Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Globalization and Racism

S. P. Udayakumar, Research Fellow for the Kirwan Institute

Several different positions emerge to approach the racial/ethnic discrimination and oppression in the globalization scheme. The moralist, for instance, would highlight the lack of ethics. They claim that the indifference and discriminatory attitudes of the colonial British during the opium trade with the Chinese surfaces today as well. The multiculturalist position does not address the serious allegations of the moralists. Their seemingly noble philosophy of ‘multiculturalism’ allows them “to buy inexpensively the perception that they are fair and socially responsible. And because multiculturalism takes the heat off transnational corporations by implying that a liberatory politics need not attack their power, it is harming the very communities it seeks to help.” The means to counter all this for Anthony Taibi is “transracial political movement for community empowerment.”

Then there are “egalitarians,” the defenders of formal equality, who insist on treating everyone equally “without making any distinctions.” They fail to realize the fact that the constituency they intend to treat equally is profoundly unequal. If we treat all of them equally, we will end up reproducing inequality. In that process we may also make the situation worse for those who already have it bad.

There are human rights advocates who insist on using the human rights instruments to understand and alleviate the plight of the oppressed. The Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities under the UN Commission on Human Rights passed the resolution 1999/30 (Trade Liberalization and Its Impact on Human Rights) on August 26, 1999 which, among other things, requests the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “intensify efforts at dialogue with the World Trade Organization and its member states on the human rights dimensions of trade and investment liberalization, and to take steps to ensure that human rights principles and obligations are fully integrated in future negotiations in the World Trade Organization.”

Racism and racial discrimination haunt society both as institutionalized government policy or as a result of doctrines of racial superiority and exclusivity, and as manifestations of actions taking place in segments of society which are perpetrated by vested interests for socioeconomic-political purposes. It is quite pertinent to study how financial markets and the overall processes of globalization and liberalization contribute to racism and racial discrimination and segregation and who stands to gain from it.

Our argument here is not that race as such causes economic exploitation. Neither do we intend to universalize the race problematic made by and for Americans, or to fall into the trap of ‘globalization’ of American problems and thereby verify the Americanocentric understanding of ‘globalization’ as the Americanization of the entire universe, as Bourdieu and Wacquant fear. All we posit here is that racism continues to be a social reality in many parts of the world, that it is an integral part of the ongoing globalization scheme, and that the oppressed ought to deal with this issue according to the logic of their own society.

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