TOK: Why have people historically discriminated based on skin color? How could the Natural Sciences educate people to think twice about their prejudices?

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6 comments on “TOK: Why have people historically discriminated based on skin color? How could the Natural Sciences educate people to think twice about their prejudices?

  1. This is a very interesting TOK question, I believe that historically speaking, European colonialism created an excuse for the domination that positioned whiteness superior over blackness. This was a racist ideology where biological differences in skin colour became a justification for the oppression of Africans, or in other words undeveloped countries which where the target for colonial countries. Their search for power initiated discrimination towards a specific target that was based on skin colour.

    A good example to explain my thoughts on this base of discrimination would be when the US constitution was made and the enslaved Africans were referred as only 3/5 of a person when voting. This only brought privilege to the white and their economy based in free slave labour. Again using skin colour as a justification.

    Today, we experience examples in many areas still, one of them is at work. These are some of the situations being recognized:
    • refused employment
    • dismissed
    • denied a promotion, transfer or other employment-related benefits
    • given less favourable terms or conditions of employment
    • denied equal access to training opportunities
    • selected for redundancy
    Again it is the employment company who is being privileged by these actions of discrimination. Noticing that this is a daily base problem world wide we can have hope that the natural sciences could educate people to think twice about their prejudices.

    The natural sciences are a universal concepts; which are able to reach everyone and could change the perspective of many.

    Letting know that skin colour is a polygenetic trait can make people notice that there are many variations and that variations will come naturally throughout generations. This do not define in any means superiority of one skin tone/colour over the other. It is genes which define these variations, and genes won’t portray the value of one person. People should know that skin colour is a result of natural selection over generations having a correlation with the intensity of UV light a person receives. This gives a result of populations of dark and light skin being concentrated on particular areas around the world. A process as natural as this should not become an excuse to press others, it is important to educate by the means of natural sciences!

    Here is a short video I found about some history of skin colour and race seen in a more cultural context: (it is important to see it in a cultural context as it is another big part of someone’s education)

  2. Why have people historically discriminated based on skin color?

    Throughout the years there has been a lot of discrimination based on skin colour, it has basically been because of the big difference notice in the skin colour, and sometimes skin colour goes hand in hand with culture and the social meanings attached with it.

    Skin colour is a way people use to categorize a race, but race is just a group of persons related by common descent or heredity. Also a lot of people stereotype skin colour with a person behaviour creating discrimination towards them. A lot of discrimination can come from prejudices irresponsible advertising and product manufacturing.

    During the colonialism period, the European wrote books and announced how the Africans skin colour was different as them, and started making stereotypes about how inferior they were to Europe and how savage and animals they were this created an idea in peoples mind about how darker skin people were al savages and different from them. Since these happened people don’t even try to understand other cultures but have assumed that lighter skin was superior from others.

    How could the natural sciences educate people to think twice about their prejudices?

    Now in the 21st century skin colour discrimination has decreased, now more organization such as “One People’s project” or “Not in our town” promote anti racism and try to show people how everyone is just the same, and you shouldn’t categorize someone based on their skin colour.

    Also science has find out, how skin colour is just a way of evolution. As the humans first existed in the equator, they were a lot of UVB rays which entered the atmosphere, this made humans create melanin which is our own natural sun block against these rays, but as people started to travel north, UVB rays didn’t reach them, which only made melanin useless, so evolution happened and created lighter skin which didn’t produce melanin.

    So people should understand how skin colour is a polygenetic trait, and shouldn’t base their genetics in their personality, people are not their skin colour one has nothing to do with the other, and I think more people should be explained this, not only discriminating people by their skin tone makes it bad it also makes them seem ignorant. I believe in a future racism would be so rare, as now education consist on letting people know the truth about skin colour.

  3. Why have people historically discriminated based on skin color?

    Discrimination by skin color has been a big problem for many people and it mostly affects the dark skin colored ones. This discrimination began in the US when slavery occurred, the majority of slaves where dark skinned color and they where the ones that did the toughest jobs. Then after the slavery ended the light skinned people had more opportunities of employment which lead to the consideration that the light skinned people where superior than dark skinned people. Then advertisement appeared referring to light skin people to be better candidates for job opportunities than dark skinned people.

    Know a days although the color discrimination if decreasing there are still places that discriminate for the color of the skin. A study made by a Stanford psychologist showed that people with dark skin where two times more likely than lighter skin people get death penalties involving light skin people.

    Discrimination based on skin color has been occurring for many years and many ads and propagandas had support this discrimination by telling white people that dark people where less than them.

    How could the Natural Sciences educate people to think twice about their prejudices?

    Natural sciences had proven that being dark skin colored is an advantage. Im not saying that being white is a disadvantage but natural sciences had proven that every color in the human body has its own advantage. For example it has been proven that people with lighter skin are people that live towards the poles and people with dark skin live towards the equator, and this happens because of a reason.

    The skin forms a pigmentation that differs depending on where you are located because it has been proven that towards the poles the UV rays are less intense so the skin doesn’t need a protection and the UV rays transmit vitamin D but the less intense the rays the less intense the vitamin D is so the skin pigments a light color to maximize the vitamin D. Ling towards the equator is act the opposite way because the UV rays get really intense so the skin pigments a dark color that acts as a sunscreen which helps to prevent cancer.

    These example show that when people thinks negatively about dark skin people they are wrong and no matter what they have been fought about the skin color science as proven the opposite it has proven that having a dark color skin is a benefit. People who discriminate about skin color are wrong and no matter how history has shown the opposite natural sciences has shown what is right.

  4. Why have people historically discriminated based on skin color?

    There are so many different ways to look at this question. One could take an approach based on history, mentioning how in the United States (for example) when slavery began, and the white man was seen as superior for many years. Movies, books, and autobiographies that based their stories on slavery and racism during the difficult years in the US, are now extremely famous worldwide. Another way to look at this question is based on literature. In the book, “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, the white man is seen as something extremely negative. The white man is powerful, yet he disrespects the traditions and the existence of the gods that the people from the tribe worship. The author, Chinua Achebe, tries to explore the extremist side of seeing the white man (instead of the black man) as something extremely negative, since the reader looks at the white man from the perspective of the people living in the tribes.

    I believe that discrimination based on skin colour is an excuse for other more important problems. This is because someone one day decided that skin colour was something just as important as what religion someone believed in. If we look at the issue of discrimination based on skin colour, but we put the same type of discrimination into another issue, we will see how ridiculous it is to discriminate someone based on whether they’re black or white. For example, if be began to discriminate people with blonde hair, and people with brown hair were given the advantage for no apparent reason, we would soon notice how people thought it was ridiculous that someone was discriminating them based on their hair colour, since they couldn’t control it… it was something genetic. The following video explains this idea.


    How would you feel if you were treated differently simply based on the color of your skin? Jane Elliott gave ‘The Oprah Show’ audience members a chance to experience racism firsthand when she divided them into two groups: those who have blue eyes and those with brown eyes. The blue-eyes group was discriminated against while the people with brown eyes were catered to.

    How could the natural sciences educate people to think twice about their prejudices?

    Skin colour is as random as eye colour, or hair colour. It is genetic and no one can control it. It is based upon pigments, and as we saw in a TED talk, it is based on the amount of UVR that hits a particular part of the globe. Whether there is more or less UVR, it affects how the skin colour will evolve to be able to adapt to the environment so that the body doesn’t get too damaged by this ray deriving from the sun. It is biologically necessary for different skin colours to exist.

    The natural sciences could educate people very efficient about thinking once more when they judge someone based on their skin colour. This is because we have proven that skin colour is genetic, that it depends on where we live, and it also can serve as a protection against UVR. Dark skinned people have more protection against UVR since they have more melanin (a natural sunscreen) in their skin, while people with fair skin have less melanin, therefore are more exposed to the UVR rays from the sun.

    This issue is just as important (I believe) as gay rights or religion. People judge other people based on what they believe, who they love, or what they look like. Can’t we live in a world of acceptance? Does everyone have to judge a specific group of people because they have different perspectives on life or some other topic? Why can’t we just put all our differences aside and respect, love, and accept everyone as who they are, rather than by who we want them to become? I hope that by the end of my life, these questions will have been answered positively, and the humankind will not try to find another excuse to discriminate and put someone out of place just because they are different to us. Who are we to judge someone based on their skin colour? How absurd can someone become to base an unjust as well as immoral judgment on someone because of what they look like?

    The natural sciences in the future could potentially allow people to think twice before judging someone because they will understand that someone with a specific skin colour isn’t a bad person, or a good person. As a famous quotes goes, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” more people should re-read this quote, and reflect on how their actions have been going in exact opposite to this quote. EVERYONE judges people by what they look like. It could be by what they are wearing, their hairstyle, their religion, their skin colour, where they come from, etc… the list never ends of how we judge people daily.

    An important issue that must be solved, is that for example, if black people are seen as people who are violent, and cause trouble, someone with dark skin could potentially believe that he/she should act this way, and that they won’t be judged if they do exactly what they are being discriminated for doing. On the other hand, if they want to break this cycle, some people (racists) might see it as something wrong, and they won’t like that this person wants to change. This endless cycle creates uncertainty and judgment. It must be broken, and a way to do this, is through natural sciences.

    Nevertheless, sciences have somewhat proven that the universe was created through the “Big Bang,” yet religious people believe that it was God who created (and creates) everything. Different religions believe different things. This just proves that some people, even if skin colour discrimination is said to be wrong thanks to natural sciences, will keep on discriminating, and hold on to the idea that skin colour affects how someone can be seen in the world. Fair skin = good. Dark skin = bad. This view needs to be changed to: Fair skin AND Dark skin = good OR bad based on actions and personal decisions.

  5. http://newsreel.org/guides/race/race-guide-lores1.pdf
    https://www.colorismproject.com/

    http://www.oprah.com/oprahs-lifeclass/How-Colorism-Affects-People-Around-the-World-Video

    Definition of RACISM: “The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races”

    Definition of COLOURISM : “Prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group”

    Racism was originated to justify and preserve a slave-labour system. Since Ancient Roman times, slavery has existed. The Romans were the first “white” people to conquer and spread their views of the world to different countries. They invaded countries in Africa, known in the modern day as Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Egypt and captured people to take them back to their Roman Empire as slaves. These African people who were now slaves, had a darker skin colour. This lead to slavery continuing until 1981, when Mauritania became the last country to abolish slavery. Once Europeans started exploring new territories such as South and North America, India, South-East Asia, Africa, the people’s views started expanding during the colonial eras. They brought with them to these new territories, their customs, traditions and beliefs. These encompassed their position on slavery. Since slaves in these colonial times were still black, viewing people of dark pigmentation as inferior was an idea that expanded worldwide. Indigenous people were now also being treated as slaves and inferior due to their different culture and skin colour. It wasn’t until 1706 that slavery become fully abolished in a European country “In the case of Smith vs. Browne & Cooper, Sir John Holt, Lord Chief Justice of England, rules that ‘as soon as a Negro comes into England, he becomes free. One may be a villein in England, but not a slave.’” This ensued many fights for the liberation of the slaves and later the fight for equality of race between white and coloured people. I believe that it is not hatred towards a different skin colour that has caused discrimination, but the fear of something different (white skin pigment compared to black skin pigment), which has inspired unnecessary hatred and discrimination of people of different skin colour. This is a sad fact that dates back to Ancient times. Despite all the efforts for equality (African-American Civil Rights Movement, 1960s) and their accomplishments, we still have to work together to achieve equality of races to this present day as racism and colourism still exists and is a pressing matter that should be addressed.

    In conclusion, I believe that the Natural Sciences (eg. Biology) can have a great impact on educating people about skin pigmentation, making them think twice about their prejudices. They will learn that skin colour in humans is an example of continuous variation and NOT a characteristic that determines a persons’ value, worth and capability. Skin pigmentation is in part due to environmental influence since UVB radiance is highest/strongest at the equators (where the earliest humans lived) this stimulates the production of the black pigment melanin in the skin and is the reason why people living in these areas are darkly pigmented. Also, skin colour is due to the influence of several genes (polygenic inheritance). Someone having different skin pigmentation (eg. dark) does NOT mean they are intellectually incapable nor inferior, it just means they are genetically different due to where their ancestors came from. Migration to the poles caused some people’s ancestors from these areas to lose pigmentation since near the poles UVB doesn’t reach these extremities with the same intensity and is NOT a sign of superiority. Skin colour should not affect people’s perception of one another.

    As commonly said, “it is not on the surface what counts, but what is in the inside”. Let’s strive for a world where discrimination doesn’t exist and equality is celebrated. I firmly believed this can be achieved through education, and if there is a scientific evidence to back up the fight for equality, the faster we will triumph over prejudice.

  6. Why have people historically discriminated based on skin color?

    Throughout the course of history people have often been discriminated based on the color of their skin, often resulting in significant long-term effects regarding the emotional and physical well being of those who have been subject to such discrimination. Despite many efforts throughout the years to establish a more open and honest conversation about such topics in order to eradicate racism there are still cases where we are witnesses to flamboyant discrimination.

    Theatrically speaking there are 5 main reasons why racial discrimination has taken place throughout history, 3 of which are based on psychological aspects: self esteem, positive distinctness and a need for structure. A persons need for high self esteem or distinction in a positive light may result in them looking down on others with distinctly different physical characteristics. From a social standpoint, this can result in exclusion and an unhealthy living environment for both parties. There also exists the possibility that discrimination can be the result of a more instinctual reasoning. The need to establish dominance over others and the instinct for survival can lead to unfounded actions by those who lack understanding in the field

    Here are some videos that discus race, discrimination and the effect it has on people now:

    Prejudice & Discrimination: Crash Course Psychology #39: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P0iP2Zm6a4

    Racism in the United States: By the Numbers:

    How could the natural sciences educate people to think twice about their prejudices?

    A better understanding of the world around us as well as the people who live in it has proven to be very beneficial towards educating people on matters such as race and prejudice. Thanks to science and biology we know that skin pigmentation is a result of the melanin in our skin, the more melanin our bodies produce the darker skin we have, this is the basis of the fundamental relationship between U.V. light exposure and skin pigmentation. Variation in skin color is a result of migration to the poles; hence a result of evolution. This is the work of genetics and by no means should it be interpreted as a distinction of our worth or capabilities. As a result of such knowledge we can better understand the science behind skin color and clarify that though it many have slight physical implications (lighter skin offers less protection to UV rays, while a lack of UV rays may result in a vitamin E deficiency in a person with darker skin) it does not reflect on a persons character or intelligence.
    It is important to have a clear understanding of the world around us in order to correctly interpret the information we see and create educated opinions.

    References
    CrashCourse, (2014). Prejudice & Discrimination: Crash Course Psychology #39. [Video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P0iP2Zm6a4 [Accessed 20 Jan. 2015].
    Eschooltoday.com, (2015). What are the problems or effects of discrimination?. [online] Available at: http://eschooltoday.com/discrimination-and-prejudice/effects-of-discrimination.html [Accessed 20 Jan. 2015].
    Greatergood.berkeley.edu, (2015). The Top 10 Strategies for Reducing Prejudice. [online] Available at: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/top_10_strategies_for_reducing_prejudice [Accessed 20 Jan. 2015].
    Psychologytoday.com, (2015). Exploring the Psychological Motives of Racism. [online] Available at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/death-love-sex-magic/201008/exploring-the-psychological-motives-racism [Accessed 20 Jan. 2015].
    vlogbrothers, (2014). Racism in the United States: By the Numbers. [video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQdMgtncpoE [Accessed 20 Jan. 2015].
    Wikipedia, (2015). Discrimination based on skin color. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination_based_on_skin_color [Accessed 20 Jan. 2015].

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