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The University of Tuzla

Faculty of philosophy
English language and literature
English literature 6

Racism and Nationalism as the Connected Issues of Postmodern Societies

Professor:

Student

Joseph W. Lough

Admir Husi

Husi 1
Racism and Nationalism as the Connected Issues of Postmodern Societies
The negro exhibits the natural man in his completely wild and untamed state. We
must lay aside all thought of reverence and morality, all that we call feeling, if we would
rightly comprehend him; there is nothing harmonious with humanity to be found in this type
of character.1 The neoliberal state needs nationalism of a certain sort to survive. Forced to
operate as a competitive agent in the world market and seeking to establish the best possible
business climate, it mobilizes nationalism in its effort to succeed.2
It is not true that the negro represents the population who are wild and untamed because
they are also part of a society with all its good and bad points. This means that the society as
such must be harmonious with humanity and must not depart from any race or anything else
concerning a society we live in. The neoliberal state does not need nationalism in order to
exist itself because the politics of a state is to improve economically throughout the world not
only in its inner society and it is rather related to other nations in order to develop its
economy.
This essay provides a lot of evidence why racism and nationalism are the main issues of
almost any state and gives some of the solutions to this problem. By using many sources
related to both racism and nationalism in postmodern societies, this essay proves to be as one
of good products for solving the issues concerning postmodern nations and their entire
problems that are emphasized here as the most important.

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- Racism is made not born
1
2

Georg W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, (New York: Dover, 1956) 93.
David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism 84.

Racism has been and it is still one of the main issues concerning the nations with multiple
races. Racism is made and not born because the white population as a dominant race has made
racism up and in order to be dominant to the eternity, they make such differences. Even
though, it is not natural, we see here the issue of the whole world not only one part of world
or it is not related to just one nation. One of the problems provided here is that adopting a
system racism framework entails recognition that the ultimate solution to racial inequality
involves major changes in social institutions and sharing resources and power. 3 This means
that not only does the difference in race make this inequality but the position in the society,
the classes or any other changes regarding the whole system of a society including the rich
and the poor, the level of education and their overall attitude towards all the problems in such
society.
Since today just blatant forms of verbal discrimination are generally found to be politically
incorrect, much racist discourse directed at dominated ethnic group members tends to
become more subtle and indirect. 4 Dominant groups, both ethnic or race groups, tend to stay
dominant without taking into consideration the position of minority groups in such society
and their position has been highly threatened. Because of this, the minorities try to struggle
with such issues in order to prevent their torture and rejection by the dominated groups. As it
has been noticed, racism is mainly focused on the black population rather than on the whites
or yellow because African-American population is mainly taken as the source for discussion.
However, thats one more example why it is said that racism was made, but not born. Each
person deserves a respectable position in the society without taking into consideration their
social status, race, religion or any other division related to the society as such.
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- Racism in postmodern societies
3

A. Doane, What is racism? Racial discourse and racial politics. Critical Sociology (2006) 268.
Teun A. Van Dijk, Racist discourse, Routledge Encyclopedia of Race and Ethnic Studies, Ellis Cashmore (ed.)
(London: Routledge, 2004) 352.
4

Postmodernism had a profound influence on the concepts of race and ethnicity in the United
States in the mid-20th century. Many people began to re-conceptualize the term "race" as a
social construct - meaning that it has no inherent biological reality, but is a classification
system that's been constructed or invented for societal purposes 5
The term race has been used since the mid-20th century, especially in the United States and
they have implemented it as a usual term. Although it should not have meant to make
differences between races but to make new social construction that has nothing to do with
biology, it has been made as such. Throughout the history, the black population has been
treated as odd population and thats why they were slaves to the white population. The
behavior of the white population could have been equaled with discrimination because they
have made differences between certain groups that is not acceptable at all. Everybody must
have the right to do whatever they want, to be free to choose whatever they want, but
throughout the history, it had not been the case. In a postmodern world, the image of racism is
much better because the black population in some parts of the world has almost the same
rights as other groups.
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s led artists to capture and express the
times and changes. Galleries and community art centers were developed for the purpose of
displaying African-American art, and collegiate teaching positions were created by and for
African-American artists. 6
In the 1960s and 1970s, there were many artists, writers etc. who wanted to express
themselves. That has been one of the easiest ways to make them valuable even though some
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https://www.boundless.com/art-history/global-art-since-1950/postmodernism/race-and-ethnicity/, Race and


Ethnicity, 11th April 2014
6
https://www.boundless.com/art-history/global-art-since-1950/postmodernism/race-and-ethnicity/, Race and
Ethnicity, 11th April 2014

of them had to use their nicknames in order to be their works published. Such example can be
through Bell Hooks who uses her nickname because women were struggling for their rights
during these years and she had to use such nickname in order to her works being valuable and
read. She was also a black woman whose rights have been put to the lowest level regarding
the society and she has managed to become a popular person whose works have been very
successful and they are usually related to the womens rights and black women issues.
None of us should be ashamed to speak of our class power or lack of it. Overcoming fear,
even the fear of not being modest, and acting courageously to bring issues of class - especially
radical standpoints - into the discourse of blackness is a gesture of militant defiance, one that
runs counter to bourgeois insistence that we think of money in particular and class in
general as private matters. 7
Not only do the classes make the divisions between the white and black population but their
behavior as well. This means that the dominant group, the white population, makes frightened
the black ones whose rights have been endangered because they are a part of minority group
and although they want to be accepted by the whole world, it is very hard to experience that.
As another reason for making the divisions between these two races is the difference between
the rich and the poor. A person who is rich can do whatever he or she wants to but other
people who are poor have their freedom limited. This is not only the case with the black poor
people but with the whites as well. Hooks claims that everybody needs to be free to speak
about their position in the society and needs to be free to save what is theirs. Furthermore, this
means that the class divisions should not interfere in people who want to express their feelings
and thoughts through literature, art or any other acts. If they fear of expressing themselves,
they wont succeed anyway and they will always be treated as intruders.
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7

http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/19156-killing-rage-ending-racism, Bell Hooks, killing rage: Ending


Racism, 12th April 2014

As more people of color raise our consciousness and refuse to be pitted against one another,
the forces of neo-colonial white supremacist domination must work harder to divide and
conquer. 8
The black population in general is united and they all have only one aim; to have the same
rights as other races. However, the dominant race works hard to make them divided and they
want to prevent them of giving the same rights as they have. Hooks claims that the dominant
race must work harder in order to succeed in this aim and to become free of the black
populations issues.

-Nationalism in Postmodern Societies


For nationalists themselves, the role of the past is clear and unproblematic. The nation was
always there, indeed it is part of the natural order, even when it was submerged in the hearts
of its members. The task of the nationalist is simply to remind his or her compatriots of their
glorious past, so that they can recreate and relive those glories. 9
Smith claims that nationalism is a natural process of making a nation but with its positive and
negative characteristics. It is important to make the distinction between patriotism and
nationalism. These terms are narrowly connected but there is a slight difference between
them. Patriotism is related to the country we live in but with respect to others while
nationalism is related to our own country but without respect to other countries. Nationalists
always tend to keep their country as the most important but they usually offend other nations
and the problem appears here. Such people are charged by their nations past and they live in
the past although the world changes. They always have the aim to protect their country, their
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http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/19156-killing-rage-ending-racism, Bell Hooks, killing rage: Ending


Racism, 12th April 2014
9
Anthony D. Smith, Gastronomy or geology? The role of nationalism in the reconstruction of nations. Nations
and Nationalism 1, no.1 (1994): 3-23, 18, 12th April 2014

citizens but with making a mess and with hurting other people who do not belong to their
country.
For the post-modernist, the past is more problematic. Though nations are modern and the
product of modern cultural conditions, nationalists who want to disseminate the concept of the
nation will make liberal use of elements from the ethnic past, where they appear to answer to
present needs and preoccupations. The present creates the past in its own image. So modern
nationalist intellectuals will freely select, invent and mix traditions in their quest for the
imagined political community. 10
Postmodern nationalist intellectuals use the ethnic past and their tradition to emphasize the
importance of being nationalist. It is fine to be patriot but a term nationalist has a different
meaning. Postmodern intellectuals see their country as the most important and they make it
the most valuable in the world. Their country is the best and all other nations should follow
their country because the intellectuals think that their strategy for being a nationalist is not
harmful for anyone but they just want to accept their countrys past and traditions. However,
the past and tradition make them nationalists and they do not want to accept any other
approach to understanding the nation itself. Although such intellectuals tend to be respected
by other citizens from other countries, they forget about freedom of their own citizens who
are not preoccupied by the issue of nationalism. Because of their aspect of view, many nations
experience wars and tortures throughout the post-modern world. Other people who do not
care about nationalism just want a respectable position in the society with guaranteed freedom
by taking into consideration all the problems concerning the entire nation.

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10

Anthony D. Smith, Gastronomy or geology? The role of nationalism in the reconstruction of nations.
Nations and Nationalism 1, no.1 (1994): 3-23, 18, 12th April 2014

- Nationalism and History


Nor can history be simply disregarded, neither more than one nationalism has found to its
cost. The challenge for scholars as well as nations is to represent the relationship of ethnic
past to modern nation more accurately and convincingly. 11
It was history that had made nationalists and that had made such view to understanding
nationalism. It was a wrong way of teaching and learning about a certain nation that brought
to collapse of the societies, which had made differences between certain nations. The
nationalist intellectuals tend to represent their nations ethnic past as the existence of their
nation before joining with other ones. Such approach means that the ethnic group might have
stayed alone without making a pact with other nations. It is obvious that, because of this, here
appears a problem which is still present in post-modern nations. The countries with high
degree of nationalism should find some solutions to this issue because they could come into a
dangerous situation if they let them do whatever they want to. One of solutions could be
possible bringing the law about those who intervene in nations big issues. The jail or fee
punishment could be just one of good ways to get rid of nationalists and their negative
attitudes and energy that they spread.
- Racism and Nationalism as the same valued issues
For Immanuel Wallerstein, the notion of ethnic community is part of the lager phenomenon
of the construction of peoplehood of capitalist societies, alongside notions of race and nation
which, even if using class terminology, is ideologically detached from it. 12
Both racism and nationalism are related to the same issue concerning postmodern societies.
Both of these issues have the same value and it is almost the same approach to both of them.
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11

Anthony D. Smith, Gastronomy or geology? The role of nationalism in the reconstruction of nations. Nations
and Nationalism 1, no.1 (1994): 3-23, 19, 12th April 2014
12
Immanuel Wallerstein, The Construction of Peoplehood: Racism, Nationalism, Ethnicity in Etienne Balibar
and Immanuel Wallerstein, Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities, trans. Chris Turner, London, Verso
(1991), 71

Racism is related to the ethnicity so is nationalism even though if African-American is a part


of a society where the dominant group is white population, then they are justified with
ethnicity because it is an ethnic group that makes the difference between people when talking
about nationalism. This means that both issues are related to the same categories of people;
those who are minority groups when talking about racial differences and those who are
minority groups when talking about nationality. When using the term racism we think of
black population and slavery. Such definition is incorrect and it has become used by those
who wanted to save their country from threats. African-American used to be a slave to the
white population and thats how history made them, but it is not the problem of a nation.
Those who did not want to serve to the dominant group would usually get punished by that
group and nobody would care about their punishment because it is a society that brought the
law about the slaves who do not accept what is ordered to them.
The post-modernists share a preoccupation with the modernity of nations with their
modernist counterparts. Postmodernism differs in that it has generally generated alternative
epistemological methods (with a focus on popular culture for instance) which, as well as
influencing nationalism studies, have also encouraged an increasing interdisciplinarity across
the social sciences, and for the current concern, in nationalism studies as well. 13
However, postmodern societies try to correct the situation which has been made by the
history. Many societies still experience some sorts of racism and nationalism, but now, there
are strict rules for those who offend any category of people. Not only do they work on
preventing racial and national oppressions but they provide some strategies to stop racism and
nationalism at all. The societies which experience such oppressions work hard on it because
they see that it is impossible to have a comfortable life with such issues.
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13

Ozkirimli, Theories of Nationalism, 195

It is nationalism which engenders nations, and not the other way round is precisely
concerned with the question of historical relationship: Admittedly, nationalism uses the preexisting, historically inherited proliferation of cultures or cultural wealth, though it uses them
very selectively, and it most often transforms them radically. 14
Nationalism and racism are widespread the world and it occupied many people. It influences
not only on man but also on women. Thats why Gellner says that nationalism, as well as
racism, engenders nations. It is also connected to the historical relationship because there
were many marriages between white man and African-American woman. This issue made
many things unclear and that is one more reason why a society must have done something
about preventing racism and nationalism.

- Conclusion
There were many issues concerning the construction of the societies throughout the history.
However, racism and nationalism are considered as the main issues of all societies because
there has always been rejection of the minority groups by the dominant groups. Although the
black population is presented as the wild nation, this essay has provided the evidence why it
is not the case. They just want to have their rights and to have their freedom. Because of such
issues, there were many wars throughout the history and it had showed that it is not the right
way of the construction of a large powerful country as the United States is. There have always
been many controversies about the position of certain minority groups and the society has
always tried to find the solutions about it.
As racism has been a big issue especially concerning the American continent, nationalism has
been more related to the European countries. Many divisions within entire society led to the
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14

Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, 54

failure of many countries which suffered many wars and lost of their fellow citizens. Because
of this, all suffered countries are trying to prevent of nationalism and trying to make their
country more valuable and positive as it had been before the wars.

- References
1. Hegel, Georg W.F. The Philosophy of History. New York: Dover, 1956.
2. Harvey, David A Brief History of Neoliberalism.
3. Doane, A. What is racism? Racial discourse and racial politics. Critical Sociology. 2006.
4. Dijk, T. v. Racist discourse. Routledge Encyclopedia of Race and Ethnic Studies. Ellis
Cashmore (ed.). London: Routledge, 2004. (pp. 351-355).
5. Race and Ethnicity, https://www.boundless.com/art-history/global-art-since1950/postmodernism/race-and-ethnicity/
6. Bell Hooks, killing rage: Ending Racism, http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/19156killing-rage-ending-racism
7. Smith, Anthony D., Gastronomy or geology? The role of nationalism in the reconstruction
of nations. Nations and Nationalism 1, no.1 (1994): 3-23, (pp. 18-19)
8. Wallerstein, Immanuel, The Construction of Peoplehood: Racism, Nationalism,
Ethnicity in Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein, Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous
Identities, trans. Chris Turner, London, Verso (1991), pp. 71-85
9. Ozkirimli, Theories of Nationalism, pp. 195-198
10. Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, pg. 54