Changes in public policy following the Second World War promoted the end of racial segregation and pushed the subject of racial discrimination into the spotlight of a national issue. The defense industry was one of the first to create jobs that brought about social reform, not only for race but for gender as well, with women beginning to work outside the home. Before this, the demand for a fair chance at employment for Africans and an end to segregation produced protests and marches in Washington to address the status of Africans as low-wage workers or servants. However, even as people of color served in the military, they still faced discrimination from local governments. While a war of a different kind was being waged in America, South Africa's legal discrimination birthed the Population Registration Act, which enforced the government's racial segregation policy. This served to isolate the country from international relations within its continent.
The battle to end racism has been a long one, and if we look at what is still going on in the world, we have to ask if there will ever be an end to racial tensions. While there have been extensive talks about legislation, awareness, education, and positive interaction, stories of discrimination rage worldwide to varying degrees. While the development of these policies and campaigns is welcomed from the victim's perspective, anti-racial legislation does not always mean equality for all.
Perhaps a more pertinent question to ask would be: does the West genuinely want to heal? Do its people want to change their mindset regarding valuing another human being that is not themselves? And if they cannot respect another appropriately, does that mean they are unable to love themselves? Giving people a list of rules to follow seldom does much in truly ridding an ill community of the root issue. Racial policies are only a band-aid on a much deeper problem. What is the root, and what is the problem?
The psychology of racism
It's often said that 'hurt people hurt people.' At the core of a human being lies the desire to feel fulfilled, loved, and accepted, with basic needs for food and shelter aside. Perhaps it's not so much that the human is innately discriminatory and hateful but rather that we are inherently broken and hurting. Racism does not exist in a vacuum. Racism only exists because human beings do, and human beings are flawed and in search of meaning. What, then, are some psychological roots for racism?
Lack of identity – personal insecurity can lead to an individual rejecting what they do not understand. It would be much easier to turn around and attack someone who seems different to you if you lack the security to hold your own identity and accept them as someone who has an identity separate and distinct from your own.
Lack of empathy – someone who has not been shown empathic love and compassion is not likely to extend understanding to someone who is being ostracized. The role of an individual's caregivers plays a part in how the person interacts with others in their later life.
Self-protection – disregarding the 'otherness' of someone may seem to be the solution to remaining untainted by the perceived risk of interacting with them, but at the root of isolation is fear. People fear losing control, not having enough, and fear their physical bodies being in danger. Lashing out in attack of someone who seems to threaten any feeling of security or certainty will lead to racist and discriminatory behavior.
Change does not occur the moment government racial policies come into effect. It does not happen instantaneously but is instead a continuous process of examining the self. To say the West might not truly want an end to racism is to open the question of what benefits are there to racism? How does dividing a community serve any purpose? Do governments genuinely care about how a racial policy establishes 'equality', or is it merely about being able to dictate and control from the establishment's narcissistic projections? Have those in positions of power taken the time to examine their own flaws, insecurities, and fears before making decisions that serve to incite more frustration in the people they are expected to lead well?
Rules don't change a hurting individual, but neither does sweeping the conversation under the rug do any good either. We must be courageous in our fight for all to be equally valued – indeed, truly valued, the way you would value and protect yourself. Suppose you are unable to see yourself the way you would be expected to see someone of a different race, with compassion, empathy, and acceptance. In that case, the solution is not to reverse the discrimination but rather unlearn the mindsets that have contributed to the rejection of 'other,' both as individuals and the communities that birthed them.