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Racial segregation

Racial segregation is a kind of formalized or institutionalized discrimination on the basis of race, characterized by the races' separation from each other. The separation may be geographical, but is usually supported by providing services through separate institutions (such as schools) and through similar legal and social structures. See also: racism.



Although many societies throughout history have practiced racial segregation, it was by no means universal, and some multiracial societies such as the Roman Empire were notable for their rejection of racial segregation. Most modern societies reject racism (at least officially). However, anxieties about racial issues tend to be phrased in coded form as issues relating to immigration.

In general, rationales for racial segregation can be divided into two classes:

  • an attempt by a majority group to oppress or expel a minority group
  • an attempt at self-determination by the minority group itself

Nazi Germany

A grotesque example of miscegenation laws was the racist and anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws enacted by the Nazis in Germany against the large German Jewish community during the 1930s. The laws prohibited marriages between Jews (deemed as Untermenschen - "lower people") and German "Aryans" (deemed the ‹bermenschen - "higher people"). Many interfaith and intermarried couples committed suicide when these laws came into effect.

Under the General Government of occupied Poland in 1940, the population was divided into different groups, each with different rights, food ratios, allowed strips in the cities, public transportation, and assigned restaurants. Listed from the most privilaged to the least:

  • Germans from Germany (Reichsdeutsche)
  • Germans from outside, active ethnic Germans, Volksliste category 1 and 2 (see Volksdeutsche)
  • Germans from outside, passive Germans and members of families (this group included also many ethnic Poles), Volksliste category 3 and 4,
  • Ukrainians,
  • Highlanders (Goralenvolk) - an attempt to split Polish nation by using local collaborators
  • Poles,
  • Jews (eventually sentenced to extermination as a category).

During the 1930s and 40s, Jews and Roma were forced to wear yellow ribbons, and were discriminated against by the racial laws. Jewish doctors and professors were not allowed to teach Aryan pupils or treat Aryan patients. Later, during WWII, Jews and Roma were sent to the concentration camps, solely on the basis of their race.


Racial discrimination was long regulated by the so-called Jim Crow laws. These restrictive rules against African descendants were instituted at the close of the Reconstruction period several decades following the Civil War, primarily in the U.S. Southern States. Such legalized segregation lasted up to the 1960s. White and black people would sometimes be required to use separate schools, public toilets, park benches, train and restaurant seating, etc. "Miscegenation" laws prohibited people of different races from marrying. In some locales, in addition to segregated seating, it could be forbidden for stores or restaurants to serve different races under the same roof.

During World War II, people of Japanese descent (whether citizens or not) were excluded from the West Coast and placed in internment camps, on the basis of their race.

Advocation to end government racial segregation grew among African Americans and progressives after the end of the World War. On January 26, 1948 President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, ending segregation in the United States Armed Forces.

Institutionalized racial segregation was ended in practice by the efforts of such civil rights activists as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., working 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 supported by President Lyndon Johnson. Many of their efforts were acts of civil disobedience aimed at violating the racial segregation rules and laws, such as insisting on sitting at the front of the bus (Rosa Parks), or holding sit-ins at all-white diners.

Although racial equality is, at least in theory, granted to all citizens in the US today, some see the USA Patriot Act as an attempt at covert racial segregation or discrimination against non-citizens. Arabs and Pakistanis, who have similar skin color, are allegedly subjected to different procedures that do not apply to others. However, the US has strict rules against racial profiling to prevent such segregation.

Not all racial segregation laws have been repealed in the United States, although Supreme Court rulings have rendered them unenforceable. For instance, the Alabama Constitution still mandates that "Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race." [1] A proposal to repeal this provision was narrowly defeated in 2004.

South Africa

Apartheid was a system which existed in South Africa for over forty years, although the term itself had a history going back to the 1910s. It was formalized in the years following the victory of the National Party in the (all-white) national election of 1948 increasing in dominancy under the rule of Prime minister Verwoerd and remained the law until 1990. Examples of apartheid policy introduced are the prohibition of mixed marriages act, 1951 which made it illegal for marriage between races. It was abolished following a rapid change in public perception of racial segregation throughout the world, and an economic boycott against South Africa which had crippled and threatened to destroy its economy.


The British colony of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), under Ian Smith, leader of the white minority government, declared unilateral independence in 1965. For the next 15 years, Rhodesia operated under white minority rule until international sanctions forced Smith to hold multiracial elections, after a brief period of British rule in 1979.


A number of organisations, including the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights (LAW) and the Islamic Human Rights Commission, believe that Israel is an apartheid state under the UN definition. Recently some laws have been enacted in Israel to make it practically impossible to gain citizenship in the Jewish State by way of marriage. The paragraphs include special provisions which target Palestinians. The laws drew protests from the UN and the EU.

Arab world

Institutionalized ethnic discrimination exists in many Arab countries. Jordan forbids Jews from becoming citizens. Palestinian refugees are generally treated as second-class citizens at best in their countries of refuge.

Many Gulf states import large numbers of migrant workers from South Asia and other countries to do menial labour, who are often treated extremely poorly. Generally speaking, Arab countries recognize only Arabs as first-class citizens, though treatment of others ranges from tolerance to hostility in different places.


Two military coups in Fiji in 1987 removed from power a government that was led by an ethnic Fijian, but was supported principally by the Indo-Fijian (ethnic Indian) electorate, which then made up approximately half of the population. A new constitution was promulgated in 1990, establishing Fiji as a republic, with the offices of President, Prime Minister, two-thirds of the Senate, and a clear majority of the House of Representatives reserved for ethnic Fijians, despite the fact that ethnic Fijians then comprised less than half the population. Ethnic Fijian ownership of the land (which was worked principally by Indo-Fijians) was also entrenched in the constitution.

World-wide condemnation of the 1990 constitution, and a brain-drain of many Indo-Fijian professionals and businesspeople, caused the Fijian government to revise the constitution in 1997. Amendments deleted most of the discriminatory provisions, and subsequent elections in 1999 brought a new government to power, with Mahendra Chaudhry as the country's first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister.

Another coup followed in 2000, with George Speight, supported by sympathetic offices in the Army and police force, seizing power, with the aim of ending Indo-Fijian influence in politics. Democracy, and the moderate 1997 constitution, were eventually restored, however.

Current prime minister Laisenia Qarase has refused to adhere to the Constitution by not including members of the largely Indo-Fijian Fiji Labour Party in the government.

Related issues

Although not all advocates concede the validity of the concept of "race" as applied to human divisions, discrimination on color or other ethnic characteristics is often labelled "racist" (see race, racism).

White separatism

White separatism is the belief that those who are of white or Caucasian race should have separate institutions or even separate societies, territories, governments, and should not "breed" with those considered to be of non-white races. White separatists often label themselves as racialists rather than racists. [[2]] White separatism is one among many forms of separatism.

Many white separatists believe in white supremacy, but some do not. Some consider the segregationists of the Southern United States and the advocates of apartheid in South Africa as being white separatists as these advocates of segregationism and apartheid used the same language of separatism and denied that they were "White supremacists" despite evidence to the contrary. Both groups also had advanced a belief in the inherent "inferiority" of non-whites, whom they claimed are incapable of properly either governing themselves or any other races. Some segragationists put forward the proposition that "separation" doesn't necessarily mean superiority and thus endorsed the "separate but equal" proposition for educational segregation that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in the case of Brown v. Board of Education.

see separate article White separatism

Black separatism

Parallel to the white separatism, there also exists, particularly in the United States, a similarly politically marginal black separatist movement. Black separatists generally hold that whites are racist oppressors of blacks and that there can be no remedy for black advancement within contemporary white-dominated society. They believe that the only solution for blacks is to break away and to create a separate, segregated black society.

The more specific goals were historically in flux and varied from group to group. Martin Delaney in the 19th century and Marcus Garvey in the 1920s outspokenly called for African Americans to return to Africa, by moving to Liberia. The Nation of Islam calls, much more quietly, for an independent black state on American soil. Much more mainstream views within black separatism hold that blacks would be better served by exclusively black schools and businesses, as well as by black local politicians and police.

The mainstream black separatism is sharply opposed by anti-segregationists and integrationists within the African American community. They generally hold that blacks can and should advance within the larger American society and call on them to work to achieve that through personal improvement, educational achievement, business involvement, and political action. Martin Luther King, who led the political effort to overthrow segregation in 1960s, and Malcolm X, a contemporary black separatist from the Nation of Islam may personify the opposition between the two views.

Latino separatism

Some of the political groups among Latinos, or Americans of Mexican descent, in 1960s advocated racial separatism for the bronze race or the Chicanos. Some of them wanted to create an independent Chicano state in the south-west of United States, on the territories that were won by America from Mexico after the Mexican-American War in 1848. Some of these views were reflected in the Plan Espiritual de Aztlan document which inspired Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, MEChA.

See also


  • Dobratz, Betty A. and Shanks-Meile, Stephanie L, White Power, White Pride!: The White Separatist Movement in the United States, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001, 384 pages, ISBN 0801865379.

External links

Material regarding Israel

Last updated: 05-11-2005 04:47:34
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