James 2:1-9

St James says that Christians must treat all people equally. To show favouritism to one group is wrong.

Jesus’ example

If Jesus did not see any distinction between people, then neither should Christians.

"From one human being he created all the races on Earth and made them live throughout the whole Earth."

Acts 17:26

Christians believe that all people, black and white, are equal in the sight of God. Everyone is made by God, in the image of God, so must be treated equally.

Church responses to racism

UK Churches were largely responsible for the Race Relations Act being brought in. Statements from all Christian denominations show they agreed there is no place for racism in Christianity. The belief that God created everyone in his own image opposes racism. Churches are trying to change their own behaviour, by welcoming people from different ethnic backgrounds, and allowing more to become ministers, etc.

The Church of England

1993: CofE debate “Rejoicing in Suffering” to talk about Africa and the Christians there. CofE agreed that Christians should acknowledge the contribution made by Africans to the Church, and try to learn from them. Missionary work was still important, but this role should change into one of partnership.

The Church of England has been honest in admitting its racism, and is working hard to remove it. E.g.

  1. Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns – tackles racism in the C of E.
  2. 1985 Report “Faith in the City”: CofE should “make space for” and include black Christians fully.
  3. 1990 Report “Seeds of Hope” : The structure of the CofE is racist, NOT the people, i.e. CofE has
    “institutional racism’, and this must change.
  4. Report “The Passing Winter” : changes in the CofE have happened, but racism is still not gone.

Roman Catholic Church “The Church and Racism” : 1988 Report

We are created by God in his image. Christ’s salvation is for all; we all have the same destiny. We have physical and mental differences, but discrimination is wrong and is alien to God’s design. Catholics support anything which fights against racism. RC Church works for human rights, and has its own “Justice and Peace” groups.

United Reform Church (URC)

  1. Creation: All humans created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). “There is only one human race.”
  2. Redemption : Jesus died to save all people. Barriers between race, sex, etc., are over.

    “The URC believes that all people are created in God’s image, free and equal in his sight.”

    URC “Declaration on Racism”, May 1987

    “Every human being created in the image of God is a person for whom Christ died. Racism……..is an assault on Christ’s values, and a rejection of his sacrifice.”

    World Council of Churches, 1980

The Quakers

Condemn racism. 18th Century, slave owners or slave traders not allowed to become Quakers.

Christian action against racism

Christians can help fight prejudice and discrimination by putting their beliefs into action:

Martin Luther King

Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in 1869, but life for blacks in America was still difficult:

MLK’s father was a Christian minister in Georgia. At home and church MLK was taught that God created everyone in his own image. He heard stories about Jesus caring for all people. When he went out, however, he saw all blacks treated as inferior. MLK became a Baptist minister in Montgomery, Alabama.

1955: Mrs. Rosa Parks, old black woman, arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man. MLK decided to help blacks gain civil rights. He joined the American Civil Rights Movement, and became their leader in 1960.

What did he do?

How did he do it?

Non-violent protest (NVP, also NVDA – Non-Violent Direct Action). He said violence must not be used to gain equal rights. He carried on even though people bombed his house, and threatened to kill him, his wife and 4 children. He was attacked, and stabbed once.

Why did he use NVP?

Was he successful?

Highly respected by President Kennedy, blacks allowed to vote, segregation became illegal. However, racist attitudes are still strong in USA, from both sides.

April 1968, aged 38, MLK was shot dead by a white man in a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.