Racism is the belief that characteristics and abilities can be attributed to people simply on the basis molding the children of middle group their race and that some racial groups are superior to others. Racism and discrimination have been used as powerful weapons encouraging fear or hatred of others in times of conflict and war, and even during economic downturns.
In a short introductory video the Understanding Race project from the American Anthropological Association says race is a powerful idea and an enduring concept, invented by society. From the institutionalized racism especially in colonial times, when racial beliefs — even eugenics — were not considered something wrong, to recent times where the effects of neo-Nazism is still felt, Europe is a complex area with many cultures in a relatively small area of land that has seen many conflicts throughout history. Debates over the origins of racism often suffer from a lack of clarity over the term. Many conflate recent forms of racism with earlier forms of ethnic and national conflict. In most cases ethno-national conflict seems to owe to conflict over land and strategic resources.
In its modern form, racism evolved in tandem with European exploration and conquest of much of the rest of the world, and especially after Christopher Columbus reached the Americas. Another possible source of racism is the misunderstanding of Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution. Some took Darwin’s theories to imply that since some races were more civilized, there must be a biological basis for the difference. At the same time they appealed to biological theories of moral and intellectual traits to justify racial oppression.
A short review from the Inter Press Service highlights the rise of neo-Nazism in 2000 in Europe and suggests that far from being a fringe activity, racism, violence and neo-nationalism have become normal in some communities. The problems need to tackled much earlier, in schools and with social programmes. Ethnic minorities and different cultures in one country can often be used as a scapegoat for the majority during times of economic crisis. That is one reason why Nazism became so popular. Europe, about how easy it was for far right parties to come close to getting power if there is complacency in the democratic processes and if participation is reduced.
In various places throughout Western Europe, in 2002, as Amnesty International highlights, there has been a rise in racist attacks and sentiments against both Arabs and Jews, in light of the increasing hostilities in the Middle East. Earlier in 1998, in an area of Germany a right wing racist party won an unprecedented number of votes. In Austria, the Freedom Party was able to secure the majority of the cabinet posts. The party is an extreme far right party, whose leader, Jorg Heider, has been accused of sympathetic statements towards the Nazis. The European Union has reacted to this indicating that Austria’s participation may be in jeopardy. This Guardian Special Report has much more in-depth coverage.