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A segregated water cooler, Oklahoma City, 1939
The colorful pseudoscience
Race & Racialism
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Hating thy neighbour
Divide and conquer
And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.
—A Bible passage that was used to justify both United States Jim Crow laws[1] and South African Apartheid[2] (Acts 17:26)

Segregation technically refers to any system of enforced separation between groups of people. In the United States, it usually refers to the system set up (de jure in the South, de facto in the North) that required African Americans and European Americans to stay separate as much as possible. They had to live, work, shop, eat, and drink separately, and even sit in different sections of public transit systems. The systems were ostensibly "separate but equal," a phrase now used to imply the subject isn't very equal at all.

In the South, this was enforced by lynch mobs and the force of law. Blacks were not allowed to attend the same schools as whites, and were sometimes beaten or lynched for trying. In the North, the system was similar, but instead rested on the civil sphere to enforce it. For example, most banks and real estate companies would not consider helping an African American family move into a "white" neighborhood, a practice known as redlining.Wikipedia This then resulted in separate schools for the "races".

The system was, for the most part, destroyed during the civil rights movement. However, many cities in the US are still somewhat segregated in practice, although this is blamed on "tradition."[3]

South Africa[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Apartheid

Under Apartheid, South Africa was ruled by a racist Caucasian minority (blame the far-right National Party). Worldwide pressure from college students broke the system in the late 1990s via divestment pressures.

For the Bible tells me so…[edit]

Prior to the Supreme Court decision on Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 that required desegregation of schools, most white Southerners probably did not give much thought to segregation, as it was just a way of life. If segregation was thought of at all by the deeply-Christian white southerners, it was probably an afterthought because the Protestant denominations in the South emphasized individual salvation as the solution to any collective sin.[4]:34-38 The Brown decision was viewed as a threat to the Southern way of life by many in the Deep South, but it also created schisms within Christianity, with national Protestant councils mostly supporting the Brown decision and many — but not all — local southern churches opposing it.[4]

Much of the sustained opposition to integration was championed by local preachers and lay religious leaders.[4] An important tool for these segregationists were religious tracts and other writings.[4]:79 These often contained what amounted to a "segregationist folk theology" that wove together Biblical literalism, political conservativism and segregation.[4]:80 Sections of the Bible there were included in the Curse of Ham, the Tower of Babel, Biblical exhortations for racial exclusivity for Israelites,[4]:80 Noah's curse on his grandson (Genesis 9:18-27), the curse on Canaan (Deuteronomy 7:1-6), and the abovementioned Acts 17:26.[4]:82-83

Historical revisionism[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Historical revisionism

Many American conservatives, particularly social conservatives, seem to be in a rather deep denial that in the U.S. the segregationists were right-wing. This has led to the common canard claiming that most of the segregationists were actually liberals because they were Democrats and that the political right was more supportive of civil rights, blatantly ignoring most of history in the process.

While most scholars don't consider this claim serious enough to even counter due to the sheer amount of evidence against it,[5] just for the fun of it here's the last half of leading segregationalist George Wallace's (in)famous 1964 speech "The Civil Rights Movement Fraud, Sham and Hoax," in which he announced himself as the presidential candidate on the American Independent Party ticket, a party formed by disaffected southern segregationalists who broke off from the Democratic Party:

At this time, I have definite, concrete plans to get presidential electors pledged to me on the ballots in the following states: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, New York, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, and of course Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Other states are under serious consideration. A candidate for President must receive 270 electoral votes to win. The states I am definitely going to enter represent 218 electoral votes. Conservatives of this nation constitute the balance of power in presidential elections. I am a conservative. I intend to give the American people a clear choice. I welcome a fight between our philosophy and the liberal left-wing dogma which now threatens to engulf every man, woman, and child in the United States. I am in this race because I believe the American people have been pushed around long enough and that they, like you and I, are fed up with the continuing trend toward a socialist state which now subjects the individual to the dictates of an all-powerful central government.

And later in the speech:

A left-wing monster has risen up in this nation. It has invaded the government. It has invaded the news media. It has invaded the leadership of many of our churches. It has invaded every phase and aspect of the life of freedom-loving people. It consists of many and various and powerful interests, but it has combined into one massive drive and is held together by the cohesive power of the emotion, setting forth civil rights as supreme to all. But, in reality, it is a drive to destroy the rights of private property, to destroy the freedom and liberty of you and me. And, my friends, where there are no property rights, there are no human rights. Red China and Soviet Russia are prime examples. Politically evil men have combined and arranged themselves against us. The good people of this nation must now associate themselves together, else we will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a struggle which threatens to engulf the entire nation.[6]

Sounds a little Strangeloveian, right?

Wallace, gaining the support of conservative Democrats, would go on to win a few states in the "Solid South". A legitimate source of confusion for this is that many business conservatives in the north and the liberal wing of the Republicans were much more supportive of civil rights, but this ignores that there's more than one kind of conservatism by conflating economic conservatism with social conservatism. Also, the "Big Six"Wikipedia leaders of the civil rights movements were all quite left-leaning, and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party ultimately ended up shoving through civil rights; the New Deal Coalition fell apart soon afterwards.

For whatever reason this blatant historical revisionism is also popular among some libertarian circles on the Internet, though what they have to gain from it is a little uncertain. Oh, wait

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. People of God: Segregation September 21, 2012 Central Seminary.
  2. The theology of apartheid by Ned Temko (June 12, 1986) The Christian Science Monitor.
  3. Kyle VanHemert (2013-08-26). "The Best Map Ever Made of America’s Racial Segregation". Wired
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975 by Carolyn Renée Dupont (2013) New York University Press. ISBN 1479823511.
  5. Institutional Change in the US Congress, UC Berkeley
  6. Please read the whole thing.