Racism and crisis

There are two possible hypotheses explaining the mechanism of racism in situations of crisis. The first appears to be not specific to situations of crisis and suggests that when these contexts receive immigrants there are some changes in the social structure which would be analogous to upward mobility for native groups as immigrants now occupy the lowest positions in the class structure (although if you compare their position in the host society with that occupied by the immigrants in their society of origin, the balance regarding material conditions of life is clearly favorable), which were occupied previously by certain native classes. This means that these native classes climb positions in the structure of classes and reject relationships with immigrants because as “lower class” or a class lower than that now occupied by the native classes: the immigrants are the “new poor”. Paradoxically the class now occupied by immigrants was that previously occupied by these native groups. But this first hypothesis does not explain the mechanism of this rejection nor gives rise to possible ways to empirically test it. From a scientific point of view this hypothesis should be developed or directly refused. On the other hand is a too simple hypothesis that does not allow to establish links between social and individual (psychological) levels.

The second hypothesis is quite more plausible and should be considered in more detail. According to this, in situations of crisis receiving immigration, the changes that are taking place in the social structure are totally opposed to what is pointed out in the previous hypothesis. In this case, native groups see how as a result of the crisis, their material conditions of life worsen. This fact does not imply an upward mobility by these native classes, but the opposite situation: a downward mobility. From a symbolic point of view this is an important wound: his pride of class suffers, because its symbolic capital decreases: they value themselves less and are less socially valued as a social class which has seen its material conditions of life worsen. The fact of receiving immigrants (in this case, they also migrate because although they occupy the lowest positions in the host society, their material conditions of life improved in relation to the society of origin) still worsens the situation: in the eyes of the natives, the immigrants do not fall into poverty because they are already in poverty. From that moment on, the immigrants will be the scapegoat against which will reveal these social classes who see how their material conditions of life and their symbolic capital decreases subjectively and comparatively more than those of immigrants, because it is not the same for someone who sees itself as “middle class” became poor than became poorer for someone who already sees itself as poor: the shame and the indignation of the former becomes the resignation of the latter. Thus, immigrants are seen as “competitors” of the “new poor” who believe that these (when, in fact, the crisis is the cause of all this, since crisis affects subjectively, never objectively or materially, more the natives than the immigrants: the wound inflicted on moral to those going from “have it all” to “have nothing” or are badly off is a great wound, mainly because the wounds inflicted on those who have never suffered any wound are very deep, because overprotection does not help diminish the importance of the wound inflicted, since the first cut is the deepest) are stealing their opportunities, their benefits and their jobs.

(An excerpt from the document The establishment of the district of Santa Maria de Palafolls (in Catalan).)