The Little Prince, Race and the Five Planets of Racism

  •  Herman Salton    


This article takes an unconventional approach to the issue of ‘race’. It illustrates the complexity and inter-disciplinarity of the racial phenomenon by blending child-like and adult-like perspectives and, as such, it is written half as a fable and half as an academic article. It puts forward a number of arguments. First, the piece suggests that five key dimensions of racism exist—namely, the historical, the philosophical, the scientific, the legal and the economic—and that they are regularly used to justify and rationalise something (racial prejudice) that is often irrational. Second, the article highlights the ‘banality’ of racism—an attitude that stems from mankind’s diffidence towards diversity, exploits such fear and encourages forms of passivity that, as Hannah Arendt noted, are the best way of ‘banalising’ evil and making it appear tolerable. The fanciful classifications of ‘races’—such as those articulated in South Africa’s apartheid, where poor Chinese were regarded as ‘yellows’ while wealthy Japanese were classified as ‘honorary whites’—are cases in point. Third, the piece argues that racial discrimination is often unrecognised, internalised and unquestioned by society: since racial attitudes are learnt in childhood and become part of our cultural baggage, they are extremely difficult to identify and eradicate. Finally, the article suggests that racism is not only ‘banal’ but also highly convenient: racists do not need to know the individual, they just need to know the characteristics of the group to which that individual is thought to belong. The piece concludes in favour of a neglected right for children: the right to be left free from racism.

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