1. General introduction
1.1. The Writer
1.2. The Book
2. Racism and a reference to (post-)colonialism
2.1. A definition of racism
2.2. Racism and Colonialism
3. Willie Somerset Chandran and the Racism in 'Half A Life'
3.1. Textual references
3.2. Conclusion: Willie Chandran and his thoughts about race
1. General introduction
1.1. The Writer
Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was born on August, 17th 1932 in Chaguanas, a city in Trinidad and Tobago, as a descendant of a Indian immigrant to the country.
Later on he lived in Port Of Spain with his family, where he attented The Queens College. Due to a scholarship, which he won, he was able to study in Oxford, England.
After his studies he worked as an editor at the BBC for the "Carribbean Voices" project, and later on as an editor for various departments.
His first novel was "This Mystic Masseur", a story which is later on meant sarcastical by most reviewers.
With the possibility of viewing his own native origin from a wider distance, he put more and more detail in his works, which reflected happenings in post- colonial circumstances in mostly satirical ways. Naipaul begins to travel a lot in the 1960s, and processes his impressions within his novels, which are mostly fictional, but also partly autobiographic and in form of reports about his trips. The places where his stories take place are not bound to his personal origin, but to a various amount of global locations which appear to have been affected by international colonisation.
His theories about post-colonial society and the struggling of the descendants in post-colonial environments were widely respected from the instant they were published, and some of the aspects his books were written about have been recognised as almost prophetical. He also investigates the social mechanisms between colonised societies and the former colonisers, which affect the people decades after the official end of superiority of the colonisers. Often neglected as a "travel reporter", his reports are far more content of academic and non- academic observations, which make his stories interesting for valuers of social sciences, and for people who just travel a lot.
1.2. The Book
"Half A Life" has had its debut on October 16th, 200, just a few days after its author was awarded with the Nobel Prize of Literature.
The novel is about the struggle of Willie Somerset Chandran to find his own identity in a world minted by post-colonial breaks in society and politics. His father, a Brahmin, is described as a person who went through his life by outer influences, and sparsely by own intention, what ends up in a marriage with a woman whom he does not love nor respect.
After knowing the reason for being named Somerset, as his father told him, he leaves with a significant urge his origin to make up a new life in London, England.
After years of studying, and encounters with different personalities of more or less multicultural background, he recognises the urge to write, to process his inner unease about his origin and the perceptions of the 'modern' world in which he lives at that moment.
Some struggles with the clash of cultures later, which had social, economical and sexual paragraphs, he meets the East-African girl Ana, who has mixed cultural backgrounds.
After a while he decides to go to her country, an unknown Portuguese colony in eastern Africa.
The main concern in the next eighteen years is to overcome his own rudimentary understanding of sexual desire and process with under aged prostitutes or an affair with a woman of the town. He severely observes the break in the history of that country with the last struggles of official Portuguese government and the waiting liberation movement incorporated by the guerilla. In the last paragraphs of his life there he recognises that his life in Africa is far from what his own life should be, and he leaves Ana, after betraying her for years, for good.
2. Racism and a reference to (post-)colonialism
2.1. A definition of racism
Racism is a cultural phenomenon which appears in broader communities of the same ethnicity or in smaller groups of people with apparently the same physical attributes. It suggests that human beings can be divided into groups and standards of similar or equal attributes and characteristics and so enables several social and cultural consequences and several ideologies whose basic arguments depend on the set-up of a natural or cultural human hierarchy. The terms of this classification are mostly biological, but also of a cultural (religious, linguistic and general cultural differences) base. The definition of racism are of various kinds and keep a whole set of social scientists busy, but the basic terms are after thousands of years of racism almost clear outlined.
Albert Memmi was able to outline the various characteristics of racism and its influence on human characters in both a more extreme and a recessive way:
"Es gibt zweifelsohne den Rassisten im engeren Sinne des Wortes, der unter Berufung auf biologische Unterschiede den anderen unterdrückt und daraus seinen Nutzen zieht; derüberzeugt ist, diese unterschiedlichen Merkemale ließen sich zu kohärenten Bündeln zusammenfassen, die er als Rassen bezeichnet - [...] Aber ebenso unstreitig gibt es den Rassisten im weiteren Sinne - [...] - der die biologischen Unterschiede m ö glicherweise auch sieht, sie jedoch nicht zur Grundlage seiner Beschuldigungen macht."1 Both forms of racism have the same consequence: violent and verbal aggression, and a definitive revaluation of the most inner self on someone else's account.
Race itself is best defined by Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin in their work 'PostColonial Studies: The Key Concepts':
"'Race' is a term for the classification of human beings into physically, biologically and genetically distinct groups. The notion of race assumes, firstly, that humanity is divided into unchanging natural types, recognizable by physical features that are transmitted 'through the blood' and permit distinctions to be made between 'pure' and 'mixed' races. Furthermore, the term implies that the mental and moral behaviour of human beings, as well as individual personality, ideas and capacities, can be related to racial origin, and that knowledge of that origin provides a satisfactory account of the behaviour."2
1 Memmi, Albert, Rassismus, S. 97, Hamburg 1992
2 Ashcroft, Bill, Griffiths, Gareth, Tiffin, Hellen, Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts, S.198, Abingdon 2000
Essay/Term paper: Racsism
Essay, term paper, research paper: Racism and Discrimination
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Racism is a certain kind of prejudice, based on faulty reasoning and
inflexible generalizations toward a specific group. The word prejudice
comes from the Latin noun praejudicium, which means a judgment based on
previous decisions formed before the facts were known. If a person
allows their prejudiced beliefs to block the progress of another, it is
discrimination. Those who exclude all members of a race from certain
types of employment, housing, political rights, educational
opportunities, or a social interactions are guilty of racial
For centuries conflicts have taken place among three main races,
Caucasian, Asian, and Negro ranging from snobbish social exclusion, to
state- sponsored genocide. Racism is an unmerited fear or dislike of
a people because of their ethnic heritage. When colour is not a reason,
other reasons such as language, religion, nationality, education, sex,
or age become the reason of prejudice.
Sociologists, historians, anthropologists and archeologists believe
racial discrimination happens more often and most harshly when two
groups with different skin colours and unique physical features come
into contact with each other and the two compete for the same thing.
History shows that all attempts at a racial dominance result in
conflict and avoidance. But, some communities without disturbed
racial conflict can take advantage of all its citizens potential and
move toward elimination.
Our hate is caused by witnessing the behaviour of the Ku Klux Klan, our
unfavourable feeling toward a person without actual facts and the verbal
abuse that we get almost every day of our lives (if not us, then there
is someone in the world being hurt right this very minute.). The most
effective way which I believe this issue can start to be stopped is by
talking it out rationally without involving racism at that point in time
and bringing everybody together as equal as the next.
Africans were brought to the colonies and forced to work a lifetime for
no wages. The master took all the profits to save the small amount he
used to provide food, clothing and shelter for his slaves. Without
being able to read or write, the first Africans in America had no
defence against the refusal of their people. The dehumanization of the
African-American slave stands out as one of the most brutal and savage
torture in history.
Not being able to defend yourself against the hurt that people can put
a person through, can scar you for life. We need to see what the
world is doing to each other and instead of turning to violence or some
other kind of defence to get even. It would be easier if we just come
together as one and help the people who are discriminated against in
understanding that they are not what person"s say they are.
From birth to about age twelve, children collect information
about their world. They learn from many ways including their school,
family, neighbours, friends, and the community. They also get
information from books, movies, television, and other media. From this
information they gain beliefs, attitudes, and opinions.
(An opinion is a belief that is stronger than impression and less
strong than positive knowledge.)
Attitudes are feelings and emotions held toward a person, idea, or
Attitude, opinions and the way we treat people are based on our
beliefs. If beliefs are prejudiced, then our attitude and behaviour
will be the same. Racism is a belief based on faulty reasoning,
misconceptions, and generalizations. Stereotyping is an exaggerated
belief associated with a group. It is produced by name calling, racial
slurs, and jokes.
Victims of prejudice often develop a faulty belief in the same way
children learn to be prejudiced. They learn to protect themselves by
creating self defences essential to their survival. A slur directed at
a particular ethnic group is likely to get these results in a
confrontation: pain, anger, shame, hostility, guilt and embarrassment.
Students admitted that they had used racial slurs when angered. I have
noticed in our own school, that the students tell racial jokes and used
ethnic names but they say that they don"t mean what they say it"s just
for humour"s sake.
Race hatred often leads to violence. People whom form groups to
defend America from a minority takeover fall into the category of
extremists. There are gangs in America today who walk the streets
measuring out a perverse form of justice to a whole race by choosing
an innocent person of such race to beat or kill. Such gangs are usually
powerless as people, so they seek strength in numbers. People with
shared hatred gain a pseudo power within the organizational structures
of such groups as the neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.
Race hatred, permitted to gain unlimited power, will be disastrous.
The state - sponsored genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany is an example
of what happens when people who hate gain power. Hitler"s extermination
took the lives of six million human beings for no other reason than they
It started in little ways, an ethnic joke, stereotyping that was never
challenged, then restrictions, loss of jobs, loss of civil rights, loss
of voting rights, and the loss of life.
Racists have very specific beliefs about their own groups and others.
Columnist Ellen Futterman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says, We are
guilty of race prejudice. We might go out of our way to avoid certain
words and phrases in our everyday speech only to find ourselves laughing
at a racial or ethnic joke later. Even though we may say that we could
never be racist or prejudice against a certain type of person, (I"m not
saying we are), it is interesting how someone can just say something
hurtful and not even realize what has been said.
What can be done to stop racism? A famous document from the Johnson
era, called the Kerner Report, stated that there must be strategies for
action that can produce progress and make good the promises of American
democracy to all citizens urban and rural, white and black, Spanish
surname, American Indians and every minority. We can"t expect only the
people of colour to take a stand in the elimination of racism. This
issue includes each and every one of us whether it is black, white,
orange, yellow, Australian, Russian, Ukrainian, or Irish.
If you have been called names that are directed to your colour, race,
the way you talk, act, or walk, you have experienced racism. (Based on
the lives of human rights leaders, there is no single way to take a
stand. Each person has to decide whether to take a leadership role or
to follow a leader, whose beliefs or goals he or she shares.
Taking a stand against racism and discrimination is not casual
involvement. It is a total commitment).
Racism is an emotionally charged subject. If you have ever been
discriminated against, you know it is difficult to think or act calmly.
The first reaction is to attack. But it is only fair when taking a
stand against racism or discrimination that you state your case
directly, fairly, and accurately, using facts, and evidence to support
your claims. Before you can take a stand against racism and race
discrimination, you need to know what it is, how it develops, and how to
recognize it in you and others. According to Alfred Fleishman, St.
Louis newspaper columnist, Racial prejudice is one of the scourges of
our society. And when it grows and lurks, especially where it is not
even noticed, the danger is even greater.
Up to the point of life which we are in now, we don"t even realize
what we say, the jokes we tell or the music we listen to. Some think
of some major issues as a joke but really there is always someone
being hurt whether they show it or not.
Today we stand for equality, justice and freedom. Where Canada and
America stand on racism and discrimination today and tomorrow is where
we stand because we are what is needed to stop the hate.
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