How the social geography of race and ethnicity is shaped by racism and exclusion

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What is meant by the term race? The term race is now not widely accepted (non-scientific category), as it is seen as categorisation of human beings based on genetic make up only (Genotypes, Phenotypes). Therefore is it obviously not realistic in the modern world as nowadays people can have multiple ethnic or racial backgrounds. Examples of different types of race in the today include, Caucasian, Negro, Chinese, and Japanese to name a few. These Artificial categories are said to be ‘determined at birth’ and are easily distinguishable by physical appearances such as skin colour and facial structure.

Race doesn’t take into account any cultural beliefs of an individual. Its is these cultural beliefs that are said to shape an individuals Ethnicity i. e. a persons cultural upbringing determines personal traits such as Religious beliefs, Language, levels of social interaction etc. Race is therefore overall seen as a “mode of oppression” (An Identity forced upon individual). Ethnicity on the other hand is a more modern term used for those individuals that share cultures on the basis of language and or nationality. I. e. thnicity is based around an individual’s culture rather than just his/hers race. The term Ethnicity can be defined as “membership of a subgroup within an environment dominated by another culture e. g. Italian American, Jewish American” (www. msu. edu). Ethnicity differs from race as it takes into account an individual’s cultural upbringing and beliefs and can change over time depending on the individual’s situation (e. g. a change in religious beliefs could lead to a new way of life for the individual). Ethnicity is therefore seen as an identity chosen by an individual.

In today’s modern world the accessibility of transport has meant that traveling around the world is relatively easy to do. People move all over the world for various reasons such as better quality of life, education, employment or even to get away from danger (refugees). This has meant that some countries which appear attractive to emigrants have become populated by more than one Race/Ethnicity. The indigenous people of the recipient country have in some cases found it hard to accept that people from other countries can just move into their cities, this is when conflict arises leading to racism nd social exclusion. Racism is prejudice or discrimination of one race/ethnic group over another. This prejudice/discrimination is based on the belief that one race/ethnicity is superior to the other because of differences in skin colour, culture, religious beliefs or nationality. Racism deprives those effected of there basic human rights, and is usually carried out by the majority ethnicity against the minority ethnicity and can result in a vicious circle of racist beliefs. I. e. those who are victims of racism may reflect racist views on those originally being racist.

Discrimination/prejudice in terms of race and employment is illegal under the employment equality act 1998 but this doesn’t prevent the everyday racism seen in today’s modern cities by today’s ‘modern’ citizens. It is this everyday discrimination that causes conflict between Ethnicities and leads to the spatial differentiation of our cities. Types of conflict between ethnicities may lead to protests, civil rights marches, rioting and in extreme cases Long-term war/terrorism. The “Fight” for Northern Ireland. (1968- Present)

In this case study, (one quite close to me as I have grown up with it and have been affected both directly and indirectly by it over the years) two races/ethnicities, the Unionist Protestants and the Nationalist Catholics argue over who has the rights to claim the small area of land that is Northern Ireland. This conflict has led to segregation of Northern Irish cities and the development of surrounding segregated suburbs. E. g. The Falls Road in Belfast is made up of Catholics only and runs alongside the Shankill Road a protestant unionist area.

The conflict between the two ethnicities was once so intense (and arguably still is) that a peace line had to be set up between these two areas of Belfast and it is still in existence today. It is this type of conflict seen in Northern Ireland that leads to the segregation of ethnic groups within a city. People in most cases find it hard to live with those who can’t understand their culture or religious beliefs. It is not just within a cities citizen’s that discrimination/prejudice exists but also within some cities Governments.

It has been know in the past for some Governments to enforce acts that are seen as discriminative by certain ethnicities. The 1969 UK Housing Act This act was introduced into cities of England and Wales to replace the existing Slum clearance policy that saw some 160’000 to 180,000 people per year moved from inner city slums to estates and high rise flats. The majority of those moved during this time were white. Next would have been the “middle-ring” of the city which accommodated the majority of black households, but by the 1960s the emphasis was more on improvement of poor urban areas.

This meant that the black population were retained in the areas they first had to settle in due to the migrant labour process. (S . Pile, “Unruly Cities” 1999) Once these areas of one race/ethnicity have been set up the phenomena of exclusion can arise. It is often felt that a community of one ethnicity could be compromised by the introduction of a new ethnicity. The new ethnicity in most cases come across barriers when trying to settle or will be the victim of racist abuse in an attempt to be forced out if successful in settling.

This process of exclusion is forcing ethnicities to stick together and unintentionally planning urban environments across the world. This splits cities citizens where they should come together as there is ‘strength in numbers’. Exclusion has also been known to take place within an ethnicity which can lead to further exclusion of people. In conclusion the different races and ethnicities of ‘modern world’ cities have been forced to clump together in groups of the same ethnicity/race. This has lead to a patterning urban environments and the ‘Ghettoisation’ of city suburbs.

This is seen as a potential problem by governments, and the underlying problem of cultural sensitivity and equality, when planning socially to prevent social exclusion, has been attempted to be addressed by city planners. The planners however have come across a few barriers when trying to mix residential areas, such as communication with different ethnic minorities. Planners have in some cases found that people lack mutual communication and people tend to just talk past each other.

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