Definitions

9/11 – the date, September 11, 2001, on which members of Al-Qaeda drove planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center New York, the Pentagon in Washington and downed another plane, killing almost 3,000 people. From that day, western attitudes have tended to stereotype Arab and Muslim people and states; and nation, led by the US, have perpetrated a controversial ‘war on terror’.

Anti-Muslim racism – Legislation or actions which, though not always or necessarily directed against the Muslim religion, effectively discriminate against people from Muslim communities.

Anti-Semitism – Discrimination against or hostility and hatred towards Jewish people, whether they be religiously or ethnically defined.

Apartheid – A government policy of separate development which involved absolute racial segregation, developed in South Africa between 1948 and 1984 under which the white minority maintained complete control – economically, politically and socially – over all other groups.

Assimilation – Where people take on, by choice or by outside requirement, all aspects of a dominant culture including its attitudes, values, language and social mores.

Asylum seeker – A person who has fled her/his own country and applies to the government of another country for protection as a refugee. The 1951 UN Convention on Refugees defines this as a ‘person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.’ Someone who has gone through the legal process and is refused asylum becomes a refused asylum seeker and can often be liable to detention prior to deportation to his/her country of origin. Someone who is granted asylum, ie recognised as a refugee, can stay (in the UK) for five years, after which s/he has to show, to retain refugee status, that there is still a risk of persecution in the home country.

Black – The way that people of African descent describe themselves in countries such as South Africa, the US and parts of Europe. In the UK the term was also used (and can still be) in a political sense by other minority ethnic groups, especially Asians, who feel that their common experience of racism outweighs cultural differences.

BME/BAME – Black and Minority Ethnic or Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic is the terminology normally used in the UK to describe people of non-white descent.

Colour bar – The operation of a crude racism which barred BME people from pubs, clubs, cafes and dance halls or from renting or even buying housing. Signs saying ‘No coloureds’ were common to find in the windows of houses advertising for lodgers. Race relations acts passed in the UK from 1965 were intended to outlaw the colour bar.

Culture – The customs and mores of a particular nation, people or group.

Deportation – The forcible expulsion of someone from the country – usually for criminal offences or suspicion of terrorism, but also for breaching immigration laws (technically termed administrative removal). Those who have been deported are prohibited from returning.

Detention – The confining in prison-like conditions of those arriving in the UK to establish their identity or nationality or the validity of their asylum claim. Others can be detained for an indefinite period, following refusal of entry or of asylum, pending their removal or deportation.

Discrimination – To treat one group of people less favourably than others on the basis of their ‘race’, nationality, ethnic or national origin or religion. Discrimination can be either direct or indirect. Direct discrimination takes place when ‘race’, religion or nationality are used as explicit reasons for discriminating. Indirect discrimination applies when regulations and procedures (though not set up to discriminate) have the effect of discriminating against certain groups.

Ethnicity/ethnic group – A group of people whose members identify with each other through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, common culture (which can include a religion) and or an ideology which stresses a common ancestry. It is the way that most countries and peoples choose to delineate groups and has superseded the biological idea of ‘race’.

Extremism – The holding of immoderate opinions – formerly related to the Left or Right of the political spectrum. The term is increasingly used today to denote those who adhere to a radical form of Islam.

Fascism – A rightwing political movement which came to prominence in Europe during the 1920s and 1930s and continues to have an influence today. The central plank of fascism is the belief in a strong, authoritarian state organising all areas of life. Fascism is opposed to democratic methods of government and is intensely nationalistic, basing its appeal on a belief in a special destiny for one country or people. In practice this often means attacking those whose ‘race’, religion or politics does not fit with the fascists’ own ideas. Today, because of legislation which outlaws incitement to racial hatred and the generally-accepted horror about the Holocaust, few groups or parties which hold fascist views, will publicly admit to this and often try to pass their groups off as more democratic and responsive to community concerns than they actually are.

Ghetto -The part of a city or town in which many members of one minority groups are forced to live because of discrimination and or social, economic or legal pressure against them.

Gypsy – A nomadic people also known as Romani, generally thought to have moved to Europe from the Indian subcontinent in the ninth century. Roma and Sinti people are sub-groups of Romani. Irish Travellers are a distinct nomadic people of ethnic origin from Ireland.

Holocaust – Slaughter on a mass scale and usually refers to the systematic killing in the 1940s by the Nazis of six million Jews, of hundreds of thousands of Gypsies, homosexuals, mentally sick people and Slavs who were considered as polluting ‘the Aryan race’.

Islamophobia – a fear of or hostility towards Muslims, which can manifest itself in many ways including acts of anti-Muslim racism. Islamophobia has, since 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’, become a feature of many western societies and manifests itself in a range of ways including legislation against visible aspects of Islam – such as the wearing of the burka and niqab and the building of mosques and minarets.

Institutional racism – when a whole organisation’s procedures and policies disadvantage BME people. In the UK the 1999 Macpherson report into the death of Stephen Lawrence defined institutional racism for the first time: ‘the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture of ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racial stereotyping which disadvantaged minority ethnic people.’

Integration – The inclusion of a minority group into an existing community/society on equal terms. It has normally meant that unlike assimilation, BME people could retain their cultures and customs. In 1964 Roy Jenkins defined integration as ‘equal opportunity accompanied by cultural diversity in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance’.

Migrant – Someone who moves within or usually between countries, often to find work on a temporary basis.

Multiculturalism – A policy allowing for and/or encouraging a diversity of cultures to thrive in one society. Multicultural also describes the social fabric of the UK which has acknowledged BME people’s rights to maintain their own cultures, customs and religious beliefs. Monoculturalism – the official sanctioning of only one culture – is the opposite of multiculturalism.

Nationalism – An exaggerated feeling of commitment to one’s country, people or ethnic group.

Prejudice – A negative or hostile attitude/opinion based, not on actual factual information, but on a prejudgement depending on stereotypes about a whole group.

Race – The classification based on physical characteristics into which human kind was divided. The idea of separate biological races is no longer, especially after the Holocaust and the Nazi belief in a superior Aryan ‘race’, accepted as scientifically valid or ethically useable. Today people would use the term ethnic group.

Racial violence – Harassment of or violence towards someone who is perceived by the assailant to be racially or ethnically different and where evidence would indicate that someone of a different ethnicity, in the same place and similar circumstances would not have been attacked in the same way. Subject to the above, a formal legal finding or allegation of racial motivation would be taken as prima facie (but not definitive) evidence that an attack was racially motivated.

Racism – the belief or ideology that ‘races’ have distinctive characteristics which gives some superiority over others. Also refers to discriminatory and abusive behaviour based on such a belief or ideology. In the UK, denying people access to good and services on the basis of their colour, nationality, ethnicity, religion etc is illegal and called racial discrimination. Institutional racism (a term coined by US Black Power leader Stokely Carmichael) occurs when a whole organisation’s procedures and policies disadvantage BME people. State racism refers to the way that racism can be enshrined in laws (such as immigration legislation), in procedures (such as police stops and searches) and programmes (such as those on political extremism).

Refugee – According to the UN Refugee Convention, a refugee is a person who is outside their own country and is unable or unwilling to return due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationalist, membership of a particular social group, political group, sexual orientation.

Segregation – The enforced separation of people from different ‘racial’ or ethnic groups and in South Africa and the US in the last century, the provision of separate eating, drinking and socialising establishments.

Xenophobia – a fear or hatred of foreigners.

Xeno-racism – a non-colour-coded racism which is directed specifically towards people because they are foreigners.