Simply put, racism still exists because people allow it to. One person thinking they are better than another because of the color of their skin is an old idea that has been passed down from previous generations. Of course, there is another side to racism as well. Sometimes racism is continued because of the perceived racism. If a person assumes they are being treated differently, they might assume it is because of their skin color. This might not be the case at all. Sometimes racism persists not because one group thinks they're better than another but because people assume that is what others think.
Racist beliefs are passed down from generation to generation. Families, friends, neighborhoods, schools, and one's overall social and cultural experiences greatly impact his/her views on race. Many people are exposed to racist views at an early age and from many different important sources in their lives. People become comfortable with their beliefs and don't desire to be challenged or try and change their views. Thus the cycle of ignorance continues and is passed on.
I think ignorance is a major factor. People fear what they do not know, and many people just don't know much about other cultures. They make assumptions based on streotypes without taking the time to get to know a person or group of people.
Another factor is miscommunication or misunderstanding. People can take things the wrong way or say things that shouldn't be said without realizing they are offensive. Until we are courageous to have those conversations and be honest and open with each other, there will always be racism.
I agree that there is a natural human tendency to look for differences between "us" and "them." In the case of racial prejudices, the differences are literally easy to see. If you are walking down the street, I can't tell just by looking at you that you are Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, or Mormon (unless you are wearing some distinctive symbol). However, we can easily and literally "see" racial differences, and so racial prejudices are easier to form quickly.
Because there's always an "us" and a "them". Human nature being what it is, there will always be fear and suspicion of unknown groups outside of one's own. Once the unknown becomes known, however, the fear and suspicion should lessen.
There will always be individuals who will be racist; the hope is that through enough exposure that the amount of racism will be at a minimum.
I have to agree with pohnpei. We, as social creatures, tend to automatically group people. Outside of that, racism exists because people still hold the idea that some people, based upon their race, are beneath them. Until this ideology passes, racism will continue to exist.
This is almost a moot point. Even Milton's Paradise Lost points to the competitive and resentful nature of all beings as the archangels first strive to establish who is superior. On the contemporary level, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird establishes one of the reasons for racism with the character of Bob Ewell, a degenerate white, who feels the need to be superior to someone and, thus, makes Tom Robinson his victim.
This sort of question would be better in the discussion section since there can be so many points of view.
My own point of view is that it is in our nature as humans to split the world into "us" and "them." We start that at the most personal level, differentiating between our family and others and we go from there. One way for us to determine who is "us" and who is "them" is through physical appearance. When we look at someone from a different "race" they can seem very different from us. I think that this predisposes us to think of them as "other" and as bad. Our inclination in this direction is, of course, reinforced by society to a greater or lesser extent. However, I would argue that racism starts from our innate inclination to divide the world into "self" and "other."
Racism still exists - this is due to people still not accepting that regardless of whether humans are different colours or shapes, we are ultimately the same. This could be due to our history, where racism was in abudance, and it still spreads today (like the plague). Or this could be due to social circumstances, where one cannot experience being tormented by racism. Consider the quoatation;
One must experience not belonging in order to belong.
I believe this quote is sums up what I'm trying to say.