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“”♫Oh, the white folks hate the black folks,
♫And the black folks hate the white folks.
♫To hate all but the right folks,
♫Is an old established rule.
|—Tom Lehrer, National Brotherhood Week|
Racism is the belief that humans can be meaningfully defined into biological ethnic categories in order to separate supposed superior from inferior races and/or generally showing discrimination or hostility against a person(s) on the basis of their race. It is based upon the irrational belief that superficial differences among races "determine cultural or individual achievement." Racism manifests in negative discrimination based upon race in a particular culture. Positive discrimination based upon race is usually viewed as ameliorative (e.g.,affirmative action) of past and present injustices in a deeply racist culture. As such, it isn't based on notions of racial superiority and most therefore do not consider such policies to be racist.
- 1 Meaning of the term
- 2 History
- 3 Major historical examples
- 4 In religion
- 5 In politics
- 6 Origin of the term
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
Meaning of the term
There is some disagreement as to what the term "racism" means, although the most common definition is generally something along the lines of "showing prejudice towards a person on the basis of their race". Disputed positions of this include:
- Racism requires prejudice plus power, and thus racial minorities cannot be racist, but can be prejudiced.
- Racism includes research that might produce evidence of average psychological differences between races that are genetic in origin, and thus there are scientific questions that should not even be asked.
- Racism includes any recognition of race, even without any belief in superiority.
Arguments for the One True Definition (Argumentum ad dictionarium) sometimes occur, given the strong emotional connotations that come with the term.
“”History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
Racism has existed in all areas and at all times where different races or cultures of humans have encountered each other. It is an unfortunate legacy of ancient days as hunter-gatherers that humans are inclined to judge groups by surface appearances. While this trait presumably was very useful in a day in which clan cohesion and recognition were of paramount importance, as society evolved into agrarian and then urban forms the habit has proven to be a problem.
With the rise of the written word and formalizing social bonds in the shape of nations, groups began to acquire specific reputations for certain characteristics or simply for general inferiority. What had once been tribal distinctions became immense labels spanning populations of millions. Most notably and globally, by the time of the Middle Ages, those who were light-skinned (today called "Caucasian" or white) generally considered other races, such as the equally advanced Islamic cultures of north Africa and the Middle East, to be 'savages'. The age of exploration and empire, from the sixteenth century onwards, provided new opportunities for racial prejudice and exploitation.
During the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, entire pseudosciences grew up around the study of such "superiorities," with phrenology or other studies of physical appearance purporting to determine with exactness an individual's racial makeup and the traits that would reputedly correspond. The English were held to be phlegmatic, people from Africa to be stupid, people from Asia to be thieves, and the Jews were viewed with a mix of hatred and admiration.
One of the strongest reinforcements of this worldview was that it was quite apparent to everyone that the white people were running the show. For the last few centuries, most people believed that the immensely disproportionate power and wealth of Europeans (and later Americans) was palpable proof that the white race was superior. After all, how could the British have carved out an empire that spanned the world from their tiny island, if their native intelligence or courage were not naturally superior? It seems obvious on the face of it, and it is why this attitude is still present in many people; evil doesn't inspire racism, but rather ignorance.
Recent anthropologists, however, have suggested an alternate theory based on geography, a position most notably championed by Jared Diamond. The Mediterranean area and Europe constitute one of the few horizontally-constant areas of ecological stability. The same sort of crops that can be sown in Rome could be sown in London, with relatively little climate variation that would make such transfers difficult. This enabled the best crops such as wheat to be transferred among huge populations in a short time, along with parallel advances in technology (such as the metal plow). This is in contrast to areas such as Africa and the Americas, which have a fraction of comparably similar terrain. A crop which grows well in New York is not likely to grow well in Florida or Texas.
This rapid spread of agricultural information combined with immensely superior "packages": the available native species suitable for domestication. The Mediterranean area has a much higher number of such plant and animal species that were well-suited for use by man. And in short order, this enabled those in the area to produce much more food per capita. In turn, this enabled the construction of cities of enormous size and concentrations of individuals, whose fecundity yielded many more inventors to further advance technology and develop strong resistance to virulent diseases.
In the end, this meant that the white peoples of Europe possessed more food and infinitely better technology and that they carried diseases that wiped out the legions that opposed them. Any belief in natural superiority is entirely unfounded.
Major historical examples
The "White Man's Burden" and colonial empires
Traditionally, the patriarchal assumption that the Empire was "doing good things for the darkies" does not hold up very well to reason. Luckily, their colonies pretty much all finally regained independence, and those outside of Africa are doing just fine on their own, thank you (Africa's still restrained in an economic sphere of influence ).[note 1] European colonial rule in Asia and the Scramble for Africa were ventures justified by racist ideology.  British and French Second World War claims that they were fighting for democracy, freedom and justice were deemed hypocritical by colonial subjects worldwide because of European domination and racism. It should be noted that this behavior was not confined to Europeans and had been in practice by other cultures too such as Arabia, China and Japan. Japan is noted to have invaded several surrounding countries and attempted to forcibly assimilate certain segments of the population.
During World War 2 the American government decided that Japanese people were dangerous because of the very scary combination of not being white and having ancestors from an enemy nation. Thus they deported all Americans with Japanese ancestry to some internment camps. The scale on which this occurred with German and Italian Americans was much smaller, to the point that most people forget that it happened at all, and throughout the war they were very safe. Why? They were a massive segment of the population that had roots in almost every local community. To intern these individuals would be a logistical nightmare that would impact everyone seemingly unnecessarily. Japanese populations were more isolated and small and Americans believed their entire ethnic group to be a problem. The issue of racism here is that the Americans viewed the Japanese as a problematic race while viewing the Germans and Italians as good and that the ones in Europe had been corrupted by an ideology showing that most Americans had little to no contact with Japanese individuals and were prone to anxieties related to East Asians.
The Third Reich
During the twelve year reign of the National Socialists in Germany, Jews (and also Roma/Sinti) were considered a sub-human race fit for extermination, while the concept of the Aryan race was manufactured from whole cloth. Racism simultaneously provided the Nazis a justification for world conquest (Lebensraum for the master race), as well as a class of millions of dispossessed people to take the blame for every national ill and policy failure.
South Africa under apartheid
A white, colonially descended minority ruled over a brown majority, until recent times. 'Nuff said.
The first people in Hokkaido, Japan, were the Ainu, who look very physically distinct from Yamato Japanese and speak a language completely unrelated to anything else. The Tokugawa Shogunate tried to make them Japanese in order to counter Russia's influence in the region, but for the most part the government left them alone. Later, the Meiji government tried increasingly to make the region more Japanese by outlawing the Ainu language. Many Ainu were enslaved by the Japanese fishing industry. After the Russians took over the island of Sakhalin north of Japan, most of its native Ainu population was sent to Japan to be returned to their "homeland". There are very few "pure" Ainu left and most people with known Ainu ancestry in Japan face intense discrimination. For the most part their culture and language have already been wiped out. After World War II, however, there were some attempts to revive Ainu culture and language. In 2008 the Japanese Diet officially recognized the Ainu as one of the indigenous peoples of Japan and noted the history of discrimination against them, though since the death of Shigeru Kayano they have not bothered trying to stop what is left of the Ainu from completely dying out.
Even this cannot be said for the people native to Japan's southern islands, collectively known as the Ryukyu Islands. The islands of Amami, Okinawa, Miyako, and Yaeyama stretches from Kyushu in the north east to Taiwan in the south west, and were independent from both Japan and China, eventually unifying as the Ryukyu Kingdom and serving as a tributary state to both larger empires until Japan subsumed the islands into Okinawa Prefecture during the Meiji period. Japanese rule was marked by discrimination, which increased in the early 20th century with the use of the dialect card to drive the various native Ryukyu languages into extinction. The American occupation following World War II tried to foster the independent Ryukyu culture, but met with resistance due to a desire to be reunified with Japan. It is only in recent years that the various languages, deemed dialects by the Japanese government despite being mutually unintelligible with Japanese or each other, receive recognition as culturally important.
There's also a level of discrimination against the burakumin, descendants of the lowest class in the caste system of feudal Japan which was associated with "unclean" industries that dealt with death. Although the caste system and the discrimination allegedly associated with it was eliminated in the Meiji Restoration, the burakumin remained discriminated against. The former burakumin ghetto in Tokyo was the last to get service on the streetcar line and to this day still has leather and butcher shops. Discrimination against the burakumin is mostly relegated to the Kansai region of Japan, where families would run background checks on potential inlaws to see if they have burakumin heritage; businesses in the region were also known to discriminate against the burakumin, until a scandal over an unofficially published book erupted that specifically outlawed this practice in Osaka entirely. Various Buraku Liberation groups exist within Japan to combat the latent institutional racism against them. N.B. Please NEVER use the term 'burakumin' when in Japan - it's equivalent to the N- Word. 'Dowa mondai' is the appropriate term.
The Japanese are also discriminatory towards other non-Japanese people living in Japan, mainly the Korean ethnic minorities. Zainichi Koreans, that is ethnic Koreans born in Japan for upwards of several generations, are not considered Japanese citizens. They must go through an extensive genealogical check that many could not afford in the past, and must naturalize completely, ignoring any cultural ties to their Korean heritage. The split of Korea also caused problems, with the North Korean minority being blamed for the kidnapping of 17 Japanese citizens by the North Korea intelligence service a blame easily extended to all Zainichi.
Overall, Christianity generally promotes tolerance. Numerous quotes in the New Testament speak to the equality of all human "races". (The Old Testament is another matter.) Christians come from every ethnic group on the planet and significant populations of Christians can be found on every continent from every racial group. Christianity has historically found itself harnessed by homophobes and racists[note 2] — Jews are "Christ killers", blacks are "Children of Ham" — and although usually they represent small sects of the population at times Christian leaders have promoted large scale racism, such as slavery in the American South, which was fully aided and abetted by the religious institutions there. It should be noted, however, some of the less batshit crazy religious institutions openly supported the Civil Rights Movement, and that Martin Luther King himself was a reverend, not to mention the fact that many prominent Civil War-era abolitionists believed they were carrying out God's will, especially John Brown.
Since the rise of the neoconservative movement, Christian hawks have chosen to bury the hatchet with the old pals, the Jews, in the interest of preserving Israel — though they privately insist that Zionists will still burn in the Rapture. (Sorry.)
Romans 10:12: "For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile"
In the Book of Mormon, great stock is placed in skin color. The godly Nephites are a "fair and wholesome" people, while the disobedient Lamanites are given dark skin as a curse for their oppression of the Nephites. Later in the book, some of the Lamanites repent, and their skin miraculously becomes fair and wholesome again. As recently as 1978, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints refused to give African-Americans the keys to the Aaronic Priesthood.
A Buddhist came upon a race. He walked the other way, in order to be sure to avoid winning.
Although the Jewish or Hebrew people has regarded itself as "special", or "chosen", their general outlook is one of high tolerance for other peoples (at least since the Pentateuch was written). In general, the "chosenness" is not meant in a "racial" or "biological" sense. Some people do consider conditions in modern day Israel to be an example of anti-Arab racism, but the point is open to debate, and even if agreed upon, the causes arguably lie outside Judaism itself and are more political than religious. A big thing for idiots like David Duke is mis-quoting a series of writings by Israeli writers like Israel Shahak and Ilan Pape (who are both Jewish) and American Norman Finkelstein (son of two Holocaust survivors) about fundamentalism in the IDF and how it has affected border dispute policies with the Palestinians (yes, there are religious kooks in almost every army) so to construe an insane image of Jews as blood-lusting savages.
Leviticus 19:33-34 : "When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God."
However, there are a number of heaven-sanctioned genocides in the Old Testament.
Also, there is a long history of Jewish theological "scholarship" attempting to find the biblical roots of the various skin colors that make upon humankind. For example, some more superstitious Jews believe that black people descend from Noah's son Ham, that Middle Easterners come from Noah's son Shem, and that people indigenous to the Americas are descendants of Noah's son Yaphet. This view is not too mainstream among practicers of Judaism, but it does exist.
Hinduism has an inbred racist element in its caste system, which was originally created to segregate races, and now serves to create artificial divides between people of the same nationality. The caste system has caused untold suffering in India, dooming millions to misery simply because of the station of their birth. Thank the British East India Company for spreading it so you can enjoy that tea! Another time that race and Hinduism seem to intersect is in the idea of conversion. Many traditional Hindus feel that non-Indians should not be able to convert to Hinduism (and thus should not be able to marry their children); this can be seen as discrimination and racism. This is basically an extension of the caste system - because non-Hindus do not have a caste, marrying a non-Hindu would violate the traditional "you must marry someone of the same caste as you" rule.
While neopaganism tries very hard to be a vast fluffy-bunny, very open-ended "religion", the 800 pound gorilla in the room is the fact that many neo-Nazis and other racists use neopaganism, especially Germanic (Norse) and Celtic varieties as a religious cover for their horrible views.[note 3] While there is always a dispute between the racists and the hippies, the racist connotations are very difficult to shake, thanks in large part to the significant amounts of pagan symbolism (as well as knock-offs of the same) used as Nazi propaganda. See also Lee Barnes and the Anglo-Saxon Foundation. Mainstream neopagans reject the racists.
Racism of course influences politics, sometimes racism is overt as with for example the Nazi movement, Apartheid South Africa and The South of the United States of America before about 1980. Other times racism is more subtle - for example, the American GOP will condemn extremely blatant racist criticism of Obama, but at the same time quietly uses race and "dog whistle" racist arguments to undermine Obama and limit his achievements.  Such barbed criticisms are often spread by chain emails among the elderly population, and/or originate from scaremongering GOP- or libertarian- affiliated websites but not the GOP hierarchy directly, thus giving potentially multiple layers of plausible deniability should it be raised with a GOP politician.
Origin of the term
How and when the term racism first gained widespread adoption is debated. There are isolated uses of the term racism from c. 1900, with the first recorded use in 1902 in a quote by Richard Henry Pratt. Other terms like racialist (1910), racialism (1882), race hatred (19c) and negrophobia (19c) were in use even earlier. The term Racism itself entered widespread use in 1936.
While most early use of the word was in the context of Nazi Theories, some point to Leon Trotsky's early use of the word as evidence the term has widespread origins as a political weapon used by far-left Communist ideologues in order to create division. A theory predictably popularized by online wingnut vanguards and 'race realists' such as Stefan Molyneux. It is based on the fact that, in 1930, Trotsky used the word "rasisti" in his text The History of the Russian Revolution, and the term "racism" appears to have gained widespread use later in the same decade.
- Biological determinism
- Race war
- Social class
- Felony disenfranchisement
- Racists Say The Darndest Things! (RSTDT)
- Scramble for Africa
- American law enforcement war on African Americans in the twenty-first century
- Association between an Internet-Based Measure of Area Racism and Black Mortality
- No Asians
- Avenue Q — "Everybody's a Little Racist"
- Well, most of them anyway. Zimbabwe is still a mess, after all.
- Such as the Ku Klux Klan, Christian Identity groups, Aryan Nations, Nazis, Traditionalist Worker Party etc.
- Depending on whether you accept these racist varieties of neopaganism as "genuine" neopaganism or follow non-racist neopagans in rejecting them as no more than convenient covers for racism, claiming that these racist varieties post a problem for ("real") neopaganism may or may not constitute an association fallacy.
- Tom Lehrer - National Brotherhood Week by The Tom Lehrer Wisdom Channel (Jul 26, 2007) YouTube.
- Dictionary definition
- The Guardian newspaper ladies and gentlemen
- Lies my Teacher Told Me James Loewen.
- "Phrenology and Race in Nineteenth-Century Britain", Victorian Web
- Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel. New York: Norton, 1997.
- Semple, Ellen. Influences of Geographic Environment: On the Basis of Ratzel's System of Anthropo-Geography. London: Greenbie, 1997.
- Wilson, A. N., The Victorians, pp 501, ISBN 0393049744
- Dickinson, H. T., A Companion to Eighteenth-Century Britain, p. 472, ISBN 0631218378
- Richard L. Johnson, Gandhi's Experiments with Truth: Essential Writings by and about Mahatma Gandhi, p. 41
- John Dower, "Race, Language, and War in Two Cultures: World War II in Asia."
- Method to Racist Madness in Fresh Racial Attacks on President Obama