Race and Racism

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  • Race refers to the categorization of people into different groups based on physical and genetic differences. It is socially created and is used as a way of justifying inequalities and the exploitation of peoples. (Whittington-Walsh, 2017)
  • Herbert Spencer, who coined the term "survival of the fittest," took Darwin's theories and applied them to societies. He thought that societies evolved from simple/primitive ones to complex/modern ones, and that a simple society meant that it was a simple race. When applied, this theory creates a racial hierarchy and justifies unequal treatment of people. (Whittington-Walsh, 2017)
  • Stereotyping involves reducing people to a few characteristics that are seen as being fixed by nature. Stereotypes often take small grains of truth and oversimplify or exaggerate them, then apply them unilaterally to entire groups. Stereotyping creates a division between people and places them into categories. It becomes a way of dividing "us" from "them". (Whittington-Walsh, 2017)
  • In Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, a black man named Tom Robinson is put on trial for the alleged rape of a white woman. Atticus Finch is a lawyer who is defending Tom. The story takes place in the 1930's, when there was institutionalized racism against black people. (Lee, 1960)
  • Many of the people in the town look down on Atticus for defending Tom. One day, as Atticus' children are walking by, a neighbour lady calls Atticus a "nigger lover". Later, when his daughter is asking about what it means, Atticus says it is a term used by "ignorant, trashy people" but affirms that he is one, as he "[does his] best to love everybody." (Lee, 1960)
  • When Atticus' son Jem is asking about the trial, Atticus explains that "when it's a white man's word against a black man's, the white man always wins." This is a good example of when people's prejudices take precedence over what is just, right, and true. (Lee, 1960)
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