The hostile attitude people living in a country or region manifest towards those who are of a different nationality, known as xenophobia, is one of the main sources of social injustice, regardless of the form it takes.
How Does Xenophobia Affect People's Rights?
l Property - The houses, businesses, vehicles and other goods owned by people who are target of the xenophobic behavior are often damaged, bringing about a considerable financial prejudice for their owners. More than that, in the event they want to recover the loss from those who provoked it, the victims of intolerance can face serious obstacles, from being threatened by the authors of the aggression to the complicated procedures of the judicial system.
l Education - Children of immigrants or those coming from an ethnic minority are often marginalized and teased by their classmates and even by some of the teachers, this being one of the most serious forms of social injustice derived from xenophobia. Instead of being accepted and taught about the moral and cultural values of their adoptive country, these children are rejected, having a hard time to find their place.
l Work - People coming from other countries or those belonging to an ethnic minority also have difficulties finding a working place in a region where xenophobic conceptions and behaviors are common. In other cases, even if they find a job corresponding to their level of education, they are paid a fraction of the salary a "native" gets for the same work.
The authorities in countries affected by xenophobia in various forms make great efforts to stop the types of social injustice resulted from this intolerant behavior, implementing policies that help the affected people have the same rights as the rest of the population, without feeling restrained in any way.
For instance, the companies that offer equal chances for all their employees, regardless of their ethnic or territorial origin, are financially stimulated and they benefit from various fiscal facilities.
The cultural component is very important, so those belonging to the majority are taught that "variety" does not mean "difference", at least not in a bad way. Different programs implemented at local and national level encourage the interaction between the locals and those coming from different countries or ethnic background, allowing them to learn about the specificity of each other's culture and assimilate the best from it.
Of course, the legislation of different states also stipulates punishments for those who commit extreme acts of xenophobia, but the central idea of the policies that have the role to stop various manifestations of social injustice coming from it is that living in harmony is possible and only takes trying to know each other better.
The practice of restraining the rights and liberties of groups or individuals based on their race is one of the most condemned forms of social injustice, being expressly forbidden by international documents. However, the practices associated with racism have not been completely eradicated, mainly because the conceptions they are based on are still deeply rooted in people's conscience.
Racism in History
In Antiquity, the theory of a certain race being superior to all the others was promoted without reserves by some of the most famous scholars and philosophers. In one of his works, Aristotle said that non-Greek populations, called "barbarians", can only be regarded as slaves, while it is the destiny of the Greeks to be free and rule the other nations. However, in an era when slavery was not perceived as social injustice, but as a simple state of fact, this affirmation did not have a negative connotation.
The concept of the racial superiority of the whites was widely supported by the Catholic church during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, especially after the discovery of the so-called "new world". The inhabitants of these territories were seen as pagans without any moral qualities or education, good only to serve as a free labor force for the conquerors.
Racism began to be perceived as a social inequity only starting with the second half of the 19th century, when numerous prominent personalities took attitude against the oppression based on racial criteria. This led to the abolition of slavery, not only in the US, but also in other countries where this practice was widely spread. However, some extreme forms of racism, such as the South African "apartheid", persisted until the end of the 20th century.
Forms of Social Injustice Generated by Racism
l Institutional racism - This practice consists in limiting the access to important positions and better paid jobs for the persons who belong to a non-white racial group. The effects of institutional racism can also be noticed in the number of people who graduate from prestigious universities, significantly lower in the case of those belonging to a racial minority.
l Economic racism - It is manifested by an unfair treatment applied by the business partners or state agencies to the companies owned by non-whites. This practice can be also noticed in the tendency some employers have not to hire people belonging to different races, even when they are qualified for the job.
Like any other manifestation of social injustice, racism brings nothing good, and the sooner people understand this, the better.
In a society that describes itself as "democratic" and "open-minded", discrimination based on a person's gender, a type of social injustice appeared in the darkness of time, still persists, having a negative impact on the quality of life and on the image those who are subject to it have about themselves.
Sexism and Its Manifestations
l Language - A tendency of discriminating women, although not so obvious, can be noticed in the name of some occupations that can be performed by both men and women, but their termination of "man" describe these professions as being suitable only for the persons belonging to the masculine gender. "Fireman", "businessman" or "policeman" are some of the most famous examples.
l Employment - This is the field where the elements that define sexism as an act of social injustice can be observed better. On one hand, women's access to certain occupations is restrained by the employers, who motivate that they are physically weak or find other discriminatory reason to declare them unsuitable for a specific position. On the other hand, women are paid less than men for a work of the same difficulty.
l Stereotypes - Attributing positive or negative traits of character to a group of persons based on their gender is another manifestation of sexism. From this point of view, regardless of the social and cultural background they come from, women are generally perceived as being affectionate, forgiving, family-oriented, weak and nurturing, while men are seen as being strong, courageous, athletic and determined.
How to Prevent Sexism as Social Injustice?
Some of the most important companies make great efforts for implementing policies meant to grant women and men equal chances in occupying a top position. Also, employers are advised to abandon the idea of hiring exclusively men for certain jobs, encouraging the access of women to all work fields.
On the other hand, language specialists are trying to find new words and expressions to replace those considered as being offending for women. Also, efforts are made for introducing the newly created terms in the used vocabulary.
Last but not least, people are educated to give up the stereotypes usually associated with one gender or another. The classic image of the good, devoted housewife who stays at home and takes care of the children, while the husband works hard to offer a better life to his family is no longer considered a reflection of reality.
Most people agree that it should be replaced with the image of a family in which the two partners have a job and divide the household chores and responsibilities equally. The moment the perception of the roles women and men play in their family and in society changes will be the beginning of the end for sexism as a form of social injustice.
A great number of young and old people all over the world are victims of social injustice, some of their basic rights being restrained in a way that, sometimes, is very subtle, but affects them greatly.
This kind of inequity is called ageism and it derives from the prejudices associated with the two mentioned groups of population
How Does Ageism Affect Old People?
l Health care - Theoretically, all people have the right to receive medical assistance, diagnose and treatment at the same quality standards, regardless of their age. However, those who work in the health care system often treat the needs of senior citizens with superficiality and indifference, especially when they suffer from arthritis, heart conditions or other illnesses associated with old age. Although those who have such an attitude do not consider it a form of social injustice, this prejudicial practice restrains considerably the rights of the old
l Work - In case of collective firings, old employees are the first on the list, despite their richer experience in their line of work. Old people also have fewer chances to find another job, because they are perceived as having less strength and endurance than their younger competitors. In some cases, they are forced to retire earlier as a more "convenient" alternative to getting fired, this affecting their retirement plan.
The Effects of Ageism on Young People
l Employment - Although the constitutions of numerous countries stipulate that all people of minimum 16 years old have the right to work, many companies refuse to hire those who are under 18 years of age, committing social injustice. Another case of restraining the right to work is that of the young mothers who are not allowed to return to work after staying home to take care of their children.
l "Benevolent" prejudice - It is an attitude that mainly affects the right of the young to express their opinions. The people around them repeatedly tell them to wait until they grow a little older, because they are too young to discuss certain subjects, this having a tremendous impact on their self esteem. They end up considering themselves incompetent and they do not trust their intellectual capabilities. Pitying them all the time, helping them with tasks involving physical work and telling them they are not strong enough to do certain things by themselves is another way of discriminating young people in a friendly manner.
Like all the other forms of social injustice, ageism can be stopped only if people become aware of the negative impact these practices and beliefs can have on those subject to them and reconsider their attitude.