by Hyeon Woo Lee
Discrimination between different ethnic groups is commonly reported throughout the world. Not to mention the racism against Afro-Americans in US, but also discriminations against Hafu people in Japan, unfair treatment against southeastern brides who came to Korea for marriage, etc. With no doubt such phenomena are spread widely over the world. Professor Terry Kawashima states that race works through several visual readings, or interpretations of the physical differences of a person. However I would like to raise a question of whether racism really exists. Is what we call racism really an act of discriminating other groups of people because of their physical looks? Or is there something else, some other factors that affects us but are hidden beneath the word racism?
In 1994, there was a systematic massacre of minority ethnic groups by major ethnic groups. The Hutu, a majority ethnic group in Rwanda, attacked the Tutsi, a minority group. Triggered by death of the president, Hutus started killing every Tutsi in sight. As a result, at least 500,000 people were killed. The point here is that in external physical appearance, the Hutu and the Tutsi had no difference at all. They all looked like the same black people. However Hutu accused them of being “different”. This may mean different genetics, but it doesn’t make sense since it is widely known that two members of the same ethnic group can be just as different genetically as two people from different ethnic groups. Then in this case, it is safe to say that physical racism was just an official reason, and the true reason mostly lied in the economic structure of Rwanda. The Tutsi monopolized most of Rwanda’s economy while Hutu had very little in it and was unhappy with the fact.
The history of mankind has been a continuation of conflicts, like constant war. Whether it is large or small, there was always war among different groups. The cause varies; it could be a fight for ideology, conflict over economic benefits, or even basic survival itself. However when people mention the difference in ethnicity as a cause of war, I seriously doubt it. It is not the difference that causes conflicts between ethnic groups, but it is rather the way we interpret it. All those conflicts claiming that were triggered by different ethnicities, like the case in Rwanda, actually has other reasons hidden behind the mask of racism. So come to think about it, maybe there isn’t any “true racism”, in which one is hostile to the other for the sole reason of being different, in the world. I believe that there is always something else.