Re: Racism and ancient history

Dr. Doug (
29 Dec 1996 18:07:49 GMT

In <5a1bn1$> (Gerold Firl)
>In article <59i3bu$>, 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
>me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you
>=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @

It appears I was mistaken when I linked racism and capitalism. Thanks
to Gerold and Pistos, I see clearly that the caste system in India was
clearly along racial lines, and had a lot to do with the light-skinned
Aryan invaders fighting the darker-skinned native populations. However
it all wound up in an economic system - the apartheid system know as
the caste system. Certain colors do certain economic tasks.

I think Gerold is right about initially, racism being a natural outcome
of two groups fighting each other. However after the conquest, for
racism to stick around, I think it has to be USEFUL to the
powers-that-be, the economic/political ruling class. Racism certainly
was useful to the Brahmins, as it kept everyone else in their place,
doing their jobs, not challenging them. So they propagated it,
supported it, put it in their holy books, etc. God wills it, so it is

Interesting about the Moors in Spain. Again, a non-capitalist origin
of racism. Did that anti-Arab racism continue in Spain? And was it
used to support the economic/political rule of the light-skinned
Northerners over the dark-skinned Southerners?

Pistos raised some interesting examples also last week. My questions:
Was the anti-black racism of the Arabs of the Middle Ages useful for
economic reasons. I suspect it was useful. Weren't the Blacks being
kidnapped at that time and being used as slaves in Arabic lands (before
the Atlantic slave trade started)? As well as Arab domination,
economic and political, over much of West and East Africa. Seems that
the concept of perpetual inferiority helped everyone there accept the
new economic order much easier.

I also have another question: At what time period is Pistos referring
to when he talks about the "post-Rabbinic literature" and God
condemning Ham and Canaan, and thus giving them black skin, thick lips,
etc.? B.C.? Clearly pre-capitalist. But again, racism very useful
for justifying the economic/political domination of one group
(Israelites) over another (Canaanites).

Dr. Doug