Prejudice and Discrimination

Prejudice

Prejudice refers to a positive or negative evaluation of another person based on their perceived group membership (e.g., race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and ability).

Learning Objectives

Apply the concepts of in-group favoritism and prejudice to a real-life situation

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • When we meet strangers we automatically process several pieces of information about them, including the social categories of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and ability.
  • First impressions are often based on stereotypes. For example, we may have different expectations of strangers depending on their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and ability.
  • Prejudice is a negative attitude and feeling toward an individual based solely on one’s membership in a particular social group.
  • Prejudice often begins in the form of a stereotype—that is, a specific belief or assumption about individuals based solely on their membership in a group, regardless of their individual characteristics. Stereotypes become overgeneralized and applied to all members of a group.

Key Terms

  • stereotype: A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image of a group of people or things.
  • prejudice: A positive or negative evaluation of another person based on their perceived group membership (e.g., race, class, or gender).

When we meet strangers we automatically process three pieces of information about them: their race, gender, and age. Why are these aspects of an unfamiliar person so important? Why don’t we instead notice whether their eyes are friendly, whether they are smiling, their height, the type of clothes they are wearing? Although these secondary characteristics are important in forming a first impression of a stranger, the social categories of race, gender, and age provide a wealth of information about an individual. This information, however, often is based on stereotypes. We may have different expectations of strangers depending on their race, gender, and age.

Prejudice is a negative attitude and feeling toward an individual based solely on one’s membership in a particular social group (Allport, 1954; Brown, 2010). Prejudice is common against people who are members of an unfamiliar cultural group. Thus, certain types of education, contact, interactions, and building relationships with members of different cultural groups can reduce the tendency toward prejudice. In fact, simply imagining interacting with members of different cultural groups might affect prejudice. Indeed, when experimental participants were asked to imagine themselves positively interacting with someone from a different group, this led to an increased positive attitude toward the other group and an increase in positive traits associated with the other group.

Prejudice often begins in the form of a stereotype—that is, a specific belief or assumption about individuals based solely on their membership in a group, regardless of their individual characteristics. Stereotypes become overgeneralized and applied to all members of a group. For example, as Hodge, Burden, Robinson, and Bennett (2008) point out, black male athletes are often believed to be more athletic, yet less intelligent, than their white male counterparts. These beliefs persist despite a number of high profile examples to the contrary. Sadly, such beliefs often influence how these athletes are treated by others and how they view themselves and their own capabilities. Whether or not you agree with a stereotype, stereotypes are generally well-known within in a given culture.

Discrimination Against Individuals

Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on his or her membership (or perceived membership) in a certain group.

Learning Objectives

Give an example of discrimination and reverse discrimination using examples of religious, gender, or racial prejudice

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • A common type of discrimination is the exclusion or restriction of members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group.
  • Racial, religious, and gender discrimination are common types of this phenomenon.
  • Controversial attempts have been made to mitigate and rectify the negative effects of discrimination. These attempts in turn, however, have sometimes been called reverse discrimination.
  • Reverse discrimination is a term referring to discrimination against members of a dominant or majority group, including the city or state, or in favor of members of a minority or historically disadvantaged group.

Key Terms

  • reverse discrimination: Discrimination against members of a dominant or majority group, including the city or state, or in favor of members of a minority or historically disadvantaged group.
  • discrimination: The prejudicial treatment of an individual based on his or her membership, or perceived membership, in a certain group or category.

Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on his/her membership (or perceived membership) in a certain group or category, and involves actual actions taken towards that individual. A common example of discrimination is the exclusion or restriction of members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group, such as access to public facilities like bathrooms and water fountains.

Controversial attempts have been made to redress negative effects of discrimination. One example is the implementation of racial quotas, that is, establishing numerical requirements for hiring, promoting, admitting and/or graduating members of a particular racial group. These attempts in turn, however, have sometimes been called reverse discrimination (see below).

Racial and Ethnic Discrimination

Racial discrimination results in unequal treatment between individuals on the basis of real and perceived racial differences. It may manifest on every level of social life, from minor disregard or intense hostility in interpersonal interactions to much larger instantiations in public institutions (also called structural or institutional discrimination), such as the segregatory practices prominent in the Jim Crow era of the Unites States (1870s-1960s).

Sex, Gender and Gender Identity Discrimination

Though what constitutes sex discrimination varies between countries, it essentially refers to an adverse action taken against a person based on their perceived sex, gender, and/or gender identity. Historically, sexual differences have been used to justify different social roles for men and women. Unfair discrimination usually follows the gender stereotypes held by a society.

Religious Discrimination

Religious discrimination is prejudicial treatment of a person or group differently based on their spiritual or religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

In a 1979 consultation on the issue, the United States commission on civil rights defined religious discrimination in relation to the civil rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which deals with due process and equal fairness of all citizens under the law. According to the commission, religious discrimination occurs when someone is denied ” the equal protection of the laws, equality of status under the law, equal treatment in the administration of justice, and equality of opportunity and access to employment, education, housing, public services and facilities, and public accommodation because of their exercise of their right to religious freedom. ”

Reverse Discrimination

Reverse discrimination is a term referring to discrimination against members of a dominant or majority group, including the city or state, or in favor of members of a minority or historically disadvantaged group. Groups may be defined in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, or other factors. This discrimination may seek to redress social inequalities where minority groups have been denied access to the same privileges of the majority group. In such cases it is intended to remove discrimination that minority groups may already face.

Reverse discrimination may also be used to highlight the discrimination inherent in affirmative action programs.

Legislation in some nations, such as the UK, assert that identical treatment may sometimes act to preserve inequality rather than eliminate it, and therefore this so-called reverse discrimination is justified.

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An Example of Discrimination: An African-American child at a segregated drinking fountain on a courthouse lawn, North Carolina, 1938

Institutional Prejudice or Discrimination

Institutionalized discrimination refers to discrimination embedded in the procedures, policies or objectives of large organizations.

Learning Objectives

Examine the legal cases that had an impact on institutional discrimination

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Usually institutional bias targets specific, easily stereotyped and generalizable attributes of individuals, such as race and gender.
  • Institutionalized discrimination often exists within governments, though it can also occur in any other type of social institution including religion, education and marriage.
  • The achievement gap in education is an example of institutionalized discrimination.
  • Many countries around the world practice some form of institutionalized discrimination. For example, in some countries women cannot vote, drive or work certain jobs.

Key Terms

  • achievement gap: The observed and persistent disparity between the performance of groups of students defined by gender, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status, based on a number of educational measures.
  • institutionalized discrimination: The unfair, indirect methods of treatment of individuals that are embedded in the operating procedures, policies, laws or objectives of large organizations.

Institutionalized discrimination refers to the unfair, indirect treatment of certain members within a group. These practices are embedded in the operating procedures, policies, laws, or objectives of large organizations, such as governments and corporations, financial institutions, public institutions and other large entities.

Usually the bias targets specific, easily stereotyped and generalizable attributes, such as race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation and age. Though direct discrimination is illegal by United States law, many academics, activists, and advocacy organizations assert that indirect discrimination is still pervasive in many social institutions and daily social practices.

Examples

Examples of institutionalized discrimination include laws and decisions that reflect racism, such as the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson U.S. Supreme Court case, which ruled in favor of “separate but equal” public facilities between African Americans and non African Americans. This ruling was later rescinded in 1954 by the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

Institutionalized discrimination often exists within governments, though it can also occur in any other type of social institution, including religion, education and marriage. For example, residential segregation is a product of discrimination that exists in the private real estate market. Housing in the United States can be valued differently based on the racial makeup of the neighborhood. There can be two identical houses, in terms of factors like amenities and size, but the value of each house can depend on the racial makeup of the people within the community. Homeowners would therefore have an incentive to prevent minorities from moving into white neighborhoods. Institutionalized discrimination within the housing market also includes practices like redlining and mortgage discrimination.

The achievement gap in education is another example of institutionalized discrimination. The achievement gap refers to the observed disparity in educational measures between the performance of groups of students, especially groups defined by gender, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. This disparity include standardized test scores, grade point average, dropout rates and college enrollment and/or completion rates.

International Examples

Many countries around the world exhibit some form of institutionalized discrimination, such as Saudi Arabia where women and other oppressed groups cannot participate in some religious activities, and can neither vote nor work in government.

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Trends in reading scores divided by race.: These figures show a long-term disparity in reading scores.

Assimilation

Assimilation describes the process of social, cultural, and political integration of a minority into a dominant culture and society.

Learning Objectives

Give a real life example for each of the four benchmarks of immigrant assimilation

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Immigrant assimilation is one of the most common forms of assimilation, and is a very complex process.
  • Social scientists rely on four primary benchmarks to assess immigrant assimilation: socioeconomic status, geographic distribution, second language attainment, and intermarriage.
  • Socioeconomic status is defined by educational attainment, occupation, and income. Spatial concentration is defined by geography or residential patterns.
  • Language attainment refers to the ability to speak English and the loss of the individual’s mother tongue. Intermarriage involves marriage across racial, ethnic, or, occasionally, generational lines.
  • Segmented assimilation states that there are three main paths of assimilation for second generation immigrants: some assimilate smoothly, others experience downward assimilation, and others experience rapid economic success while preserving the values of their immigrant community.
  • Intermarriage involves marriage across racial, ethnic, or, occasionally, generational lines.

Key Terms

  • intermarriage: a marriage between people belonging to different groups, ethnic, religious or otherwise.
  • spatial concentration: A measure of how densely particular ethnic groups are situated in a geographic location.
  • socioeconomic status: One’s social position as determined by income, wealth, occupational prestige, and educational attainment.

Assimilation describes the process by which a minority integrates socially, culturally, and/or politically into a larger, dominant culture and society. The term assimilation is often used in reference to immigrants and ethnic groups settling in a new land. Immigrants acquire new customs and attitudes through contact and communication with a new society, while they also introduce some of their own cultural traits to that society.

Assimilation usually involves a gradual change of varying degree. Full assimilation occurs when new members of a society become indistinguishable from native members.

Any group (such as a state, immigrant population, or ethnicity) may choose to adopt a different culture for a variety of reasons such as political relevance or perceived advantage. However, a group may also be forced or feel compelled to do so as a result of imperialistic conquest, immigration, or drastic changes in population.

Assimilation of Immigrants

Immigrant assimilation is one of the most common forms of assimilation. It is a complex process through which an immigrant integrates themselves into a new country. Geography professor and human migration specialist William A. V. Clark says that immigrant assimilation is “a way of understanding the social dynamics of American society” and defines it as “the process that occurs spontaneously and often unintended in the course of interaction between majority and minority groups. ”

Social scientists rely on four benchmarks, initially formulated when studying European immigrants in the U.S., to assess immigrant assimilation:

  1. Socioeconomic status is defined by educational attainment, occupation, and income. By measuring socioeconomic status, researchers seek to determine whether immigrants eventually catch up to native-born people in matters of capital.
  2. Spatial concentration is defined by geography or residential patterns. The spatial residential model states that increasing socioeconomic attainment, longer residence in the U.S, and higher generational status lead to decreasing residential concentration for a particular ethnic group.
  3. Language attainment is defined as the ability to speak English and the loss of the individual’s mother tongue. The three-generation model of language assimilation states that the first generation makes some progress in language assimilation but retains primary fluency in their native tongue, while the second generation is bilingual and the third generation speaks only English.
  4. Intermarriage refers to marriage across racial, ethnic, or, occasionally, generational lines. High rates of intermarriage are considered to be an indication of social integration, as they suggest intimate and profound relations between people of different groups. Intermarriage reduces the ability of families to pass on to their children a consistent ethnic culture and thus is an agent of assimilation.

Naturalization and Immigrant Assimilation

Other than marriage, citizenship is one of the most significant factors in assimilation. Thus, immigration debates focus not only on the number of immigrants that should be admitted into a country and the processes of incorporation, but also on how citizenship should be extended and to whom. Proponents of immigration often argue that new residents will help to build and enrich American democracy, while opponents counter that the identity and legitimacy of the nation may be challenged and perhaps even threatened by immigrants. Questions of citizenship in relation to illegal immigration is a particularly controversial issue and a common source of political tension.

New Immigrant Gateways and Immigrant Assimilation

The majority of immigrants have tended to settle in traditional gateway states such as Florida, New York, California, Illinois, Texas, and Massachusetts, where immigrants find large existing populations of foreign-born people. Recently, however, immigrants have increasingly been settling in areas outside these gateway states. Sociologists Mary Waters and Tomas R. Jimenez have suggested that these geographical shifts may change the way researchers assess immigrant assimilation, as immigrants settling in new areas may encounter different experiences than immigrants settling in more traditional gateways. Specifically, Waters and Jimenez identify three distinguishing characteristics in more recent, less traditional, immigration patterns: less established social hierarchies, smaller immigrant population size, and different institutional arrangements.

Segmented Assimilation

The theory of segmented assimilation for second generation immigrants is highly researched in the sociological arena. Segmented assimilation, researched by Min Zhou and Alejandro Portes, focuses on the notion that people take different paths in how they adapt to life in the United States. This theory states that there are three main different paths of assimilation for second generation immigrants. Some immigrants assimilate smoothly into the white middle class of America, others experience downward assimilation, and others experience rapid economic success while preserving the values of their immigrant community.

This theory also includes the concept of modes of incorporation, which are the external factors within the host community that affect assimilation. These factors are created by the underlying policies of the government, the strength of prejudice in the society, and the makeup of coethnic communities within the society. These modes of incorporation affect how a child will assimilate into U.S. society, and determine how vulnerable the child will be towards downward assimilation. Factors that enhance such vulnerability include racial discrimination, location, and changes in the economy that have made it harder for intergenerational mobility.

In addition, differing modes of incorporation make available certain resources that second generation immigrants can use to overcome challenges to the process of assimilation. If the child belongs to a group that has been exempt from the prejudice experienced by most immigrants, such as European immigrants, they will experience a smoother process of assimilation. A second generation immigrant can also make use of established networks in the coethnic community. These networks provide these children with additional resources beyond those offered by the government, such as gateways into well paying jobs in businesses established by the ethnic community. Children of middle class immigrants have a greater likelihood of moving up the social ladder and joining American mainstream society than children of lower class immigrants, as they have access to both the resources provided by their parents and to the educational opportunities afforded to the middle class in the U.S.

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Assimilation of Native Americans: A collage of Native Americans dressed in European attire

Pluralism

Multiculturalism is an ideology that promotes the institutionalization of communities containing multiple cultures.

Learning Objectives

Reconstruct the crux of the debate about multiculturalism, including its different forms and opposition to it

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Multiculturalism is seen by its supporters as a fairer system that allows people to truly express who they are within a society, that is more tolerant, and that adapts better to social issues.
  • Critics of multiculturalism often debate whether the multicultural ideal of benignly co-existing cultures that interrelate and influence one another, and yet remain distinct, is sustainable, paradoxical, or even desirable.
  • Multiculturalism is often contrasted with the concepts of assimilationism and has been described as a “salad bowl” or “cultural mosaic” rather than an assimilationist “melting pot”.

Key Terms

  • multiculturalism: A characteristic of a society that has many different ethnic or national cultures mingling freely. It can also refer to political or social policies which support or encourage such a coexistence. Important in this is the idea that cultural practices, no matter how unusual, should be tolerated as a measure of respect.

Multiculturalism is an ideology that promotes the institutionalization of communities containing multiple cultures. It is generally applied to the demographic make-up of a specific place, usually at the organizational level (e.g., schools, businesses, neighborhoods, cities, or nations).

In a political context, the term is used for a wide variety of meanings. These can range from the advocacy of equal respect for the various cultures in a society, to a policy of promoting the maintenance of cultural diversity, to policies in which people of various ethnic and religious groups are addressed by the authorities according to the definition of the group to which they belong. A common aspect of many such policies is that they avoid presenting any specific ethnic, religious, or cultural community values as central.

Multiculturalism is often contrasted with the concepts of assimilationism and has been described as a “salad bowl” or “cultural mosaic,” rather than an assimilationist “melting pot.”

Definition

There is no single, agreed-upon definition for multiculturalism and different countries approach the issue in a variety of manners. However two main different and seemingly inconsistent strategies have developed through varied government policies and strategies.

  • The first focuses on interaction and communication between different cultures. By encouraging different cultures to interact, hopefully, cultural differences can be recognized and accepted rather than suppressed or ignored, thus promoting a sense of multiculturalism.
  • The second centers on diversity and cultural uniqueness. Cultural isolation can protect the uniqueness of the local culture of a nation or area and also contribute to global cultural diversity.

Political scholar Andrew Heywood distinguishes between two forms of multiculturalism: descriptive and normative:

  • As a descriptive term, it refers to general cultural diversity.
  • As a normative term, multiculturalism “implies a positive endorsement, even celebration, of communal diversity, typically based on either the right of different groups to respect and recognition, or to the alleged benefits to the larger society of moral and cultural diversity”.

Multiculturalism as Government Policy

Multiculturalism has been an official policy in several Western nations since the 1970s, for reasons that vary from country to country, including the fact that many of the great cities of the Western world are increasingly made of a mosaic of cultures. The Canadian government has often been described as the instigator of multicultural ideology because of its public emphasis on the social importance of immigration. The Canadian Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism is often refered to as the origins of modern political awareness of multiculturalism.

Support for Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is seen by its supporters as a fairer system that allows people to truly express who they are within a society, that is more tolerant, and adapts better to social issues. They argue that culture is not one definable thing based on one race or religion, but rather the result of multiple factors that change as the world changes.

Multiculturalism in Western countries was seen as a useful set of strategies to combat racism, protect minority communities of all types, and to undo policies that had prevented minorities from having full access to the opportunities for freedom and equality promised by the liberalism that have been the hallmark of Western societies since the Age of Enlightenment.

Opposition to Multiculturalism

Critics of multiculturalism often debate whether or not the multicultural ideal of benignly co-existing cultures that interrelate and influence one another, and yet remain distinct, is sustainable, paradoxical, or even desirable. It is argued that nation states, which would previously have been synonymous with a distinctive cultural identity of their own, lose out to enforced multiculturalism and that this ultimately erodes the host nations’ distinct culture.

Harvard professor of political science Robert D. Putnam conducted a nearly decade-long study of how multiculturalism affects social trust. He surveyed 26,200 people in 40 American communities, finding that when the data were adjusted for class, income, and other factors, the more racially diverse a community is, the greater the loss of trust. People in diverse communities “don’t trust the local mayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other people and they don’t trust institutions,” writes Putnam.

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Multiculturalism: “Monument to Multiculturalism” by Francesco Pirelli, in front of Union Station, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Segregation

Segregation is the division of human beings into separate groups based on any number of criteria, such as race, ethnicity, or nationality.

Learning Objectives

Identify at least three key moments in the history of racial segregation in the U.S.

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Racial segregation is one of the most common forms of segregation. Although it is illegal in many societies, it may still exist through social norms even when there is no strong individual preference for it.
  • After the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in America, racial discrimination became regulated by the so called Jim Crow laws, which mandated strict segregation of the races.
  • By 1968 all forms of segregation had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and by 1970 support for formal legal segregation had dissolved.

Key Terms

  • segregation: People separating geographically, residentially, racially, religiously or by sex based on legal codes, happenstance, voluntary choice or cultural attitudes.
  • Racial Segregation: The separation of humans into racial groups throughout aspects of daily life, sometimes enforced by law.

Segregation is the social division of human beings based on any number of factors, including race, ethnicity, or nationality. It may apply to various situations of daily life, such as eating in a restaurant, using a public restroom, attending school, or going to the movies

Racial segregation is one of the most common forms of segregation and is generally outlawed, but can still exist through social norms even when there is no strong individual preference for it.

Segregation often involves spatial separation of races and/or mandatory use of institutions, such as schools and hospitals, by people of different races—an exception being allowing for close contact in hierarchical situations, i.e., a person of one race working as a servant for a person of another race.

Racial segregation has appeared in all parts of the world where there are multiracial communities. Even where racial mixing has occurred on a large scale, as in Hawaii and Brazil, various forms of social discrimination have persisted despite the absence of official segregationist laws.

History of Racial Segregation

After the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in America, racial discrimination became regulated by the so-called Jim Crow laws—strict mandates on segregation of the races. Though such laws were instituted shortly after the war ended, in many cases they were not formalized until the end of Republican-enforced Reconstruction in the 1870s and 80s. This legalized form of segregation into the mid 1960s.

As an official practice, institutionalized racial segregation ended in large part due to the work of civil rights activists (Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., among others) primarily during the period from the end of World War II through the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as supported by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Their efforts focused on acts of non-violent civil disobedience aimed at disrupting the enforcement of racial segregation rules and laws. Examples are holding sit-ins at all-white diners, or the widely publicized refusal of Rosa Parks to give up her seat on a bus to a white person.

By 1968 all forms of segregation had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and by 1970 support for formal legal segregation dissolved. The Fair Housing Act of 1968, administered and enforced by the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, prohibited discrimination in the sale and rental of housing on the basis of race, color, nationality, religion, sex, familial status and disability. The civil rights movement gained the public’s support, and formal racial discrimination and segregation became illegal in schools, businesses, the military, and other civil and government services.

In the years since, African Americans have played a significant role throughout society, as leaders, public officials and heads of state. On the national level, they have worked in the Supreme Court, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and held top Presidential cabinet positions. In 2008, the United States elected its first African American President.

Contemporary Forms of Segregation

Columbia University economist Rajiv Sethi has observed that black-white segregation is declining fairly consistently in most metropolitan areas of the U.S. Despite these overall patterns, changes in individual areas remain small. Racial segregation or separation can lead to social, economic and political tensions.

In many areas, the United States remains a residentially segregated society. Blacks, whites, Hispanics and other racial groups inhabit different neighborhoods of vastly different quality.

Population Transfer

Population transfer is the movement of a large group of people from one region to another by state policy or international authority.

Learning Objectives

Analyze why population transfers went from being an acceptable solution to problems of ethnic conflict to being unacceptable

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Often the affected population is transferred by force to a distant, unfamiliar region, resulting in substantial harm to the population in question.
  • Population exchange is the transfer of two populations in opposite directions at about the same time.
  • Population transfer was considered an acceptable solution to the problems of ethnic conflict, up until around World War II. This attitude underwent substantial revision with the Charter of the Nuremberg Trials of Germany.
  • Today, forced population transfers and exchanges are considered a violation of international law.

Key Terms

  • population transfer: The movement of a large group of people from one region to another by state policy or international authority, most frequently on the basis of ethnicity or religion.
  • Population Exchange: The transfer of two populations in opposite directions at about the same time.

Population transfer is the movement of a large group of people from one region to another by state policy or international authority, most frequently on the basis of ethnicity or religion. Often the affected population is transferred by force to a distant region, perhaps not suited to their way of life, causing them substantial personal and bodily harm and resulting in significant damage and loss of property.

Population exchange is the transfer of two populations in opposite directions at about the same time. These exchanges have taken place several times in the 20th century, such as during the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan.

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1947 Partition of India: Figure showing the movement of refugees following the decision by colonial Britain to partition India based on religious demographics.

Issues Arising from Population Transfer

According to political scientist Norman Finkelstein, population transfer was considered as an acceptable solution to the problems of ethnic conflict up until around World War II and even a little afterward in certain cases. It was considered a drastic but “often necessary” means to end an ethnic conflict or ethnic civil war. The feasibility of population transfers was hugely increased by the creation of railroad networks in the mid-19th century.

Population transfer differs from individually motivated migration in more than just a technical sense, though at times of war the act of fleeing from danger or famine often blurs the differences.

Changing Status in International Law

The view of international law on population transfer underwent considerable evolution during the 20th century. Prior to World War II, a number of major population transfers were the result of bilateral treaties with the support of international bodies such as the League of Nations.

The tide started to turn when the Charter of the Nuremberg Trials of German Nazi leaders declared that forced deportation of civilian populations was both a war crime and a crime against humanity.This opinion was progressively adopted and extended through the remainder of the century. Underlying the change was the trend to assign rights to individuals, limiting the rights of states to make agreements which adversely affect them.

There is now little debate about the general legal status of involuntary population transfers, as forced population transfers are now considered violations of international law. No legal distinction is made between one-way and two-transfers, since the rights of each individual are regarded as independent of the experience of others.

Adopted in 1949 and now part of customary international law, Article 49 of Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits mass movement of people out of or into of occupied territory under what it calls “belligerent military occupation”:

Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive…. The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

Genocide

Genocide is “the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group”.

Learning Objectives

Match at least 4 of the 8 stages of genocide (according to Gregory Stanton) with a real life example

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • While some scholars claim that genocide develops identifiable stages and therefore action can be taken to stop them before they happen, critics of this approach assert that this is unrealistic.
  • In 1996, Gregory Stanton presented a briefing paper called “The 8 Stages of Genocide” at the United States Department of State, in which he suggested that genocide develops in eight stages that are “predictable but not inexorable”.
  • Other authors have focused on the structural conditions leading up to genocide and the psychological and social processes that create an evolution toward genocide.

Key Terms

  • symbolization: The act of symbolizing; the use of symbols to represent things, or the investing of things with a symbolic meaning
  • genocide: The systematic killing of substantial numbers of people on the basis of ethnicity, religion, political opinion, social status, or other particularity.
  • extermination: The act of exterminating; total destruction; eradication; excision; as, the extermination of inhabitants or tribes, of error or vice, or of weeds from a field.

Genocide is defined by the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) as “the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group,” though what constitutes enough of a “part” to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars. While a precise definition varies among genocide scholars, a legal definition is found in the 1948 United Nations CPPCG, which specifies that genocide entails:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The preamble to the CPPCG states that instances of genocide have taken place throughout history, but it was not until Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin coined the term during World War II and the prosecution of perpetrators of the Holocaust at the Nuremberg trials that the United Nations agreed to the CPPCG, which defined the crime of genocide under international law.

The Stages of Genocide

Genocide scholars such as Gregory Stanton have postulated various conditions and acts that often occur before, during, and after genocide.

In 1996, Stanton presented a briefing paper called “The 8 Stages of Genocide” at the United States Department of State. In it, he suggested that genocide develops in eight stages that are “predictable but not inexorable. ” The stages are:

  • Classification:People are divided into “us and them. ” “The main preventive measure at this early stage is to develop universalistic institutions that transcend… divisions. “
  • Symbolization:”When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups…””To combat symbolization, hate symbols can be legally forbidden as can hate speech”.
  • Dehumanization:”One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects, or diseases. “”Local and international leaders should condemn the use of hate speech and make it culturally unacceptable. Leaders who incite genocide should be banned from international travel and have their foreign finances frozen. “
  • Organization:”Genocide is always organized… Special army units or militias are often trained and armed…””The U.N. should impose arms embargoes on governments and citizens of countries involved in genocidal massacres, and create commissions to investigate violations”
  • Polarization:”Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda…””Prevention may mean security protection for moderate leaders or assistance to human rights groups…Coups d’tat by extremists should be opposed by international sanctions. “
  • Preparation:”Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity…””At this stage, a Genocide Emergency must be declared….”
  • Extermination:”It is ‘extermination’ to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human”. “At this stage, only rapid and overwhelming armed intervention can stop genocide. Real safe areas or refugee escape corridors should be established with heavily armed international protection. “
  • Denial:”The perpetrators… deny that they committed any crimes…””The response to denial is punishment by an international tribunal or national courts”

While scholars, such as Stanton, claim that these stages can be identified, and actions can be taken to stop genocides before they happen, critics of this approach, such as Australian historian, Dirk Moses, assert that this is unrealistic.

Other authors have focused on the structural conditions leading up to genocide and the psychological and social processes that create an evolution toward genocide. Helen Fein showed that pre-existing anti-Semitism and systems that maintained anti-Semitic policies was related to the number of Jews killed in different European countries during the Holocaust.

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Buchenwald Slave Laborers: These are slave laborers in the Buchenwald concentration camp, a German Nazi concentration camp established on the Ettersberg (Etter Mountain) near Weimar, Germany, in July 1937. It was one of the first and the largest of the concentration camps on German soil. Many prisoners had died from malnutrition when U.S. troops of the 80th Division entered the camp. The photograph was taken five days after the camp’s liberation.