The Symbols Of Race Hate In Society Cultural Studies Essay

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Within the sphere of a wider society the influence of these symbols can be regularly seen both within Britain but also throughout the world, The symbology of the swastika painted upon a desecrated Jewish gravestone or the extremely powerful and recognisable 'burning cross' of the Ku Klux Klan are fine examples of the use and abuse of these images.

However, visual display of these images is not just limited to 'paint and canvass' as has been apparent over the past few decades, the internet or World Wide Web has become not only an avenue for display but also recruitment for hate groups worldwide as the internet has provided a base for airing and displaying racist signs and symbols with relative anonymity, racism on the World Wide Web is flourishing. Perusal of white power and neo-Nazi sites all reveal the usage of, and prominent display of, racist signs and symbols. Currently it is estimated that more than 2000 web sites promote hatred and bigotry in some manner or another (Black Information Link, 2005). Some of these are quite passive in manner and try to promote patriotism as a tool for racist bigotry. Others are much stronger, including 'calls to arms' to promote white supremacy and neo-Nazi ideologies. Almost all of the pages reveal a wide array of racist signs and symbols, presumably intended to act more as a recruitment tool than a means of instilling fear in the viewers. It is this response to these visual prompts or cues that is of most interest to the present research. Several of the most common symbols are reviewed below:

The ancient imagery of the 'sawasdee' or 'Sanskrit svasti' both meaning well-being, have now become synonymous with the title 'Swastika'. This symbol when presented in the original form, arms bent to the left, is representative of peace and harmony. However, it was Hitler in the 1920's who reversed the image and adopted it as the symbol of the National Socialist Party, later becoming iconic with the Nazi movement. The power of this symbol can be seen today with its adoption by white supremacy, fascist and neo-Nazi groups.

Imagery based upon this style has been evident with early discoveries of its use from Neolithic times. Buddhist and Hindus frequently adorning ornaments and clothing with versions or adaption's of the image.

Interestingly to display a Swastika styled image is illegal in Germany now but still legal in the United Kingdom.

The SS insignia associated with the Nazi 'Schutzstaffel' translated meaning 'protection squad'. These squads were referred to as the SS and were commonly used as the elite protection guards and in the death camps for brutality and control.

This symbol has its origins in the Nordic Sig Runes and was commonly worn in accompaniment of the deaths head insignia,

The symbols of the burning cross are iconic with the Ku Klux Klan. It is alleged that the burning cross was copied by the Ku Klux Klan from a Scottish tradition of using a burning cross to summon clan members to fight and battle. The image of the burning cross has, through its use by the Ku Klux Klan become synonymous with racial hatred and abuse.

The National Front is a relatively new organisation only coming into existence on 7th February 1967 in London. It was formed by the coming together of three other parties the League of Empire Loyalists, the Racial Preservation Society and the British National Party.

The cementing theme for this new party was 'Britain is British', it rejected the concepts of immigration and integration and stood against the ideas of a multi-cultural society.

The Ku Klux Klan or KKK as it is better known and represented by these symbolic letters was established on 24th December 1865 by a group of Confederate soldiers with the aim of establishing a secret society. History indicates that this society was intended to be mutual and societal in origin, but as it grew in numbers and recognition it began to stand outside of the law with focus on mistreatment and brutality towards black people. The meaning of the words comes from 'kuklos' a Greek word for circle and 'clan' meaning family.

The imagery associated with the Ku Klux Klan of burning crosses, white hooded and robed horsemen attackers and in some cases white robed horses, is well known and documented. However, what started out as an anti black society has now grown to encompass Catholics, homosexuals, immigrants and Jews.

SS death's head. Totenkopfverbande (Death's Head Units). This symbolised the very hard core element of Hitler's soldiers. They were formed to become an elite force within an elite structure originally guarding the highest risk within the concentration camps. Today it depicts part of the symbol of Combat 18, the British Nazi terrorist organisation and other similar fascist groups.

Eagle with Swastika. This is an amalgamation of the previous German Reich Imperial Eagle symbol, undertaken by Hitler with his interpretation of the Swastika. This symbol became an iconic image not only of the Nazi regime but also of Germany itself.

What is the reason these symbols are so powerful? Why did the National Socialist Party in Germany adopt the swastika - a reworked Hindu peace symbol - as a representative symbol in the 1930's? Why later in the same party history did they adopt the sig-runes as a symbol representative of death and anti-Semitic hatred? Why have these same symbols and more modern ones (e.g., Lonsdale clothing) been adopted to represent neo-Nazi and white supremacy groups worldwide. The central hypothesis of this study is that these symbols themselves play a central role in the development of race hatred and consequently in drawing membership to these groups. It has to be recognised that those joining, may or may not have racist or prejudicial views prior to membership. However, the effect of these signs and symbols, it is postulated, may give rise to racist and hate thoughts and action, albeit non-consciously.

C. Aims and Objectives of This Study

The literature review below suggests that symbols are an extremely powerful form of non-verbal communication. Symbols can prime emotions and feelings in both in-group and out-group, and influence both attitudes and behaviour. This research will set out to investigate whether viewing racist signs and symbols increases self-reported levels of prejudice and other factors related to race hate in the short term. This study will provide the first empirical test of this idea and will also seek to understand why the symbols have the effect they do from the perspective of social identity theory in psychology. . This question is of applied importance because it may help to explain the role of such symbols in the recruitment into "hate groups" in the prison environment and elsewhere.

Additional research questions will be asked about differences in reaction to these symbols among different groups. In particular, prison staff as opposed to prisoners. It is argued that this alleged treatment of black and minority ethnic prisoners by white prison staff is embedded into the very bedrock of prison culture and this study will empirically explore whether "in-group" members (i.e. white prison staff) will treat "out-group" members (black and minority ethnic staff and prisoners) differently when triggered by hate symbology. As such, it is anticipated that this research will contribute to the wider literature on race as well as applied discussion about prison management.


There has been much said, written and hypothesised about race, prejudice, hatred, social dominance and distance, hatred and associated propaganda, as well as the psychology of group interaction. However there is limited research on these associations in a closed institutional environment like a prison. This chapter will therefore focus on the general literature on race hate and in the actual dissertation I will also include a chapter on the sociology of the prison environment and the research on racism in such institutions. This review of the literature sets out to firstly bring definition to the concept of race hate, in doing so I review the interplays of prejudice, discrimination and social identity. The review then discuses the psychology of hate from the perspective of social dominance and terror management theory, exploring the threats between the dominant and non-dominant group set within the terror management framework. The review then moves on to discuss the social psychological literature relevant to the role of propaganda in the development of hate and prejudicial attitudes.

A. Defining Race Hate

The hatred of one person for another, one group for another, one 'class' for another - due to their religion, cast, creed, colour, ethnicity, belief or persuasion - is troubling but common to all societies. This section presents a definition of race hate by drawing on the definitive works of Allport and others including Jost & Hamilton, Williams & McGarty, Penny, Sternberg and others. It reviews prejudice and categorisation towards out-groups and the associated discriminatory beliefs and actions. I conclude with a review of research and theory on social identity and public displays declaring affiliation of a particular societal value and belief.

Racism is generally understood as the belief that one race is superior to others. Wellman (1993) argues that according this hierarchical or superiority based worldview:

"culturally sanctioned beliefs, which, regardless of intentions involved, defend the advantages whites have because of the subordinated position of racial minorities" (Wellman, 1993).

Wellman (1993) moves away from the traditional dictionary definitions of racism, arguing that racism is aligned to the cultural belief system that exists within 'white' society and culture.

Blauner's (1972) definition likewise focuses on the treatment of inferiors by the superior.

"social domination by which a group seen as inferior in alleged biological characteristics is exploited, controlled and oppressed socially and psychically by a superordinate group (p. 84)

Further review of the many definitions of racism, indeed appears to set racism within the broader construct of prejudice or along side of it. Both concepts share the commonality of in-group, out-group perception of threat, disadvantage and more so a superiority - inferiority positioning. Thus, it is argued that the threat plays an essential component to the comfortable positional culture and societal values within the in-group.

Ester I. Jusuf (2000) defines racism as a form of prejudice. As opposed to the position of Wellman (1993) she argues that racism is the assumption of superiority manifesting in the belief of 'special rights and privileges' (p. 1). Importantly for this research, she further argues that racism is the assumption of individual actions and beliefs on a discriminatory nature resulting in a superior-inferior base. It appears apparent that key elements within racism, irrespective of where the definition is positioned, focus around the perception of one group by another, with furthering elements of inter-group bias and hatred. It is set within these societal values, cultures and self-worth perceptions.

Prejudice can be understood as a premature judgement; this judgement may be positive, it may be negative and possibly will be targeted in a random manner, i.e. towards a group of people or an individual (Allport, 1954). Prejudice is not an objective judgement but rather one based on stereotypical views or assumptions about the targeted recipient or group (Jost & Hamilton, 2005). It has been argued that prejudice can manifest itself by means of previous personal experience or that of someone close, whose experiences are powerful enough to affect the individual (Dovidio, Glick & Rudman, 2005). Prejudice may involve group dislike or emotions of distain or hatred towards others (Jost & Hamilton, 2005).

The classic definition [1] of prejudice is the one put forth by Harvard psychologist Gordon Allport, in The Nature of Prejudice (1954, p. 9) "Prejudice is an antipathy based on faulty and inflexible generalisation. It may be felt or expressed. It may be directed toward a group or an individual of that group". Allport illustrates this with a homily: "See that man over there? Yes. Well, I hate him. But you don't know him. That's why I hate him" (p. 285). Likewise Jackson (1999) argues that inter-group hostility has no rational base; it is based upon a lack of understanding of out-groups. Williams (1964) defines "out-groups" as oppressed or persecuted at the hands of a dominant group. As a result of the power differential that develops, out-groups are disadvantaged, and the dominant group is advantaged. They can be distinguished from the dominant group by physical or cultural traits that that allow them to be 'lumped' together and marginalised socially and even geographically. Out-groups can become self-conscious with an idea of one-ness or people-hood, based upon the common suffering of self-perception and burdens.

In The Nature of Prejudice Allport refers to racial and ethnic categories and how these inform on the character of stereotypes. He suggests that these values develop from how one group or person differs from another albeit in appearance, but importantly that these differences are visibly salient, "even a fragment of visibility… focuses peoples minds on the possibility that everything may be related to this fragment" (1954, p. 109).

Allport (1954) talks about categorisation as the parting of 'them' and 'us' with the focus of rejection being on the out-group. This argument implies that prejudice is a process, which occurs in the mind, but with no thought to how it could lead to bigoted practices. Dovidio and Gaertner (1999) likewise argue that prejudgements are often oversimplified and over widespread stereotypical opinions of other groups of individuals. Social categories provide individuals with social identities for which certain rules, set of laws and behaviour have to be assumed and carried out in order to 'fit in' with that group. McGarty and Penny (1998) argue that categorisation is linked to stereotyping, and hence heighten the perceived stereotypical similarities within group and highlights the differences between groups. They argue that prejudice can be viewed as ensuing from the desire for an affirmative social identity with an in-group and the perception of belonging to different groups triggers in-group preferential treatment and out-group bigotry.

Prejudice can also be a learned behaviour; the racial and prejudicial views of one's parents can often be seen mimicked in the attitudes and actions of the children. Gerstenfeld (2004) argues that "no baby is born with prejudices against other people. Considering the average 2-year-old finds talking to purple dinosaurs unremarkable, it is not surprising that very young children are pretty accepting of human beings of all shapes, colours, abilities and beliefs" (p.77). Developmentalists argue that it is only around the age of seven that children learn to stereotype; this action associated with different groups can lead to a negative perspective of a certain group and subsequent judgements about that group or individual (Gerstenfeld, 2004). Although children learn racist slurs, they may not fully understand the meaning of their words but recognise the potency and ability to bring about a reaction from their parents. Brown (1995) argues that certain prejudices are so embedded in society it is hard to avoid them. Brown includes in his discussion of common unfavourable prejudices in society, prejudice against ethnic minorities. Mackie (1996), further to this, includes age, sex, and race as common bases for prejudicial attitudes and actions. He suggests that these actions are generally displayed as non-positive critical comments, which can be used as permissible oppression, manifesting in feelings and emotions of hostility, unfounded hatred or humiliation of other out-group members.

According to Petigrewr (2006) conflict between groups is apparent throughout the world. He argues that this conflict is based upon and fuelled by discrimination and prejudice. He rightly draws upon Allport (1954) by way of fundamental grounding. According to Allport (1954), the prejudice that drives intergroup feelings is the negative opinions or thoughts that one group (in) has towards another (out) without sufficient evidence. It is for this study the 'without evidence' element of this very base and grounded definition that is fundamental in the enquiry of why white prison staff and white prisoners treat out-group black and minority ethnic prisoners differently. It is hypothesised that those whose salience is raised around racist signs and symbols will present with more racial and prejudicial tendencies to the out-group and b) those who have their mortality made salient will be more prejudice towards the out-group and also more punitive in their actions, rewards and sanctions. Pettigrewr (2006) further argues in his presentation of prejudice both blatant and subtle forms of intergroup prejudice. He postulates that both are different but inter correlated forms of prejudice, with blatant prejudice displaying more traditional traits of directness, closeness as measured in their scale of Blatant and Subtle Prejudice (Pettigrewr & Meertens, 1995). This scale consisting of two elements, a) threat and b) rejection. The measure is interesting because it deals on the one hand with elements of perceived threat to an out-group; in Pettigrewr (2006) example an out-group taking jobs that a local community should have, and secondly he deals with the rejection element by way of measures of intimacy, as with his example of acceptancy of an out-group member by means of marriage into the family group; interestingly similar in theory to the tenants of Social Distance as utilised in this study.

He supports the subtle prejudice in the 'modern' form of prejudice being cool, distant and indirect. This element forming a basis of grounding for particular approaches taken by white prison staff, white prisoners and for this study, white prison managers. He presents that subtle prejudice comprises of three elements a) traditional values and he cites out-group teachings to in-group children i.e. values and skills different to those required by the in-group society. b) With a regard to an exaggeration of the differentials of intergroup cultural views; and finally the 'denial of sympathy and admiration' (p. 2) for the out-group. Pettigrewr (2006) argues with this also supporting the hypotheses of this study that it is this final element that as a test of denial of the positive emotions, as opposed to the expression of the opposite and negative emotional elements such as hatred, envy and fear, which he postulates are normally associated with blatant prejudice. Pettigrewr (2006) further presents that critics of social psychology argue that subtle prejudice is not actual prejudice. This viewpoint is not held by the author and according to Pettigrewr (2006) - see also (Pettigrewr & Meertens, 2001) - subtle prejudice correlates highly with blatant prejudice and is a good predictor of discriminatory intentions and behaviour. He argues that it behaves exactly like blatant prejudice.

It has been argued and research indicates that people who place themselves in a particular social category in-group and who place others in separate groups or categories out-group will have the tendency to view the out-group as being different, having different societal and cultural norms and values, thereby having the propensity to treat the out-group in a more discriminatory manner (see Tajfel & Turner, 1979, Judd et al., 1991, Brewer & Brown, 1998., Fiske, 1998). According to Onorato and Turner (2004) it is the influence of self identity which remains 'fluid' in construct and that any change in the circumstances or identity of the group to which a person has identified with will thereby bring about a social change and that it is the set of identification cues that provide the basis for this identity. Hence with a change or fluidity of the visual cues a resultant change in social identity is achieved, thereby providing the initial group member with guidance on the requirements of group membership.

It may be argued that the displaying of these visual cues, in some way forms a methodology of association, according to Turner (2008) it formulates a category of social identity thus publicly displaying and declaring membership of and affiliation to the societal values and world views of the group. According to Wiegand et al (2008) it is when this membership is made salient within the workplace that there is a propensity to increase or promote the cognitive social categorisation of employees into particular social subgroups. Furthermore they argue that it is this symbology and its association with difficult or more importantly negative to the group values and perceptions that manifest themselves as 'us and them' attitudes. More so it is argued, furthered into 'us and them' action against the out-group.

According to Kinzler, Dupoux, and Spelke, (2007) the bias towards in-groups and against out-groups is natural to human nature., Interestingly, they experiment with children and young persons arguing that that the preferential tendencies are supported by predisposed ideas that emerge at an early stage of life development with young infants more likely to accept a gift from a native language speaker and older children more likely to accept as a friend a native language speaker. They posit that there is a connection between language and social groups and that this connection is grounded in infancy, thus setting the baseline for own group preference and similar linguistic preference.

Sternberg cites a dictionary definition of hate (p. 229) as "to have strong dislike or ill will for: loath; despise" or "to dislike or wish to avoid; shrink from" (see also Neufeldt & Guralnik 1997, p. 617). However, he argues that "although this definition serves as a standing point for an understanding of hate, it is not sufficiently detailed to serve as an ending point." According to Branscombe and Smith (1990) there are four stages of a negative stereotype giving rise to hatred and hate-driven acts against stereotyped others:

* Stage 1 is the retrieval of stereotypical information stored within one's memory, and triggered by some cue, such as a person's appearance. Such activation may occur by some sort of priming stimulus that is outside of the conscious awareness (Wittenbrink, Judd & Park, 1997).

* Stage 2 is the combining of the available stereotype data with the entirety of other data one has available to them. This combination will come together to provide an all encompassing profile of the person's personality or traits - including the threat that they pose.

* Stage 3 involves the decision making process whereby, given the above, one decides whether or not to act upon the data collected.

* Stage 4 is the decision to act.

In summary, theory and research by Allport (1954) and Jost & Hamilton (2005) and others suggests that prejudice and hate are commonly based upon stereotypical views or assumptions about another group or individual. It has further been seen that certain groups rally around the collectivity of familial surrogacy and fear, supported and promulgated by the utilisation of distinctive symbology. This usage of symbols make manifest the perceived threats to the other's world cultural values and increase that which is seen to bring social divide between the dominant and non- dominant groups.