Re: Racism and ancient history

Robert Snower (
Sun, 29 Dec 1996 17:25:53 GMT (Gerold Firl) wrote:

>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.

Let's enlarge our perspective a little more. Racism is a part of
hominid culture right from the beginning, and of the societies of
animals before that. All cultures have "knowledge of the world
outside the immediate environment:" us vs. the other.

>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.

Respect and "hatred" are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the less
the respect, the greater the fear and suspicion.

>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.

"Color" is not definitive of "racism," of course. Any marker will do,
e.g., smell, geography, religion, totem, moiety, section, political
opinion. "Racism" is the counterpoint of "kinship," in the broadest
sense: ethnocentric favoritism as against egocentric favoritism.
Unless you confine your meaning of "racism" to the FRAUDULENT
attribution of differences--group differences which do not really
exist. Then "racism" becomes simply a "sub-species" of the general

The only way to lick a culture of racism is to offer an alternative:
a culture of individualism. Individual merit as against group merit.

Best wishes. Robert Snower