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Racism consists of both prejudice and discrimination based in social perceptions of biological differences between peoples. It often takes the form of social actions, practices or beliefs, or political systems that consider different races to be ranked as inherently superior or inferior to each other, based on presumed shared inheritable traits, abilities, or qualities. It may also hold that members of different races should be treated differently.
Some consider any assumption that a person’s behavior is tied to their racial categorization is inherently racist, regardless of whether the action is intentionally harmful or pejorative, because stereotyping necessarily subordinates individual identity to group identity. In sociology and psychology, some definitions only include consciously malignant forms of discrimination.
One view holds that racism is best understood as ‘prejudice plus power’ because without the support of political or economic power, prejudice would not be able to manifest as a pervasive cultural, institutional or social phenomenon. Among the questions about how to define racism are the question of whether to include forms of discrimination that are unintentional, such as making assumptions about preferences or abilities of others based on racial stereotypes, whether to include symbolic or institutionalized forms of discrimination such as the circulation of ethnic stereotypes through the media, and whether to include the socio-political dynamics of social stratification that sometimes have a racial component. Some definitions of racism also include discriminatory behaviors and beliefs based on cultural, national, ethnic, caste, or religious stereotypes. Some critics of the term argue that the term is applied differentially, with a focus on such prejudices by whites, and in ways that define mere observations of any possible differences between races as racism.
While race and ethnicity are considered to be separate phenomena in contemporary social science, the two terms have a long history of equivalence in popular usage and older social science literature. Racism and racial discrimination are often used to describe discrimination on an ethnic or cultural basis, independent of whether these differences are described as racial. According to the United Nations convention, there is no distinction between the terms racial discrimination and ethnic discrimination, and superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and that there is no justification for racial discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere.
In history, racism was a driving force behind the transatlantic slave trade, and behind states based on racial segregation such as the U.S. in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and South Africa under apartheid. Practices and ideologies of racism are universally condemned by the United Nations in the Declaration of Human Rights. It has also been a major part of the political and ideological underpinning of genocides such as The Holocaust, but also in colonial contexts such as the rubber booms in South America and the Congo, and in the European conquest of the Americas and colonization of Africa, Asia and Australia.
- 1 Usage of the term and related terms
- 2 Definitions
- 3 Types
- 4 Declarations and international law against racial discrimination
- 5 Ideology
- 6 Ethnic conflicts
- 7 Academic variants
- 8 Evolutionary theories about the origins of racism
- 9 As state-sponsored activity
- 10 In history
- 11 Inter-minority variants
- 12 Research on influencing factors
- 13 Anti-racism
- 14 See also
- 15 References & notes
- 16 Further reading
- 17 External links
|Genetics and differences|
In the 19th century, many scientists subscribed to the simple belief that human populations are divided into separate races. This was often used to justify the belief that some races were inferior to others, and that differential treatment was consequently justified. Such theories are generally termed scientific racism. When the practice of treating certain groups preferentially, or denying rights or benefits to certain groups, based on racial characteristics is institutionalized, it is termed “institutional racism“.
Today, most biologists, anthropologists, and sociologists reject a simple taxonomy of races in favor of more specific and/or empirically verifiable criteria, such as geography, ethnicity, or a history of endogamy.
Those who subscribe to the proposition that there are inherent distinctions among people that can be ascribed to membership in a racial group (and who may use this to justify differential treatment of such groups) tend to describe themselves using the term “racialism” rather than “racism”, to avoid the negative connotations of the latter word. “Racialism” is assumed to be more value-neutral terminology, and more appropriate for (scientifically) objective communication or analysis.
However, this distribution of meanings between the two terms used to be precisely inverse at the time they were coined: The Oxford English Dictionary defined “racialism” as “belief in the superiority of a particular race” and gave a 1907 quote as the first recorded use. The updated entry in the Oxford English Dictionary (2008) defines racialism simply as “An earlier term than racism, but now largely superseded by it,” and cites it in a 1902 quote. The revised Oxford English Dictionary cites the shortened term “racism” in a quote from the following year, 1903.It was first defined by the OED as “[t]he theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race”, which gives 1936 as the first recorded use. Additionally, the OED records racism as a synonym of racialism: “belief in the superiority of a particular race”. By the end of World War II, racism had acquired the same supremacist connotations formerly associated with racialism: racism now implied racial discrimination, racial supremacism and a harmful intent. (The term “race hatred” had also been used by sociologist Frederick Hertz in the late 1920s.)
Modeled on the term “racism”, a large number of pejorative -ism terms have been created to describe various types of prejudice: sexism, ageism,ableism, speciesism, etc. Related concepts are antisemitism, chauvinism, homophobia and Islamophobia.
Racism involves the belief in racial differences, which acts as a justification for non-equal treatment (which some regard as “discrimination”) of members of that race. The term is commonly used negatively and is usually associated with race-based prejudice, violence, dislike,discrimination, or oppression, the term can also have varying and contested definitions. Racialism is a related term, sometimes intended to avoid these negative meanings.
As a word, racism is an “-ism”, a belief that can be described by a word ending in the suffix -ism, pertaining to race. As its etymology would suggest, its usage is relatively recent and as such its definition is not entirely settled. The Oxford English Dictionary defines racism as the “belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races” and the expression of such prejudice, while the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines it as a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority or inferiority of a particular racial group, and alternatively that it is also the prejudice based on such a belief. The Macquarie Dictionary defines racism as: “the belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others.”
The UN does not define “racism”; however, it does define “racial discrimination”: According to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnicorigin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.
This definition does not make any difference between discrimination based on ethnicity and race, in part because the distinction between the two remains debatable among anthropologists. Similarly, in British law the phrase racial group means “any group of people who are defined by reference to their race, colour, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origin”.
In Norway, the word “race” has been removed from national laws concerning discrimination as the use of the phrase is considered problematic and unethical. The Norwegian Anti-Discrimination Act bans discrimination based on ethnicity, national origin, descent and skin colour.
Some sociologists have defined racism as a system of categorical privilege. In Portraits of White Racism, David Wellman has defined racism as “culturally sanctioned beliefs, which, regardless of intentions involved, defend the advantages whites have because of the subordinated position of racial minorities”. Sociologists Noël A. Cazenave and Darlene Alvarez Maddern define racism as “…a highly organized system of ‘race’-based group privilege that operates at every level of society and is held together by a sophisticated ideology of color/’race’ supremacy. Sellers and Shelton (2003) found that a relationship between racial discrimination and emotional distress was moderated by racial ideology and public regard beliefs. That is, racial centrality appears to promote the degree of discrimination African American young adults perceive whereas racial ideology may buffer the detrimental emotional effects of that discrimination. Racist systems include, but cannot be reduced to, racial bigotry,”.
Some sociologists have also argued, with reference to the USA and elsewhere, that forms of racism have in many instances mutated from more blatant expressions hereof into more covert kinds (albeit that blatant forms of hatred and discrimination still endure). The “newer” (more hidden and less easily detectable) forms of racism—which can be considered as embedded in social processes and structures—are more difficult to explore as well as challenge. It has been suggested that, while in many countries overt and explicit racism has become increasingly taboo, even in those who display egalitarian explicit attitudes, an implicit or aversive racism is still maintained subconsciously.
Dictionary definitions of xenophobia include: intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries (Oxford Dictionaries), unreasonable fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign (Merriam-Webster) The Dictionary of Psychology defines it as “a fear of strangers”.
Centuries of European colonialism of the Americas, Africa and Asia was often justified by white supremacist attitudes. During the early 20th century, the phrase “The White Man’s Burden” was widely used to justify imperialist policy as a noble enterprise.
Racial segregation is the separation of humans into racial groups in daily life. It may apply to activities such as eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a bath room, attending school, going to the movies, or in the rental or purchase of a home. Segregation is generally outlawed, but may exist through social norms, even when there is no strong individual preference for it, as suggested by Thomas Schelling‘s models of segregation and subsequent work.
Racial discrimination refers to the separation of people through a process of social division into categories not necessarily related to races for purposes of differential treatment. Racial segregation policies may formalize it, but it is also often exerted without being legalized. Researchers Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, at the University of Chicago and MIT found in a 2004 study that there was widespread discrimination in the workplace against job applicants whose names were merely perceived as “sounding black”. These applicants were 50% less likely than candidates perceived as having “white-sounding names” to receive callbacks for interviews. Devah Pager, a sociologist at Princeton University, sent matched pairs of applicants to apply for jobs in Milwaukee and New York City, finding that black applicants received callbacks or job offers at half the rate of equally qualified whites. In contrast, institutions and courts have upheld discrimination against whites when it is done to promote a diverse work or educational environment, even when it was shown to be to the detriment of qualified applicants.The researchers view these results as strong evidence of unconscious biases rooted in the United States‘ long history of discrimination (e.g., Jim Crow laws, etc.)
Institutional racism (also known as structural racism, state racism or systemic racism) is racial discrimination by governments, corporations, religions, or educational institutions or other large organizations with the power to influence the lives of many individuals. Stokely Carmichael is credited for coining the phrase institutional racism in the late 1960s. He defined the term as “the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin”.
Maulana Karenga argued that racism constituted the destruction of culture, language, religion and human possibility, and that the effects of racism were “the morally monstrous destruction of human possibility involved redefining African humanity to the world, poisoning past, present and future relations with others who only know us through this stereotyping and thus damaging the truly human relations among peoples.”
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2010)|
Historical economic or social disparity is alleged to be a form of discrimination caused by past racism and historical reasons, affecting the present generation through deficits in the formal education and kinds of preparation in previous generations, and through primarily unconscious racist attitudes and actions on members of the general population.
A hypothesis embraced by classical economists is that competition in a capitalist economy decreases the impact of discrimination. The thinking behind the hypothesis is that discrimination imposes a cost on the employer, and thus a profit-driven employer will avoid racist hiring policies.
Although a capitalist economy would avoid discrimination in order to avoid extra cost, this can be avoided in other ways. A capitalist company, for example, may use racist hiring policies as it deviates towards the “cultural norm”. For example, in a predominantly white society, hiring a person of colour into a position of management may then cause disputes, and damage communications between other employers. Thus, the company would be economically put in a deficit because of the discrimination of other companies, as they invoke discrimination and isolate that company. Although this may be a radical, over exaggerated point of view, it portrays how pervasive racism is and how a company may sometimes deviate towards racist hiring policies in order to not be isolated, thus preventing the company from going into an economic deficit. (Burton 2009:1)
For decades, African American farmers said they were unjustly being denied farm loans or subjected to longer waits for loan approval because of racism,and accused the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) of not responding to their complaints. In 2011, Bank of America agreed to pay $335 million to settle a federal government claim that its mortgage division, Countrywide Financial, discriminated against black and Hispanic homebuyers.
During the Spanish colonial period, Spaniards developed a complex caste system based on race, which was used for social control and which also determined a person’s importance in society. While many Latin American countries have long since rendered the system officially illegal through legislation, usually at the time of their independence, prejudice based on degrees of perceived racial distance from European ancestry combined with one’s socioeconomic status remain, an echo of the colonial caste system. Almost uniformly, people who are darker-skinned and of indigenous descent make up the peasantry and working classes, while lighter-skinned, Spanish-descent Latin Americans are in the ruling elite.
Some scholars argue that in the US earlier violent and aggressive forms of racism have evolved into a more subtle form of prejudice in the late 20th century. This new form of racism is sometimes referred to as “modern racism” and characterized by outwardly acting unprejudiced while inwardly maintaining prejudiced attitudes, and displaying subtle prejudist behaviors such as actions informed by attributing qualities to others based on racial stereotypes, and evaluating the same behavior differently based on the race of the person being evaluated. This view is based on studies of prejudice and discriminatory behavior, where some people will act ambivalently towards black people, with positive reactions in certain, more public contexts, but more negative views and expressions in more private contexts. This ambivalence may also be visible for example in hiring decisions where job candidates that are otherwise positively evaluated may be unconsciously disfavored by employers in the final decision because of their race. Some scholars consider modern racism to be characterized by an explicit rejection of stereotypes, combined with resistance to changing structures of discrimination for reasons that are ostensibly non-racial, an idiology that considers opportunity at a purely individual basis denying the relevance of race in determining individual opportunities, and the exhibition of indirect forms of micro-aggression and/or avoidance towards people of other races.
Declarations and international law against racial discrimination
In 1919, a proposal to include a racial equality provision in the Covenant of the League of Nations was supported by a majority, but not adopted in the Paris Peace Conference, 1919. In 1943, Japan and its allies declared work for the abolition of racial discrimination to be their aim at the Greater East Asia Conference. Article 1 of the 1945 UN Charter includes “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race” as UN purpose.
In 1950, UNESCO suggested in The Race Question —a statement signed by 21 scholars such as Ashley Montagu, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Gunnar Myrdal, Julian Huxley, etc. — to “drop the term race altogether and instead speak of ethnic groups“. The statement condemned scientific racism theories that had played a role in the Holocaust. It aimed both at debunking scientific racist theories, by popularizing modern knowledge concerning “the race question,” and morally condemned racism as contrary to the philosophy of the Enlightenment and its assumption ofequal rights for all. Along with Myrdal’s An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (1944), The Race Question influenced the 1954 U.S. Supreme Courtdesegregation decision in “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka“. Also in 1950, the European Convention on Human Rights was adopted, widely used on racial discrimination issues.
The United Nations use the definition of racial discrimination laid out in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted in 1966:
… any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.(Part 1 of Article 1 of the U.N. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination)
In 2001, the European Union explicitly banned racism, along with many other forms of social discrimination, in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the legal effect of which, if any, would necessarily be limited to Institutions of the European Union: “Article 21 of the charter prohibits discrimination on any ground such as race, color, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, disability, age or sexual orientation and also discrimination on the grounds of nationality.”
As an ideology, racism existed during the 19th century as “scientific racism“, which attempted to provide a racial classification of humanity. Johann Blumenbach in 1775, advocating polygenism, divided the world’s population into five groups according to skin colour (Caucasians, Mongols, etc.). The archetypical form of racism is, perhaps, found with the polygenist Christoph Meiners. He split mankind into two divisions which he labeled the “beautiful White race” and the “ugly Black race”. In Meiners book The Outline of History of Mankind he claimed that a main characteristic of race is either beauty or ugliness. He viewed only the white race as beautiful. He considered ugly races as inferior, immoral and animal like.
Anders Retzius next disproved that Blumenbach’s polygenism had any fundamental merit, in demonstrating that neither Europeans nor different nations are one “pure race”, but of mixed origins. While discredited, derivations of Blumenbach’s taxonomy are still widely used for classification of the population in USA. H. P. Steensby, while strongly emphasising that all humans today are of mixed origins, in 1907 claimed that the origins of human differences must be traced extraordinarily far back in time, and conjectured that the “purest race” today would be the Australian Aboriginals.
After the rejection of polygenism as well as the widespread racist and nationalist violence of the 1930s and 1940s, scientific racism fell strongly out of favour, but the origins of fundamental human and societal differences are still researched within academia, in fields such as human genetics includingpaleogenetics, social anthropology, comparative politics, history of religions, history of ideas, prehistory, history, ethics, and psychiatry. All reject Meiners’ blunt racism. Outside USA, there is widespread rejection of any methodology based on anything similar to Blumenbach’s races. It is more unclear to which extent ethnic and national stereotypes are accepted, and when.
Although racist ideologies have been widely discredited after World War II and the Holocaust, racism and racial discrimination have remained widespread around the world. Some examples of this in present day are statistics including, but not limited to, the racial breakdown of the prison population versus the national population, physical abilities and mental ability statistics, and other data gathered by scientific groups. While these statistics may be accurate, and can show trends, it’s inappropriate in most countries to assume that because a particular race has a high crime or low literacy rate, that the entire race of people are inherent criminals, or inherently unintelligent.
It was already noted by DuBois that, in making the difference between races, it is not race that we think about, but culture: “…a common history, common laws and religion, similar habits of thought and a conscious striving together for certain ideals of life”. Late 19th century nationalists were the first to embrace contemporary discourses on “race”, ethnicity and “survival of the fittest” to shape new nationalist doctrines. Ultimately, race came to represent not only the most important traits of the human body, but was also regarded as decisively shaping the character and personality of the nation.
According to this view, culture is the physical manifestation created by ethnic groupings, as such fully determined by racial characteristics. Culture and race became considered intertwined and dependent upon each other, sometimes even to the extent of including nationality or language to the set of definition. Pureness of race tended to be related to rather superficial characteristics that were easily addressed and advertised, such as blondness. Racial qualities tended to be related to nationality and language rather than the actual geographic distribution of racial characteristics. In the case of Nordicism, the denomination “Germanic” became virtually equivalent to superiority of race.
Bolstered by some nationalist and ethnocentric values and achievements of choice, this concept of racial superiority evolved to distinguish from other cultures, that were considered inferior or impure. This emphasis on culture corresponds to the modern mainstream definition of racism: “Racism does not originate from the existence of ‘races’. It creates them through a process of social division into categories: anybody can be racialised, independently of their somatic, cultural, religious differences.”
This definition explicitly ignores the biological concept of race, still subject to scientific debate. In the words of David C. Rowe “A racial concept, although sometimes in the guise of another name, will remain in use in biology and in other fields because scientists, as well as lay persons, are fascinated by human diversity, some of which is captured by race.”
Until recently, this racist abuse of physical anthropology has been politically exploited. Apart from being unscientific, racial prejudice became subject to international legislation. For instance, the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1963, address racial prejudice explicitly next to discrimination for reasons of race, colour or ethnic origin (Article I).
Racism has been a motivating factor in social discrimination, racial segregation, hate speech and violence (such as pogroms, genocides and ethnic cleansings). Despite the persistence of racial stereotypes, humor and epithets in much everyday language, racial discrimination is illegal in many countries.
Ironically, anti-racism has also become a political instrument of abuse. In a reversal of values, anti-racism is being propagated by despots in the service of obscurantism and the suppression of women. Philosopher Pascal Bruckner claimed that “Anti-racism in the UN has become the ideology of totalitarian regimes who use it in their own interests.”
After the Napoleonic Wars, Europe was confronted with the new “nationalities question,” leading to reconfigurations of the European map, on which the frontiers between the states had been delimited during the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. Nationalism had made its first appearance with the invention of the levée en masse by the French revolutionaries, thus inventing massconscription in order to be able to defend the newly founded Republic against the Ancien Régime order represented by the European monarchies. This led to the French Revolutionary Wars(1792–1802) and then to the Napoleonic conquests, and to the subsequent European-wide debates on the concepts and realities of nations, and in particular of nation-states. TheWestphalia Treaty had divided Europe into various empires and kingdoms (Ottoman Empire, Holy Roman Empire, Swedish Empire, Kingdom of France, etc.), and for centuries wars were waged between princes (Kabinettskriege in German).
Modern nation-states appeared in the wake of the French Revolution, with the formation of patriotic sentiments for the first time in Spain during thePeninsula War (1808–1813 – known in Spain as the Independence War). Despite the restoration of the previous order with the 1815 Congress of Vienna, the “nationalities question” became the main problem of Europe during the Industrial Era, leading in particular to the 1848 Revolutions, theItalian unification completed during the 1871 Franco-Prussian War, which itself culminated in the proclamation of the German Empire in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, thus achieving the German unification.
Meanwhile, the Ottoman Empire, the “sick man of Europe“, was confronted with endless nationalist movements, which, along with the dissolving of theAustrian-Hungarian Empire, would lead to the creation after World War I of the various nation-states of the Balkans, with “national minorities” in their borders. Ethnic nationalism, which advocated the belief in a hereditary membership of the nation, made its appearance in the historical context surrounding the creation of the modern nation-states.
One of its main influences was the Romantic nationalist movement at the turn of the 19th century, represented by figures such as Johann Herder (1744–1803), Johan Fichte (1762–1814) in the Addresses to the German Nation (1808), Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), or also, in France, Jules Michelet(1798–1874). It was opposed to liberal nationalism, represented by authors such as Ernest Renan (1823–1892), who conceived of the nation as a community, which, instead of being based on the Volk ethnic group and on a specific, common language, was founded on the subjective will to live together (“the nation is a daily plebiscite“, 1882) or also John Stuart Mill (1806–1873).
Ethnic nationalism blended with scientific racist discourses, as well as with “continental imperialist” (Hannah Arendt, 1951) discourses, for example in the pan-Germanism discourses, which postulated the racial superiority of the German Volk. The Pan-German League (Alldeutscher Verband), created in 1891, promoted German imperialism, “racial hygiene” and was opposed to intermarriage with Jews. Another popular current, the Völkisch movement, was also an important proponent of the German ethnic nationalist discourse, which combined with modern antisemitism. Members of the Völkisch movement, in particular the Thule Society, would participate in the founding of the German Workers’ Party (DAP) in Munich in 1918, the predecessor of the NSDAP Nazi party. Pan-Germanism and played a decisive role in the interwar period of the 1920s–1930s.
These currents began to associate the idea of the nation with the biological concept of a “master race” (often the “Aryan race” or “Nordic race“) issued from the scientific racist discourse. They conflated nationalities with ethnic groups, called “races”, in a radical distinction from previous racial discourses that posited the existence of a “race struggle” inside the nation and the state itself. Furthermore, they believed that political boundaries should mirror these alleged racial and ethnic groups, thus justifying ethnic cleansing in order to achieve “racial purity” and also to achieve ethnic homogeneity in the nation-state.
Such racist discourses, combined with nationalism, were not, however, limited to pan-Germanism. In France, the transition from Republican, liberal nationalism, to ethnic nationalism, which made nationalism a characteristic of far-right movements in France, took place during the Dreyfus Affair at the end of the 19th century. During several years, a nation-wide crisis affected French society, concerning the alleged treason of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jewish military officer. The country polarized itself into two opposite camps, one represented by Émile Zola, who wrote J’accuse in defense of Alfred Dreyfus, and the other represented by the nationalist poet, Maurice Barrès(1862–1923), one of the founders of the ethnic nationalist discourse in France. At the same time, Charles Maurras (1868–1952), founder of the monarchist Action française movement, theorized the “anti-France,” composed of the “four confederate states of Protestants, Jews, Freemasons and foreigners” (his actual word for the latter being the pejorative métèques). Indeed, to him the first three were all “internal foreigners”, who threatened the ethnic unity of the French people.
Debates over the origins of racism often suffer from a lack of clarity over the term. Many use the term “racism” to refer to more general phenomena, such as xenophobia and ethnocentrism, although scholars attempt to clearly distinguish those phenomena from racism as an ideology or from scientific racism, which has little to do with ordinary xenophobia. Others conflate recent forms of racism with earlier forms of ethnic and national conflict. In most cases, ethno-national conflict seems to owe itself to conflict over land and strategic resources. In some cases, ethnicityand nationalism were harnessed to rally combatants in wars between great religious empires (for example, the Muslim Turks and the Catholic Austro-Hungarians).
Notions of race and racism often have played central roles in such ethnic conflicts. Throughout history, when an adversary is identified as “other” based on notions of race or ethnicity (in particular when “other” is construed to mean “inferior”), the means employed by the self-presumed “superior” party to appropriate territory, human chattel, or material wealth often have been more ruthless, more brutal, and less constrained by moral or ethicalconsiderations. According to historian Daniel Richter, Pontiac’s Rebellion saw the emergence on both sides of the conflict of “the novel idea that all Native people were ‘Indians,’ that all Euro-Americans were ‘Whites,’ and that all on one side must unite to destroy the other.” Basil Davidson insists in his documentary, Africa: Different but Equal, that racism, in fact, only just recently surfaced—as late as the 19th century, due to the need for a justification for slavery in the Americas.
The idea of slavery as an “equal-opportunity employer” was denounced with the introduction of Christian theory in the West. Maintaining that Africans were “subhuman” was the only loophole in the then accepted law that “men are created equal” that would allow for the sustenance of the Triangular Trade. New peoples in the Americas, possible slaves, were encountered, fought, and ultimately subdued, but, then, due to European diseases, their populations drastically decreased. Through both influences, theories about “race” developed, and these helped many to justify the differences in position and treatment of people whom they categorized as belonging to different races (see Eric Wolf’s Europe and the People without History).
Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda argued that, during the Valladolid controversy in the middle of the 16th century, the Native Americans were natural slaves because they had no souls. In Asia, theChinese and Japanese Empires were both strong colonial powers, with the Chinese making colonies and vassal states of much of East Asia throughout history, and the Japanese doing the same in the 19th–20th centuries. In both cases, the Asian imperial powers believed they were ethnically and racially preferenced too.
Owen ‘Alik Shahadah comments on this racism by stating: “Historically Africans are made to sway like leaves on the wind, impervious and indifferent to any form of civilization, a people absent from scientific discovery, philosophy or the higher arts. We are left to believe that almost nothing can come out of Africa, other than raw material.”
Scottish philosopher and economist David Hume said, “I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilised nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or in speculation. No ingenious manufacture among them, no arts, no sciences.” German philosopher Immanuel Kant stated: “The yellow Indians do have a meagre talent. The Negroes are far below them, and at the lowest point are a part of the American people.”
In the 19th century, the German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, declared that “Africa is no historical part of the world.” Hegel further claimed that blacks had no “sense of personality; their spirit sleeps, remains sunk in itself, makes no advance, and thus parallels the compact, undifferentiated mass of the African continent” (On Blackness Without Blacks: Essays on the Image of the Black in Germany, Boston: C.W. Hall, 1982, p. 94).
Fewer than 30 years before Nazi Germany instigated World War II, the Austrian, Otto Weininger, claimed: “A genius has perhaps scarcely ever appeared amongst the negroes, and the standard of their morality is almost universally so low that it is beginning to be acknowledged in America that their emancipation was an act of imprudence” (Sex and Character, New York: G.P. Putnam, 1906, p. 302).
The German conservative, Oswald Spengler, remarked on what he perceived as the culturally degrading influence of Africans in modern Western culture: inThe Hour of Decision Spengler denounced “the ‘happy ending’ of an empty existence, the boredom of which has brought to jazz music and Negro dancing to perform the Death March for a great Culture” (The Hour of Decision, pp. 227–228). During the Nazi era, German scientists rearranged academia to support claims of a grand “Aryan” agent behind the splendors of all human civilizations, including India and Ancient Egypt.
The modern biological definition of race developed in the 19th century with scientific racist theories. The term scientific racism refers to the use of science to justify and support racist beliefs, which goes back to the early 18th century, though it gained most of its influence in the mid-19th century, during the New Imperialism period. Also known as academic racism, such theories first needed to overcome the Church‘s resistance to positivist accounts of history and its support of monogenism, the concept that all human beings were originated from the same ancestors, in accordance with creationist accounts of history.
These racist theories put forth on scientific hypothesis were combined with unilineal theories of social progress, which postulated the superiority of the European civilization over the rest of the world. Furthermore, they frequently made use of the idea of “survival of the fittest“, a term coined by Herbert Spencerin 1864, associated with ideas of competition, which were named social Darwinism in the 1940s. Charles Darwin himself opposed the idea of rigid racial differences in The Descent of Man (1871) in which he argued that humans were all of one species, sharing common descent. He recognised racial differences as varieties of humanity, and emphasised the close similarities between people of all races in mental faculties, tastes, dispositions and habits, while still contrasting the culture of the “lowest savages” with European civilization.
At the end of the 19th century, proponents of scientific racism intertwined themselves with eugenics discourses of “degeneration of the race” and “blood heredity.” Henceforth, scientific racist discourses could be defined as the combination of polygenism, unilinealism, social Darwinism and eugenism. They found their scientific legitimacy on physical anthropology, anthropometry,craniometry, phrenology, physiognomy, and others now discredited disciplines in order to formulate racist prejudices.
Before being disqualified in the 20th century by the American school of cultural anthropology (Franz Boas, etc.), the British school of social anthropology (Bronisław Malinowski, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, etc.), the French school of ethnology (Claude Lévi-Strauss, etc.), as well as the discovery of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, such sciences, in particular anthropometry, were used to deduce behaviours and psychological characteristics from outward, physical appearances.
The neo-Darwinian synthesis, first developed in the 1930s, eventually led to a gene-centered view of evolution in the 1960s. According to the Human Genome Project, the most complete mapping of human DNA to date indicates that there is no clear genetic basis to racial groups. While some genes are more common in certain populations, there are no genes that exist in all members of one population and no members of any other.
Heredity and eugenics
The first theory of eugenics was developed in 1869 by Francis Galton (1822–1911), who used the then popular concept of degeneration. He applied statistics to study human differences and the alleged “inheritance of intelligence“, foreshadowing future uses of “intelligence testing” by the anthropometry school. Such theories were vividly described by the writer Émile Zola (1840–1902), who started publishing in 1871 a twenty-novel cycle, Les Rougon-Macquart, where he linked heredity to behavior. Thus, Zola described the high-born Rougons as those involved in politics (Son Excellence Eugène Rougon) and medicine (Le Docteur Pascal) and the low-born Macquarts as those fatally falling into alcoholism (L’Assommoir), prostitution (Nana), andhomicide (La Bête humaine).
During the rise of Nazism in Germany, some scientists in Western nations worked to debunk the regime’s racial theories. A few argued against racist ideologies and discrimination, even if they believed in the alleged existence of biological races. However, in the fields of anthropology and biology, these were minority positions until the mid-20th century. According to the 1950 UNESCO statement, The Race Question, an international project to debunk racist theories had been attempted in the mid-1930s. However, this project had been abandoned. Thus, in 1950, UNESCO declared that it had resumed:
up again, after a lapse of fifteen years, a project that the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation has wished to carry through but that it had to abandon in deference to the appeasement policy of the pre-war period. The race question had become one of the pivots of Nazi ideology and policy. Masaryk and Beneš took the initiative of calling for a conference to re-establish in the minds and consciences of men everywhere the truth about race… Nazi propaganda was able to continue its baleful work unopposed by the authority of an international organisation.
The Third Reich’s racial policies, its eugenics programs and the extermination of Jews in the Holocaust, as well as Romani people in the Porrajmos (the Romani Holocaust) and others minorities led to a change in opinions about scientific research into race after the war. Changes within scientific disciplines, such as the rise of the Boasian school of anthropology in the United States contributed to this shift. These theories were strongly denounced in the 1950 UNESCO statement, signed by internationally renowned scholars, and titled The Race Question.
Polygenism and racial typologies
Works such as Arthur de Gobineau‘s An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853–1855) may be considered as one of the first theorizations of this new racism, founded on an essentialist notion of race, which opposed the former racial discourse, of Boulainvilliers for example, which saw in races a fundamentally historical reality, which changed over time. Gobineau, thus, attempted to frame racism within the terms of biological differences among humans, giving it the legitimacy of biology. He was one of the first theorists to postulate polygenism, stating that there were, at the origins of the world, various discrete “races.”
Gobineau’s theories would be expanded, in France, by Georges Vacher de Lapouge (1854–1936)’s typology of races, who published in 1899 The Aryan and his Social Role, in which he claimed that the white, “Aryan race”, “dolichocephalic“, was opposed to the “brachycephalic” race, of whom the “Jew” was the archetype. Vacher de Lapouge thus created a hierarchical classification of races, in which he identified the “Homo europaeus (Teutonic, Protestant, etc.), the “Homo alpinus” (Auvergnat, Turkish, etc.), and finally the “Homo mediterraneus” (Neapolitan, Andalus, etc.) He assimilated races and social classes, considering that the French upper class was a representation of the Homo europaeus, while the lower class represented the Homo alpinus. Applying Galton’s eugenics to his theory of races, Vacher de Lapouge’s “selectionism” aimed first at achieving the annihilation of trade unionists, considered to be a “degenerate”; second, creating types of man each destined to one end, in order to prevent any contestation of labour conditions. His “anthroposociology” thus aimed at blocking social conflict by establishing a fixed, hierarchical social order
The same year, William Z. Ripley used identical racial classification in The Races of Europe (1899), which would have a great influence in the United States. Other scientific authors includeH.S. Chamberlain at the end of the 19th century (a British citizen who naturalized himself as German because of his admiration for the “Aryan race”) and Madison Grant, a eugenicist and author of The Passing of the Great Race (1916). Madison Grant provided statistics for the Immigration Act of 1924, which severely restricted immigration of Jews, Slavs, and southern Europeans, who were subsequently hindered in seeking to escape Nazi Germany.
Human zoos (called “People Shows”), were an important means of bolstering popular racism by connecting it to scientific racism: they were both objects of public curiosity and of anthropologyand anthropometry. Joice Heth, an African American slave, was displayed by P.T. Barnum in 1836, a few years after the exhibition of Saartjie Baartman, the “Hottentot Venus”, in England. Such exhibitions became common in the New Imperialism period, and remained so until World War II. Carl Hagenbeck, inventor of the modern zoos, exhibited animals beside humans who were considered “savages”.
Congolese pygmy Ota Benga was displayed in 1906 by eugenicist Madison Grant, head of the Bronx Zoo, as an attempt to illustrate the “missing link” between humans and orangutans: thus, racism was tied to Darwinism, creating a social Darwinist ideology that tried to ground itself in Darwin‘s scientific discoveries. The 1931 Paris Colonial Exhibition displayed Kanaks from New Caledonia. A “Congolese village” was on display as late as 1958 at the Brussels’ World Fair.
Evolutionary theories about the origins of racism
Biologists John Tooby and Leda Cosmides were puzzled by the fact that in the US race is one of the three characteristics most often used in brief descriptions of individuals (the others are age and sex). They reasoned that natural selection would not have favoured the evolution of an instinct for using race as a classification, because for most of human history, humans almost never encountered members of other races. Tooby and Cosmides hypothesized that modern people use race as a proxy (rough-and-ready indicator) for coalition membership, since a better-than-random guess about “which side” another person is on will be helpful if one does not actually know in advance.
Their colleague Robert Kurzban designed an experiment whose results appeared to support this hypothesis. Using the Memory confusion protocol, they presented subjects with pictures of individuals and sentences, allegedly spoken by these individuals, which presented two sides of a debate. The errors that the subjects made in recalling who said what indicated that they sometimes misattributed a statement to a speaker of the same race as the “correct” speaker, although they also sometimes misattributed a statement to a speaker “on the same side” as the “correct” speaker. In a second run of the experiment, the team also distinguished the “sides” in the debate by clothing of similar colors; and in this case the effect of racial similarity in causing mistakes almost vanished, being replaced by the color of their clothing. In other words, the first group of subjects, with no clues from clothing, used race as a visual guide to guessing who was on which side of the debate; the second group of subjects used the clothing color as their main visual clue, and the effect of race became very small.
Some research suggests that ethnocentric thinking may have actually contributed to the development of cooperation. Political scientists Ross Hammond and Robert Axelrod created a computer simulation wherein virtual individuals were randomly assigned one of a variety of skin colors, and then one of a variety of trading strategies: be color-blind, favor those of your own color, or favor those of other colors. They found that the ethnocentric individuals clustered together, then grew until all the non-ethnocentric individuals were wiped out.
In The Selfish Gene, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins writes that “Blood-feuds and inter-clan warfare are easily interpretable in terms of Hamilton‘s genetic theory.” Dawkins writes that racial prejudice, while not evolutionarily adaptive, “could be interpreted as an irrational generalization of a kin-selected tendency to identify with individuals physically resembling oneself, and to be nasty to individuals different in appearance”. Simulation-based experiments in evolutionary game theory have attempted to provide an explanation for the selection of ethnocentric-strategy phenotypes.
As state-sponsored activity
State racism—that is, institutions and practices of a nation-state that are grounded in racist ideology—has played a major role in all instances ofsettler colonialism, from the United States to Australia. It also played a prominent role in the Nazi German regime and fascist regimes in Europe, and in the first part of Japan’s Shōwa period. These governments advocated and implemented policies that were racist, xenophobic and, in case ofNazism, genocidal. The politics of Zimbabwe promote discrimination against whites, in an effort to ethnically cleanse the country.
Legislative state racism is known to have been enforced by the National Party of South Africa during their Apartheid regime between 1948 and 1994. Here a series of Apartheid legislation in South Africa was passed through the legal systems to make it legal for white South Africans to have rights which were superior to those of non-white South Africans. Non-white South Africans were not allowed involvement in any governing matters, including voting; access to quality healthcare; the provision of basic services, including clean water; electricity; as well as access to adequate schooling. Non-white South Africans were also prevented from accessing certain public areas, using certain public transportation and were required to live only in certain designated areas. Non-white South Africans were taxed differently from white South Africans and were required to carry on them at all times additional documentation, which later became known as “dom passes”, to certify their non-white South African citizenship. All of these legislative racial laws were abolished through a series of equal human rights laws passed at the end of Apartheid in the early 1990s.
State racism contributed as well to the formation of the Dominican Republic‘s identity and violent actions encouraged by Dominican governmental xenophobia against Haitians and “Haitian looking” people. Currently the Dominican Republic employs a de facto system of separatism for children and grandchildren of Haitians and black Dominicans, denying them birth certificates, education and access to health care.
Edith Sanders in 1969 cited the Babylonian Talmud, which divides mankind between the three sons of Noah, stating that “the descendants of Ham are cursed by being black, and [it] depictsHam as a sinful man and his progeny as degenerates.” Although the curse of Ham has been used as an explanation for the origin of dark skinned people since the 3rd century A.D., David M. Goldenberg (2005) writes that this was based on a theory that different climates and sun exposure effect semen composition and through this the physical composition of descendants (which is rather unlike modern hereditary understandings of race). Furthermore the earliest appearance of dark skin as a punishment for the descendants of Ham directly related to “Black Africans” does not appear until the 9th or 10th century (in the Pirqei de-Rabbenu ha-Qadosh). Earlier sources assign the punishment of blackness to Ham himself and make no mention of the people of Kush or their skin being a curse. As well, Goldenberg goes on to explain that the earlier (3rd century) sources understood “dark skin” to include not only sub-Saharan black Africa but also:
…the Copts, Fezzan, Zaghawa, Brbr, Indians, Arabs, the people of Marw, the inhabitants of the islands in the Indian Ocean, even the Chinese, as well as the Ethiopians (Habash), Zanj, Buja, and Nubians. In other words, “the coloured people of the world.”
Bernard Lewis has cited the Greek philosopher Aristotle who, in his discussion of slavery, stated that while Greeks are free by nature, ‘barbarians‘ (non-Greeks) are slaves by nature, in that it is in their nature to be more willing to submit to despotic government. Though Aristotle does not specify any particular races, he argues that people from outside Greece are more prone to the burden of slavery than those from Greece. Such proto-racism and ethnocentrism must be looked at within context, as a modern understanding of racism based on hereditary inferiority (modern racism based in: eugenics and scientific racism) was not yet developed and it is unclear whether Aristotle believed the natural inferiority of Barbarians was caused by environment and climate (like many of his contemporaries) or by birth. While Aristotle makes remarks about the most natural slaves being those with strong bodies and slave souls (unfit for rule, unintelligent) which would seem to imply a physical basis for discrimination, he also explicitly states that the right kind of souls and bodies don’t always go together, implying that the greatest determinate for inferiority and natural slaves versus natural masters is the soul, not the body. This proto-racism is seen as an important precursor to modern racism by classicist Benjamin Isaac.
Historian Dante A. Puzzo, in his discussion of Aristotle, racism, and the ancient world writes that:
Racism rests on two basic assumptions: that a correlation exists between physical characteristics and moral qualities; that mankind is divisible into superior and inferior stocks. Racism, thus defined, is a modern conception, for prior to the XVIth century there was virtually nothing in the life and thought of the West that can be described as racist. To prevent misunderstanding a clear distinction must be made between racism and ethnocentrism […] The Ancient Hebrews, in referring to all who were not Hebrews as Gentiles, were indulging in ethnocentrism, not in racism. […] So it was with the Hellenes who denominated all non-Hellenes——whether the wild Scythians or the Egyptians whom they acknowledged as their mentors in the arts if civilization——Barbarians, the term denoting that which was strange or foreign.
Middle Ages and Renaissance
In the Middle East and North Africa region, racist opinions were expressed within the works of some of its historians and geographers including Al-Muqaddasi, Al-Jahiz, Al-Masudi, Abu Rayhan Biruni, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, and Ibn Qutaybah. In the 14th century CE, the Tunisian scholar Ibn Khaldun wrote:
– :”beyond [known peoples of black West Africa] to the south there is no civilization in the proper sense. There are only humans who are closer to dumb animals than to rational beings. They live in thickets and caves, and eat herbs and unprepared grain. They frequently eat each other. They cannot be considered human beings.” “Therefore, the Negro nations are, as a rule, submissive to slavery, because (Negroes) have little that is (essentially) human and possess attributes that are quite similar to those of dumb animals, as we have stated.”
Though the Qur’an expresses no racial prejudice, such prejudices later developed among Arabs for a variety of reasons: their extensive conquests and slave trade; the influence ofAristotelian ideas regarding slavery, which some Muslim philosophers directed towards Zanj (Bantu) and Turkic peoples; and the influence of Judeo-Christian ideas regarding divisions among humankind. In response to such views, the Afro-Arab author Al-Jahiz, himself having a Zanj grandfather, wrote a book entitled Superiority Of The Blacks To The Whites, and explained why the Zanj were black in terms of environmental determinism in the “On the Zanj” chapter of The Essays. By the 14th century, a significant number of slaves came from sub-Saharan Africa, leading to the likes of Egyptian historian Al-Abshibi (1388–1446) writing: “It is said that when the [black] slave is sated, he fornicates, when he is hungry, he steals.” According to J. Philippe Rushton, Arab relations with blacks whom the Muslims had dealt as slave traders for over 1,000 years could be summed up as follows:
It should be noted that ethnic prejudice among some elite Arabs was not limited to darker-skinned black people, but was also directed towards fairer-skinned “ruddy people” (including Persians, Turks, Caucasians and Europeans), while Arabs referred to themselves as “swarthy people”.
However, the Umayyad Caliphate invaded Hispania and founded the advanced civilization of Al-Andalus, where an era of religious tolerance and aGolden age of Jewish culture lasted for six centuries. It was followed by a violent Reconquista under the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand V andIsabella I. The Catholic Spaniards then formulated the Cleanliness of blood doctrine. It was during this time in history that the Western concept of aristocratic “blue blood” emerged in a highly racialized and implicitly white supremacist context, as author Robert Lacey explains:
It was the Spaniards who gave the world the notion that an aristocrat’s blood is not red but blue. The Spanish nobility started taking shape around the ninth century in classic military fashion, occupying land as warriors on horseback. They were to continue the process for more than five hundred years, clawing back sections of the peninsula from its Moorish occupiers, and a nobleman demonstrated his pedigree by holding up his sword arm to display the filigree of blue-blooded veins beneath his pale skin—proof that his birth had not been contaminated by the dark-skinned enemy. Sangre azul, blue blood, was thus a euphemism for being a white man—Spain’s own particular reminder that the refined footsteps of the aristocracy through history carry the rather less refined spoor of racism.
Following the expulsion of most Sephardic Jews from the Iberian peninsula, the remaining Jews and Muslims were forced to convert to Roman Catholicism, becoming “New Christians” which were despised and discriminated by the “Old Christians“. An Inquisition was carried out by members of the Dominican Order in order to weed out converts that still practiced Judaism and Islam in secret. The system and ideology of the limpieza de sangreostracized Christian converts from society, regardless of their actual degree of sincerity in their faith.
In Portugal, the legal distinction between New and Old Christian was only ended through a legal decree issued by the Marquis of Pombal in 1772, almost three centuries after the implementation of the racist discrimination. The limpieza de sangre doctrine was also very common in the colonization of the Americas, where it led to the racial separation of the various peoples in the colonies and created a very intricate list of nomenclature to describe one’s precise race and, by consequence, one’s place in society. This precise classification was described by Eduardo Galeano in the Open Veins of Latin America (1971). It included, among others terms, mestizo (50% Spaniard and 50% Native American), castizo (75% European and 25% Native American), Spaniard (87.5% European and 12.5% Native American), Mulatto (50% European and 50% African), Albarazado (43.75% Native American, 29.6875% European, and 26.5625% African), etc.
At the end of the Renaissance, the Valladolid debate (1550–1551) concerning the treatment of natives of the “New World” opposed the Dominican friar and Bishop of Chiapas Bartolomé de Las Casas to another Dominican philosopher Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda. The latter argued that “Indians” were natural slaves because they had no souls, and were therefore beneath humanity. Thus, reducing them to slavery or serfdom was in accordance with Catholic theology and natural law. To the contrary, Bartolomé de Las Casas argued that the Amerindians were free men in the natural order and deserved the same treatment as others, according to Catholic theology. It was one of the many controversies concerning racism, slavery and Eurocentrismthat would arise in the following centuries.
Although antisemitism has a long European history, related to Christianism (anti-Judaism), racism itself is frequently described as a modern phenomenon. In the view of the French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault, the first formulation of racism emerged in the Early Modern period as the “discourse of race struggle”, a historical and political discourse, which Foucault opposed to the philosophical and juridical discourse of sovereignty. Foucault thus argued that the first appearance of racism as a social discourse (as opposed to simplexenophobia, which some might argue has existed in all places and times) may be found during the 1688 Glorious Revolution in Great Britain, in Edward Coke or John Lilburne‘s work.
However, this “discourse of race struggle”, as interpreted by Foucault, must be distinguished from the 19th century biological racism, also known as “race science” or “scientific racism“. Indeed, this early modern discourse has many points of difference with modern racism. First of all, in this “discourse of race struggle”, “race” is not considered a biological notion — which would divide humanity into distinct biological groups — but as a historical notion. Moreover, this discourse is opposed to the sovereign’s discourse: it is used by the bourgeoisie, the people and the aristocracy as a mean of struggle against the monarchy. This discourse, which first appeared in Great Britain, was then carried on in France by people such as Boulainvilliers, Nicolas Fréret, and then, during the 1789 French Revolution, Sieyès, and afterward Augustin Thierry and Cournot. Boulainvilliers, which created the matrix of such racist discourse in medieval France, conceived the “race” as something closer to the sense of “nation”, that is, in his times, the “people”.
He conceived France as divided between various nations — the unified nation-state is, of course, here an anachronism — which themselves formed different “races”. Boulainvilliers opposed the absolute monarchy, who tried to bypass the aristocracy by establishing a direct relationship to the Third Estate. Thus, he created this theory of the French aristocrats as being the descendants of foreign invaders, whom he called the “Franks“, while the Third Estate constituted according to him the autochthonous, vanquished Gallo-Romans, who were dominated by the Frankish aristocracy as a consequence of the right of conquest. Early modern racism was opposed to nationalism and the nation-state: the Comte de Montlosier, in exile during the French Revolution, who borrowed Boulainvilliers’ discourse on the “Nordic race” as being the French aristocracy that invaded the plebeian “Gauls”, thus showed his despise for the Third Estate calling it “this new people born of slaves… mixture of all races and of all times“.
While 19th century racism became closely intertwined with nationalism, leading to the ethnic nationalist discourse that identified the “race” to the “folk“, leading to such movements as pan-Germanism, Zionism, pan-Turkism, pan-Arabism, and pan-Slavism, medieval racism precisely divided the nation into various non-biological “races”, which were thought as the consequences of historical conquests and social conflicts. Michel Foucault traced the genealogy of modern racism to this medieval “historical and political discourse of race struggle”. According to him, it divided itself in the 19th century according to two rival lines: on one hand, it was incorporated by racists, biologists and eugenicists, who gave it the modern sense of “race” and, even more, transformed this popular discourse into a “state racism” (e.g. Nazism). On the other hand, Marxists also seized this discourse founded on the assumption of a political struggle that provided the real engine of history and continued to act underneath the apparent peace. Thus, Marxists transformed the essentialist notion of “race” into the historical notion of “class struggle“, defined by socially structured position: capitalist or proletarian. In The Will to Knowledge (1976), Foucault analyzed another opponent of the “race struggle” discourse:Sigmund Freud‘s psychoanalysis, which opposed the concepts of “blood heredity“, prevalent in the 19th century racist discourse.
Authors such as Hannah Arendt, in her 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism, have said that the racist ideology (popular racism) that developed at the end of the 19th century helped legitimize the imperialist conquests of foreign territories and atrocities that sometimes accompanied them (such as the Herero and Namaqua Genocide of 1904–1907 or the Armenian Genocide of 1915–1917). Rudyard Kipling‘s poem The White Man’s Burden (1899) is one of the more famous illustrations of the belief in the inherent superiority of the European culture over the rest of the world, though also it is also thought to be a satirical appraisal of such imperialism. Racist ideology thus helped legitimize the conquest and incorporation of foreign territories into an empire, which were regarded as a humanitarian obligation partially as a result of these racist beliefs.
However, during the 19th century, West European colonial powers were involved in the suppression of the Arab slave trade in Africa, as well as in suppression of the slave trade in West Africa. Some Europeans during the time period objected to injustices that occurred in some colonies and lobbied on behalf of aboriginal peoples. Thus, when the Hottentot Venus was displayed in England in the beginning of the 19th century, the African Association publicly opposed itself to the exhibition. The same year that Kipling published his poem, Joseph Conrad published Heart of Darkness(1899), a clear criticism of the Congo Free State owned by Leopold II of Belgium.
Examples of racial theories used include the creation of the Hamitic ethno-linguistic group during the European exploration of Africa. It was then restricted by Karl Friedrich Lepsius (1810–1877) to non-Semitic Afro-Asiatic languages.
The term Hamite was applied to different populations within Africa, mainly comprising Ethiopians, Eritreans, Somalis, Berbers, and the ancient Egyptians. Hamites were regarded as Caucasoid peoples who probably originated in either Arabia or Asia on the basis of their cultural, physical and linguistic similarities with the peoples of those areas. Europeans considered Hamites to be more civilized than Black Africans, and more akin to themselves and Semitic peoples. In the first two-thirds of the 20th century, the Hamitic race was, in fact, considered one of the branches of the Caucasian race, along with the Indo-Europeans, Semites, and the Mediterranean race.
However, the Hamitic peoples themselves were often deemed to have failed as rulers, which was usually ascribed to interbreeding with Negroes. In the mid-20th century, the German scholarCarl Meinhof (1857–1944) claimed that the Bantu race was formed by a merger of Hamitic and Negro races. The Hottentots (Nama or Khoi) were formed by the merger of Hamitic andBushmen (San) races — both being termed nowadays as Khoisan peoples).
In the United States in the early 19th century, the American Colonization Society was established as the primary vehicle for proposals to return black Americans to greater freedom and equality in Africa. The colonization effort resulted from a mixture of motives with its founder Henry Clay stating; “unconquerable prejudice resulting from their color, they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country. It was desirable, therefore, as it respected them, and the residue of the population of the country, to drain them off”. Racism spread throughout the New World in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Whitecapping, which started in Indiana in the late 19th century, soon spread throughout all of North America, causing many African laborers to flee from the land they worked on. In the US during the 1860s, racist posters were used during election campaigns. In one of these racist posters (see above), a black man is depicted lounging idly in the foreground as one white man ploughs his field and another chops wood. Accompanying labels are: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread,” and “The white man must work to keep his children and pay his taxes.” The black man wonders, “Whar is de use for me to work as long as dey make dese appropriations.” Above in a cloud is an image of the “Freedman’s Bureau! Negro Estimate of Freedom!” The bureau is pictured as a large domed building resembling the U.S. Capitol and is inscribed “Freedom and No Work.” Its columns and walls are labeled, “Candy,” “Rum, Gin, Whiskey,” “Sugar Plums,” “Indolence,” “White Women,” “Apathy,” “White Sugar,” “Idleness,” and so on.
- “My proposal is to make the encouragement of Chinese settlements of Africa a part of our national policy, in the belief that the Chinese immigrants would not only maintain their position, but that they would multiply and their descendants supplant the inferior Negro race” “I should expect that the African seaboard, now sparsely occupied by lazy, palavering savages, might in a few years be tenanted by industrious, order-loving Chinese, living either as a semidetached dependency of China, or else in perfect freedom under their own law.”
During the World War II and the times of Nazi regime in Europe, all of the Jews, Gypsies, Blacks, mixed race people and Slavic people – mainly ethnicPoles, Serbs, and Russians, along with other ethnic groups whose racial origin were non-European (with some small exceptions i.e. the “honorary Aryans“, the “Indische Legion“, or the “Free Arabian Legion“), according to the Nazi ideology were classified as “subhumans” (Untermenschen) and were viewed as the opposite to the superior Aryan “master race” (Herrenvolk). The Nazi philosophy was rationalizing that the Germans, as Germanic peoples, were part of the “master race”, also called the super-human (Übermenschlich) race, and had a biological right to territorial expansion and to displace, eliminate, and enslave inferior races. Approximately 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. In the longer term, the Nazis planned to exterminate some 30–45 million Slavs (mostly Poles and Serbs), however some of them were seen as good material for slaves.Eventually over 2.5 million ethnic Poles, 0.7 million Gypsies, and 0.5 million ethnic Serbs died during the World War II, and were among the main non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
Before Nazi Germany invaded Poland, Nazis prepared a special settlement plan named Generalplan Ost (“Master Plan East”) which foresaw the eventual expulsion of more than 50 million non-Germanized Slavic peoples of Central Europe and Eastern Europe through forced migration and partial extermination of those Slavs by starvation. Also, according to the Nazi plans for Eastern Europe, some of the Balts were to be expelled beyond the Ural Mountains and into Siberia. In their place, Germans would settle in an extended “living space” (Lebensraum) of the 1000-Year Empire (Tausendjähriges Reich). Herbert Backe was one of the orchestrators of the Hunger Plan – the idea to starve tens of millions of Slavs in order to ensure steady food supplies for the German people and troops.
What happens to the Russians, what happens to the Czechs, is a matter of utter indifference to me… Whether the other peoples live in comfort or perish of hunger interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our culture; apart from that it does not interest me. Whether or not 10,000 Russian women collapse from exhaustion while digging a tank ditch interests me only in so far as the tank ditch is completed for Germany… We Germans, who are the only people in the world who have a decent attitude to animals, will also adopt a decent attitude to these human animals, but it is a crime against our own blood to worry about them and to bring them ideals… I shall speak to you here with all frankness of a very serious subject. We shall now discuss it absolutely openly among ourselves, nevertheless we shall never speak of it in public. I mean the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish race.
Serious race riots in Durban between Indians and Zulus erupted in 1949. Ne Win‘s rise to power in Burma in 1962 and his relentless persecution of “resident aliens” led to an exodus of some 300,000 Burmese Indians. They migrated to escape racial discrimination and wholesale nationalisation of private enterprise a few years later in 1964. The Zanzibar Revolutionof January 12, 1964 put an end to the local Arab dynasty. Thousands of Arabs and Indians in Zanzibar were massacred in riots, and thousands more were detained or fled the island.On 4 August 1972, Idi Amin, President of Uganda, ethnically cleansed Uganda’s Asians giving them 90 days to leave the country.
Shortly after world war II the South African National Party took control over the governance in South Africa. Between 1948 and 1994, the Apartheid regime took place. This regime based their ideologies on the racial separation of whites and non- whites including the unequal rights of non-whites. Several protests and violence occurred during the Apartheid in South Africa, the most famous of these include the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, the Soweto uprising in 1976, the Church Street bombing of 1983 and the Cape Town peace march of 1989.
During the Congo Civil War (1998–2003), Pygmies were hunted down like game animals and eaten. Both sides of the war regarded them as “subhuman” and some say their flesh can confer magical powers. UN human rights activists reported in 2003 that rebels had carried out acts of cannibalism. Sinafasi Makelo, a representative of Mbuti pygmies, has asked the UN Security Council to recognise cannibalism as a crime against humanity and an act of genocide. A report released by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination condemns Botswana‘s treatment of the ‘Bushmen‘ as racist. In 2008, the tribunal of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) accused Zimbabwean PresidentRobert Mugabe of having a racist attitude towards white people. In Liberia, the constitution restricts citizenship to only people of black African descent.
The mass demonstrations and riots against African students in Nanjing, China, lasted from December 1988 to January 1989. Bar owners in centralBeijing had been forced by the police “not to serve black people or Mongolians” during the 2008 Summer Olympics, as the police associates these ethnic groups with illegal prostitution and drug trafficking. Some neighborhood committees in Guangzhou bar Africans from living in residential complexes.In November 2009, British newspaper The Guardian reported that Lou Jing, of mixed Chinese and African parentage, had emerged as the most famous talent show contestant in China and has become the subject of intense debate because of her skin colour. Her attention in the media opened serious debates about racism in China and racial prejudice.
In Asia and Latin America, light skin is seen as more attractive. Thus, skin whitening cosmetic products are popular in East Asia and India. Some activists, most prominently at the UN conference at Durban, have asserted that the caste system in India is a form of racial discrimination., although many prominent scholars debunk this viewpoint as “scientifically nonsense“, since there are no consistent racial differences between the different castes in India. These activists utilize genetic studies that claim to corroborate their view, although other more detailed studies have challenged these assertions as overtly simplistic Currently, there are approximately 165 million Dalits (formerly known as “untouchables”) in India.
Some 70,000 black African Mauritanians were expelled from Mauritania in the late 1980s. In the Sudan, black African captives in the civil war were oftenenslaved, and female prisoners were often used sexually. The Darfur conflict has been described by some as a racial matter. In October 2006, Niger announced that it would deport the Arabs living in the Diffa region of eastern Niger to Chad. This population numbered about 150,000. While the Government collected Arabs in preparation for the deportation, two girls died, reportedly after fleeing Government forces, and three women suffered miscarriages.
The Ethiopian Jewish community’s integration into Israeli society has been complicated by racist attitudes on the part of some elements of Israeli society and the official establishment.The Israeli media reported that residents of Pisgat Ze’ev, a large Jewish neighbourhood in Jerusalem, had formed a vigilante-style patrol to stop interracial dating between Arab men and localJewish girls.
The Jakarta riots of May 1998 targeted many Chinese Indonesians. The anti-Chinese legislation was in the Indonesian constitution until 1998. Xenophobia against Chinese migrants is currently on the rise in Africa and Oceania. Anti-Chinese rioting, involving tens of thousands of people, broke out in Papua New Guinea in May 2009. The Fiji coup of 2000 has provoked a violent backlash against the Indo-Fijians. Fiji citizens of Indian, European, mixed race or other island heritage have become second-class citizens. Racial divisions also exist in Guyana, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago, Madagascar, or South Africa.
One form of racism in the United States was enforced racial segregation which existed until the 1960s when it was outlawed. It has been argued that this separation of races continues to exist today de facto. The causes of segregation vary from lack of access to loans and resources to discrimination in realty.
Prejudiced thinking among and between minority groups does occur, for example conflicts between African Americans and Korean Americans (notably in the Los Angeles riots of 1992), by blacks towards Jews (such as the riots in Crown Heights in 1991), between new immigrant groups (such as Latinos), or towards whites.
There has been a long-running racial tension between African Americans and Mexican Americans. There have been several significant riots in California prisons in which Mexican American inmates and African Americans have specifically targeted each other based on racial reasons. There have been reports of racially motivated attacks against African Americans who have moved into neighborhoods occupied mostly by Mexican Americans, and vice versa. In the late 1920s in California, there was animosity between the Filipinos and the Mexicans and between European Americans and Filipino Americans since they competed for the same jobs. Recently, there has also been an increase in racial violence between African immigrants and Blacks who have already lived in the country for generations.
In Britain, tensions between minority groups can be just as strong as those between minorities and the majority population. In Birmingham, there have been long-term divisions between the Black and South Asian communities, which were illustrated in the Handsworth riots and in the smaller 2005 Birmingham riots. In Dewsbury, a Yorkshire town with a relatively high Muslim population, there have been tensions and minor civil disturbances between Kurds and South Asians.
In France, home to Europe’s largest population of Muslims (about 6 million) as well as the continent’s largest community of Jews (about 600,000), anti-Jewish violence, property destruction, and racist language has been increasing over the last several years. Jewish leaders perceive the Muslim population as intensifying antisemitism in France, mainly among Muslims of Arab orAfrican heritage, but also this antisemitism is perceived as also growing among Caribbean islanders from former colonies.
Research on influencing factors
Research has examined factors influencing tolerance, in particular ethnic tolerance, prejudice, and trust. Authoritarian personality has been associated with prejudice and intolerance.Education has an inverse association which is stronger in established democracies than in emerging. Different groups are viewed differently and including illegal groups in tolerance surveys may reduce tolerance levels in all countries except the United States. Increased contact with other groups increase tolerance. Increased perception of threat, including from the home land of an ethnic minority, reduces tolerance. Competition over jobs reduces tolerance and occupational segregation reduced ethnic conflicts and ethnic prejudice in studies in the United States andYugoslavia. Tolerance is increased by democratic stability and a federal system. Increased ethnic heterogeneity increases tolerance up to a point but beyond this tolerance decreases. The negative effect of increased ethnic heterogeneity is stronger when looking at larger areas such as nations compared to smaller areas such as neighborhoods. This may be due to the contact effect being relatively more important at local levels while the threat effect becomes more important in larger areas. One study, published by Carl Bell, revealed that “racist attitudes may be indicative of a narcissistic personality disorder or of a regression to primitive narcissistic functioning secondary to environmental forces.”
Anti-racism includes beliefs, actions, movements, and policies adopted or developed to oppose racism. In general, it promotes an egalitarian society in which people are not discriminated against in race. Movements such as the African-American Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-Apartheid Movementwere examples of anti-racist movements. Nonviolent resistance is sometimes an element of anti-racial movements, although this was not always the case. Hate crime laws, affirmative action, and bans on racist speech are also examples of government policy designed to suppress racism.
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
UNESCO marks March 21 as the yearly International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in memory of the events that occurred on March 21, 1960 in Sharpeville, South Africa, where police killed student demonstrators peacefully protesting against the apartheid regime.
- Allport’s Scale
- Discrimination based on skin color
- Index of racism-related articles
- Labeling theory
- Racial literacy
- Racial segregation
- Research Materials: Max Planck Society Archive
- Reverse discrimination
- Romantic racism
- Scientific racism
- Self-fulfilling prophecy
- Social interpretations of race
- Sociology of race and ethnic relations
- Stereotype threat
- Yellow Peril
References & notes
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- RacismReview, – created and maintained by American sociologists Joe Feagin, PhD and Jessie Daniels, PhD, provides a research-based analysis of racism.
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