This UNESCO statement is of considerable historic interest, and is made available in searchable/indexable format by HonestThinking. Scanned pdf is available from unesdoc.unesco.org.

 

 

See also other papers in the UNESCO-series on race.

 

 

 

 

Statement on Race and Racial Prejudice

 

Paris, September 1967

 

1. ‘All men are born free and equal both in dignity and in rights.’ This

universally proclaimed democratic principle stands in jeopardy wherever

political, economic, social and cultural inequalities affect human group

relations. A particularly striking obstacle to the recognition of equal

dignity for all is racism. Racism continues to haunt the world. As a

major social phenomenon it requires the attention of all students of the

sciences of man.

 

2. Racism stultifies the development of those who suffer from it,

perverts those who apply it, divides nations within themselves, aggravates

international conflict and threatens world peace.

 

3. Conference of experts meeting in Paris in September 1967, agreed

that racist doctrines lack any scientific basis whatsoever. It reaffirmed

the propositions adopted by the international meeting held in Moscow

in 1964 which was called to re-examine the biological aspects of the

statements on race and racial differences issued in 1950 and 1951. In

particular, it draws attention to the following points:

 

(a) All men living today belong to the same species and descend from

the same stock.

 

(b) The division of the human species into ‘races’ is partly conventional

and partly arbitrary and does not imply any hierarchy whatsoever.

Many anthropologists stress the importance of human variation, but

believe that ‘racial‘ divisions have limited scientific interest and may

even carry the risk of inviting abusive generalisation.

 

(c) Current biological knowledge does not permit us to impute cultural

achievements to differences in genetic potential. Differences in the

achievements of different peoples should be attributed solely to their

cultural history. The peoples of the world today appear to possess

equal biological potentialities for attaining any level of civilisation.

Racism grossly falsifies the knowledge of human biology.

 

4. The human problems arising from so-called ‘race’ relations are

social in origin rather than biological. A basic problem is racism, namely,

antisocial beliefs and acts which are based on the fallacy that discriminatory

intergroup relations are justifiable on biological grounds.

 

5. Groups commonly evaluate their characteristics in comparison

with others. Racism falsely claims that there is a scientific basis for

arranging groups hierarchically in terms of psychological and cultural

characteristics that are immutable and innate. In this way it seeks to

make existing differences appear inviolable as a means of permanently

maintaining current relations between groups.

 

6. Faced with the exposure of the falsity of its biological doctrines,

racism finds ever new stratagems for justifying the inequality of groups.

It points to the fact that groups do not intermarry, a fact which follows,

in part, from the divisions created by racism. It uses this fact to argue

the thesis that this absence of intermarriage derives from differences of a

biological order. Whenever it fails in its attempts to prove that the

source of group differences lies in the biological field, it falls back upon

justifications in terms of divine purpose, cultural differences, disparity

of educational standards or some other doctrine which would serve to

mask its continued racist beliefs. Thus, many of the problems which

racism presents in the world today do not arise merely from its open

manifestations, but from the activities of those who discriminate on

racial grounds but are unwilling to acknowledge it.

 

7. Racism has historical roots. It has not been a universal phenomenon.

Many contemporary societies and cultures show little trace of it.

It was not evident for long periods in world history. Many forms of

racism have arisen out of the conditions of conquest, out of the justification

of Negro slavery and its aftermath of racial inequality in the West,

and out of the colonial relationship. Among other examples is that of

antisemitism, which has played a particular role in history, with Jews

being the chosen scapegoat to take the blame for problems and crises

met by many societies.

 

8. The anti-colonial revolution of the twentieth century has opened

up new possibilities for eliminating the scourge of racism. In some

formerly dependent countries, people formerly classified as inferior

have for the first time obtained full political rights. Moreover, the

participation of formerly dependent nations in international organisations

in terms of equality has done much to undermine racism.

 

9. There are, however, some instances in certain societies in which

groups, victims of racialistic practices, have themselves applied doctrines

with racist implications in their struggle for freedom. Such an attitude

is a secondary phenomenon, a reaction stemming from men’s search for

an identity which prior racist theory and racialistic practices denied

them. Nonetheless, the new forms of racist ideology, resulting from this

prior exploitation, have no justification in biology. They are a product of

a political struggle and have no scientific foundation.

 

10. In order to undermine racism it is not sufficient that biologists

should expose its fallacies. It is also necessary that psychologists and

sociologists should demonstrate its causes. The social structure is always

an important factor. However, within the same social structure, there

may be great individual variation in racialistic behaviour, associated

with the personality of the individuals and their personal circumstances.

 

11. The committee of experts agreed on the following conclusions

about the social causes of race prejudice:

 

(a) Social and economic causes of racial prejudice are particularly

observed in settler societies wherein are found conditions of great

disparity of power and property, in certain urban areas where there

have emerged ghettoes in which individuals are deprived of equal

access to employment, housing, political participation, education,

and the administration of justice, and in many societies where social

and economic tasks which are deemed to be contrary to the ethics

or beneath the dignity of its members are assigned to a group of

different origins who are derided, blamed, and punished for taking

on these tasks.

 

(b) Individuals with certain personality troubles may be particularly

inclined to adopt and manifest racial prejudices. Small groups,

associations, and social movements of a certain kind sometimes

preserve and transmit racial prejudices. The foundations of the

prejudices lie, however, in the economic and social system of a

society.

 

(c) Racism tends to be cumulative. Discrimination deprives a group of

equal treatment and presents that group as a problem. The group

then tends to be blamed for its own condition, leading to further

elaboration of racist theory.

 

12. The major techniques for coping with racism involve changing

those social situations which give rise to prejudice, preventing the prejudiced

from acting in accordance with their beliefs, and combating the

false beliefs themselves.

 

13. It is recognised that the basically important changes in the social

structure that may lead to the elimination of racial prejudice may require

decisions of a political nature. It is also recognised, however, that certain

agencies of enlightenment, such as education and other means of social

and economic advancement, mass media, and law can be immediately

and effectively mobilised for the elimination of racial prejudice.

 

14. The school and other instruments for social and economic progress

can be one of the most effective agents for the achievement of

broadened understanding and the fulfilment of the potentialities of man.

They can equally much be used for the perpetuation of discrimination

and inequality. It is therefore essential that the resources for education

and for social and economic action of all nations be employed in two

ways :

(a) The schools should ensure that their curricula contain scientific

understandings about race and human unity, and that invidious

distinctions about peoples are not made in texts and classrooms

(b) (i) Because the skills to be gained in formal and vocational education

become increasingly important with the processes of technological

development, the resources of the schools and other

resources should be fully available to all parts of the population

with neither restriction nor discrimination;

(ii) Furthermore, in cases where, for historical reasons, certain

groups have a lower average education and economic standing,

it is the responsibility of the society to take corrective measures.

These measures should ensure, so far as possible, that the limitations

of poor environments are not passed on to the children.

 

In view of the importance of teachers in any educational programme,

special attention should be given to their training. Teachers should be

made conscious of the degree to which they reflect the prejudices which

may be current in their society. They should be encouraged to avoid

these prejudices.

 

15. Governmental units and other organisations concerned should

give special attention to improving the housing situations and work

opportunities available to victims of racism. This will not only counteract

the effects of racism, but in itself can be a positive way of modifying

racist attitudes and behaviour.

 

16. The media of mass communication are increasingly important in

promoting knowledge and understanding, but their exact potentiality

is not fully known. Continuing research into the social utilisation of the

media is needed in order to assess their influence in relation to formation

of attitudes and behavioural patterns in the field of race prejudice and

race discrimination. Because the mass media reach vast numbers of

people at different educational and social levels, their role in encouraging

or combating race prejudice can be crucial. Those who work in these

media should maintain a positive approach to the promotion of understanding

between groups and populations. Representation of peoples in

stereotypes and holding them up to ridicule should be avoided. Attachment

to news reports of racial designations which are not germane to the

accounts should also be avoided.

 

17. Law is among the most important means of ensuring equality

between individuals and one of the most effective means of fighting racism.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948

and the related international agreements and conventions which have

taken effect subsequently can contribute effectively, on both the national

and international level, to the fight against any injustice of racist origin.

National legislation is a means of effectively outlawing racist propaganda

and acts based upon racial discrimination. Moreover, the policy

expressed in such legislation must bind not only the courts and judges

charged with its enforcement, but also all agencies of government of

whatever level or whatever character.

 

It is not claimed that legislation can immediately eliminate prejudice.

Nevertheless, by being a means of protecting the victims of acts based

upon prejudice, and by setting a moral example backed by the dignity

of the courts, it can, in the long run, even change attitudes.

 

18. Ethnic groups which represent the object of some form of discrimination

are sometimes accepted and tolerated by dominating groups

at the cost of their having to abandon completely their cultural identity.

It should be stressed that the effort of these ethnic groups to preserve

their cultural values should be encouraged. They will thus be better able

to contribute to the enrichment of the total culture of humanity.

 

19. Racial prejudice and discrimination in the world today arise from

historical and social phenomena and falsely claim the sanction of science.

It is, therefore, the responsibility of all biological and social scientists,

philosophers, and others working in related disciplines, to ensure that

the results of their research are not misused by those who wish to

propagate racial prejudice and encourage discrimination.

 

This statement was prepared by a committee of experts on race and racial

prejudice which met at Unesco House, Paris, from 18 to 26 September

1967. The following experts took part in the committee’s work:

 

Professor Muddathir Abdel Rahim, University of Khartoum (Sudan);

Professor Georges Balandier, Université de Paris (France);

Professor Celio de Oliveira Borja, University of Guanabara (Brazil);

Professor Lloyd Braithwaite, University of the West Indies (Jamaica);

Professor Leonard Broom, University of Texas (United States);

Professor G. F. Debetz, Institute of Ethnography, Moscow (USSR);

Professor J. Djordjevic, University of Belgrade (Yugoslavia);

Dean Clarence Clyde Fergusm, Howard University (United States);

Dr Dharam P. Ghai, University College (Kenya);

Professor Louis Guttman, Hebrew University (Israel);

Professor Jean Hiernaux, Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium);

Professor A. Kloskowska, University of Lodz (Poland);

Judge Kéba M’Baye, President of the Supreme Court (Senegal);

Professor John Rex, University of Durham (United Kingdom);

Professor Mariano R. Solveira, University of Havana (Cuba);

Professor Hisashi Suzuki, University of Tokyo (Japan);

Dr Romila Thapar, University of Delhi (India);

Professor C. H. Waddington, University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom).

 

 

 

 

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