EthnocentricityJan Pettman (1986:6) claims that ethnocentricty "is a vital ingredient inaracist ideology" and upon contemplation, she is probably correct. D'Souza(1996:522) is right when he says that many cultures have "an intensepreference for [their] own group" over others. Yet it is perhaps theintensity of preference and the way the preference is expressed thatdistinguishes ethnocentricity from racism. While racism combines theintense preference with unadmirable actions, ethnocentricity combines thepreference with culture-bound myopia, that may lead but does not have tolead to those same unadmirable actions. Therefore, it is perhaps true thatadherence to a singular viewpoint, be it Asian, African, or European, withno ability or desire to explore or assimilate into other cultures is aprecursor to overt racism.Alan Singer (1994:285), looks at ethnocentricty as a "political andreligious movement that uses historical information for the creation ofunifying cultural symbols." Today, there are Afrocentrics, Eurocentricsandassorted other-centrics. Their goal is to study their culture, understandit on its own terms, recapture it, and make it more a part of themselves.
Ethnocentricity is the ethnically, or culturally, bound way of viewingone'sown ethnic origins. In its vituperative form, it espouses superiority overother groups. In its earlier, passive form, it gathers knowledge of its ownculture to use to strengthen that same culture. We all have a need to belong to a community we can call our own. Thebuilding or re-creation of such a community allows us to appease this need. However, when the same building or re-creating becomes limiting, when itlocks the doors to our understanding of others or acknowledging theirrightto belong to a different community, it is ethnocentricty bordering onracism. ReferencesD'Souza, D (1995) "Is Racism a Western Idea?" American Scholar, 64 (4),pp.517-539. Pettman, J (1986) "What Is Racism?" Anti-Racism: A Handbook for AdultEducators. AGPS. Canberra. Pp. 3-10.Singer, A (1994) "Reflections on Multiculturalism." Phi Delta Kappan.December. Pp. 284-288.