One of the main reasons for differences between human beings are the geographical barriers, which kept  the groups apart for a long time. Each group evolved its own characteristics.

The races differ in their skin colour, their blood and other physical characteristics.

Including all sub-divisions there are about 40 racial groupings, or "ethnic groups" as they are strictly called.

Important words

When one person dislikes another person just because he belongs to a different race, we call this attitude "racialism" or "racism".

"Prejudice" means judging before you have the facts.

If people of a particular group or race are treated differently from another group or race, this is "discrimination".

One of the clearest kinds of prejudice is "stereotyping". This is when all people in a particular group are thought to have the same characteristics. (For example: "All blacks are lazy.")

Different skin colour

The most common form of racialism today is the dislike of people with dark-coloured skins.

The great majority of people with dark brown skins are of the negroid race. To distinguish them from light brown people they are now usually called blacks.

The reason why African people are discriminated more than the Chinese, Indians or Arabs is easy to explain: Europeans knew, that the Chinese, Indians or Arabs had civilizations stretching back many centuries. They knew nothing about the African history. So Europeans believed that the African people had "just come out of the jungle".


This belief in the inferiority of negroid people seemed to be confirmed by the slave trade. Black people were captured in Africa, transported in ships across the Atlantic Ocean and sold to plantation-owners as slaves. By the early 19th century millions of black slaves were working on cotton, sugar and fruit plantations in Brazil, on the islands of the West Indies and in the United States.

Freeing the American slaves

In the middle of the 19th century there was a civil war in the United States. It was caused because of the slavery. The north with President Abraham Lincoln wanted to abolish slavery. That was a problem for the south, which needed lots and lots of slaves for the plantations. But the north won and the slaves were freed.

But the slaves were discriminated against.

In the south:

Negroes were prevented from using the same buses or restaurants as white people

they were prevented from voting

white gangs called the Ku Klux Klan even murdered black people and were not brought to trial

Martin Luther King

In the middle of the 20th century in America any black people were finding it difficult to "turn the other cheek". Compared with the white people, they lived in very poor conditions and were not able to obtain good jobs. Violent riots broke out in some of the cities with large black populations. Martin Luther King was a black leader who only used non-violent methods. Like Ghandi, he believed in the power of peaceful protest. He didn't want to fight against the discrimination with violence, he did it with the help of demonstrations. Martin Luther King died because of an assassination.

Multiracial society in Britain

Many Irish, Jews, Chinese and Poles, for example, have settled in Britain over the past century. Many people came from the former colonies. It was never made very clear whether or not the people of these former colonies were British citizens. And so they had the right to live and settle in Britain.

Where have they settled?

These "immigrants" tended to settle where there was work and cheap housing. So people of the same race tended to live close to each other. Coloured people therefore concentrated in a small number of cities: in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and Bradford in particular.

Some families have been in Britain for so long now that it is misleading to call them "immigrants".


What is apartheid?

Ever since white people settled in the country they have been in charge. But since the middle of the 20th century a very particular set of arrangements have been introduced to try to keep the Whites and Blacks separated. This system is called "apartheid" and it was executed in South Africa. It takes two forms:

"Grand apartheid"

The eventual aim is, theoretically, for the Blacks to be confined to certain parts of South Africa while the Whites have the rest. Certain areas of the country have been allotted to the Blacks. These lands are called Homelands. Gradually the government is giving them so-called independence, though in fact the Homelands have no real chance of being properly independent.

"Petty apartheid"

From the middle of the 20th century many laws were passed to keep the black and white races separated even where they were working in the same places. Inter-marriage was forbidden. For example, Blacks and Whites had to use separate buses, toilets and beaches. Blacks had to carry passes. A few years ago some of these laws had been repealed.


"to turn the other cheek"

"die andere Wange hinhalten"





to allot


to be confined

eingesperrt sein

to confirm


to distinguish


to repeal



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