The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted after the Holocaust, a genocide of Jewish people by Nazi Germany during World War 2. Structural violence and state-sponsored hatred built the foundation upon which the genocide of European Jewish people and other atrocities were allowed to happen. This article will look at the pyramid of hate which is a theory that explains how biases and stereotypes can lead to extreme and violent consequences. While we will discuss the pyramid of hate in the context of racism, its principles can apply to any marginalised groups as well.
First, let’s look at what we mean by biases. A bias is an unfair perception of a group of people which is often based on stereotypes. When someone acts against someone unfairly because of a bias they have, this is an act of discrimination. Here are some examples:
Stereotype: All people of this race are criminals.
Racist bias: This person of that race must be a criminal.
Discrimination: Denying them entry into a premise because of their race.
Individuals have a pivotal role to play in preventing discrimination and bringing attention to casual racism. On a person-to-person level, we may unknowingly enforce or normalise certain biases through speech or in our own thoughts. This is known as casual racism, a subtle form of racism that is a part of everyday behaviour and speech, including jokes and idioms. It is important that we seek to understand issues that affect disadvantaged groups and work to undo certain biases that we may hold about others, especially if we are in privileged positions. This is because biases often escalate into discriminatory acts.
Systemic discrimination is also known as structural or institutionalised discrimination. It is a form of racism that is normalised in a system or institution, where opportunities and rights are frequently denied to marginalised groups, putting them at an economical, social, and political disadvantage. These disadvantages often compound – for example, a racial minority of a lower socio-economic class would be severely disadvantaged due to the combined effects of racism and poverty. This is known as intersectionality which is when two or more aspects of a person’s identity cause them to experience complex forms of discrimination.
Some examples of systemic discrimination include:
- Criminal justice disparity
- Criminals of a certain race may face longer prison sentences than any other race.
- Inequitable school resource distribution
- A school attended mostly by a racial minority may not receive the funds it needs.
- Inequitable employment opportunities
- The finance sector in a country has employed less staff of a certain racial minority compared to any other race.
- Wage disparities
- Voter suppression
- In countries where it’s necessary to register to vote, registration booths may be inaccessible to people living in certain areas. This may lead to the election of representatives who do not represent their best interests.
Policies, laws, and institutions under a government’s purview have a direct impact on the protection and fulfilment of human rights. It is policies, laws, and institutions that often enable systemic discrimination and bias-motivated violence to go unchecked and become widespread. This is why states have an obligation to its people and have to be held accountable for inaction or prolonged human rights violations in their country.
Photo from Vox.