The word racism indicates theories and behaviours based on the idea that there are superior and inferior races and that the former have the right to dominate the other. We can see it in the history of humanity every time people has claimed to subdue others of a different culture.
Racism often manifests itself through discriminatory laws, attitudes of intolerance or persecutions against minorities. The Nazi dictatorship based its entire ideology on racism. The ‘Aryan’ race was considered a pure, superior race, which was not to mix with ‘lower’ races, which were to be subjugated. Because of these crazy theories, millions of people were killed in death camps.
Racism, however, already existed before Nazism, even if the first theories on the superiority of a race were developed relatively recently. Indeed, in the 19th century, some scientists and philosophers tried to give racism a scientific basis. But, even if these theories had no real scientific basis, racism was reflected in the legislation of several states until a few years ago. A well-known example is that of the United States, where, mostly in the South, the black population was denied several rights until the 1960s. Even more famous was the racial segregation or Apartheid, which took place in South Africa until 1992. Apartheid was a form of racism towards the black population practiced by the white minority of European origin. A lot of men have contributed to the abolition of these forms of racism; among them Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.
Today, racism has been definitevely repudiated by legislation and by the conscience of the whole civilized world. Furthermore, the concept of race has no scientific foundation. The most genetic studies show that humanity derives from a strain that spread from Africa to various continents. Therefore, any attempt to give a scientific basis to racism has failed. Nonetheless, cases of hostility or racist violence still occur, very often resulting from ignorance or from an intentional will to use violence against the ‘other’.
The International day against racism promoted by ONU is celebrated every year on 21st March.. This celebration aims at directing individuals and nations towards the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, so to fulfil the ideal expressed in the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and must act towards one another in a spirit of brotherood’.