Re: Racism and ancient history

Gerold Firl (
27 Dec 1996 20:31:29 GMT

In article <59i3bu$>, Kihn) writes:

|> Racism is really a philosophy. It was first used by the Portugese,
|> Spanish, and Dutch to justify to their home populations the "new"
|> institution of slavery.

Lets enlarge our perspective a little here. The incidence of racism is
directly related to the range and scope of intercultural communication
and intercourse; a culture which has no knowledge of the world
outside the immediate environment will not generally come into contact
with other races, and hence will not have the concept of racism.

Once sufficient transport technology is in place to allow different
races to come into contact, a second prerequisite for racism is either
a power disparity between them, which can lead to contempt, or
alternatively power parity coupled with competition, which leads ti
hatred. An exaqmple of the former can be found in the white settlement
of australia and tasmania, where the aborigines were somewhat
bothersome, but could offer no real threat or resistance. Contrast
with the relations between whites and maoris in nearby new zealand,
where the maoris were respected because of their formidable military
prowess as well as their cultural/artistic achievements.

An example of the latter path to racism can be found in 15th century
iberia, where the long centuries of struggle for control between
europeans and moriscos created a bitter rivalry and deep-seated
animosity. The straits of gibralter were enough of a geographic
barrier to creat a steep racial gradient, crossed by the germanic
vandals in the 5th century, retaken by the greek byzantines a century
later, and then reversed by islam to create the moorish kingdoms a
couple of centuries after that. The reconquista took centuries; during
that time, the war of christianity and islam was also a war of white
against black. If your enemy has a black face, then people with a
black face will tend to be viewed as enemies. I say this not to excuse
racism, but rather to show that no invocation of economics is required
to understand it.

|> There are plenty of instances of ancient
|> sources honoring people of different color. It's even difficult at
|> times for us modern "race conscious" historians to figure out what
|> color some people were, it was that unimportant.

One example which has been mentioned in passing should probably be
highlighted further: the aryan conquest of india. The vedas
specifically note the contrast between the light-skinned gods and
dark-skinned demons in the mythological struggle for control of the
subcontinent, and allusions to the formation of the caste system, with
a light-to-dark color gradient from brahmin to untouchable, shows the
racial origin of the worlds oldest apartheid system.

Any link between capitalism and racism looks purely incidental.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf